Cold War sub leaves Hamilton on last journey

HMCS Ojibwa was towed out of Hamilton at 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

HMCS Ojibwa was towed out of Hamilton at 3:30 a.m. Sunday

Ret. Rear-Admiral Dan McNeil stands in front of the HMCS Ojibwa, which is set to become the centrepiece of a new naval museum in Port Burwell, Ont. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

A half-century-old submarine left Hamilton for its final journey early Sunday.

HMCS Ojibwa had been docked at Heddle Marine at Pier 14 since early November. It left the Port of Hamilton at 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

The antique sub was getting a makeover before heading to a new naval museum in Port Burwell, Ont.

The Ojibwa is the last of Canada's Oberon-class submarines and a relic from the Cold War, when the West and the Soviet Union were each other's greatest adversaries.

"It was commissioned in 1965, built to be one of the quietest submarines in the world," said Ret. Rear-Admiral Dan McNeil, co-ordinator of Project Ojibwa — the team that orchestrated the endeavour.

"Canada had obligations in the international community and the main one was to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Our job was to help keep the sea lines of communication open in the event of the Cold War breaking into any kind of hot war."

To commemorate this role, the Ojibwa, which was donated by the Department of National Defence, will become the centrepiece of the new Elgin Military Museum of Naval History, set to open in 2013.

The sub is expected to arrive in Port Burwell on Monday or Tuesday, weather permitting. Port Burwell is located about 140 km southwest of Hamilton on the north shore of Lake Erie.

Visitors will be able to go on guided tours of the sub in the new museum.

"The story will be told about the submariners, the people who have served Canada, particularly under the waters of the North Atlantic," McNeil said.

The most challenging part of this journey is towing the sub through the Welland Canal, the 43-kilometre man-made waterway that connects lakes Ontario and Erie, said John Ham, a project co-ordinator with Mammoet, a transportation firm helping to engineer the feat.

Mercifully, this final jaunt is much shorter than the one that brought the Ojibwa to Hamilton. In the spring, it was hauled from its previous home in Halifax via the St. Lawrence Seaway.