Welcome to the world’s largest homemade nuclear fallout shelter. In 1985, Bruce Beach began building the Ark Two in the small town of Horning’s Mills, Canada, by burying 42 school buses and covering them in concrete. When the apocalypse strikes, 1,000 people can join him inside.
“There is going to be a nuclear war and none will survive, just the ‘rare elect.’ That’s a quotation from the Bible†. Every 20 years, I’ve thought, Boy, this is going to be it. First, the Cuban missile crisis; then in the '80s things looked bad between the US and Russia; and 20 years later came the millennium. I would never have built Ark Two if I hadn’t believed that things were going to happen, and soon.
“The Ark is like a submarine that, instead of being underwater, is under the earth. If you have a fire on a submarine you can’t just open the doors, you have to take care of it internally, so the rules are not democratic. Current society is based upon greed, so I have designed a system where people select the best people from among themselves. I’m a social inventor.
“We call our selection procedure ‘the triage’ like in a hospital. If 500 stockbrokers show up at the Ark, we’d rather choose 50 migrant Mexicans who know how to take care of the soil. Or somebody might show up and we’d say, ‘Well, we can take this man, but that child is diabetic and needs insulin. I don’t have any, so he is going die. Another child could live.’
“I never planned the Ark; it just grew. Many of the people who helped me have died, but new people come and last for five or 10 years. We have to reconstruct humanity, but my system cannot be implemented until the present one is completely wiped out.”
† “Armageddon” refers to a hill near Megiddo in northern Israel. According to the Christian New Testament, the final battle between good and evil will be fought there.
How to organize the arkClick to enlarge
Entry to the Ark is free, but the door policy is strict. New arrivals will be washed down and decontaminated before those “most able to serve the community” are selected for salvation. After the first 1,000, it’s one in, one out.
Men and women must live in separate areas, and children will be isolated from their parents. Among the children, a dedicated “cry room” keeps rigid social order by containing sadness before it can spread.
The Ark provides those it rejects with a temporary refuge. Here, the unlucky will get a meal and a map, reminders that, as Bruce says, “it is not necessarily true that if you’re not in the shelter, you are dead.”
People locked out of the Ark can make themselves useful by heading to the distribution center, stocked with seeds, farming instructions and earthworms: everything they need to bring the landscape back to life.
Where to take coverClick to enlarge
Essentially reinforced, oversized garbage cans with doors, British Consol shelters stood on elevated ground during World War II to give fire watchers protection while they monitored bombing raids. They were spartan, simple and small, but offered a great view of the action.
If you’ve got no space to spare for your bunker, this British 1941 dinner table had a 3-millimeter solid steel surface, came in a 359-part proto-Ikea assembly pack and was capable of withstanding a collapsing house.
Built in Germany during the 1930s and designed to accommodate the populations of whole villages and factories, Winkelturms can resist a direct hit from a high-explosive bomb. Unfortunately, these bell-shaped shelters weren’t soundproofed – goats locked inside during military tests were left permanently deaf.
This apparently innocuous motorway tunnel in Switzerland moonlighted as a possible fallout shelter for 20,000 Swiss. Fortunately, the shelter was never used – in a rehearsal, its four 350-tonne blast doors took 24 hours to close, and setting up 20,000 beds took even longer.
With the inspirational slogan, “Dig deep, store food and prepare for war,” Mao Zedong mobilized 300,000 Beijing residents in 1969 against the USSR’s nuclear threat. Civilians burrowed for more than a decade to create a 30-kilometer warren, including basketball courts, theaters, and mushroom farms.
The world’s largest private nuclear bunker, the Canadian Ark Two is constructed from 42 decommissioned school buses buried underground in the late 1980s. Supplied by a 16-meter-deep well, it can keep 1,000 people safe from the outside world.
When the first bunkeri prototype was built in Albania in 1967, the then-president tested its strength by locking his chief engineer inside and bombarding him with tank shells. He survived, and there are now 700,000 bunkeri in Albania, 24 per square kilometer.
What’s the point surviving an apocalypse if you have to rough it afterwards? US real-estate developer Larry Hall and three wealthy investors have converted a Kansas nuclear-missile silo into a US$7-million luxury underground condominium with 2.7-meter-thick concrete walls for total catastrophe comfort.