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Ojibwa prepares for exterior tours

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The Elgin Military Museum and volunteers with Project Ojibwa are busy preparing the former HMCS Ojibwa for outside tours as early as the end of February.

“We’re calling the tours ‘inside the fence: up close and personal with Ojibwa,” said Melissa Raven, Director of Communications for Project Ojibwa.

“We’re starting probably in about two weeks – it’s a phased in thing. They (the tours) are inside the compound but outside of Ojibwa,” she said noting that work is still being done on the inside of the submarine, such as the installation of hvac systems, power systems, adequate lighting, safety measures and proper fire response systems that need to be completed before the public is allowed inside the submarine.

“We’ve developed ‘inside the fence’ tours because so many people want them – there’s a tremendous demand,” she added.

Raven said they are on track to open the cold-war era, decommissioned submarine this summer and preparations are coming along well.

“We’re looking at when we’ll be hiring new staff, we’re working out the logistics of the tours – the tours themselves are written.”

The ‘inside the fence’ tours will begin by the end of February, will be approximately 40 minutes in length and will detail aspects on the exterior, such as the propellers, the submarine’s history and ongoing processes taking place inside and outside the submarine to prepare for its opening day, expected to be in early July, possibly the July 1st Canada Day weekend.

From now until then tours will gradually increase and in the beginning, will be available between the hours of 11a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday to Friday. The tours will be conducted primarily by volunteers from Port Burwell, Straffordville, Vienna, Richmond and Bayham residents that have become involved with Project Ojibwa. Tours are $5 dollars each and no prior booking for an ‘inside the fence’ tour is required.

“That’s step one,” said Raven. “You can go up and touch her – you don’t have to stand outside the fence and look at her, you can actually go up and touch her and learn a lot about Ojibwa.”

Raven said they will offer the outside tour of Ojibwa, even after it opens to the public, for a number of reasons.

“There will always be people who don’t want to go inside the sub – for a variety of reasons,” she said. “So we will always be offering the external tour for anyone who’s interested. To some degree, it tells you a different story.”

Starting at the end of May, there will be additional tours that become available. They will be known as ‘shakedown’ tours.

“In June, those tours will be open to specific groups – we’ll set aside days in that shakedown time period before it’s open to the general public, that people from Bayham will get their chance to go through,” explained Raven, adding that no dates for the shakedown tours have been set but are expected to take place sometime in June.

“The days for Bayham are going to be probably mid-June or so and the general public will be able to start booking towards the end of June, and into July we’ll be full-fling.”

The word ‘shakedown’ noted Raven, is a term that relates to the submarine service itself.

“When these submarines were initially commissioned, the first tour or the first outing they went on was called the shakedown tour,” she said. “They didn’t have a particular mission - the mission was to shake down all of the systems, test everything and make sure that it works properly.

“We’ve just taken on that terminology as we’re training our staff and making sure that all of our systems work properly.”

The museum estimates that they could hire as many as 40 people for the Ojibwa tours this summer, who will act as tour guides and hold a variety of other administrative positions, including ticket agents.

The tour season for the former HMCS Ojibwa will run from opening day in July until November 11, 2013.

“We’re very excited about the opening (of Ojibwa) this summer.”

For more information on the ‘inside the fence’ tours or a ‘shakedown’ tour, visit www.projectojibwa.ca

 

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