Deep under the Canadian countryside lies a secret facility that could just decide the future of the human race. Its creator – retired computer science professor Bruce Beach – hopes it will never have to be used. So why has he gone to such extraordinary lengths to realize his creation, and what exactly is it that he’s buried under 14 feet of soil and 18 inches of concrete?
Beach, who hails from Horning’s Mills, Ontario, is a “prepper” – someone who’s taken action in case of a civilization-threatening emergency. If the end of the world is nigh, Beach wants the human race to survive.
Back when Beach was a young man, the Cuban Missile Crisis had turned the specter of nuclear war into a very real and present threat. Ever since the end of World War II, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union had been growing. They had then reached crisis point by October 1962.
When Soviet missiles were discovered in Cuba, it seemed as if the world might really descend into nuclear war. And for those alive at the time, it created a life-long fear of the carnage that would follow such a conflict. Thankfully, the confrontation de-escalated, but the Cold War continued to drag on for nearly three more decades.
By the 1980s it seemed as if nuclear annihilation might be back on the table once more. In the Soviet Union, officials worried that the U.S. might target them with a pre-emptive strike. In the White House, meanwhile, President Ronald Reagan questioned whether or not this apparent fear was a clever act.
Then, in November 1983 a military exercise nearly sparked a conflict that would have changed the world for good. Known as Able Archer 83, the activity was intended to simulate the onset of nuclear war. However, in the Soviet Union, some suspected that the United States was actually planning a genuine attack.
On high alert, the Soviets prepared their own weapons and were ready to respond in kind. But the exercise thankfully finished before any retaliatory action could take place. And even though it did not end in disaster, the event is considered among the closest that the world has ever come to nuclear war.
In the case of the 1983 nuclear scare, it would be years before the public would find out just how close they came to total annihilation. But they didn’t need to know the details of exercises like Able Archer in order to live in fear. Egged on by an overzealous media, citizens around the world believed that a nuclear attack – and thus impending doom – was a real possibility.
Not one to sit and idly await his fate, Canadian Bruce Beach decided to do something. So he began work on an underground bunker that would protect himself and up to 500 others in the event of a global catastrophe.
However, compared with the hideouts that people had been burying in their backyards, Beach’s bunker was something altogether different. What he ended up building, in fact, is thought to be the planet’s biggest privately built nuclear shelter.
The bunker, which is situated on Beach’s property, measures 10,000 square feet. Nuclear fallout above ground? No worries, says the prepper; anybody living inside the shelter can apparently survive unaffected.
As for the bunker’s history, work began in 1980 when four old school buses were installed at the site. Five years later, Beach added the last of a total of 42 buses, all of which were subsequently covered in a thick layer of concrete.
But why did Beach choose such a strange foundation for his unique fallout shelter? Well, school buses are typically constructed with roofs made from reinforced steel – making them ideal at resisting impact from above. And because the prepper was able to purchase them at around $300 per vehicle, they were fairly cost-effective as well.
Using this somewhat unique method, Beach created a vast underground complex which he believes is capable of withstanding a nuclear blast. And ever since its construction, it has sat empty beneath his land. But what is it like inside the bunker that could safeguard the future of mankind?
Today, the bunker is protected by a series of locked gates and doors. And once inside, visitors are greeted by an area intended for firearm storage. According to those who have been down into the structure, it seems, the complex suffers from damp and bad lighting. However, Beach claims that it has everything that survivors might need.
“We have all the comforts of home,” Beach told the National Post in 2018. In reality, however, the bunker is far better equipped than your standard house. It comes complete with two kitchens, a chapel and a decontamination room – a necessity if survivors are ever to return to the world above.
However, Beach has also considered what might be needed if things go awry below ground. As well as a mortuary and chair for dental treatments, there is a “brig” – a military term that typically refers to a prison. It’s not all doom and gloom though, and the bunker is even stocked with chess sets to help inhabitants to pass the time.
Beach’s bunker also seems curiously low-tech in some parts. In one room, for example, there is an old bicycle that was once set up so that residents could pedal to grind wheat. And in another, a number of security monitors provide an overview of the complex. But rather than swish 21st century models, they are makeshift devices cobbled together from dated Commodore 64 computers.
Similarly, there is a telephone line connected to the bunker – but it is accessed via an old-fashioned rotary dial. Nevertheless, while some parts of the complex might be dated, everything is in working order. In the case of a nuclear emergency, meanwhile, a generator is set up to provide power for the survivors.
According to Beach, there is even a clever plumbing system to take care of sanitation needs. And although the bunker is stocked with plenty of toilet paper, the prepper imagines an unusual purpose for this stash. He told the National Post, “Those aren’t for use, but for bartering.”
The aim of the shelter is to provide a functioning living environment for its inhabitants for up to three months – the length of time deemed necessary for any nuclear fallout to dissipate. It is therefore stocked with plenty of diesel, while a well provides the residents with drinking water.
Beach apparently even keeps the bunker stocked with enough sustenance to see any survivors through the long months below ground. However, keeping supplies replenished has been a difficult task. He explained, “I don’t know how many tons of food we have had to throw out over the years.”
Ark Two can also communicate with the outside world – assuming anybody else survives a catastrophic event like a nuclear attack. Theoretically, the shelter is capable of launching a weather balloon to monitor conditions, while radio equipment would allow messages to be broadcast across North America.
Although some have, perhaps unsurprisingly, branded Beach a “doomsayer,” the man himself believes his project is a service to society. Ark Two’s purpose isn’t just to save humankind; it’s also a tool by which civilization can re-establish itself after a nuclear catastrophe.
In the event of the shelter being needed, Beach expects many of its inhabitants to be children – even if that means their parents staying above ground. He told the National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers, “We’re going to say to people [that] we have room for your children, but we don’t have room for you.”
For anyone interested, it doesn’t cost anything to sign up to Beach’s project, but those wishing to reside there should disaster strike must earn their stay. And this means getting involved in the Ark Two community.
Becoming involved in the group usually means maintaining the shelter or taking part in various activities, according to Beach. But anyone is still welcome to sign up – regardless of religious, cultural or political leanings.
Beach reckons a nuclear war could kill 80 percent of people on planet Earth. This means, naturally, that any survivors would be tasked with the mammoth job of restoring the human race to its former glory. And that is, of course, where the prepper and his community would come in.
Whether or not a nuclear apocalypse happens, though, Ark Two has helped to foster a real sense of community. Those wishing to one day take up residence there are encouraged to move close by and actively participate in preparations.
Despite this inclusive approach, however, Beach has struggled to get people to commit. And even though he hosts regular work days at the bunker, the majority of people only visit once. In fact, as of 2018 there were just 50 regular community members with a place on the prepper’s invite list.
“I’ll probably have trouble getting people to come in,” Beach admitted to the National Post. In fact, he claimed that even his own partner and children have lost interest in the bunker and the topic of nuclear war. Beach admitted, “It wears on my wife.” But will his huge efforts be vindicated in the end?
Should nuclear disaster strike, life for the inhabitants of Beach’s bunker will go on – although it apparently won’t be a democratic society. According to the prepper, a commander will be appointed, while crew members will each have designated tasks. Bunks will be allocated according to age and gender, too.
Adult residents will be apparently expected to work 16 hours a day, according to Beach. It doesn’t sound like much fun, it’s true, but the Canadian explains on his website that “the facility is a lifeboat, not a luxury cruise liner.”
While some consider Beach and his epic shelter as mere eccentricities, he’s occasionally found himself at the center of battles with the authorities. For example, in 2000 the fire department deemed the bunker unsafe and ordered its closure.
Although Beach claims to have made the necessary amendments, in 2015 he was again approached by the authorities, who were worried that the structure is a hazard. To this day, however, it remains open – quietly awaiting the day it might be called upon to save the human race.
In July 2019 a video featuring the bunker was uploaded to YouTube. Hosted on the channel Exploring with Angelo, the 20-minute film shows Beach giving a tour of the underground complex. And while the structure is beginning to show signs of age, it’s still equipped with all the necessary gear for nuclear survival.
In the video, Beach points out the fact that the bus forming the entrance way is set at a right angle to the rest of the structure. The prepper explains, “That’s because radiation only goes in straight lines. It can’t make this turn and come down in the shelter.” What has made its way inside, however, is a vast collection of clutter and junk.
As Beach guides two explorers around the bunker, it’s possible to see stacks of homemade newspapers, supplies and furniture piled up around the structure. However, some of the complex appears woefully underprepared. Both the library and the nursery, for example, seem empty of essential items such as books and toys.
Back outside, the filmmakers are seen quizzing Beach about his plans for rebuilding society in the event of a nuclear apocalypse. The latter explains, “My plan here is take people and to train them about LERNs [Local Economy Recovery Networks]. A LERN is 150 individuals above the age of 15. And so, we form several [of them] in the village and each [one] elects five individuals. These five are the legislation, the administration and the judiciary all combined.”
But does Beach still believe that nuclear war is a real and present threat? Well, he told the National Post, “I used to always say the end of the world was going to be two years from now. But now I say it is going to be two weeks from now – and if I am wrong, I will revise my date. I’ve done it before.”