Monday, June 5, 2006

I actually saw a sight!

Remarkable, isn't it?  All this time in Canada and I hadn't really done much sightseeing.  We finally took care of that in Ottawa.  Well, Carp, actually.  A small farm town somewhere to the West of Ottawa.  (Yes, we wondered why a town named Carp didn't seem to have any fishing.)

But, back in the early 60s, at the height of the Cold War, the Canadian government bought itself some farm land in the middle of nowhere (but kinda near Ottawa) and built an underground bunker where the key government officials could go and hide out -- and still run the country -- in the event of nuclear war. 

Now, the place was never used for that (although we were told it was damn close during the Cuban Missile Crisis), but it did have a big old communications tower on it and it was used for communications up until 1994.  So, I mean, people actually lived and worked there.  They shut the thing down in '94 as obsolete, and reopened it a number of years later as a Cold War Museum.  They've got it all spruced up with the stuff that was actually in there in the 1960s -- the uniforms, the government issued blankets, the 1960s medical equipment in the hospital room, the computers that took up a whole room, all of it.  We walked in through the long tunnel (hidden inside an innocent-looking building) and toured through the two different showers people would use before entering (to wash off "nuclear dust" in the event of an attack), and then they took us through all four levels of the bunker (including the Bank of Canada vault on the bottom, where they intended to keep Canada's stores of gold).

It was a pretty weird experience.  I mean, on the one hand, the Canadian government had gone out of its way to foresee every possible contingency and plan for it -- but at the same time, it reflected such a phenomenal innocence in that we'd actually believed that nuclear radiation could be washed away by a shower and burning your clothes.  Glad we never had to find out how unprepared we really were. 

1 comment:

hewasolddog299 said...

Glad you got to see a sight. Just don't confuse the process of washing off "fallout" with somehow thinking that we thought we weren't exposed to radiation. The removal of the fallout was important to reduce continued exposure to high levels of radioactive dust and ash, particularly for those who had not been previously exposed by virtue of being underground during the initial attacks. But, we all knew we were exposed to radioactive elements if we were on the surface during or after the explosion of thermonucleaur devices and downwind of the ash cloud. That was never a point of contention. The days of huddling under our desks and kissing our asses goodbye in the 1950's had left us all with that indelible impression...