The grizzly bear reigns supreme as the king of the carnivores in North America. With their formidable size, powerful limbs and sabre sharp teeth and claws, they have little to fear from most other creatures. Yet there is a time every year when they are most vulnerable – when they hibernate. To protect themselves from harsh environment conditions and other predators, they withdraw to the security of a subterranean refuge.
In the same way, those wishing to survive doomsday must have a secure retreat in which they can weather the apocalyptic storm. Bunkers, dugout, fall-out shelters, call them what you will, these underground sanctuaries provide protection from the menace of such things as solar radiation and nuclear fall-out, all the way through to marauding bands of post-apocalyptic survivors bent of no-good and the legions of un-dead.
Our species is no stranger to the considerable benefits the underworld offers in times of crisis. Since our troglodyte ancestors first lurched into the darkened hallows of caves, we have utilized holes in to ground to shelter from the horrors of existence. From the Blitz to the Cold War, the sophistication of bunkers has developed to the point that they are sometimes now marketed as you home away from home.
Don’t wait until you hear the sirens screaming, get your shovel out now and start digging.
Here are 10 interesting examples of what is possible.
1) Ramenki Bunker, Moscow
Since the time of Ivan the Terrible, Muscovites have been seeking refuge below the streets and byways of Moscow. Yet it wasn’t until the Cold War that the full potential of the subterranean world was realised. The Ramenki Bunker system is believed to have been built some 10 kms (6 miles) from Moscow’s city centre and linked via a secret underground rail network to the Kremlin and other key government buildings. Built over a ten year period from the mid-1960s, Ramenki was effectively an underground city about 2.5 square km (500 acres) in size and built to a depth of 200 metres (400 ft). When operational during the it is estimated to have been able to shelter up to 15,000 people, with enough food to last 30 years. Little is known of its capability today.
2) Banhof — Pionen, White Mountain Data Centre, Sweden
This former Cold War nuclear shelter, buried beneath 30m of solid granite in central Stockholm, now houses Bahnhof, one of Sweden’s largest internet providers and host of the infamous Wikileaks website.
Looking like the quintessential James Bond set, the Pionen facility is bristling with state-of-the-art hardware that would be the envy of any technophile. Designed by the architectural firm Albert France-Lanord and inspired by such Sci-Fi classics as Logan’s Run, Silent Running and Star Wars, the facility is powered by two diesel submarine engines and has subterranean gardens, a 2600 litre fish tank, waterfalls and an original warning horn system from a German Submarine.
3) Vivos, Mohavi Desert, California
At a secret location in the Mohave desert, east of Los Angeles, entrepreneur Robert Vicino has constructed a private network of survival shelters in preparation for the 2012 apocalypse or any other catasrophy that could befall mankind. Capable of housing 200 people, the shelter consists of a multi-level underground complex with blast doors, decontamination showers, generators, air filtration systems and medical facilities. This is the first of what Vicino envisages as a global network of survival facilities located near major urban centres.
Reservations can be made now for around the $50,000 mark, per person.
4) Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado
As the primary warning centre for all space, air and missile threats to North America, you could expect the Cheyenne Mountain NORAD Centre to be pretty impressive; and you’d be right. Built under 2000 ft of solid rock, the Cheyenne Mountain facility is designed to withstand the impact of a direct nuclear strike. Three feet thick solid steel blast doors seal in an underground town of more than 200 people. With more than a dozen buildings built on giant springs to absorb the shock of a nuclear detonation, this facility can run on in complete isolation for over a month. Eight diesel generators power 4000 batteries, water from a natural spring and air filtered to remove any nuclear, chemical or biological agents. The facility has its own medical facilities, dental offices, pharmacy, gyms, a chapel and even a barber shop.
5) The Greenbrier Bunker, West Virginia
Built beneath the salubrious Greenbrier Hotel at White Sulphur Springs during the Eisenhower era as an emergency relocation centre for the U.S. House of Congress in the event of a nuclear war, this bunker remained a secret until a tip off to the Washington Post in 1992. Although decommissioned shortly afterwards, it was originally designed to accommodate over 1,100 people and was completely self-sufficient for up to two months. Tours of the facility are now available.
6) Mount Weather, Virginia
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an hour’s drive west of Washington D.C., the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was built during the height of the Cold War as part of a ‘federal relocation arc’ of underground facilities designed to house government officials during times of international crisis. As you would expect, very little is known about Mt Weather, but rest assured, there will little point trying to bang on the blast doors when catastrophe strikes. This one is strictly for the high and mighty.
7) Vals, Switzerland
Although not technically a bunker, this underground residence could (with a bit of effort) be converted into a 5-star doomsday shelter. Built into a hillside in the mountains of Switzerland, this retreat features all the comforts of a conventional home, along with access via a secret tunnel leading to an old barn.
8) Zero Star Hotel, Switzerland
What first began as an arts project by twin brothers Frank and Patrik Riklin, the Null Stern is the world’s first zero-star hotel. Built in a converted nuclear bunker near Zurich, guests must endure cold concrete floors, a noisy ventilation system and an austere environment that would suit the most die-hard Zen practitioner.
9) Raven Rock Mountain Complex, Pennsylvania
Located only 10 km (6.2 miles) north-northeast of Camp David, Maryland, this underground communications facility (also known as Site R) became operational in 1951.It forms part of the U.S. government’s Continuity of Operations Plan, which will try to reposition the upper hierarchy of government in the event of a national catastrophe. Don’t expect a welcome mat here.
10) Burlington Bunker, England
One hundred feet below the sleepy market town of Corsham, Wiltshire, lies a 35 acre subterranean Cold War city known as Burlington Bunker. Designed to house the British government in the event of a nuclear war, the bunker remained operational for more than 30 years. This massive facility contained a hospital, cafeterias, kitchens, a bakery, laundries, offices, a telephone exchange and a television studio where the prime minister could address the public if the need arose. It even had its own pneumatic tube system to transfer messages throughout the extensive complex. With more than 10 miles of underground roads, Burlington could sustain 4000 people for at least three months in complete isolation from the outside world.
So there we have it. A by no means definative list of interesting bunkers. There are literally thousands of old Cold War bunkers buried across the world, many of which are up for sale.