architecture, Canada, Fallout Shelter, History, Uncategorized

A few snapshots of the end of the world (Canadian version) ~~~~~~~~~ The Diefenbunker

 

 

I was walking into the Atomic Age, but all I smelled was fossil fuel and something very, very organic.

 

A “sniffer,” placed outside the bunker, to measure levels of radiation

 

The stale air of what used to be an ultra-secure subterranean government facility, was permeated with the faint, but inescapable, odors of diesel fuel and something like a stopped-up toilet.

This was a few years ago, outside Ottawa, walking around the underground “Diefenbunker,” the 1961 fallout shelter for Canada’s government.

A shelter for government officials, but not their families.  Not even the Prime Minister’s wife.  They did however, find room for the gold.

The first picture is a huge vault, down on the lowest level, to keep Canada’s gold reserve warm & safe, in the event of a nuclear war.  The country held over 1,000 tons of gold ingots at the time.

 

The vault is now quite empty.  I checked.  Great acoustics though!  Almost no one had ventured out on the cold, wintry day we visited, so my inner Pavarotti could be unleashed, with no fear of bothering other tourists, or bringing the roof down.

(Canada, like every other nation on earth, has since abandoned the gold standard, and completely liquidated the reserve. The U.S. currently is maintaining the largest hoard, of over 8,000 tons.)

 

A control room with tiers of desks, one for each important government function. The unpleasant odor in some areas, made me think they hadn’t planned adequately for other, bodily, functions.

 

“Diefenbunker” is a nickname, of course, after the Prime Minister at the time the facility came online.  The real name is “Central Emergency Government Headquarters CEGHQ Carp”.

(Carp refers to the town in Ontario where it’s located, and not to “complaining querulously about Armageddon.”)

 

Prime Minister’s office

 

The underground facility, roughly 100,000 square feet, was kept supplied and staffed for decades, until the mid-90’s.  It is now deactivated and just a weird sort of tourist attraction.

One level is mostly diesel generators, for the lights, TV and radio gear, etc. which explains the stale fuel smells.   The toilets were all rubber-mounted, so they wouldn’t shatter from concussive waves, and I have no idea how they work, so far below ground level, except to say, apparently, not that well.

Ugly office furniture, filing cabinets, typewriters, rotary telephones, and old computers with tape drives.  Fluorescent strip lighting, ugly linoleum floors, a sea of brown, beige, gray, and plastic wood-grain.

We wandered around at will, going downwards floor by floor.  Basically, it is not a particularly creepy place, just homely and banal.

 

This place was in use until 1994, so some of the gear is at least recognizable.

Some of the computers and gear that the over-50 crowd could identify, like telex machines, still seem to be plugged in.

At one point, we were surprised to hear voices and static, went round a corner, and found a ham radio club happily operating down there in a dimly-lit back room.  They’d gotten permission to hook into the antenna system.  The bunker was equipped with a complete radio and TV studio.  (“Hello, viewers!  The weather forecast today is…nuclear winter.  Have nice day and will the last person up on the surface, please turn the lights out.”)

 

It’s not a cheery place.  The medical facilities looked pretty primitive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A notice informs you that the food storage area, would also serve as a morgue in a pinch.

 

My parents have always talked a lot about their childhoods, and The Way Things Used to Be.  Their childhood anecdotes have all blended together in my mind:  brands of automobiles that no longer exist, idiosyncratic pets, bygone relatives, the incomprehensible loss of 45’s & 8-tracks, and the decline and probable extinction of the woolly mammoths, etc.

Sometime during these Old Times, but after the invention of canned goods, because they figure into this, there was something called the Cuban Missile Crisis, and my father’s story about his family’s fallout shelter.

People built a lot of things in the old days.  We’re always having to trim the grass around pyramids, coliseums, playhouses, obelisks, garden sheds, Parthenons, and so forth.  Apparently, in the days before internet and cable and DVD’s, they were just looking for things to do, once the woolly mammoths weren’t around anymore to entertain them.  People went from playing with Lincoln Logs and building blocks, directly to actual building.  Carpentry and masonry, in those days, was considered to be a form of entertainment, like Canasta and Yahtzee.

So when the Russians shipped nuclear missiles to Cuba, the immediate response in 1961 Middle America was obvious…let’s get some bricks, and build something.

US New & World Report, LOC

At my dad’s childhood home, in an excavation under the front porch, there was soon a brick room, equipped with folding beds, canned goods, and carbide lanterns.  These lanterns, if you could cajole a parent into testing them, would usually spit sparks and small jets of incredibly dangerous acetylene flame – pretty cool, right?!  The canisters of calcium carbide, which somehow fueled the lanterns, through a process involving chemistry or physics (algebra?) were kept under much closer supervision than our nuclear secrets.

A battery-powered radio, sorry, I meant to say, a Transistor Radio. Food, water, waterproof crackers, toilet paper, buckets, blankets, Readers Digest.  Check.  The fancier dugouts included hand-cranked ventilation systems.

Little known science fact:  Velveeta, if kept sealed, has four times the shelf life of strontium!

pocket radiation detector

Of course, then and now, there are people who just are not do-it-yourself’ers, and there are people who invent things, and there are people who want to make a buck.   Apparently there is still a market for the underground life – –do a web-search, and take a look at how many prefab shelters are being peddled, right now.  Some are also good to store root crops, others are convertible to wine cellars.

I found dozens of news articles around the country, where renovations of schools, courthouses, stores have turned up forgotten public shelters in basement rooms, still stocked with drums of water and vitamin-enriched crackers.  New York gave tax credits to parking garages, if they’d simply designate some subterranean space in this way.  Some years ago, NYC auctioned off the outdated Civil Defense supplies, including crates of vitamin-enriched crackers.  An upstate farmer bought them to use as animal feed, but then found out, there had never been any organized effort to identify and list these shelters.  Local civil defense committees were long gone, and no one could tell him where the shelters, and his animal crackers, were located.

Photo from the Smithsonian’s site – – a prefab shelter from the late 1950’s. According to the narrative, during a rainy spell, this one popped out of the owners’ lawn like a surfacing submarine.

 

Global Zero, the anti-nukes organization, has moved their Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes before midnight.

This is an interesting place to visit.  You can pose in the press room, and look for your home on the fallout maps.  But after two hours, I was glad to get into the fresh air.

I do not like being underground.

I do not like Velveeta.

And I do not like the idea of creating hidey-holes or bunkers for politicians.

They need to be kept out in the daylight as much as possible.  Taking their chances with the rest of us.

 

 

 

 

 

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architecture, Colonial History, Ecuador, Quito, South America, Sudamerica, travel, Uncategorized

Things looking up ~ ~ ~ Spires, Domes & Rooftops of San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador

dsc00809These are mostly pictures of the rooftops of the old city of Quito, the capitol of Ecuador.

They include shots of the oldest church, which dates back to the 1530’s, and many were taken from the balcony of the Presidential Palace.

Quito is a treasure trove of historic buildings, and home to some incredible rooftops. In this post, rather than my usual groundling-level photos of old buildings, try to visualize yourself as the rooster in the first photo below, standing up top, getting a great view and new perspectives.

(But perhaps not being quite as noisy in the morning.)

 

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A Bird’s-Eye View

 

 

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Poster for the local branch of “Cloud Watchers”

 

 

 

 

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At street level, there are down-to-earth shops, and churches, government buildings, and museums – imposing masses of stone, solemn and solid.  But up on the rooftops… the domes, spires, and cupolas compose an exotic village all its own, up among the clouds, populated by ivory-white and silvery figures.

 

 

 

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In the background is a hill called “El Panecillo” (Bread Loaf Hill) The statue in the distance, of the Virgin Mary, is a 134 foot aluminum version of a wooden original, created in 1734 by a local artist.  It is unusual in that Mary is shown with wings, based on a description in the Book of Revelations.

 

 

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Statue on top of the monument in Independence Plaza, brandishing a torch and fasces.  The latter, a Roman symbol of authority and strength-through-unity, was a popular symbol for democratic republics, including the U.S., before being tarnished by it’s later association with Mussolini and Hitler.  It was used on the so-called “Mercury” dime and you’ll see it on old buildings all over our Capitol.  Perhaps we’ll see more of it around Washington in the future.

 

 

 

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On The Sunny Side Of The Street, with Security Cam

 

 

 

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La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús. The Jesuit church, begun in 1605 and completed 160 years later. A fantastically ornate combination of Baroque, Neoclassical, Moorish, and even some indigenous notes.

 

 

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I cannot look at this tower without thinking the saint on top is Jacques Cousteau entering a “diving bell”

 

 

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1903 Théâtre Capitole de Québec

1903 Théâtre Capitole de Québec

 

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copper roof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1893 Château Frontenac

1893 Château Frontenac

 

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advanced Lego project

 

 

Parliament

1886 Hôtel du Parlement (Parliament of Quebec)

 

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Ice floes on the St. Lawrence

 

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1817 Chapelle des Jésuites

 

 

 

 

 

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looking up toward La Promenade des Gouverneurs

 

 

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Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec. Famous as the “engulfed cathedral” and generally unable to be used until late July, when most of the snow has melted.

 

 

 

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Ok, baker’s dozen. What a beautiful city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

architecture, Canada, photography, Quebec, travel, Uncategorized, Winter

One Dozen Rooftops. Ville de Québec, Canada

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