The #2 Mine Tour & Museum
From the first step to your last, a tour of the #2 Bell Island Mine is a truly unique experience. Travel back in time while exploring underground caverns shrouded in yellow light. Cast your eyes on walls rich in iron ore, while hearing real stories of days gone by and the distant sound of the ocean.
Timeline: 1891 → 1914
Beginnings and pre-war operations
Bell Island population: 709 → 3084
Your trip to the #2 Bell Island Mine starts back where it all began. Hear how the mine started. Gain an understanding of the tough conditions faced by early miners and the children that worked harvesting ore. View mining artifacts and historical photographs of the early days. Make no mistake, it was a tough life, characterized by horse-drawn ore carts, unsafe conditions and tragic fatalities. Making matters worse, two World Wars loomed on the horizon.
Miners fixed candles to their cotton hats to help them see during their 10+ hour shifts. These candles cast little light, making it impossible to view anything beyond a few feet.
Timeline: 1915 → 1945
World War Period
Bell Island population: 3084 → 8171
Next, your visit takes you through the role the Bell Island Mines played during the World Wars. As a major supplier of iron ore, their role and impact in aiding the Allied efforts was significant. So much so, that Hitler himself ordered a direct attack on Bell Island to disrupt the supply of ore to factories assisting the war effort. Operating under the order, two U-boats sank 4 ore boats anchored near the island, killing 65 sailors. As you explore, you’ll also come to learn how the island was defended during the Nazi attack.
A standout of the museum’s collection is the official attack order, signed by Hitler himself, and given to the museum personally by the daughter of U-boat Captain Fritz Rolf Rüggeberg as an expression of grief, along with his medals.
Timeline: 1946 → 1966
Post-war operations & closure
Bell Island population: 8171 → 12,281
Nothing lasts forever, and in this final part of the tour you’ll learn how despite a period of modernization, improved working conditions and increased prosperity, the mines closed suddenly in 1966. While the closure was abrupt and had a devastating impact on the island’s economy, the spirit of the miners lives on to this day. You’ll also see first-hand how the ocean has impacted the mines since they were abandoned.
At its peak, Bell Island had more than 12,281 inhabitants. Today, just over 2,000 call the island home. In 1994, a committee of residents decided to open a museum, and by 1998 the #2 mine was open for public tours.
Today, the #2 Mine Tour and Museum stands as a proud keeper of the island’s fascinating history. The tour brings the past to life for thousands of visitors each year and offers lessons about the hard work and lives of the many miners and families who called Bell Island home. Come visit us and let us tell you all about it.