Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stepping through a portal to the past at Ottawa's Diefenbunker

Ghosts. I could swear there were ghosts, I just couldn't see them or hear them as I walked the halls of the Diefenbunker, a.k.a., Canada's Cold War Museum.

The facility is a huge four-storey bunker, buried deep under a hillside in the rural area outside Ottawa, Canada's capital city. It was originally built in the late 1950's and early 1960's, under the orders of the Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, (hence its name) to house crucial elements of the Canadian government in the event a nuclear war broke out.

Thankfully, that never happened. However, it was only recently - 1994 to be exact - that the facility was de-commissioned and eventually turned into a museum.
Fatboy Atomic Bomb.

Walking through the long tunnel leading into a hillside and down into the four levels gave me a bit of a chill, and not just because it was a cold, damp March day. It made me think how seriously people feared an actual Atomic Armageddon back then. Not that we don't live in trying times today, but walking past the empty shells of atomic "Fat Boy" and hydrogen bombs in the entrance way is bound to give anyone pause for thought, I would venture.

The museum features some of the original equipment along with much newer replica equipment sent down to replace the materials removed when the armed forces pulled out of it back in the mid-90's.

Making the long trek down the tunnel.
You have to pass through the decontamination chambers as you come into the building, rooms where people showered then got Geiger-countered before being allowed to pass in. We visited the surgery, the war room (where the P-M and all the heads of the government dept.'s and military) would convene to plan the future of a war-torn continent. Shades of the movie Dr. Strangelove...

The entire facility is very institutional, right down to the pale green paint on the walls and the durable, functional furniture on display.

The cafeteria is still there, and while you can't get a meal there, you can sample modern-day K-rations, the food armies travel on.

Supposedly, Canadian rations are among the best in the world. The chili and beans weren't bad (better if you're camping out, I suppose) but if this is the best, I'd sure hate to see the worst ...

Of course, there is a gift shop where you can purchase several kitsch-y items as well as some less tacky souvenirs.

K-rations, anyone?

Although it is a bit sombre, it's heritage is a part of our past - our recent past - and all sombreness aside, it's kind of a cool place to visit.

And although you might feel like they're there, I doubt if will find any ghosts lurking about, even though there is a bit of a haunting, haunted quality about the place.

And as you leave, you might want to say a prayer of thanks that it never actually had to be used ...

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