St. Lawrence is a community located on the Burin Peninsula on the south east coast of the Island of Newfoundland. The USS Truxtun DD-229 (Borden number CfAu-01) and the USS Pollux AKS-2 (Borden number CfAu-02) Wrecks Site is the site of two shipwrecks located in Chamber Cove and off Lawn Head, respectively. The USS Truxtun was a 1215 ton American destroyer ship and the 13 910 ton USS Pollux was an accompanying supply ship that both ran aground en route from Maine, USA to Argentia, NL during World War II. The designation encompasses the entire wreck site, and that section of coastline, including the Iron Springs Mine Site to Grebes Nest and bordering Salt Cove, Chamber Cove, Lawn Point and Lawn Point Head. The site of the USS Truxtun, within Chamber Cove, is situated at the headland known as Chamber Point. This point of land lies westward about 8 km from the harbour of the Town of St. Lawrence. The site of the USS Pollux lies 30m underwater at Lawn Head Point, located at the entrance to the harbour of Little Lawn. Lawn Head Point extends seaward for 6km from the head of Little Lawn Harbour.
The USS Truxtun and USS Pollux Wreck Sites have been designated a municipal historic site because they hold historic, scientific, environmental and cultural values.
The USS Truxtun and USS Pollux Wreck Sites are historically valuable because of the story they tell of a war time marine disaster and a town’s heroism, bravery and compassion. The USS Truxtun and USS Pollux, along with the USS Wilkes, were two American destroyer ships and one supply ship. The USS Truxtun was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Ralph Hickox, and the USS Pollux under the command of Commander Hugh W. Turney. They were travelling to the American Naval Base Argentia, located on the southwest Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. The combination of rigid adherence to a base course set by naval authorities, a slight miscalculation of the USS Wilkes latitude early in the voyage by its navigator, extremely rough weather and strict radio silence created conditions that led to disaster. On February 18, 1942 a fierce north Atlantic winter storm drove the ships aground beneath desolate cliffs between Lawn Head and Chamber Cove on the Burin Peninsula.
Subsequent events saw the USS Wilkes run aground, but refloated, the USS Pollux grounded to within yards of the shore, and the USS Truxtun hit the Chamber Cove rocks where it split in two, the stern sinking immediately. Freezing waters, oil that escaped the vessels and gale force winds made rescue near impossible. One rubber life boat made it to shore and one sailor managed to reach nearby Iron Springs Mine. Within minutes all the men from the mine and many townspeople of Lawn and St. Lawrence rushed to the cliffs to bring up by rope as many sailors as possible. 203 sailors perished, but in spite of freezing conditions, icy precipices and the oil soaked sailors and water, 186 men were saved. With no hospital in the area, Iron Springs Mine Dry House was made a temporary emergency first aid station. The townspeople took into their homes every survivor. The miners’ wives provided humanitarian assistance and aided in the sailors’ recovery.
The USS Truxtun and USS Pollux Wreck Sites are scientifically valuable for the information they reveal about the wrecks. They are located in two separate areas of the coastline and some remnants are still visible from the water’s surface. The USS Truxtun, lost in Chamber Cove, was a 96m long vessel with a beam of 9m. The USS Pollux, lost at Lawn Head Point, was a 140m vessel with a beam of 19m. These vessels are well documented and many artifacts have been recovered from the site. Several artifacts have been placed in the St. Lawrence Miner’s Memorial Museum. A limited number of materials including cannon and ammunition remain at the Chamber Cove site. The Lawn Head Site lies in an undisturbed state 30m underwater.
The USS Truxtun and USS Pollux Wreck Sites are environmentally valuable because they are a vivid reminder of the area in which the vessels went down. The Chamber Cove cliffs, where the USS Truxtun sunk, form a semi-circle and the surrounding three sides are composed of steeply pitched, perpendicular granite and shale walls 122m high, with narrow fringes of beach that are covered at high tide. Two small islets are situated in the centre of the cove and it was between these islets that the USS Truxtun first struck. The USS Pollux was destroyed in a similarly stark and dangerous space with high cliff walls. Lawn Head Point consists of a rocky slope 76m high, rising from the sea in perpendicular shale walls with small ledges.
The USS Truxtun and USS Pollux Wreck Sites are culturally valuable because they are an enduring symbol of a community’s valiant efforts to save the lives of strangers in imminent danger, while risking their own lives. Because of the townspeople of St. Lawrence and Lawn, 186 American sailors lived.
Source: Town of St. Lawrence Motion 05-120 and 05-121, July 19, 2005.
All those elements that respect the archaeological site and artifacts, including:
-in situ archaeological remnants of the destroyer USS Truxtun DD-229 and the supply ship USS Pollux AKS-2, in their location, form and materials, as well as artifacts removed from and any and all of these sites in an intact and documented state; and
-all artifacts which are located at the St. Lawrence Miner’s Memorial Museum.