The U.S.S. Truxtun and U.S.S. Pollux Historic 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 U.S.S. Truxtun and U.S.S. Pollux, along with the U.S.S. Wilkes, were two American destroyer ships and one supply ship. The U.S.S. Truxtun was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Ralph Hickox, and the U.S.S. 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 U.S.S. 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 U.S.S. Wilkes run aground, but refloated, the U.S.S. Pollux grounded to within yards of the shore, and the U.S.S. 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 U.S.S. Truxtun and U.S.S. Pollux Historic 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 U.S.S. Truxtun, lost in Chamber Cove, was a 96 m (315 ft) long vessel with a beam of 9 m (30 ft). The U.S.S. Pollux, lost at Lawn Head Point, was a 140 m (460 ft) vessel with a beam of 19 m (62 ft). 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 30 m (100 ft) underwater.
The U.S.S. Truxtun and U.S.S. Pollux Historic 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 U.S.S. Truxtun sunk, form a semi-circle and the surrounding three sides are composed of steeply pitched, perpendicular granite and shale walls 122 m (400 ft) 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 U.S.S. Truxtun first struck. The U.S.S. Pollux was destroyed in a similarly stark and dangerous space with high cliff walls. Lawn Head Point consists of a rocky slope 76 m (250 ft) high, rising from the sea in perpendicular shale walls with small ledges.
The U.S.S. Truxtun and U.S.S. Pollux Historic 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.
Hours Open: 24-7
Time Period Represented: WWII (1939–1942) - February 18, 1942
Seasons Open: All
Visitor Fees: None
30-minute walk over well developed trail