flagship bunker shelters 535 souls

Corridor, Level 400, The Diefenbunker, Ottawa 2010

© Leslie Hossack

In this photograph of the Diefenbunker, two black and white support columns are visible on the left hand side of the corridor. These columns are four feet in diameter, and there are 36 of them supporting the four-story bunker. In order to withstand the pressure caused by a nuclear blast, the columns flare out to 10 feet at the top and bottom of the structure.

The Diefenbunker measures 157 feet along each side, and it is approximately 57 feet high. The floor slabs are almost two feet thick, while the base and roof slabs are five feet. The walls are generally two and a half feet thick, but at the front of the bunker they measure up to four feet.

Exactly 50 years ago, in December 1961, Canada’s Central Emergency Government Headquarters, aka the Diefenbunker, became operational. During the Cold War, in the event of a nuclear attack, designated government officials would report to Canada’s flagship bunker in Carp. It contained over 300 rooms and was designed to shelter 535 individuals. None of the occupants were allowed to bring family members with them.

Built secretly between 1959 and 1961 just outside of Ottawa, the Diefenbunker was nicknamed after Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker. This massive underground complex contained office spaces, sleeping quarters, broadcasting facilities, decontamination chambers, and a weather station to monitor wind patterns and take radioactive readings. Other rooms, including the kitchens, bathrooms, food and waste storage, hospital and morgue, were dedicated to simple human survival.

The Diefenbunker is now Canada’s Cold War Museum. For more information please visit www.diefenbunker.ca