Matt Forney
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Enter the Diefenbunker: A Photo Essay

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NOTE: I’ve reached deep into the In Mala Fide archives to bring you this post all the way from August 31, 2010, about my tour of a Canadian military nuclear fallout bunker near Ottawa. I had thought this post lost because I had thought I’d accidentally deleted the pictures that accompanied it, but I was cleaning out an old hard drive of mine the other day and found them. Enjoy.

I imagine most of you are spinning in your swivel chairs laughing your asses off at the above picture. “Whut did Kana-duh have to do whit the Cold War? Dey just a bunch of elk pelt-sniffin’ wannabe ‘Mericans!”” Quite a bit, surprisingly. As a founding member of NATO, Canada was at risk of Russian nuclear attack, which prompted the government to construct a series of bunkers across the country to safeguard government officials in the event of World War III. The largest and most important of these Diefenbunkers (named after John Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada from 1957 – 1963 and under whose government the project was initiated) was located in Carp, Ontario, about twenty minutes west of Ottawa, designed to shelter the Prime Minister, Governor General and other members of the federal government.

Of course, fallout bunkers for government officials aren’t unique to the Great White North; the U.S. had a similar program. What makes this Diefenbunker special is that after the bunkers were decommissioned in the mid-90′s following the Soviet Union’s collapse, a bunch of volunteers from the nearby township got together and transformed the derelict shelter into a fully-furnished museum. To this day, it’s the only Diefenbunker open to the public.

When I first heard about this, I decided I had to check the place out, and man is it cool. The above picture is the shed where the blast tunnel leading to the bunker entrance is: inside a hill in the decommissioned CFB Carp.

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One of the first floor main hallways, off to the left of the front desk. The Diefenbunker is freaking huge: four floors of concrete and linoleum designed to withstand the end of the world. The first floor is divided between re-creations of rooms and specially designed exhibits about Cold War and Canadian history.

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The infirmary. When a nuclear bomb wipes out your capital, you better have everything you need to stay alive in your fallout shelter.

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Cold War government propaganda is so quaint.

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A map of Ottawa delineating the damage an ICBM would cause. The percentages indicate the estimates of how many of the people in each circle would be killed on impact.

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A scale model of the bunker, similar to the one used in its construction.

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Nuke or no nuke, I’ll be damned if I have to wait in line to use the can.

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Radio equipment. When the Canadian Forces decommissioned CFB Carp in 1994, they took all of the bunker’s furnishings with them, forcing the restoration volunteers to restore them.

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Entrance to the ladies’ quarters. Being a military installation, when the Diefenbunker first became operational, the only women allowed in were nurses and secretaries. I wonder if we were better off that way. I’d rather help repopulate the True North with a sexy secretary then some bull-dyke private with a torture fetish.

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The cafeteria. Looks near-identical to the one at my old elementary school. Fun fact: hidden back in the kitchen, there’s a Coca-Cola refrigerator stocked with enough wine to make an entire sorority blackout drunk. Goddamnit, I wish I could do that at my job. I hate you, Canada.

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The pantry, stocked with only the finest in survival cuisine. MREs: mmm mmm, tasty!

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Shitty quality I know, but I couldn’t not get a picture of that box. To think they were only a half-century off the mark…

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The vault, the lowest (and coldest) part of the complex. This is where the Bank of Canada would have stashed all that Canuck Gold™. The far wall is taken up by a poster listing off major events of the Cold War.

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Now that’s old school.

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The war cabinet room. Mein Fuhrer, I can sit!

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The Emergency Government Situation Centre, the nerve center of the entire complex. They may not be able to keep your city from being turned into radioactive ash, but gosh darnit, they’ll know where the missiles land!

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It may be the end of the human race, but we can still have a few laughs.

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OSAX, where the supercomputers are kept. Skynet not included.

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Why take a picture of a toilet? It’s only the most important toilet in the entire bunker! It’s the Prime Minister’s toilet, the holy bowl where he would squeeze out his two daily allotted MREs in poop pellet form. This is an important toilet, people! Show some fucking respect!

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And here’s the Prime Minister’s desk, where the task of administering a post-apocalyptic nation is carried out.

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An apparent reproduction of an actual letter sent to Prime Minister Diefenbaker. It’s nice little details like this that set the Diefenbunker apart. We can’t have anything nice like this in the States, because the lumpenproles would ruin it.

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Those are actual military rations you can purchase at the gift shop, if you really enjoy Meals Refused by Ethiopians. Other odd things you can pick up there include Joseph Stalin-themed breath mints and DVDs of Nuclear Roof, Canada’s answer to Duck and Cover.

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Overall, the Diefenbunker is one hell of an interesting place to visit. It’s certainly unique, and the pictures here don’t even cover a fifth of it. If you’re interested in Cold War history and technology, or if you just want to wander around a real military fallout shelter, it’s more than worth your time.

Read Next: North to Canada

  • Hey!I saw this post before; glad you republished it

  • Hi Matt,

    Thanks for sharing your experience of the Diefenbunker with the world. You should come back and see the Bank of Canada Vault – it recently underwent some conservation work and is now back down to its bare concrete walls and it has been retrofitted as a performance and meeting space. It is quite something!
    Hope to see you underground again soon.

    Kelly Eyamie
    Marketing & Community Relations Manager
    Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum

  • I’m not sure if it’s your camera from 2010 or just the place (probably the latter) but this looks depressing as fuck. Wow. Nice insight anyway.
    Thanks for sharing again

  • Funny, the one time I went to Syracuse I was passing through on the way to Ottawa. I liked Ottawa a lot, good ice skating…

  • I finally returned to the Diefenbunker today; hadn’t been there since 2005, and last time didn’t have my camera with me; today, I did. Kelly won’t like that I used flash in spite of the rules, but the light was so dim in many places that sans tripod, one wouldn’t be able to get good shots. Great place; I might well return, and see it at an even slower rate, though I did spend almost two hours there… (This time I did it self-guided; last time I took a tour.)