Victoria, navy officials eye public submarine tours

  • Jun. 10, 2011 7:00 a.m.

Greater Victoria residents and school kids may one day see the Canadian military in a whole new light – from deep within the belly of the subamrine HMCS Victoria.

“There is an opportunity hopefully to get it into the Inner Harbour – it will depend on tides and a few other things – where people can see it, and there might even be a chance to tour it (inside),” said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, who was recently among a group of dignitaries invited to tour the vessel at CFB Esquimalt.

The city will also explore opportunities to bring school children from Greater Victoria school distric to the boat. Fortin said.

Public tours of the sub would be an exciting opportunity for residents to connect in a very unique way with more military personnel from the nearby military base, Fortin said.

The navy’s enthusiasm for the initiative gives Fortin hope the tours are only a matter of time.

“Everyone’s encouraging,” said the mayor. “It really is just a matter of logistics: how do we make this happen if it can, and where? It’s a fantastic opportunity.”

Officials with Canada’s Navy agree the idea has merit.

“Touring a submarine is a little more difficult (because of the confined space), but I expect when available and when appropriate the boat will be opened for some public viewing,” said Gerry Pash, Canadian Navy spokesperson based at HMC Dockyard at CFB Esquimalt.

“One has to recognize that the navy ships and submarines belong to the people of Canada, and we provide access as best as we can on an as-available basis to the public.”

While Canada’s previous Oberon-class of submarines was opened to the public, HMCS Victoria has only hosted dignitaries and the media since arriving in its namesake city in 2003.

Public tours of the Victoria could be held while it is moored in the Inner Harbour or at CFB Esquimalt, Pash said, adding that the sub can navigate shallow waters unlike a navy warship.

“Parking (HMCS Victoria) downtown and putting a large number of people (on the sub) would probably require some real thinking it through,” said Pash. “It’s not impossible, but you’re talking about having a great lineup of people, and probably taking some small number through at a time, whether its five or 10.”

It is too soon to tell when the tours will happen, Pash noted.

Work on HMCS Victoria, which is in the water and tied alongside a CFB Esquimalt jetty, is ongoing as it is prepared for full operational status, possibly next spring.

emccracken@vicnews.com