The cheers and applause from the crowd overlooking the HMCS Ojibwa in Port Burwell on Tuesday afternoon could only mean one thing – it’s finally on solid ground.
The official ‘landing day’ came exactly a week after the cold war era submarine arrived in Port Burwell.
“We’re pleased and slightly relieved. There’s still a lot of work to be done but we’re at least free of the barge and that’s a huge step,” said Ian Raven, executive director of The Elgin Military Museum in St. Thomas. “I would suspect it will end up being tomorrow (Wednesday) before we’re completely finished. Moving it over the grout will take several hours to set up and I would think at this point in the day, we’ll leave that until tomorrow so we’re doing it in daylight rather than overnight over lights.”
As stated several times over the past few days, the process of transporting the former HMCS Ojibwa onto land and then its new, permanent home has been a slow one but early in the week, much progress was made.
On Monday, workers from Mammoet positioned the SPMT’s (self propelled modular trailers) onto the barge in preparation of Ojibwa’s move onto land Tuesday.
“We have a pretty solid foundation with 120 feet of I-beam in the 4x4 concrete foundations, actually four feet high,” said project coordinator and rear admiral (retired), Dan McNeil, “What people are not going to realize is the complexity of transferring that weight onto the foundation. A submarine is actually flexible, like any big steel structure and we’re not actually placing it directly on the surface, we’re placing it about half an inch everywhere and then we have to put a grouting compound, like a cement that evens out the weight so there’s a complete distribution of weight on all the elements of the cradles that we built for the Ojibwa.”
The official landing of the cold war era submarine took place Tuesday, beginning early in the morning and was officially complete b 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Once on land, the Ojibwa was moved, very slowly on the SPMT’s down the roadway created just for the submarine - known as the super highway the 472.
“They’re going to start the roll off at 8 a.m. Tuesday but it’s going to be very slow. This is perhaps the most challenging part and the most interesting part,” explained McNeil. “The trickiest part is balancing the barge at the same time the submarine is coming off because you’ve got to maintain the level barge and the stability, and for every pound that comes off, you have to put a pound of water in the barge, in the right place where it came off.”
Many residents, officials with The Elgin Military Museum and those with the Municipality of Bayham including Mayor Paul Ens and councillors Wayne Casier, Ed Ketchabaw and Tom Southwick were on hand to witness the official landing day for the former HMCS Ojibwa.
“The crowd was estatic, it’s on dry land now,” said Southwick. “It’s taken a long time but it’s great weather today, the town is full and the crowd loves it.”
The final details are expected to be complete Wednesday, when Ojibwa will be placed on the permanent, concrete foundation in the location of the new Elgin Military Museum of Naval History that is expected to be built and opened by next summer.
“We’re underway and now the work is much more under our direct control. We can set the pace and keep moving forward,” said Raven.
“We are as happy to see it on land. I think the best way to sum it up is to paraphrase Churchill - ‘this isn’t the end or the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning,” Raven said with a smile.