Driving aimlessly along country roads you never know what you will come across, and earlier this week while looking for visiting snowy owls, we came across something that seemed worthy of investigation. A lone government sign in a farmer’s field north of Richmond, simply labeled “Area 9” with a locked gate to a long abandoned road.
An internet search of the sign that was marked “Department Of Communications – Area 9” lead to a website explaining that the Department Of Communications was established by the Department of Communications Act in 1969 and was “responsible for fostering the orderly operation and development of communications in Canada, the powers and functions of the minister extended to telecom, national communications policy, broadcasting policy, radio and radar research, and actions necessary to secure the international rights of Canada in communications.” It was also responsible for satellite communications and supporting the Canadian space industry. Departmental restructuring in 1993 eliminated the department as a government entity and absorbed into other government departments in 1993.
Likely part of some radio transmitter or receiver site, further searches for Area 9 info provided no results so a question was presented to my trusty Twitter followers to see if they knew anything about “Area 9”. Remarkably, the answer came in quickly and with interesting results. One person provided me with an aerial map from 1976 and 1993 showing the facility. A building, an “X” pattern and some equipment were clearly visible. But what was all this for?
A second person privately messaged me with some information that provides one explanation as to what Area 9 may have been used for. Whether this information is accurate or not is hard to verify without a credible source, but here is the explanation I was given below:
“The site was part of a Cold War Project for over the horizon radio detection finding, likely used to listen to embassy communications. It consisted of a very large array of receiver antennas laid out in a NS and EW axis. The array was almost a mile long and antennae wiring fed back to a building south along the lane-way.”
A Cold War radio transmission interception facility. With all the embassies located in the Nation’s Capital it makes sense our government during the Cold War was doing their best to monitor radio activity being transmitted out of them and back to their home countries. Likely in operation from 1969 when the department was formed, until the Department Of Communications was disbanded in 1993, it represents an era of espionage that has since evolved into more advanced technologies. Aerial photos show the facility still standing in 2002 but removed in 2008 with only the outlines of the previous buildings and antennae remaining today.
A ghost of Ottawa’s Cold War past, currently owned by Industry Canada, Area 9 now sits empty, receiving only the calls of visiting snowy owls.
Special thanks to Shawn Hooper, Brad Clarke, and Jim “LumberBarons”.