Climb aboard the HMCS Ojibwa.
When you ask yourself, what would my family like to do this weekend? Going to visit a cold war submarine might not be the first answer you would think of. But it could be, or maybe even should be. This new attraction to the shores of Lake Erie is an amazing trip into our nation’s military history.The HMCS Ojibwa is a 295 foot length Canadian cold war military submarine that now finds its home as part of the future Museum of Naval History in the charming lakeside community of Port Burwell.
As I turned into the parking lot I was surprised by the size of this Oberon Class submarine perched ominously on the shore. My imagination ran wild as soon as I saw it. All the television documentaries and movies you’ve ever seen pop into your head;Das Boot, The Hunt for Red October, U-571…and to my surprise, it turns out that the Ojibwa is more than just a unique and interesting destination, she is also a movie star, having appeared in K-19: The Widowmaker.
There are two ways you can tour Ojibwa. Everyone in the family can enjoy the Fish Eye Tour of the exterior which takes about 45 minutes and runs every half hour and is free for children under thirteen. During this walk around the sub you will learn about how the harbour was dredged to allow the sub to make her slow three day journey along the last 600 meters of its journey to where she now sits. It was fascinating to learn of Ojibwa’s travels from Halifax to Port Burwell and about the history of the bumps and dents on her exterior.
You can also enjoy The Submariners Tour which takes one hour as you pass through her interior, forward to aft. This tour leaves every 12 minutes and is open to everyone aged 6 and up. As I made my way onto Ojibwa I felt like I was transported into another world. You begin in the torpedo room which is the largest compartment in the sub and I immediately gained a new found respect for every individual who served as a submariner. Standing among my tour group I instantly realized how close the quarters really were for the seven officers and fifty-five men who would serve at sea for at least six weeks at a time.
The engineering of the sub is incredibly intricate as every inch of space serves a purpose and most areas have multiple uses. The torpedo room not only housed spare torpedoes but was also used for crew accommodations, sometimes for meal preparation, as a barber shop, and a place to watch movies. There are gauges and valves everywhere and I was shocked to learn that submariners had to be able to identify them by sizes and shapes while blindfolded. The control room is the centre of the sub, both physically and operationally, and it’s where the periscopes would normally have been found. Although the periscopes are not in place at this time, the plan is to display them in the museum when it is built.
The HMCS Ojibwa was designed to be able to travel to great depths and speeds without generating noise that could alert the enemy to their whereabouts. When in service the submarines would be tasked with sinking enemy subs and ships, laying land mines, and special operations including reconnaissance. It was truly inspiring and humbling to learn the challenges that the sixty-two crew and officers faced on their missions. During these times many submariners were confined to their bunks where they were ordered to stay still and alert in complete silence and darkness. It is great to know that the Ojibwa is here to teach future generations about the sacrifices and hard work of the Canadian Military.
I had a great time and learned so much on both my tours of Ojibwa and have already recommended it to many friends. One of the great parts of visiting the sub is that you can also take the time to explore all that Port Burwell has to offer. Once you purchase your tickets you don’t need to stick around waiting, you are encouraged to go and grab a bite to eat or do some shopping in town. Just make sure to be back in time for your tour because this is an experience you do not want to miss. Oh yeah, it is recommended to wear flat foot wear so ladies leave your stilettos at home. Enjoy!
For more information visit www.projectojibwa.ca.