The day has finally arrived.
Staff and volunteers with the Elgin Military Museum and Project Ojibwa have been waiting for this day for eight long months – since November 20, 2012 to be exact, the day when the HMCS Ojibwa landed on the shores of Lake Erie in Port Burwell.
“There’s a mix of excitement with almost panic because there’s still a lot to do in a short period of time but we’re going to get there,” said Melissa Raven, director of communications for Project Ojibwa. “We’re in the final stages - we’re going to do a massive cleanup of all the equipment that’s been used to restore the Ojibwa to the state she’s in today.
“We’re looking forward to that major step being behind us.”
Months of preparation and hard work to ready the HMCS Ojibwa for opening day in Port Burwell has involved, noted Raven, replacing all electrical wiring to updated standards, maintaining fixtures, installing energy efficient LED lighting, the installation of heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, and replacing all flooring in the submarine.
“We’ve activated the radio room and we took part in an international and historic ships radio weekend a couple of weeks ago,” said Raven.
In addition, they have hired a number of new staff that will work with Project Ojibwa.
“We’ve taken on just over 40 people to be tour guides, to work in the shop, to sell tickets and work as customer service agents,” she added. “They are getting very, very excited about the opening.”
Raven noted they are operating out of trailers this year and have set up a store and ticket office at the HMCS Ojibwa site.
Although the doors to the HMCS Ojibwa are expected to open this Saturday, June 29, the official opening will take place in a special ceremony a week later.
“July 6 is the official ceremony but we’ll actually be opening to the public we hope on the June 29. If everything goes smoothly this week we’ll be opening for public tours on Saturday. And right now we’re scheduled to open on Saturday.”
The Project Ojibwa team will keep a close eye on how things are progressing and make a decision late Friday as to whether or not the HMCS Ojibwa will indeed open its doors to the public on the 29th.
“We’ll know Friday – it’s a case of getting all the last minute things in place and making sure that we have everything complete.”
When it opens, the public will see a unique part of Canada’s marine history up close.
“I think people can expect a ‘wow.’ It’s a submarine that was part of Canada’s navy during the Cold War, it still looks very much like a war ship.
“They’re going to be able to tour the torpedo room. Everything you’ve seen in movies, you’re going to see in real life. They’re going to see how the submariners lived in very small rooms that accommodated 21 people. They’re going to see the control room, the radio room, and they’re going to see the one-man station where the submarine was actually driven.”
For those who do not wish to tour inside the HMCS Ojibwa, there are ‘fisheye view tours’ available as well, a 35-minute tour around the outside of the submarine giving people an opportunity to learn about Ojibwa’s history.
Inside tours will leave every 12 minutes with a maximum of 10 people per tour, and each inside tour will last one hour. Tours will begin at 9 a.m. and run until 9 p.m. for July and August, and 9-6 p.m. from September to November.
Raven said staff members with the Elgin Military Museum and Project Ojibwa are looking forward to welcoming tourists and visitors this summer as they open HMCS Ojibwa to the world.
“Come on down and see us.”
Tickets are $18.50 each for adults (13-and-over) and $11 for children ages 6-12. Children under six years of age are not permitted on HMCS Ojibwa for safety reasons.
Raven suggests booking tours ahead of time by calling the Elgin Military Museum at (519) 633-7641.
There is a ticket office located on site, and in the very near future, an online booking feature will be available through their website at www.projectojibwa.ca.