During the height of the Cold War, while John Diefenbaker was Prime Minister, the Canadian government began building a Nuclear Detonation and Fallout Reporting System across the country. The purpose of the system was to measure the intensity of radioactive fallout if there was a nuclear explosion.
Canada-wide over 2,000 small fallout shelters were built. Officially known as Fallout Reporting Posts, the total cost was $3 million in the 1960’s, which is equivalent to $26 million with inflation.
Initially 200 of them were scheduled to be built in Manitoba. By 1962, at least 100 of the Fallout Reporting Posts were built. Most of them were located near federal or provincial agencies. Train stations and RCMP detachments were also common locations. This allowed critical government employees to have a place where they could hide from radiation in the case of a nuclear attack.
The location of many of these sites have not been revealed to the public. I heard rumours that a Fallout Reporting Post identified by the code KE4 was located near Moose Lake Provincial Park, in Northwest Angle Provincial Forest, but I had no idea if it would be possible to find. The only picture I saw of the entrance, showed it somewhere in the provincial forest, with a small clearing visible in the background. I decided I would test my luck and hoped for the best.
The drive to Moose Lake wasn’t very exciting. Though I was pleasantly surprised that Highway 308, which runs parallel to Moose Lake was actually paved. Here in Manitoba, the label “Provincial Highway” doesn’t mean that the roadway actually resembles a highway. It could instead be built out of gravel, and largely unmaintained.
After driving a couple dozen kilometres down the highway, I discovered an old concrete pad a stones throw from the roadway. Later research determined that the concrete pad was all that remained of an old forest station.
Not far from here, a small road leads into the forest. After walking a short distance down this road, I noticed a metal object proceeding from the ground. I was in luck! It was the entrance to the Fallout Reporting Post!
While approaching the entrance, I expected it to be either welded shut, or contain some type of padlock. It didn’t. The entrance door pulled open easily and the dark ladder leading into the bunker was there, waiting to be used. The entrance shaft was comprised of metal, resembling that of a culvert. The descent down was short. The ladder was only about three meters in length. As I climbed down I noticed there was some old electrical wires running down into the shelter beside the ladder.
The first thing I noticed when entering the fallout shelter, wasn’t it’s size, or contents, but the smell. It was a foul combination of stale air and skunk. It felt like no one had entered here in a long time. After getting over the smell, and looking around the Fall Out Reporting post, I realized there wasn’t that much to see.
It was comprised of one room. It got the impression that if a grain silo that was tipped on its side, that it would feel like this. It was about two meters wide and four meters long. Everything was constructed out of cold steal. On the right was two small beds that resembled something you’d likely see in a prison. They definitely were not something you’d want to spend an extended period of time sleeping on. Though I suppose it’s better than being exposed to radiation. The left side had metal shelving, which is where I presume the government stored the radiation monitoring equipment, as well as bland military rations, and water. None of that was here now. The entire place was empty.
At the far end of the room I noticed a small shaft that went up through the dirt to the sky. I’m assuming this was for bringing in clean oxygen. It was packed with dirt now, that combined with the smell were an obvious indication that it didn’t work.
Turning back around, I walked back across the room towards the exit shaft. I had seen everything there was to see here. I climbed back up the ladder, leaving the musty smelling bunker behind me. After I got back up, and felt my feet upon the dirt, and the rain drops dripping upon my head, I realized how fortunate I was that the fears of nuclear attacks, and cold war destruction, have been left in the past. I closed the entrance. I didn’t see much down there, but I discovered a renewed appreciation for being above ground. I was reminded of what Bob Dylan stated after visiting the construction site of a bomb shelter back in the 1960’s.
As I watched them building, it struck me sort of funny that they would concentrate so much on digging a hole underground when there were so many other things they should do in life. If nothing else, they could look at the sky, and walk around and live a little bit.Bob Dylan