The present facade of the Ottawa Diefenbunker – the nuclear bomb shelter for 535 “essential” Canadians – is somewhat disconcerting. It is an aluminum sided, frame building with a garage door and a couple of people doors. This is a bomb shelter?
Yes, it certainly is. This building is a relatively new addition to the actual bunker, an add-on, to allow military and government vehicles to be unloaded under cover, without the enemy’s eyes in the sky peering down from space and seeing what people or materials were being moved into the bunker. When the bunker was first built, there were no spy satellites to contend with.
But, you want a bunker? just wait until you get inside!
How about this?
This is the blast tunnel of the Diefenbunker. This tunnel was designed and constructed to allow the pressure wave from a nuclear blast to enter and then be diverted away from the actual bunker itself. This was the theory, at least. Woe unto those folks who’s homes were in a direct line from either end of this blast tunnel, had a nuke actually air burst over Ottawa.
The Diefenbunker – A Safe Haven
The Ottawa Diefenbunker was the safe haven, the underground shelter, to which Canada’s political elite and key government figures would have been rushed if nuclear war was imminent from 1961 through until 1994. These 535 men and women were chosen because their jobs were designated essential to running the country and dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear blast should one occur. Safe inside, because the 155′ square x 70′ deep, floating cube, under a 5′ thick poured and reinforced concrete roof, and that buried under 20′ or so of meadow, was hidden and built to withstand a nuclear blast equivalent to the explosion of 5 million tons of TNT.
Since it was built by the government of then Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, one can understand how the government’s bomb shelter was soon nick-named the Diefenbunker.
Question: Of all the Prime Ministers of Canada since the Diefenbunker was built, only one has actually ever been inside their own bomb shelter. Do you know which Prime Minister that was?
The Ottawa Diefenbunker is now a Museum
Since 1997 the Diefenbunker has offered Ottawans and visitors alike a glimpse into Canada’s nuclear past through the lens of this massive bomb shelter.
It is about a 38 km or about 24 mile drive from the Ottawa Parliament Buildings to the Diefenbunker guard shack and entrance to the bunker.
Here is just a glimpse of what is included in your tour of the Diefenbunker.
Driving To The Diefenbunker
You take highway #417 West from Ottawa out to the Carp Road exit #144. Turn right at the end of the off ramp from the #417 to Carp Road, then drive 8 – 10 minutes northbound to the village of Carp.
Continue straight through the village (straight through the four way stop at the middle of the town) up the hill, past the fairgrounds until the village appears to come to an end.
On the left (west) side of the road you will see a large billboard sign for the Diefenbunker at 3911 Carp Road – turn left at this sign and continue down the access road through the second gate to the parking lot.
Touring the Diefenbunker
The museum is normally open year-round with only a few exceptions.
Visits are by guided tour or you can self tour at your own speed.
We recommend you take the guided tour. It is no additional cost, gets you into parts of the Diefenbunker you cannot go when you are touring on your own, and the tour guides bring the Diefenbunker to life in a way that you will not appreciate when seeing the facility without their guidance. And, after your guided tour, you can still spend as much time as you like wandering and revisiting some of the exhibits until you have your fill… up until closing time, of course.
Flash photography, video and sound recording are not permitted in the museum.
The Diefenbunker can be a coolish 17 degrees C, or it could be warmer. It seems that the geothermal heating isn’t as controllable as they would like. It is comfortable inside nevertheless, but do bring a sweater to wear in case it gets too cool for you.
A Sobering Experience
While visiting the Diefenbunker is very interesting, it can, too, be very sobering. One of the things that the engineers had to deal with is the fact that there would likely be fatalities in the Diefenbunker during the 30 days that the hundreds of “guests” were expected to stay.
What do you do with a body, or bodies, inside a closed and sealed facility?
You put them in cold storage of course.
The Diefenbunker food freezer was also designated to be their morgue. In the photo, you can see a simulated deceased person, complete with body bag, on the top left shelf of one of the Diefenbunker food freezers.
We chose not to display photos of the Requiem exhibit on this site.
While a visit to the Diefenbunker is a great way to spend a few hours while in the Ottawa area, the purpose of the facility cannot be overlooked. The Requiem exhibit ensures this. You will be smacked in the face with the details of what a nuclear strike does to the people and the structures of the target city.
The Requiem exhibit is not for children, and certainly not for the squeamish.
If you do take in this exhibit, I suspect you will join me in praying to whatever gods we believe in that this nuclear horror will not ever be visited on this planet again.
Were You Part of the Diefenbunker Project?
Meet Mike Braham. He was our tour guide. Mike brings the whole Diefenbunker experience to life, as in his other life, he was one of the 535 persons that would have been inside the Diefenbunker had the balloon gone up, and nukes started flying around our world. He’s lived the Diefenbunker experience, and as such, colours his tours with humour, fact, and the voice of authority that can only be presented by those that have been there and done that.
Mike is hoping that other folks that have a history involving the Diefenbunker would like talk with him about their experiences. If you are interested, please contact the Diefenbunker and ask for Mike to call you back.
A Ham Station
For those of the ham radio set, the Diefenbunker has it’s own broadcasting station. Dial in (if that’s what hams do?) to VE3CYM to contact them.
Other Diefenbunker Activities
Ms Kelly Eyamie advises that you can host your special event in the Diefenbunker. They have hosted birthday parties, have a spy camp, undertake corporate motivational events, and have even had a wedding or two inside the underground facility. For details, please contact their Marketing and Community Relations Manager.
- The Diefenbunker
- 3911 Carp Road, Carp, Ontario K0A 1L0
- T: 613-839-0007
- Toll free: 800-409-1965
For detailed information and to reserve a tour, please visit their website at www.diefenbunker.ca
Your comments about your Diefenbunker visit are welcome. All will be previewed for suitability before being published on this site.