The facility operated from two locations within the Municipality of the District of Shelburne:
- The original facility opened during World War II and was located on the eastern shore of Shelburne Harbour in the community of Sandy Point, immediately south of the boundary for the town of Shelburne. This facility included a deepwater port and shore facilities including barracks and residences.
- The newer facility opened during the Cold War (part of the original Sandy Point facility was reactivated as well) and was located in the community of Lower Sandy Point, approximately 14 km (8.7 mi) south of the town of Shelburne, on Government Point at the southern tip of a peninsula separating Shelburne Harbour from Jordan Bay.
HMCS Shelburne (1941–1946)
In December 1941 the Royal Canadian Navy opened a naval station in the community of Sandy Point named HMCS Shelburne on the eastern shore of Shelburne Harbour immediately south of the town of Shelburne. Located at the mouth of the Roseway River, this station consisted of a deepwater pier and associated shore facilities, including barracks and residences. It was connected by Canadian National Railways via a short spur from the government wharf spur off its Yarmouth to Halifax main line.
On May 13, 1945 the commanding officer of U-889, Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Braeucker formally surrendered to the RCN at HMCS Shelburne after being escorted there from Bay Bulls, Newfoundland on May 10 by HMCS Buckingham and HMCS Inch Arran. On May 14 U-889 was taken by the RCN to Halifax.
HMCS Shelburne was closed in 1946 as part of the RCN's post-World War II budget cuts and force draw-down. The facility was converted into an industrial park with buildings sold for private use.
Approximately 200 acres (0.81 km2) of the Sandy Point property was purchased by the Government of Nova Scotia in 1948 for construction of the "Nova Scotia School for Boys" – a modern penal facility to replace the "Halifax Industrial School for Boys", a penal facility that had closed in 1947. The Nova Scotia School for Boys (later called the Shelburne Youth Centre) would close in 2008 upon the opening of the Nova Scotia Youth Centre in Waterville, NS
RCAF Station Shelburne (1942–1944)
It was intended for operational use by the United States Navy for conducting anti-submarine patrols off southern Nova Scotia for the shipping lanes to Boston and the Gulf of Maine as part of the Battle of the Atlantic. The USN decided against using the facility prior to its completion, thus it was commissioned as RCAF Station Shelburne and opened in June 1942 as a training base that saw occasional operational use.
RCAF Station Shelburne hosted the No. 3 Operational Training Unit using the Consolidated PBY Catalina with No. 116 Squadron RCAF being the first to train at the facility. In June 1943 No. 116 Squadron deployed to RCAF Station Botwood. Throughout the rest of 1943 the station was used occasionally by No. 117 Squadron RCAF and the No. 6 Coast Artillery Co-operation Detachment. In March 1944 the station was taken over by the Royal Canadian Navy and consolidated into the adjacent HMCS Shelburne.
HMCS Shelburne (1955–1968)
The creation of NATO in 1949 coincided with the development of the SOSUS network (SOund SUrveillance System) by the United States Navy and later other NATO navies for monitoring submarines of Warsaw Pact navies. The research and development phase of SOSUS ended with success and it began to be operationally deployed in 1952, beginning with the creation of 6 arrays in the North Atlantic basin. Deployment of SOSUS and the larger Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) was likely spurred by development of ballistic missile submarines and associated missile technology in the Soviet Union during the mid-1950s.
Each array required a shore-based facility to be constructed, which the USN termed a "Naval Facility" (NAVFAC). The first NAVFAC built under the "Caesar Program" was commissioned in September 1954 at Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico. Similar stations were established that year at Grand Turk Island (Turks and Caicos) and San Salvador Island (Bahamas).
One of the original 6 SOSUS arrays in the Atlantic basin was deployed off Nova Scotia and northern New England, requiring a NAVFAC to be constructed in southern Nova Scotia. As a result, the RCN reactivated HMCS Shelburne as a lodger unit on April 1, 1955.
The RCN reacquired 23 of its former buildings in the industrial park at the original HMCS Shelburne in Sandy Point and constructed several new buildings including residences. Additionally, a new property was acquired 14 km (8.7 mi) to the south in Lower Sandy Point on a headland named Government Point where the NAVFAC was constructed as a joint RCN/USN "Oceanographic Research Station" – a cover for what would become the first SOSUS station in Canada (Naval Station Argentia would become the second).
HMCS Shelburne became operational on August 14, 1955 with the Commanding Officer of HMCS Shelburne being appointed the Officer-in-Charge of the Oceanographic Research Station (aka the NAVFAC). As such, HMCS Shelburne was also the first SOSUS station to not fall under direct command of the USN.
HMCS Shelburne would undergo numerous changes during the remainder of the 1950s and through the 1960s as the World War II-era quonset huts were replaced with modern facilities.
One of the most notable events involving HMCS Shelburne was a reported UFO crash on October 4, 1967 that was witnessed in the waters off Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia, a fishing community in western Shelburne County approximately 50 km (31 mi) southwest of the military facilities at Shelburne Harbour. What would come to be called the Shag Harbour UFO incident reportedly also involved a coordinated military operation by the RCN and USN in the waters off the Shelburne NAVFAC at Government Point in the days following this incident.
CFS Shelburne (1968–1995)
On February 1, 1968 the RCN merged with the RCAF and the Canadian Army to form the Canadian Armed Forces. As part of the unification, HMCS Shelburne was renamed to Canadian Forces Station Shelburne, or CFS Shelburne.
CFS Shelburne continued operations much as before, supporting the NAVFAC and the SOSUS array as part of IUSS; in fact CFS Shelburne was the smallest NAVFAC in the Atlantic basin. CFS Shelburne was placed under control of Maritime Command (MARCOM) which was the new name for naval forces in Canada. Operationally, CFS Shelburne was part of Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) which operated the Atlantic Fleet and associated support facilities.
The reunification of Germany and dissolution of the Soviet Union led to the end of the Cold War, resulting in numerous defence budget cutbacks in NATO nations, including Canada and the United States. This period also coincided with numerous technological changes that made remote operation of sensor systems such as SOSUS possible from further distances.
The IUSS underwent significant changes in 1994 when Commander Undersea Surveillance Atlantic and Pacific consolidated into a single command located in Dam Neck, Virginia, leading to remote operation of the SOSUS arrays and closure of associated NAVFACs.
In support of this process, the Canadian Forces established the Canadian Forces IUSS Centre or CFIC which was housed in a new lodger unit named HMCS Trinity located at CFB Halifax. CFIC was created to operate the two SOSUS arrays at NAVFAC Shelburne (located at CFS Shelburne) and NAVFAC Argentia (located at Naval Station Argentia). NAVFAC Shelburne's monitoring operations for its SOSUS array was transferred to the CFIC/HMCS Trinity by remote operation in summer 1994 with NAVFAC Argentia following that fall.
On August 1, 1994 the NAVFAC at CFS Shelburne was disestablished with USN personnel departing. The station itself was decommissioned entirely as a military facility by the Canadian Forces on March 13, 1995.
Civilian use (1995–present)
After its decommissioning, the properties comprising the former CFS Shelburne were transferred by the Government of Canada to the Government of Nova Scotia which in turn transferred them to the Shelburne Park Development Agency, who operated them as Shelburne Park.
The Shelburne Park Development Agency was made a subsidiary of the Shelburne Area Industrial Commission, which has since been merged with the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission and Clare Area Industrial Commission to form the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA).
Shelburne Park is operated by SWSDA as a business park from the two former military facilities at Sandy Point and Lower Sandy Point. Several of the buildings at the Lower Sandy Point road location (the former NAVFAC) have been transformed into the Shelburne Film Production Centre, which opened on 9 July 2000. It was listed for sale by the SWSDA for $5 million and sold in 2008 to Seacoast Entertainment Arts Inc. for development as a film production studio.
In late November 2011, the facility was sold to Tri-County Construction, a marine construction contracting company, for $125,000, plus $48,442.58 in back taxes, as well as undisclosed sales taxes and a municipal deed transfer tax. Shortly after the purchase, the buyer said he had no immediate plans for the property.
Reportedly numerous buildings at the former NAVFAC sit in derelict condition open to the elements.
- "CFS Shelburne, April 1955 - August 1994". U.S. Navy - Commander, Underwater Surveillance. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
- "IUSS Alumni Association Home Page". Iusscaa.org. Retrieved 2013-02-28.
- Medel, Brian (25 November 2011). "Contractor buys Shelburne base". Halifax Chronicle-Herald. Retrieved 25 November 2011.