Finding The Largest Warship From The War of 1812

Once the greatest warship to ever sail the Great Lakes and larger than Horatio Nelson’s legendary HMS Victory, it was bigger than anything else in the American fleet during the War of 1812. This gargantuan warship was “HMS St. Lawrence” and it gained naval supremacy over Lake Ontario during the final months of the war. Later decommissioned and used as a floating warehouse for a brewery in Kingston, Ontario, the mighty warship-turned-warehouse was reportedly bashed to pieces in a storm and sank into the depths of Lake Ontario, lying forgotten under the waves. Intrigued to learn what remains of this impressive ship, I was able to locate the wreck and explore the remnants of this significant piece of Canadian history.

A scale model of what the warship would have looked like by First Fleet Reproductions.

Built in 1814 to take command of the Great Lakes during the War of 1812, it was the only Royal Navy ship-of-the-line to ever be launched and operated entirely in fresh water. At the time, Lake Ontario was landlocked by the shallow water and rapids of the St. Lawrence River downstream and by Niagara Falls at the other end of the lake. This resulted in British ships having to be built on site at the shipyards in Kingston to gain control of the waters that were an important supply route for both British and American forces.

Blueprints for the warship, I added a minivan for scale.

The colossal vessel was built in only ten months and was one of the largest ships of the Napoleonic era measuring 191 feet in length, five feet longer than Horatio Nelson’s HMS Victory. This goliath of the lake was also heavily armed with three decks containing 112 cannons – eight more than Nelson’s warship. Manned with a crew of 800 men, it was launched in September of 1814 ready to take on the American fleet under the command of British naval commodore Sir James Lucas Yeo, with Captain Frederick Hickey.

Patrolling the waters of Lake Ontario on the hunt to decimate any American ships in its path, the floating behemoth out-sized and outgunned anything the Americans had on the water. Out of fear the monster ship would blow their ships out of the water if confronted, the American fleet was kept their precious ships hidden safely in harbours with a clandestine attack planned to sink the mighty warship. Fearing the St. Lawrence would turn the tide of the war, the Americans sent in a secret team of operatives to sink the St. Lawrence in Kingston’s harbour with sea-mine of made out of a gunpowder filled keg. They failed in their mission to sink the new threat and a few months later, the War of 1812 ended.

HMS St. Lawrence (center) accompanied by other Royal Navy vessels at Point Fredrick in Kingston, On (from

Her immense presence on the lake deterred the U.S. fleet from ever setting setting sail and ironically the HMS St. Lawrence never saw action. A few weeks later in 1814 hostilities came to an end, and following the Treaty Of Ghent the Great Lakes were demilitarized. The HMS St. Lawrence had successfully gained control of the lakes and the War of 1812 was over.

Afterwards, the mighty ship was deemed unnecessary and was de-commissioned, only one year after it was launched. Sitting idle at the docks of Kingston’s Navy Bay, it was finally stripped of its cannons and hardware and sold for a mere 25 pounds. The massive hulk of a ship was then reportedly used as a pier and floating warehouse for Kingston’s Morton Brewery. Eventually after years of neglect and decay, the once mighty warship was bashed to pieces in a storm and slipped beneath the waves.

Morton Brewery in Kingston, On where the giant warship was anchored as a storage barge.

With the last known location of HMS St. Lawrence to be in front of Morton’s Brewery sometime in the mid-1800s, the final resting place of the ship was approximated using old maps and local diver reference. The original Morton Brewery buildings still exist on the Kingston waterfront so the underwater wreck most likely lies nearby.

Equipped with an underwater camera and snorkeling gear, I entered the approximate area of where the HMS St. Lawrence reportedly went down, swimming east about 500m into the small bay of Morton Brewery indicated on the old map.

Somewhere off this shoreline lies the remains of the War of 1812’s largest warship.

Seeing only weeds and rocks, I soon thought I was in the wrong area until I came across what looked like a mooring stone. Swimming around the area of the mooring stone through more weeds, some wood timbers came into view. There before me lay what was left of the greatest warship to ever sail the Great Lakes.

Hidden beneath the waves and amongst the weeds, the remains of what was once a great Warship lies on the bottom of Lake Ontario, out of view and out of mind.

After two hundred years of decay and neglect, not much is left of the once grand ship, a line of old wooden ribs form the outline of the ship that lies on the lake bottom in about ten to fifteen feet of water. Protruding iron fasteners are visible among the encroaching weeds. After I swam and filmed the entire length of the shipwreck I tried recording what I could of this important Canadian relic. Private waterfront homes and a seawall surround the wreck site, with the hulk of the ship hidden below the waves, out of sight and decaying on the lake bottom.

What’s left of the HMS St.Lawrence’s hull.

The HMS St. Lawrence played a pivotal role in turning the tide of war and its contribution to curbing further conflict should lend itself to a more deserving honour. It seems unfitting that the greatest warship to ever sail the Great lakes now lies quietly forgotten below the very waters it used to protect.

Andrew King, Posted April 30th, 2023. From an earlier column in the Ottawa Citizen, 2014


A quest to find the wreckage of a crashed WW2 P-38 Lightning in the woods north of Ottawa…

During World War Two the German Luftwaffe nicknamed it der Gabelschwanz-Teufel, or “ the fork-tailed devil”. The American built Lockheed P-38 Lightning was aptly nick-named due to its distinctive twin-engine booms and central pilot pod paired with exceptional flight characteristics. The P-38 was a formidable opponent for the Luftwaffe in Europe and for the Japanese in the Pacific, who referred to it as “two planes, one pilot”.

Developed as a twin engined high altitude interceptor to attack hostile aircraft, the P-38 entered service in 1942 and remained in operation with the United States Air Force until 1949. After the war, thousands of P-38 Lightnings became obsolete aircraft as the aviation world entered the jet age. These surplus P-38s were sold off into a variety of new roles including foreign air forces, civilian aerial duties and post-war air racers.

A post-war P-38 flying as an air racer.

A few of these surplus P-38 Lightnings made their way to Ottawa in the 1950s being converted into aerial survey aircraft owned and operated by Spartan Air Services. With only a handful of these unique planes still in existence, I hoped to discover if any of these Ottawa “fork tailed devils” still exist and where they might be located.

Referencing Norman Avery’s 2009 book “Spartan: Seven Letters That Spanned the Globe” it was determined that Ottawa had at one time a number of converted P-38s where the machine gun area of the nose was replaced with high altitude cameras for survey mapping work. Operating out of Uplands airport in the mid-1950s, Spartan converted these World War Two fighter planes by modifying them to carry both a pilot and navigator/camera operator as well as the camera equipment necessary to take high-altitude aerial photos. Most of the Spartan Lightnings were eventually sold off or scrapped but a few are displayed in museums in the United States or awaiting restoration.

One of the Spartan Lightnings in an American Museum.
Tracing back the serial number of the Ottawa P-38
Ottawa’s Spartan P-38 as an air racer before it was transformed into an aerial survey plane.

Tracing serial and registration numbers from the Warbird Registry, I learned Spartan was plagued by two tragic P-38 crashes in 1955, one going down south of Ottawa near what is now Rideau Carleton Raceway, killing the pilot and destroying the aircraft. The other plane mysteriously crashed in a lake north of Ottawa, killing its crew of two.

Records show the registration number of that crashed P-38 to be “CF-GCG”, which I used to trace the serial number of the plane: 44-53183. This revealed the plane was built at Lockheed’s Burbank, California factory for the United States Air Force. After the war this aircraft was surplussed and sold for civilian use where it became an air racer in both the 1946 and 1947 Bendix air races, which pitted pilots racing against each other in modified warbirds from Burbank, California to Cleveland, Ohio. Records indicate the plane was then sold in 1951 to California Atlantic Airways in Florida, where it was soon sold to Ottawa’s Spartan Air Services in the same year. Modified for aerial survey work, the former warbird P-38 (or F-5 as the photo reconnaissance models were named) began service with a crew of two under the Canadian registration CF-GCG.

The converted P-38 for aerial survey work around Ottawa and Canada.
I made a scale model of how the Spartan P-38 may have looked while in operation from the Uplands Airport in Ottawa circa 1955.

On March 15 1955 while on routine patrol, the Spartan Lightning climbed into the air for the last time, taking with it the lives of its pilot, Nicholas Toderan and camera operator Allan Bourne. The aircraft reportedly was operating at high altitude over the Gatineau Hills and for reasons unknown, went into a steep dive that accelerated the aircraft to the speed of sound where it dramatically exploded, scattering debris throughout the woods below. The majority of the aircraft crashed into frozen Lake McGregor near Val-Des-Monts, Quebec. Archival Ottawa Citizen articles reported the event and revealed that some of the wreckage was recovered from the lake bottom along with the bodies of Toderan and Bourne. Explanations for the crash in the article said there may have been a lack of oxygen in the cockpit, causing the pilot to lose consciousness which sent the plane into its death dive.

The 1955 Ottawa Citizen article showed photos and gave a description of the crash site, which I compared to current maps and information on the area. Plunging into the ice of Lake McGregor near “Ile Aux Mouton” or Sheep Island, a photo in the original article showed a cottage in the background that belonged to former Ottawa Mayor Charlotte Whitton.

The current location where the P-38 plunged into the lake in 1955.

Using this as a basis for a search into whether or not any P-38 wreckage remains undiscovered, I inquired on social media if anyone had a cottage on the lake that I could rent as a “base of operations”. A friend, James Murphy, replied that his family has a cottage on the lake and that someone had found an usual piece of metal in the woods nearby.

Contacting the owner of this piece of metal, Michel LeFrancois, it was determined his cottage was in the same area of the reported crash site. Packing a camera and kit bag, we headed up to meet Mr. LeFrancois to see if his find had any connection to the lost P-38. Arriving at his cottage on Lake McGregor, LeFrancois led us into his backyard where on display was a piece of twisted metal he had found in 1998.

The piece of P-38 wreckage Michel found in the woods near his cottage in 1998.

Studying this unusual piece he had found and comparing it to diagrams and a scale model of a P-38, we identified the part as likely the top section of the engine’s turbo-supercharger unit that would have been attached to one of the P-38’s Allison V12 engines. Asking where he found the piece, LeFrancois pointed into the woods near his cottage which turned out to be directly in front of the lake crash site. This engine piece was likely part of the debris that had rained down overhead after the initial mid-air explosion.

Views of the engine component from the exploded P-38 that rained down into the forest below.

Heading into the woods in the direction of where LeFrancois had shown us, we spread out in search of any other wreckage that may still lie in the woods from the ill-fated P-38. After an extensive search a piece of metal was spotted protruding from the thick undergrowth of the forest floor. Concentrating a search within that area we quickly discovered several other pieces of metallic debris that resembled pieces of aircraft.

With these pieces in hand, we thanked LeFrancois and his family for their hospitality and assistance and drove to Michael Potter’s nearby Vintage Wings of Canada facility that owns and operates flying examples of World War Two aircraft. Hoping someone there could confirm the parts we had found were indeed those from a World War Two era aircraft, Vintage Wings staff quickly identified the parts as aircraft hydraulic or fuel lines and what was probably a piece of a camera mount that aerial survey cameras would have been mounted to inside the aircraft. We were then shown an example of the same Allison engine that the parts would have been from, as well as a P-38 turbo-supercharger unit Vintage Wings had in storage. Without much doubt, these were likely newly pieces discovered pieces of the Spartan P-38.

Members of Vintage Wings confirmed the pieces of wreckage were frame the Spartan P-38.

With substantial pieces of Ottawa’s P-38 still being found nearly 70 years after the crash, one wonders if other pieces of this ill-fated warbird remain in the forest waiting to be discovered. It continues to be a mystery as to what happened that fateful day in 1955, perhaps the pilot suffered from anoxia, plunging the crew to their deaths, or maybe a mechanical malfunction caused the plane to crash. Whatever the case may be, it seems the plane lived up to its nick-name as the “fork-tailed devil”.

After this story was published in the Ottawa Citizen in 2014, I was contacted by the daughter of one of the deceased crew members, and thanked me for bringing into the light what happened to her father that fateful March day in 1955. I thought it only fitting to package up and send her the remains of her father’s aircraft we found in the woods that day, a physical connection to the past she could finally hold in her hands, of which she was grateful to receive.

As time marches on, it always amazes me the unknown history that may be out there, still waiting to be discovered. I was glad to bring a form of closure to the daughter of the perished crew member after we found what was left of the WW2 plane. The search for the fork tailed devil proved successful despite the tragic circumstances.

Andrew King, March 15, 2023

This article originally appeared in the Ottawa Citizen September 27th, 2014.

Rideau Yard: A Lost Village On Hunt Club Road

My sketch of how the rail yard roundhouse may have looked off HuntClub Road in 1915.

A piece of Ottawa history hidden for over 100 years off Hunt Club Road was redeveloped recently to make room for a new hotel and restaurants. It was grand vision for a new concept in Ottawa living called “Rideau Yard” and it was the nucleus of a town that never was. Part of this grand scheme for a new “resort town” south of downtown Ottawa was a large railway roundhouse, which was built and its remnants quietly survived for over a hundred years until the new hotel was built.

A composite map overly of the “Rideau Yard” plans, circa 1915. (From map at Colin Churcher)

I noticed the remains of the site when I saw a large circular pit in a vacant field driving by some years ago. With some trusty online aerial imagery and research, I learned it was a remnant of a large railway station and a century-old ghost town once called “Rideau Yard” built in 1915.

Constructed by the Canadian Northern Railway company, “Rideau Yard” opened with great expectations of handling both freight and passenger rail traffic passing between Quebec and Vancouver on the newly constructed TransContinental Rail line. This grand, new station south of Ottawa along present day Hunt Club Road near Antares Drive was an ambitious development that housed an 80-foot turntable and a 15-stall roundhouse, where steam locomotives were serviced. Later re-named “Federal Yard”, it was to be the epicentre for Ottawa’s newest suburb, which boasted a summer hotel and residential streets mapped out close to the Rideau River.

Historic Aerial Imagery showing the ruins of the Rideau Yard.

Yet this vision of a new town south of Ottawa never came to fruition and eventually fell into financial troubles. Canadian Northern Railway shut down Rideau Yard and the dreams of their south Ottawa development came to an end in 1922. The hotel was being used by railway employees instead of visiting passengers, and the roundhouse and other auxiliary buildings were demolished some time around 1930. Their ruins became cloaked in overgrowth up until 2017 when it was finally buried to make way for a new hotel and mall.

I had wanted to document what was left of this century old railway station before it was lost forever. A 1980 edition of the Bytown Railway Society publication “Branch Line” included a series of maps and recollections by former employees. This helped me reconstruct what may have been there.

Bricks and other ruins of the Rideau Yard roundhouse that once stood off Hunt Club Road.

On the site, there was a vast area of roundhouse ruins with railway artifacts strewn about. An aerial image from the National Air Photo Library clearly shows the outline of the old roundhouse building and the turntable. Bricks from the roundhouse, pieces of twisted metal and other remnants of the lost station have now been buried under the development, which has now become the Sandman Hotel.

When I explored the area, the turntable’s open pit and centre pivot structure were concealed under a cover of vegetation but it was easy to imagine a once bustling railway station and steam locomotives trundling on their way in and out of Ottawa on the TransContinental line.

Demolished ruins of Rideau Yard before the area was developed.

Using the similar roundhouse and turntable complex that was restored and is currently maintained by Toronto’s Railway Museum and the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto for comparison, we can visualize what Ottawa’s Rideau Yard station may have looked like when it was in operation 108 years ago.

Once labelled the most contaminated site in Ottawa, this “brownfield” property is now owned by Toronto’s Unitrin and Triform Developments, which has given new life to the area, and a hotel has once again been built on the site.

Current aerial image of the development overtop of what was once the lost village of Rideau Yard. (Google Maps)

With this new development, it looks like the century-old dream of a busy commercial centre on the land will finally be realized. History has come full circle.

Andrew King, February 9th, 2023

From a previously published article in the Ottawa Citizen


Colin Churcher’s Railway Pages

Google Satellite Images

Former Secret Government Bunker Up For Sale

If you need to conduct strange inter-dimensional portal experiments you might be interested to know that listed on and MLS as a “DND antennae yard and underground bunker” a once top secret government facility site can be yours for just $4.5million. This includes 550acres of surrounding land and strewn relics of what’s left of a filled in bunker below the ground.

Once a top-secret military installation during the Cold War, the now well-known “Diefenbunker” in Carp, Ontario was built as part of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s “Continuity of Government” plan to protect various members of government during a nuclear attack. Many of these once-secret Emergency Government Facilities were constructed across Canada, the largest of them being the Carp bunker, built 40km outside of downtown Ottawa. But, there was another one…

Construction of the “Diefenbunker” in Carp, Ontario. (Image: West Carleton Online File Photo)

The Carp bunker is just one of 50 that were reportedly built, and the only one of these formerly TOP SECRET facilities open to the public. I was curious to know if any other Cold War bunkers could still exist here in the National Capital region. Upon detailed research and an expedition to a remote location it was revealed that indeed another bunker certainly does exist, sealed with concrete in a desolate, unassuming field west of Ottawa.

This is a second, smaller bunker built west of Ottawa in case of a direct nuclear strike on the famous “Carp Diefenbunker”. This smaller second bunker was an underground military facility that housed a radio communications transmitter station that was connected to Carp over a distance of 50 kilometres by a buried landline.

An unassuming hill in a desolate field is where a sealed Cold War nuclear bunker lurks beneath the ground.

Constructed in the same manner as the Carp bunker but at half of the size, it was two story underground complex that housed military personnel that operated radio transmitters. Like its bigger brother in Carp, it contained its own power generation, a mess hall, barracks, administrative offices, and a fallout decontamination unit. Operational from 1962 until 1994, this bunker remains quietly out of sight west of Ottawa, lost in the shadow of its grander counterpart in Carp.

Studying current satellite images of remote areas west of Ottawa and comparing them to research notes on a possible location, an unusual feature became visible: an angled and perfectly square shape surrounded by an assortment of dots and other odd details. Being in a remote area, and centred in an empty field about 2 kilometres from the nearest road, this was a likely site for our second bunker.

Sealed with poured concrete, this is likely an entry hatch into the secret government facility.

Unlike Carp’s Diefenbunker which was situated within a small town, this feature was completely remote and would require a substantial drive into the facility from the road. Packing some gear I headed to the target location to try and confirm if this area was indeed the second and lesser-known Diefenbunker.

Heading out on a spring day to investigate, we soon found an illegible weathered plywood sign denoted an entrance to something down an overgrown asphalt road. After a 2 kilometre hike down this crumbing road lined with rusted wire fencing, the remnants of an parking lot became visible. This parking lot in the middle of a desolate field was a compelling clue that this was likely the site of our secret nuclear bunker.

Remains of a concrete foundation, probably for some kind of radio communication tower.

Passing a variety of odd ruins that included transmitter cables, anchor pads, and other electronic equipment strewn about led to a feature confirming this was the second bunker location. A mound of earth approximately 100 ft square and 15 feet high with sealed hatch ports, concrete entrance walls and old ventilation shafts.

Old cables and other bunker junk litter the site, long been abandoned for future archaeologists to discover.

Climbing to the top of the mound, the former hatches and vent ports were clearly visible, all of which have been filled and sealed with concrete. A concrete side entrance, similar to the Carp bunker was also visible but it too has been filled in with earth and only its top portion remains exposed.

A group of concrete structures above the government bunker that lies beneath.

Completely wiped clean by the military once it was decommissioned, some traces of its secret past remain, such as the large transmitter tower installation pads and building foundation ruins. Hatch lids, anchor braces, and even cables quietly lie undisturbed in this remote field that once was a secret operational underground military facility for over 30 years.

A sketch of how the government bunker facility may have looked when it was in operation until 1994.

Below the mound and hatches would have been a 2 story bunker complex, similar to the one in Carp but only at half the height. It still would have contained all the equipment and necessities for personnel to continue military and government communications during a nuclear attack. An unusual length of piled earth led to what looked to be a containment reservoir for water, with its irrigation and pumping equipment silently rusting away in the 20 years it has been abandoned.

Sealed up and silent and now for sale, this remote second bunker buried beneath the ground continues to be shrouded secrecy, whose adversary is no longer the blast of a nuclear bomb, but the encroaching elements of nature that will one day consume this relic of our Cold War past, or maybe someone will make it into a nice cottage retreat.

Andrew King, Jan.30, 2023


From author’s originally published artcile in the Ottawa Citizen, May 2015

What’s Going On At Shirley’s Bay? Some “Stranger Things”

Google Streetview of Shirley’s Bay complex.

About fifteen kilometres west of downtown Ottawa is a secure facility that resembles the Hawkins Lab from “Stranger Things”…a guarded gate, weird radar dishes and a large red and white antennae. The sign out front in a typical government format lists the following being on site:

Communications Research Centre Canada
Certification and Engineering Bureau
Donald Florida Laboratory
Defence Research and Development Canada
Canadian Forces Electronic Warfare Centre
Canadian Joint Warfare Centre

Sign at the entrance to the Shirley’s Bay facility. (Google Maps)

Wikipedia calls it a “Canadian military and civilian telecommunication research campus”, but I call it curious as I have personally witnessed black helicopters, weird lights and other oddities over this “campus”. So let’s take a closer looks at what might be Canada’s version of Area 51 if not DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

The sprawling campus of government research and development at 3701 Carling Ave.

The most intriguing tenant is the Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) which is a special operating agency of the Department of National Defence (DND), whose purpose is to “provide the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), other government departments, and public safety and national security communities with knowledge and technology.”

Originally known as the Defence Research Establishment Ottawa (DREO), DRDC Ottawa is at Shirley’s Bay and develops develops technologies for:

Space Systems and Technology
Cyber Operations
Communication and Signals Warfare
ISR Applications
Radar Sensing Exploitation
Radar Electronic Warfare
Radiological Nuclear Defence
Navigation Warfare

Heraldic crest of the EWC at Shirley’s Bay. (Image: Governor General Of Canada Website)

Now what’s interesting, there have been a number of technological innovations that have come out of Shirley’s Bay, including space technology and in the 1980s, a craft powered by microwaves.


Called SHARP, (Stationary High Altitude Relay Platform) this was a craft powered solely by transmitted microwave beams from the ground. as found from the files of the Communications Research Centre: “The SHARP concept envisages the use of pilotless airplanes as platforms for relaying telecommunication signals, providing surveillance and monitoring services. The airplanes would circle slowly for many months at an operating altitude of 21 kilometres and relay signals within a diameter of 600 kilometres (which is about the width of a Canadian prairie province). Microwave power would be transmitted from a large ground antenna system to a circling airplane. The power beam would be accurately focused onto the airplane. A rectenna (rectifying antenna), mounted on the lower surfaces of the aircraft would receive and convert microwave power to DC power. The DC power would be used to drive electric motors on the airplane for propulsion, to power the payload and control systems and to charge standby energy storage units.

The SHARP craft powered only by microwave power. (images:

It was successfully launched in 1987 but with government budget cuts, the program was scrapped and the craft placed into storage. I came across the craft for sale at a government auction and I am not sure where its current whereabouts may be.

The SHARP prototype for sale at a government auction.


Back in the 1950s a mysterious large explosion was heard in the West End of Ottawa, and one of the suspects was Shirley’s Bay. A “Baffling Blast Shakes Capital” headline tells a story of an early morning explosion that shook houses across west Ottawa and Hull. The Defence Research Board at Shirleys Bay denied any knowledge of an explosion and the large blast was deemed a “mystery”.

Mystery blasts rocks Ottawa in the 1950s


Another mystery at Shirley’s Bay involves the CIA backed “Project Magnet”, a special investigation unit to study unidentified flying objects (UFOs) for the Canadian Department of Transport (DOT) on December 2, 1950, under the direction of Wilbert B. Smith, senior radio engineer for the DOT’s Broadcast and Measurements Section.

Smith, the Defence Research Board and the National Research Council (NRC) were trying to determine that if UFOs did really exist, they might hold the key to a new source of power using the Earth’s magnetic field as a source of propulsion for their vehicles. The top secret project in Ottawa was also working with their American counterparts in the CIA to determine if this new UFO “power source” could be studied and harnessed.

Article explaining the new UFO research lab.

In 1952 the investigation was moved to Shirley’s Bay where UFO detection equipment was installed and by the end of October it became the world’s first UFO research facility. The 12 foot by 12 foot building housed instruments such as a gamma-ray counter, a magnetometer, a radio receiver  (to detect the presence of radio noise) and a recording gravimeter within a 50 mile radius from the station.

Smith and his UFO research team at Shirley’s Bay conducted a number of experiments trying to attract UFOs to the area using their newly installed equipment. After months of potential UFO activity being recorded in the area, the facility soon had their most unusual occurrence. At 3:01pm on August 8, 1954 the instrumentation at the Shirley’s Bay installation registered an unusual disturbance. In Smith’s words “the gravimeter went wild”, as a much greater deflection was registered than could be explained by conventional interference such as a passing aircraft.  Smith and his colleagues rushed outside their research building at Shirley’s Bay to view the craft that was creating such a enormous reading on their equipment. Once outside the building they were disappointed to find a heavily overcast sky with limited visibility.  Whatever kind of craft that was up there was well hidden under the cover of clouds.  The only evidence the researchers had of this large UFO was the deflection registered on the chart recorder paper.

A documented UFO event.

Two days later Smith and the Shirley’s Bay research facility were abruptly shut down upon orders from the Department Of Transport. Many speculate the findings and strange occurrence at Shirley’s Bay prompted the project to go “underground”, with all findings entering the “TOP SECRET” status of operation elsewhere. Smith was allowed to remain if he chose to, but all government funding to conduct his UFO research was halted. Without government subsidies. Smith continued his research, funded by “other sources”. Smith carried on working at Shirley’s Bay, developing what he claimed was a breakthrough anti-gravity device. In a 1959 presentation Smith stated “ We have conducted experiments that show that it is possible to create artificial gravity (not Centrifugal force) and to alter the gravitational field of the Earth.  This we have done.  It is Fact. The next step is to learn the rules and do the engineering necessary to convert the principle into workable hardware.” Smith died of cancer 3 years later. It is unknown what happened to his study material from his extensive research at Shirley’s Bay.


Coincidentally, 35 years later a few kilometres west of Shirleys Bay, one of the most well known UFO encounters occurred called “The Guardian Case”

Diane Labanek, a resident of the area, said that on the night of November 4th 1989, she witnessed an intense, bright light pass overhead, heading towards a swamp at the far end of the field south of her home. She said she also saw several helicopters earlier that evening using bright lights to scan the area.

Image from the actual video of the apparent UFO

Below is an edited transcript of the original letter sent by Guardian and his claim, and some further investigation into what could be a real incident:
From Guardian, 1989

“Canadian and American Security Agencies are engaged in a conspiracy of silence, to withhold from the world the alien vessel seized in the swamps of Corkery Road, Carp, in 1989.

UFO sightings in the Ontario region had intensified in the 1980’s, specifically, around nuclear power generating stations. On Nov. 4, 1989 at 20:00 hrs Canadian Defense Dept. radars picked up a globe shaped object traveling at phenomenal speed over Carp, Ontario. The UFO abruptly stopped, and dropped like a stone.
Canadian and American Security Agencies were immediately notified of the landing. Monitoring satellites traced the movements of the aliens to a triangular area. (see aerial map) off Almonte and Corkery Roads.
The ship had landed in deep swamp near Corkery Road. Two AH-64 Apaches and a UH-60 Blackhawk headed for the area the following night. The helicopters carried full weapon loads. They were part of a covert American unit that specialized in the recovery of alien craft.
Flying low over Ontario pine trees the Apache attack choppers soon spotted a glowing, blue, 20 meter in diameter sphere. As targeting lasers locked-on, both gun-ships unleashed their full weapon loads of 8 missiles each. All 16 were exploded in proximity bursts 10 meters downwind from the ship.
The missiles were carrying VEXXON, a deadly neuro-active gas which kills on contact. Exposed to air the gas breaks down quickly into inert components. Immediately after having completed their mission the gun-ships turned around, and headed back across the border.
Now the Blackhawk landed, as men exploded from its open doors. In seconds the six man strike team had entered the UFO through a 7 meter hatchless, oval portal. No resistance was encountered. At the controls, 3 dead crewman were found.
With the ship captured, the US Air force, Pentagon, and Office of Naval Intelligence were notified. Through the night a special team of technicians had shut-down and disassembled the sphere. Early the next morning Nov. 6, 1989 construction equipment and trucks were brought into the swamp. The UFO parts were transported to a secret facility in Kanata, Ontario…The ship was partially reassembled at the underground facility in Kanata. Unlike previous recoveries this one is pure military. Built as a “Starfighter” it is heavily armed and armored. In design no rivets, bolts, or welds were used in fastening, yet when reconstructed there are no seams. The UFO itself is made up of a matrixed dielectric magnesium alloy. It is driven by pulsed electromagnetic fields generated by a cold fusion reactor.”

Is this “Kanata facility” being referred to the Shgirley’s Bay complex with its advanced research facilities? One can only speculate. Upon researching Shirley’s Bay further, I came across another curious piece of content, that is coincidentally in the “Stranger Things” category regarding Shirley’s Bay. This is from Wikimapia that explains what is at certain locations on Google Maps.

“Kanata, just west of Ottawa, Canada is reportedly the location of an alien projects test center. Huge facilities for U.S. and Canadian military corps, the research center provides projects and storage for Area-51 or Dreamland. This site is also involved in an ongoing battle with an alien collective that has succeeded in infiltrating much of the governmental/military complex via sell-out by Industrialist, Fraternal and Intelligence agencies. Some joint US/Canadian forces are apparently resisting the takeover – infiltration – assimilation on the one hand and attempting to buy time via further appeasement on the other in order to develop defensive technology. However in making technology deals or attempts to appease the alien collective they have only succeeded in being drawn deeper into their system of occult – technological control, since they are able only to develop technological and intellectual parity at most in that the technology and intellect of the aliens, combined with their mastership of sorcery and supernatural warfare, has made the battle futile except for those who have succeeded in acquiring the supernatural power directly from the Creator that is necessary to meet and defeat the aliens in the supernatural realm, and in turn the intellectual and technological infrastructure of the alien collective which is incarnated – motivated – empowered & organized by Luciferian entities behind the scenes… i.e. in this war the chaplain is of equal if not greater value than the general, considering the aliens attack humankind on the spiritual – mental – physical levels simultaneously via advanced techno sorcery.”


Things just keep getting weirder. In 2009 I recall military helicopters circling near the Ottawa River at the Champlain Bridge and in typical Stranger Things fashion, I grabbed my bike and hastily made my way down to the river to see what all the commotion was about. Search and rescue helicopters and military vehicles as well as city police equipment had gathered around the river in what looked like a complex recovery operation.

Scene from the UFO search in the Ottawa River 2009. (image: author)

Further investigation revealed that the previous night people in Ottawa and in Gatineau reported they saw an object streak across the night sky around Shirley’s Bay and then crash into the Ottawa River with a “thunderous boom.” The object reportedly had lights on it and appeared to change course several times before it hit the water.

Multiple witnesses called authorities which prompted police, firefighters, paramedics and a helicopter from CFB Trenton to scour the waters for a downed aircraft. Using sonar and underwater cameras the investigation continued into the next day when an object was discovered about 30ft below the surface. An Ottawa Sun article stated that local police constable Alain Boucher said something was down there. “The size and the shape doesn’t lead us to believe it’s any piece of an airplane or fuselage or anything like that. It could be a rock, it could be a bunch of logs stuck together, it’s hard to say.”

Soon police remarked that due to a strong current in the river and because no aircraft were reported missing, there was no debris or oil slick the search was to be terminated. No known further investigation into what happened in the river that July night has been reported and the incident remains a mystery.


From UFOs to microwave powered craft, Shirley’s Bay seems to have its fair share of curious happenings surrounding it. Is it simply a government research facility working on new developments to “keep us safe” as they like to say, or is it something more complex at the complex? Are they reverse engineering a downed alien craft from the 1980s inside their labs or just making some new laser guided missile systems? Truly strange things surround Shirley’s Bay.

Government photo of the Donald Florida Space Lab. (Image: Canadian Space Agency)

If anyone has further stories or information to add to this intriguing place on the map of Ottawa, please let me know, but until then, I will consider Shirley’s Bay to be surely something far greater than meets the eye.

Andrew King

January 12, 2023



AUTHOR’S NOTE: It has been a year since my last post, for which I apologize, but with recent events, I was not really into creating new Ottawa Rewind content, but I now feel recharged and ready to explore more intriguing history mysteries again…enjoy this latest post! -AK


The Roebuck bone needle case with close-up views of the opening, showing triangular chuck marks and lathe marks on the neck of the case. Photo: Canadian Museum of History.

OOPART. It sounds like a character from a Super Mario Brothers or Pokemon game, but OOPART is actually an acronym for “Out Of Place ARTifact”, which by definition is “an artifact of historical, archaeological, or paleontological interest found in an unusual context, which challenges (or may appear or be purported to challenge) conventional historical chronology by its presence in that context.”

Examples of OPPARTs include such objects as the Antikythera mechanism, the Baghdad Battery and the Kensington Runestone. These OOPARTs are located throughout the world, but have any archaeological artifacts been uncovered here in Canada that do not match the accepted timelines and current historical context?

A bit of research revealed that indeed one such object exists, and it was found just 45minutes south of Ottawa.

Discovered 110 years ago in 1912, an archaeologist William Witemberg with the Museum of History excavated a peculiar site near Prescott, which he called “Roebuck”.

The area near Roebuck, ON where a large palisade enclosed village was unearthed in 1912. (Google Maps)

It seemed that residents of the property kept finding human skeletons protruding from the grounds, causing locals to question what was buried in Roebuck. The Museum of History was contacted and Witemberg arrived on the scene to investigate. What he and his team uncovered was a centuries-old palisade enclosed village that covered an area of 8 acres.

I obtained a copy of Witemberg’s archaeological 1912 excavation report at Roebuck, including maps.

Archaeological excavations uncovered stone tools such as scrapers and adzes, bone needles and knives, pottery vessels and earthenware pipes and dozens of human skeletons. It seems approximately 500 years ago an Iroquoian agricultural community of about 1600 persons occupied the site.

The “palisades” uncovered at the village site in Roebuck. (Image: Canadian Museum Of History)

To give some context to the size of this lost village, “Hochelaga” the village first encountered by Jacques Cartier (in present day Montreal) in 1535 contained 50 longhouses, and this Roebuck settlement contained 40. Almost as big as Hochelaga.

A model diorama showing how the village of Hochelaga may have looked when Cartier discovered it.

When Samuel Champlain returned to visit Hochelaga in 1608, it had vanished, and has not been found since. Was Roebuck the new home of the transplanted inhabitants of Hochelaga?

Roebuck site as it appears today…
How the village at Roebuck may have looked at the time of its use in the 1500s. (Image: Author generated)
Some of the items unearthed by Witemberg’s dig in 1912.

Archaeological excavations suggest that there were approximately 40 communal longhouses 30 metres in length surrounded by a double-walled palisade. The farmers on the site grew corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and tobacco.

Witemberg’s team uncover the mystery in Roebuck. (IMAGE: Canadian Museum of History)

Wintemberg soon discovered a a piece of “carved bone,” that he described as “suspiciously European.” This suspiciously Out Of Place Artifact was then stored away in the museum warehouse where its origin remained a mystery….until 2017 when the new Canadian History Hall required a fresh look at possibly important, but forgotten artifacts in storage.

Archaeological map of the Iroquois village and finds.
Outline of the village palisade enclosure, orange, burial grounds, blue.

According to former Curator of Central Archaeology at the Canadian Museum of History, Jean-Luc Pilon, the curious bone object was studied in detail and using a small sample taken from the odd cylindrical object it was carbon dated with an accelerator and mass spectrometer. The final results of the dating put the oddity at a date of between 1499 and 1578…and was determined to be a European machine lathed bone needle case for metal sewing needles. Wait, how did a European lathed bone metal needle case get into the grounds of a centuries old Iroquoian village far before Europeans were in the area?

You would never know a bustling Iroquois village was located here over 500 years ago.

Pilon suggests that the needle case was acquired by the residents of the Roebuck site well before Champlain entered North America when seasonal European/Basque whaling ships visited North America. But no European vessels could make it south along the St. Lawrence River past the rapids of Lachine in Montreal…so how did it get buried among the other artifacts?

One answer could be that the object was traded between tribes and made its way from the East Coast all the way to Roebuck south of Ottawa. Another theory is that a new European visitor made their way to Roebuck in the mid 1500’s, a castaway from Cartier’s expedition, or perhaps an expeditionary group using smaller boats came into the area and left behind objects of their making. The object was found among other dated Iroquois objects of the time which ruled out it was dropped there at a later time.

Whatever the “case” may be, literally and figuratively, this object is truly an Out Of Place Artifact, as the indigenous people of that time had neither lathes or metal needles. Regardless of the object, it is still remarkable that a large Iroquoian village of a population of about 1,500 people, rivalling the size of the legendary Hochelaga, made their village home south of Ottawa. Witemburg describes a bustling, but grim time in Canadian history as he and his team uncovered 85 skeletons and noted “The skeletal remains from the graves are undoubtedly remains of the people who inhabited the site.” but does not include the cannibalized, dis-articulated remains of 35 additional individuals.

How the longhouses of an Iroquoian village would have looked.

Wintemberg would note that these cannibalized bones “may have been people of the site but it is more likely that most of them are the bones of enemies who had been roasted and eaten.”


In addition to the European lathe turned metal needle case at Roebuck, we have a number of odd artifacts in the region that defy the known history of this country. In Lake Ontario, near Kingston, The Museum of History acquired 7 Aboriginal pottery vessels from a time period before any contact with Europeans. The rare, intact pottery jars were found by sport divers in the St. Lawrence River and with carbon dating, it was revealed they were made 2,000 years ago.

Ancient 2,000 year old pottery containing caffeinated ingredients from the Gulf Of Mexico. (Image: Canadian Museum Of History)

Now whats even more remarkable than their ancient date is what they found INSIDE the jars. COFFEE BEANS?

Scientists found traces of caffeine inside the jars, which only occurs naturally in two plants in North America, including cacao from the Yucatán. The second plant, Ilex vomitoria, grows in states along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. How did a caffeinated product from the Mexican regions get all the way up to Kingston, Ontario? Again, was there a vast trade network in both directions sharing goods and cultural traditions?

Location of where a Norse Viking age spearhead was found.

Further to the west of Kingston, on the southern shore of Lake Ontario near Sodus, NY
the owner of a summer home in 1929 was repairing his breakwater after a heavy storm washed away some of his property and was trying to find a suitable place to rebuild his boathouse. The property owner, Augustus Hoffman, was excavating his land and unearthed an object found about twenty feet in from shore.

The iron spear head of Norse origin dated to 9th-14th century now in Wayne County Museum

Hoffman picked up the iron object that he assumed was an old Indian tool and tossed it aside. A year later Hoffman showed the iron object to a friend who in turn contacted the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The object was confirmed to be an authentic Norse iron spearhead from the Viking Age. The Norse spearhead now resides in the Museum of Wayne County History, NY where it rests as an authentic Viking spear with its reasons for being there unknown.

Across from that, heading north to Prince Edward County, further OOPARTS have been found in mysterious ancient burial mounds, with skeletal remains sitting on thrones of stone with seas shells from the Gulf Of Mexico.

Mysterious mounds in Prince Edward County contain objects from the Gulf Of Mexico.

Again, these OOPARTs beg the question of how they got there and why aren’t we looking more into this fascinating facet of history. Was there an amazing and well organized ancient trade network channelling items from all over the world between the ancient civilizations of the time? Europeans trading with Indigenous peoples, native Maya or other MesoAmercian civilizations venturing north to Kingston up the Mississippi River, or vice versa? Maybe they met in the middle somewhere and had a kind of giant trading convention, sharing objects, culture traditions and rituals.

Until we investigate these mysteries further, we will just have to settle for imaginative speculation and wonderment.

Andrew King
November 2022


Ottawa’s Top Secret Balls

During the peak of the Cold War in the 1950s and 60s, Ottawa was the scene of some high-level, top secret operations involving the latest designs for fighter jets, rockets and computer technology. Most of the research for these “secret weapons” occurred at the National Research Council out on Montreal Road. Shrouded in secrecy, two large spherical structures were assembled that looked like something from a science fiction movie of the time. These were Ottawa’s Top Secret Balls, designed for classified experimentation for the Canada’s ill-fated Avro Arrow program.


A group of scientists that worked on the top secret wind tunnel experiments for the Avro Arrow with the newly constructed Large Vacuum Balls in the background. (image courtesy Emma R. Collection)

At the conclusion of World War II under Operation Paperclip, hundreds of German scientists and engineers were brought to North America to continue their work on rocket propulsion and advanced aviation designs that were being developed in Europe for use against the Allies in the final months of the conflict. Russia had also taken a number of German engineers into their advanced weapons research programs, so the race was on for each superpower of the Cold War to create the latest and greatest in aviation and rocket designs.

German aeronautical engineers during World War 2 had had developed the swept wing design for the first operational fighter jet, the Messerschmitt 262. (image Wikipedia)

Canada’s own Royal Canadian Air Force began looking for a supersonic, missile-armed replacement for the obsolete CF-100 Canuck even before it had entered service and in March 1952, a request for a design was submitted to Avro Canada. 

A supersonic fighter had a whole new set of design challenges for the engineers as it had to overcome the sound barrier, with its inherent “wave drag”.

German research during the Second World War had shown the onset of wave drag was greatly reduced by using airfoils in a swept wing configuration. This provided many of the advantages of a thinner airfoil while also retaining the internal space needed for strength and fuel storage. Another advantage was that the wings were clear of the supersonic shock wave generated by the nose of the aircraft.

The delta wing configuration of the Avro Arrow. (image Wikipedia)

This is when the C-105 Avro Arrow took its shape as a delta wing aircraft design, but in order to study the new “supersonic flight” capabilities a special wind tunnel had to be built to create scale supersonic speeds for test models to be studied. This is when Ottawa’s NRC stepped up and built a whole new complex for supersonic aircraft testing using two immense spherical air chambers, called “vacuum spheres”.

A newspaper article from the 1950s describing the new wind tunnel facility in Ottawa. (image Emma R. Collection)

Designed and built under extreme secrecy in 1950 and with details classified, it didn’t take long for the prying and inquisitive eyes of the media back in the day to report on the two giant iron balls being built out on Montreal Road at the NRC compound. Recently, I was given the classified details of this secret project in the form of a binder of old photos and clippings by a former colleague, Emma Rayana of whom I’d like to thank for the information discussed in this post. (Thanks Emma!)

The binder belonged to a gentleman who worked on the Avro Arrow wind tunnel project who kept a record of the program, of which we will briefly take a look at. 

Article describing the top secret Avro Arrow testing…note the wind tunnel model that the engineer asked to be covered up before photos could be snapped. (image Emma R. Collection)

It seems Canada did not have a supersonic wind tunnel test facility at the time, and likely under the request of Avro, the plans were made to build one at the NRC. The design called for two 35ft diameter welded steel spherical air chambers, that contain air that is then pumped down to create a vacuum off air that was 1/10th the density of normal air. Then air is allowed to rush back into the spheres at speeds of Mach 2.0 as it goes through a wind tunnel that housed the scale aircraft models. The whole process lasted only 30 seconds when the spheres then filled with regular air. 

Plans for the Supersonic Test Lab at the NRC. (image Emma R. Collection)
The Vacuum Spheres under construction in Ottawa at the NRC. (image Emma R. Collection)

Construction was completed in 1951 and the supersonic wind tunnel soon began its testing of the scale models of the Avro Arrow at supersonic speeds, from which data was used to build the full size production Avro Arrow at an accelerated rate without a prototype, only relying on the results from the scale models to go straight into production. During a media interview about the facility, orders were hastily shouted by scientists for NRC staff to quickly cover up the test models so their design was kept classified. 

The completed facility at the Montreal Road campus of the NRC. (image Emma R. Collection)
Newly disclosed government files reveal the scale model testing done at Ottawa’s Supersonic Wind Tunnel on the C-105 Avro Arrow. (image NRC Digital Repository/Library
Test reports and the internal newsletter describing the new Supersonic Wind Tunnel for Arrow testing.

The Avro Arrow was subsequently given the green light in 1955 to be built and then successfully flown on its inaugural flight in March of 1958. The Avro Arrow program was then cancelled a year later in 1959 and orders were given for all 6 Arrows and their plans to be destroyed. An attempt was made to give the completed Arrow jets to the National Research Council of Canada as high-speed test aircraft, but the NRC refused, stating that without sufficient spare parts and maintenance, as well as qualified pilots, the NRC would have no use of them.

Five of the Avro Arrows photographed before destruction. 3 more were under construction but their fate was not photographed.
The Avro Arrows being cutup on the tarmac after the project was cancelled.

Thus, all 6 Arrows were cut up for scrap metal, but rumours circulated that one of the Arrows was taken away to be saved for posterity. These rumours were given life in a 1968 Toronto Star interview with Air Marshal Curtis from the RCAF, who stated he could neither confirm nor deny the rumour. The legend endures that one of the prototypes remains intact somewhere, perhaps in England where an ejection seat from an Arrow surfaced on Ebay.  

An Arrow ejection seat that appeared on Ebay in 2011.

It is not known how much longer the special wind tunnel balls remained in operation at the NRC, or if they are still being used today, but they are clearly still visible on a 2021 Google Satellite image. They remain hiding behind some newer building additions around them at a site called “Building 10”.

This 1965 sateliite image shows the test balls. (image GeoOttawa)
In 1991 the Vacuum Balls are still there…(image GeoOttawa)
A recent satellite image shows the Top Secret Balls still in place, now surrounded by other buildings and obscured from view on the ground. (Image GeoOttawa)

The giant sphere’s may no longer be used for secret Avro Arrow testing, but continue to be part of the enduring mystique surrounding the ill-fated Avro Arrow. 

Andrew King, April, 2022



The Emma R. Collection


A stroll in the forest is great for the mind and soul, soaking in the sounds and sights of nature while escaping the absurdities of life, and sometimes you even stumble across something unexpected. It wasn’t a dead body, or a $50 bill, but rather an unusual arrangement of boulders and an “Ontario Well” post. Curious as to what was once situated on this forested hill overlooking the Jock River near Woodroffe Avenue, I returned home and started investigating, leading me on an adventure through time to uncover The Lost Chapel.

A post marked with “Ontario Well Tag” in the midst of the forest…

The area in question is a slice of land called “Heart’s Desire Park” and is maintained by the City Of Ottawa at the southernmost end of Woodroffe Avenue at Prince Of Wales Drive. Being surrounded by heavily developed Suburbia, I wondered why this slice of prime land escaped development, a beautiful forest on the banks of the Jock River.

Heart’s Desire Park at the intersection of Woodroffe and Prince Of Wales, and the Jock/Rideau River…

Was there some archaeological site within that has been lost in time? Well, a quick Google Search turned up nothing, so I figured with all the development around it, an archaeological assessment must have been done around here, so I checked out that angle.

Some 8,000 year old Archaic era stone artifacts, similar to the ones found in Riverside South near the park..

Lo and behold, an archaeological site that was 8,000 years old, BhFw-19, called the “Munro Site” was nearby, a Middle Archaic Period site (approx 6,000BC!) was discovered in 2011. At that site, which is now under a suburban street in Riverside South, they found Archaic Period artifacts like a quartz bi-face. So what might lie in the Heart’s Desire Park?

I could find nothing else about that particular area until I read up on the area which is marked lots 10/11 and indicated on a map from 1863. The lots of this particular area were owned by a Mr. George Sherwood, who later sold his land to a Mr. William Dawson in 1877. And this is where our story begins…

The area of Heart’s Desire Park as it looked in 1879, marked as land owned by a Reverend Dawson, with his chapel marked in the middle, along a roadway (dotted lines)

When William Dawson acquired Lots 10/11 in 1877 they were at the intersection of what was then called Jockvale Road, later Woodroffe Avenue. There was also the forced road from Richmond Road called “Bren-Maur Road”, part of the whole Chapman’s Mill area.

At was at this time that Dawson built a wooden chapel that measured 37ft by 21ft.

An 1880s wooden chapel, similar to the one that Dawson built in the middle of his land, now Heart’s Desire Park.

Dawson’s chapel was built on the land that overlooked the Jock River, and had a capacity of 80 persons, with 16 pews and served 45 families from Blacks Rapids, Gloucester, and Manotick. It was called “St. Margaret’s of Jockvale”

After Father Dawson died and his little chapel was deemed unfit for further service by the diocese. Dawson in his will stated that he wanted his land to never be sold, only used as a playground to be enjoyed. His little chapel would later be rented as a barn used to store hay before being demolished at some point, vanishing into obscurity as it became a forested city park.


So where was Dawson’s chapel, one of the first Catholic places of worship in South Ottawa? Using an old 1879 Belden Atlas I was able to find his chapel sketched on the map, right in the middle of his lots 10/11 off Woodroffe Ave. Ghosting that old map over a current Google Map and a GeoOttawa land parcel map, we can then pinpoint roughly where Dawson’s chapel would have been.

The map overlay puts Dawson’s Chapel in the middle of the park…

Pinning that location on my phone, I ventured out to the Heart’s Desire Park (not sure the origin of that name) and found the old roadway that led to the chapel. Trudging through the brush and following what was left of the old road, I came upon what looked to be the remains of Dawson’s house, as indicated on the map.

This is the entrance from Woodroffe to the old road that led to the chapel as indicated on the 1879 map…
location of Dawson’s House…
piles of stones, likely from demolished foundation of Dawson’s home.

Just a depression in the ground with a pile of strewn stones, likely from the foundation. Onwards I went, up the old road, now overgrown with trees and covered in snow, another depression in the ground exactly where the church was indicated to be, halfway between Woodroffe and the Jock River.

The location of Dawson’s Chapel remains…
A depression in the ground is all that is left of Dawson’s Chapel.
Piles of rocks were found which were likely part of the chapel foundation.

An Ontario Well post was visible, and again, more strewn rocks, likely from the foundation of Dawson’s Chapel. His wishes continue to be granted as his land has not been developed and it remains a park, but no plaque is there to recognize this obscure hidden history, but that is par for the course in Ottawa it seems.

A large stone marks the location of the former chapel on the hill overlooking the Jock River.
The sun sets over the old entrance road to Dawson’s Chapel, now overgrown and forgotten.

With a crust of frozen snow and ice covering most of the site, it is hard to determine if other remnants of Dawson’s 1879 chapel exists, perhaps the City Of Ottawa may want to further investigate this hidden piece of history, or not, and let the forest continue to consume the memory of the Lost Chapel in The Woods….

Andrew King, December 2021



Belden’s 1879 Atlas of Carleton County

The Abandoned 1970s BEE GEES Studio In The Woods


Most music listeners are familiar with the catalogue of songs produced by the legendary “Bee Gees”, from their 1960s ballads to their disco driven escapades of the 1970s. Yet, many may not be familiar with the secluded recording studio northeast of Ottawa that the Bee Gees used to record some of their recognizable disco hits. The Police, David Bowie, Rush, Celine Dion and many other A-listers all used the facility to record and produce their greatest hits. Now all but a memory, let’s take a look back at this secluded studio where the Bee Gees recorded, and lived, to create their 1976 platinum album, “Children Of The World” a 1.5hr drive north-east of Ottawa…

David Bowie recording at Le Studio. (

Children of the World is a 1976 album by the Bee Gees. The first single, “You Should Be Dancing”  went to No. 1 in the US and Canada, and was a top ten hit in numerous other countries, and later was added to the soundtrack of the movie “Saturday Night Fever”. It was the group’s fourteenth album, and after many songs were recorded in Miami, the production moved to a brand new studio located an hour and half north east of Ottawa in a small Laurentian Mountain village called Morin Heights. Dubbed “Le Studio” this new recording facility was built in 1972 by recording engineer and producer André Perry, Nick Blagona and Yaël Brandeis. It was one of the earliest studios to install Solid State Logic mixing desk and RADAR digital-recording equipment, after Perry gained experience as a recording engineer working for John Lennon.

LeStudio in the 1970s (

The idea was to give recording artists a venue where they could record and live in a creative atmosphere, in the secluded atmosphere of the Canadian Laurentian Mountains. The Bee Gees, who recorded songs for the album “Children of the World” at Le Studio, reportedly stayed for five months at the secluded studio. Recorded at Le Studio in 1976 was a song called “Rest Your Love On Me” that would later be re-recorded with Olivia Newton-John for the 2021 album “Greenfields” by the last remaining Bee Gee, Barry Gibb. It was the site of the 1981 recording of Sting’s “Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, and Ottawa’s own band “Eight Seconds” 1988 recording of their “Big Houses” album.

The Bee Gees with Andre Perry (second from left).

After a successful run recording big name musical acts including Rush, Bowie, Cat Stevens, The Bare Naked Ladies and Celine Dion, The 233-acre site was listed for sale in July 2007, with an asking price of $2.45 million CDN.  The property remained for sale until 2009, when the land was purchased with the intent to convert the area to a retreat and spa. However, it remained unoccupied, falling into disrepair and was unfortunately scavenged, and vandalized.

Le Studio in winter (

Google maps aerial view of the secluded Le Studio.

Tragedy struck August 11th 2017 when the studio was consumed by a fire in a suspected case of arson. The residential area of the studio was completely destroyed.

Abandoned icon. (TalesFromThe

Since abandoned, the update in the 1980s, as reflected by the pink and teal decor.

Google Streetview of the abandoned Le Studio where so many famous musical acts recorded.

The current demolished remains/empty lot where LeStudio once stood.(TheMetalVoice, YouTube)

The recording area still stood but was severely damaged. It was then bulldozed to the ground in October 2020 with nothing left remaining of this remarkable Canadian recording landmark but an empty lot. The ghosts of the Bee Gees, David Bowie and other legendary musical greats haunt the now empty lot where so many icons of music recorded their 1970s and 80s hits. 


Andrew King, October, 2021 



Google Maps




Ottawa holds a number of secrets beneath its streets, from tunnels to vaults with many other concealed subterranean features, but one hidden feature I find to be particularly interesting. It is the legend of a far stretching cavern with waterfalls, stalagmites and a century old connection to one of Canada’s largest soft drink companies. It is the Legend Of Pooley’s Cave.

Before the National Capital Commission “re-imagined” downtown Ottawa in 1960 and started terraforming the historic downtown core of the city, there were a number of unique elements that have sadly been lost forever. The entire neighbourhood of LeBreton Flats was expropriated and demolished without a trace. The “Park of The Provinces” was built over what was once Brading’s Brewery. And just around the corner from that was a remarkable natural feature of a cavern that stretched east under Sparks Street for apparently more than 200 feet all the way to Christ Church Cathedral. This legend originated from the 1800’s and described a “natural wonder” and a room of stalagmites and stalactites that were “beautiful beyond description”. But not a single mention or trace exists today of this incredible underground feature in the heart of the Nation’s Capital. So, I thought we should look for it.


I find it hard to believe that a substantial subterranean cavern running under downtown Ottawa would just be quietly sealed up without a mention, but then again, city and federal government officials continue to ignore the concealed beer train under LeBreton Flats, so I guess anything is possible. I started to do some digging based on the “legend” of Pooley’s Cave, the name “Pooley” found to originate from a Lieutenant Pooley who in 1827 was ordered by Colonel John By to construct a bridge over a gorge to make a connection between the Chaudiere/Flats area to Wellington Street.

An early map of the area at Pooley’s Bridge shows the escarpment where the cave entrance would have been located.

First made of wood, it was rebuilt in 1873 out of stone, of which sit till stands in the same spot today. The bridge is called “Pooley’s Bridge” and it is near this bridge the entrance to our mystery cave lies.

This map clearly shows Pooley’s Bridge labelled where the cave entry was located, as well as Christ Church Cathedral marked.

Researching old newspaper clippings from the 1860s and onwards I came across curious descriptions of our cavern in great detail. The entrance was recounted to be down the side of the gorge near Pooley’s Bridge where the entry to the cavern was an opening about 5 feet by 4 feet in dimension.

Various newspaper articles featuring the mysterious cavern.


Upon entering the cave, a natural tunnel headed in an easterly direction towards Christ Church Cathedral. Traveling 75 feet in a stooped position through the tunnel, it was then said that one had to go on hands and knees for another 40 feet. Here, the tunnel widened into a room about 40 feet by 60 feet where stalagmites and stalactites appeared. Other descriptions mention a running waterfall inside the cave. So, this all sounds pretty cool but where would this be now and would it still possibly be there?


Back in 2015 I went on a quest to find the actual “spring” from Pure Spring Ginger Ale that was said to be around this very same place. Coincidentally I ended up at the cliff where this cave is supposed to be located, and I did indeed hear a waterfall or some kind of running water underground. Was this the same “waterfall” mentioned by the early cave explorers who said there was the sound of rushing water in the cave? This would seem logical as Pure Spring’s entire business centred around an actual spring coming out of this very spot.

Ottawa’s very own Pure Spring Ginger Ale originally used real spring water from the Pooley’s cave area.
The “spring” featured on Pure Spring Ginger Ale was actually a real spring they drew water from at this mystery cave by Pooley’s Bridge.

Canning this fresh underground cave spring water in the early part of the 20th century, a young Jacob Mirsky sold it in five gallon cans and delivered it to Ottawa homes by horse and wagon. Using his earnings from water sales, Mirsky began to carbonate and flavour his spring water, and by 1925 incorporated his company as “Pure Spring”. The Mirsky family continued to own Pure Spring until 1963 when they sold it to Crush Beverages which later moved operations in 1969 to a state of the art manufacturing and bottling plant on Belfast Road.

An old Fire Insurance Plan map shows where the Brading Brewery was located where Pure Spring began. Ghosting the area over a current satellite view of what is now the “Park of The Provinces” shows the proximity to Pooley’s Bridge.

Pure Spring not only commanded a large percentage of the soft drink industry in Canada at the time, but they also introduced canned soft drinks to this country and later the twist off cap. Pure Spring Ginger Ale continued to be produced until the mid-eighties, at which time their logo featured spring water pouring over a limestone embankment, the same water source that was likely inside this cave!

An exploration of the area found it is overgrown and fenced off in most parts, but behind some shrubs an old stone and mortar structure rising from the base of the cliff about 15ft up its face was visible accompanied by the sound of rushing water.

A stone structure covers an area where the sound of rushing water can be heard.
The stone structure has a hatch atop it, perhaps access to the cave or spring water?

Sometime in history, someone has built a stone enclosure around the base of this cliff containing what sounds to be a water source underneath. A concrete hatch is on its top surface and nearby there is a City Of Ottawa water management building with hatches to whatever lies underneath. Is this an entrance into Pooley’s Cave?


Looking at old maps of this area to see if any cave was marked, that search turned up nothing, so I then turned to satellite imagery from the Pre-NCC revisions to the area. In 1928 the cave entrance probably still existed, and perhaps right up until 1991 when the NCC started to terraform the Pooley’s Bridge area. Massive alterations were made to the gorge and any cave entrance was likely sealed up for safety reasons, its secrets blocked off and hidden forever.

The red dot marks where the entrance to the cave would have been located.
The NCC reclamation project around Pooley’s Bridge likely sealed off the cave entrance.
The cave entrance is marked with the red dot, the cave length the red line, and the location of the Pure Spring spring circled in red.

But using the 1860’s descriptions I can sketch out what it may have looked like before it was sealed off as it stretched east underneath the cathedral and Sparks Street.

This quick sketch over the area shows how the Pooley’s Cave may look.

The cave is probably still there and if it indeed lies under the cathedral then perhaps a member of the church could provide further details. Maybe they have an access door to this mysterious cave. The Cathedral was built in the 1870s and has a crypt so they may have information on what lies beneath.


It seems that more than one source over history has described what seems to be a large cave under the western end of Sparks Street, yet no entrance to it has yet been found. The sound of running water from under the cliff substantiates the tales of a cavern waterfall or running water, and it is historical fact that Pure Spring Ginger Ale got its water from an underground spring at this exact spot. Perhaps someone in the city staff network knows more about what is around Pooley’s Bridge, or maybe members of Christ Church Cathedral can shed some light onto this dark mystery.

What is this stone wall covering on the cliff face?

If anyone else has more information about it, please do not hesitate to contact me at or in the comments section of this post. I’d love to get a ground penetrating radar rig out there and see what we can find, but again I do not know anyone in that field of expertise. Until then, this will remain the Legend Of Pooley’s Cave…

Andrew King, May 2021



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