Tag Archives: Onondaga

Dive! Dive! A short tour of duty aboard the HMCS Onondaga

24 Dec

“Battlestations!” calls the captain and we scramble for our assigned positions. I quickly race down the hall and through the waterproof door of bulkhead 49. The corridors are narrow, barely wide enough for a single person and every surface has been utilized. There are thousands of manually operated valves and switches and hundreds of gauges throughout the ship, but these are not in my sector. I rush through the deep red light of the command center past the sonar, navigation, attack command boards, and the dive plane operator’s station while dodging both the attack and search periscope that have been raised. I quickly move through another circular bulkhead door and down the narrow catwalk between the two 4,000 horsepower V-16 diesel engines. They’re quiet now. This submarine was propelled by two 3,000 horsepower electric motors. The diesel engines were used only to generate electricity and charge the two 110-ton batteries, but they never propelled the ship. My station is in the stern watertight compartment, behind bulkhead 77. I’m in charge of counter-measures, which means I operate a very ordinary looking bronze, lever-actuated device and will, upon the captain’s command, load and release flares or other elements to confuse enemy radar—at least I would have during those Cold War years when this submarine had enemies.

I park the Street Glide beneath the conning tower on the port side of the HMCS Onondaga. HMCS stands for Her Majesty’s Canadian Submarine and the big Harley trike looks pretty diminutive next to this stealthy veteran of the Cold War. This is the last surviving Oberon-class submarine and the pride of Site Historique Maritime de la Pointe-au-Père in Rimouski, Quebec. By day the Onondaga is a museum complete with self-guided audio tours in both French and English. At night it will become Gîte Onondaga, a unique opportunity to experience a tour of duty aboard a military submarine. I’d pulled a few strings to get a berth for the night and had to rearrange a rather complex travel schedule, but here I am, the first journalist to experience one of the most unique B&B inns in North America.Image Continue reading

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