Month: January 2016

Constance Bay Revenant

The 17th Century Fur Trade On The Ottawa River was just as gory as The Revenant…

The recently Oscar nominated film “The Revenant” follows the exploits of colonial fur traders in the American mid-west and the ensuing conflicts with native people whose land they encroach upon. The film explicitly conveys the harrowing battles between the  fur traders and native warriors through gruesome tactics and fights to the death. It may seem like a distant part of the past that occurred in a distant part of the United States wilderness but in fact, equally gruesome fur trade battles happened right here in Ottawa on the banks of the mighty Ottawa River, the superhighway of fur trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. One such battle happened just a few kilometres north of the city in Constance Bay. 

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The site of a bloody battle during the fur trade era on the shore of the Ottawa river.

Originally published in a 1909 edition of  The Ottawa Naturalist (Vol. XXIII, No. 4: 61-68 & Vol. XXIII, No. 5:92-104) author and early local historian T. W. Edwin Sowter heard a story one night while camping at Chats Falls near Fitzroy Harbour on the Ottawa river, and, though far in the past for him in 1909, the tales of the “Indians” and the bloody battles that occurred on the sands of the Ottawa prompted him to record and publish a gruesome verbal tale of the Fur Trade from the latter part of the 1600’s at Constance Bay.

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The French allied with the Algonquin/Hurons against the Iroquois along the Ottawa River. (painting by Marc-Aurele de Foy Suzor-Cote)

Constance Bay is a body of water about half an hour’s drive north along the Ottawa River, a quaint community of cottages and monster waterfront homes, but unbeknownst to many is the fact the area was the scene of a bloody battle as depicted in The Revenant film. A spit of land known as Big Sand Point, a sandy beach area now lined with cottages, was once scattered with the bones of “Indian warriors” as the author Sowter describes, and who actually uncovered skeletal remains and associated battle relics within the sands.  Sowter tells of a war-party of Iroquois warriors who, having taken possession of big Sand Point at Constance Bay, defended themselves to the death against a force of French and Algonquins, “who surprised them in a night-attack and butchered them all.”

Algonquins

Algonquins. (Wikipedia)

The Iroquois and Algonquin/Huron tribes were enemies at the time, “a time when fierce conflict was bred from a desire to mercilessly destroy the other in a campaign of extermination.” Sowter describes how the Ottawa River portage areas were dangerous, full of war-parties of natives who held these places with a “toll with the tomahawk and harvested with the scalping-knife the fatal souvenirs of conquest.”

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The site of the French camp as it appears today. (GoogleStreetView)

The area of Sand Bay, at the outlet of Constance Creek, has two opposing points of land across the bay, Big Sand Point to the NorthWest and a place called Pointe à la Bataille, now called Horseshoe Bay off Armitage Drive. The two points are about a mile apart with the outlet of Constance Creek almost in the middle.

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A map from 1880 shows the areas where the enemies were camped. (McGill Digital Atlas)

 

According to the story told by Sowter, a party of French fur-traders, together with a number of friendly natives set up a camp on Pointe à la Bataille. They lit their fires, cooked their meals and rested after a long journey along the Ottawa River in their canoes. The night was not to be restful however, as the campers noticed a glimmer of fire across the bay. A reconnaissance party was sent out and it was determined a large war-party of Iroquois were in a barricaded encampment at Big Sand Point. The French and Algonquins knew they would probably also soon be discovered and realized that the Iroquois camp, with its fierce warriors, would soon inflict a horrific attack on their own camp.

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The French/Algonquins knew it was either “us or them” so they devised a plan to attack them first. The French were outnumbered and decided not to enter into diplomatic relations with the enemy who would surely torture and kill them. It was decided they would attack them in their sleep under the cover of darkness. Sowter recounts how the French and their allies knew very well that “if their plans miscarried and the attack failed, the penalty would be death to most of their party, and that, in the event of capture, they would receive as fiery and painful an introduction to the world of shadows as the leisure or limited means of their captors might warrant.”

It was near midnight, the  French attacking party left their camp at Pointe à la Bataille and quietly paddled their canoes over to Constance Creek where they ditched them and headed into the surrounding forest. I have personally visited this site and it is still quite a forested wilderness with the distinct possibility relics from this battle are still to be found, hidden for centuries under the cloak of time.

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The site of the bloody battle is now a quiet beach area. (GoogleStreetview)

Taking a long detour through the forest now known as Torbolton Forest, owned by the City Of Ottawa, the attack proceeded to reach behind the enemy enabling the French and their allies to rush the enemy barricades from the rear while sentries and guards were positioned on the shore of the river.

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The French and their allies then swept upon the unsuspecting Iroquois with devastating effect as Sowter explains, “Many of the Iroquois died in their sleep, while the rest of the party perished to a man, in the wild confusion of a midnight massacre.” A grim attack that shed the blood of men onto the sands of what is now a peaceful cottage community.

Sowter later visited the site of this gruesome attack and uncovered “the bones that are found in the drifting sands at that place” and discovered “the remains of friend and foe who fell in that isolated and unrecorded struggle.”

So, if you happen to visit that area or live there, keep an eye out for the lost relics of a bloody attack on the shores of Constance Bay, a part of our Ottawa River fur trade history that rivals that of any Hollywood movie.

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algonquin_people

http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/archeo/sowter/1909/sowter1909e.shtml

BING MAPS

GOOGLE MAPS

McGill Digital Atlas

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Raiders Of Antarktika: Secret WW2 Nazi mission exposed on WikiLeaks

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In the 1981 Steven Spielberg film “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”, Indiana Jones pursues Nazis who have recovered the Ark of the Covenant, a religious relic with great powers. The plot of the film was created and written by screenwriter Philip Kaufman who based it on Adolf Hitler’s World War II obsession with recovering supernatural religious artifacts, including his supposed possession of the ‘Spear Of Destiny’.

A new Indiana Jones adventure in Antarctica?

A new Indiana Jones adventure in Antarctica?

Used by the Roman centurion Gaius Longinus to pierce the side of of Jesus upon the cross during his crucifixion, Hitler obtained the relic and later knowing the end of the Third Reich was near, German U-boats were supposedly loaded up with Nazi treasure including the Holy Lance and spirited away to a secret base in Antarctica. A story perhaps worthy of another Indiana Jones film, but upon further research in to this fantastical claim it turns out there actually was a secret Nazi mission to Antarctica. A recent WikiLeaks Document (10.1017/S003224740600578X) exposes a 2006 report that explains in great detail the very real…

RAIDERS OF ANTARKTIKA

Published in 2006 by the Scott Polar Research Institute and written by Colin Summerhayes from the University of Cambridge and a Canadian who does corporate research in predictive trend analysis, Peter Beeching, the expose entitled “Hitler’s Antarctic base: the myth and the reality” explains in great detail the actual events of a Nazi expedition to Antarctica, the supposed secret WW2 British task force sent to flush them out, the mysterious disappearance of German U-boats after the war, their appearance in Argentina months after the German surrender, a subsequent post war operation by the United States and the mysterious detonation of nuclear weapons in the sub-continent. It is all quite marvellously unbelievable, and after sifting through the information, some startling evidence brings to light what seems to be a real-life Indiana Jones movie.

The area of Antarctica surveyed by the secret Nazi expedition in 1939.

The area of Antarctica surveyed by the secret Nazi expedition in 1939.

THE FACTS

With much conspiracy speculation swirling around, it is hard to isolate what actually happened in Antarctica and what the Third Reich was actually up to there. According to the WikiLeaks report there is concrete evidence that the Nazis did indeed conduct a secret operation in Antartica in 1938-39 under the guise of a “scientific operation” but it was in fact a survey mission to claim parts of the relatively unknown continent for Germany.

The Schwabenland ship used in the 1939 expedition with the Lufthansa seaplanes that were catapulted off the ship.

The Schwabenland ship used in the 1939 expedition with the Lufthansa seaplanes that were catapulted off the ship.

This expedition was organized to claim a piece of Antarctica for Germany and to find a place suitable for a whaling fleet. Authorized by Herman Goering as part of the German four-year plan for economic development, on 17 December 1938 the “New Swabia Expedition” left Hamburg for Antarctica aboard the MS Schwabenland, an expedition with 33 members plus the Schwabenland’s crew of 24.

Dornier Do 15 seaplanes aboard the Nazi expedition ship.

Dornier Do 15 seaplanes aboard the Nazi expedition ship. (photo: WikiLeaks)

The Nazi Antarctica expedition members aboard the Lufthansa ship during the 1939 operation.

The Antarctica expedition members aboard the Lufthansa ship during the 1939 operation.

MS Schwabenland was a German catapult ship owned by the Deutsche Luft Hansa company (the predecessor to the modern day airline Lufthansa, but legally not associated). The Cambridge document publishes very rare photos of this Nazi expedition and the aircraft used to claim parts of Antarctica when they arrived in January 1939. Survey “bombs”, aluminum cylinders emblazoned with the Nazi swastika were air dropped from the Lufthansa Dornier D15 seaplanes launched by catapult from the Schwabenland ship.

 

The Dorner Do15 seaplane being catapulted off the ship for the Nazi landing in Antarctica.

The Dorner Do15 seaplane being catapulted off the ship for the Nazi landing in Antarctica. (photo: WikiLeaks)

 

One of the German Dornier sea planes arriving on the ice shelf of Antarctica.

One of the German Dornier sea planes and pilots arriving on the ice shelf of Antarctica. (photo: WikiLeaks)

Altogether the Nazi expedition flew over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres and took more than 16,000 aerial photographs, some of which were published after the war along with colour photographs of the operation. This indeed actually happened and to this day those 1939 survey markers are probably still there buried under the ice in Antarctica. Germany made no formal territorial claims to New Swabia, and no whaling station or other lasting bases were apparently built there. Yet, the myth continues perhaps in part to the 1943 statement by Admiral Donitz of the German Navy who said “The German submarine fleet is proud of having built for the Fuhrer, in another part of the world, a Shangri-La on land, an impregnable fortress.”

The Nazi flag being placed on Antarctica. 1939. (photo: WikiLeaks)

The Nazi flag being placed on Antarctica during the secret expedition. 1939. (photo: WikiLeaks)

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OPERATION TABARIN

It is now known that during WW2 another expedition was sent to Antarctica, but this time the British sent in a team under the name OPERATION TABARIN, perhaps to flush out any Axis bases since the Kriegsmarine (German navy) was known to use remote Antarctic islands as rendezvous points, and for sheltering U-boats and supply ships.  Unknown to Churchill at the time and led by Lieutenant James Marr, on Saturday January 29, 1944 a team of 14 from the Admiralty and the Colonial Office left the Falkland Islands in two ships, HMS William Scoresby and Fitzroy, for Antarctica. The British operation saw the first ever bases to be constructed in Antarctica completed.

THE COLLAPSE OF THE NAZIS AND THE MYSTERIOUS MISSING UBOATS

After the defeat of the Nazis, Admiral Donitz, Hitler’s successor after his death, gave the order for all U-boats to surrender to Allied forces. Almost all did except for U-530 and U-977, two German subs that vanished for two months after the official surrender, but later appeared in an Argentinian harbour, one without log books and missing crew lists. Speculation arose, and the Toronto Star even published an article “Hitler’s On Ice in Antarctica”.

a 1946 article in the Toronto Star about the theory Hitler escaped with treasures to Antarctica. (GoogleNews)

A 1945 article in the Toronto Star about the theory Hitler escaped with treasures to Antarctica. (GoogleNews)

Reports began to circulate that Hitler knowing his imminent demise had ordered documents and artifacts loaded aboard U-boats to take them to Antarctica under “Project Valkyrie 2”. A book by Nigel Braddon “The Mystery Of U-33: Hilter’s Secret Envoy” describes how four lead lined bronze boxes were loaded aboard the U-boats and ordered to cache them in Antarctic caves.

The surrendered U-boat U-530 after arriving in Argentina two months after the war's end.

The surrendered U-boat U-530 after arriving in Argentina two months after the war’s end.

U-530 did go missing after the war, her captain, Oberleutnant Otto Wermuth, had decided to surrender in Argentina but did not explain why it had taken him more than two months to reach there, nor why the submarine had jettisoned its deck gun, or why the crew carried no identification, nor what had happened to the ship’s log. After interrogation and explanation of the reasons behind the delayed appearance in Argentina, the German sub was taken by the US Navy and sunk during target practice in 1947.

U-977 after surrennder in Argentinian harbour 99 days after the end of the war.

U-977 after surrennder in Argentinian harbour 99 days after the end of the war.

The other sub, U-977 left for waters south after the war with its captain, Oblt.z.S. Schaffer, deciding to sail to Argentina rather than surrender. The U-boat made various stops along the way and later Schäffer wrote a book: U-977 – 66 Tage unter Wasser (“U-977 – 66 Days Under Water”), the first postwar memoir by a former U-boat officer. That sub was also sunk by target practice by the US Navy in 1946.

OPERATION HIGHJUMP

The WikiLeaks document continues to explain the various conspiracies surrounding stories of a Nazi base in Antarctica and tells of a very real US task force sent there in 1947 under the code-name OPERATION HIGHJUMP, officially titled The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program. In 1946–1947, the United States Navy organized an operation by Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd Jr. with Task Force 68, an operation involving 4,700 men, 13 ships, and 33 aircraft.

A US sub in Antarctica waters as part of Operation Highjump. (photo: Wikipedia)

A US sub in Antarctic waters as part of Operation Highjump. (photo: Wikipedia)

Operation Highjump’s primary mission was to establish an Antarctic research base. Another US led task force returned in 1947 under the code-name Operation Windmill, the United States Navy’s Second Antarctica Developments Project, an “exploration and training mission”.

A Google Earth image showing the area surveyed by the German expedition 1939.

A current Google Earth image showing the area surveyed by the German expedition of 1939.

CONCLUSIONS

The extensive report by Summerhayes and Beeching seems to successfully disprove any notion of an “Antarctica Conspiracy” and thoroughly researches all angles of the Nazi connection and the post-war military operations. You can read the full document here. Peppered amidst the snowbanks of speculation are flakes of truth, and even though its likely fiction, a secret Nazi submarine base in Antarctica certainly makes for a good script to propel Indiana Jones back to the big screen in a unique new adventure. Below are some composite photographs based on these stories that bring that idea to life in Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of Antarktika.

A secret U-boat base built on the shore of Antarctica. (NOTE: fictional composite photo)

A secret U-boat base built on the shore of Antarctica. (fictional composite photo)

A german soldier keeps a look out for Indiana Jones at a remote Antarctic outpost. (NOTE: fictional composite photo)

A german soldier keeps a look out for Indiana Jones at a remote Antarctic outpost. (fictional composite photo)

German tracked snow vehicle on patrol for Indiana Jones with a Dornier seaplane above. (Note: fictional composite photo)

German propellor powered snow vehicle on patrol for Indiana Jones with a Dornier seaplane above. (fictional composite photo)

German Aerosleds take chase after Indiana jones successfully retrieves the lost Spear Of Destiny.

German Aerosleds take chase after Indiana jones successfully retrieves the lost Spear Of Destiny.

A concrete Nazi bunker constructed on Antarctica contains secrets yet to be exposed. (Note: fictional composite photo)

A concrete Nazi bunker constructed on Antarctica contains secrets yet to be exposed.  fictional composite photo)

The arrival of Indiana Jones brings out a welcoming party on Antarctica.

The arrival of Indiana Jones to Antarctica brings out a welcoming party.

 

SOURCES

WikiLeaks: https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/attach/49/49783_.pdf

National Post: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2356e6bb-5122-47f1-844a-047a13f2db1d

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Swabia

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_Schwabenland_(1925)

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Highjump

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Tabarin

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Windmill

Google Earth

Ottawa’s Secret Cold War Missile Bunkers

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As the cold of winter once again grips Ottawa, a remote group of buildings quietly stands as a relic of our Cold War past, once a secret NORAD base of operations during a very different war on cold..that of the nuclear age.

A unique abandoned Cold War fighter jet hangar sits forgotten in Ottawa.

A unique abandoned Cold War fighter jet hangar sits forgotten in Ottawa. Hangar doors now modified to a single narrow door.

At the height of the Cold War in Ottawa, the threat of nuclear attack by Soviet Russia was taken so seriously that a QUICK REACTION ALERT or QRA station was constructed on the outskirts of town at Uplands Air Force Base off Hunt Club Road. Now forgotten and hidden behind rusting barbed wire fencing, this unique defence facility constructed sometime in the late 1950’s was a special unit of the Royal Canadian Air Force base and played a key strategic role in the air defence of Canada and North America during the Cold War. Part of North America’s Air Defence, or NORAD, Ottawa’s QRA station formed part of a network of 5 other Canadian all-weather jet fighter bases armed with missiles and possible nuclear capabilities to counter surprise attacks by Soviet bombers in North American airspace. An excellent blog set up by Steffan Watkins, “Camping Canadian” explores various Cold War sites in Canada in amazing detail, and outlines the various QRA sites in Canada, including the station here in Ottawa. A direct link is HERE.

A photo of a RAF QRA hangar still in operation.

A photo of a RAF QRA hangar still in operation.

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In a document prepared in 1962 labelled as “PROGRAM 11-SECRET” Ottawa was to house a special jet fighter intercept station “essential to satisfy a requirement to provide facilities where aircraft armed with special weapons can be positioned and maintained on alert status, while maintaining the security control demanded of the USAF custodial conditions.”

a 1950s satellite image shows the special NORAD QRA facility. Missile bunkers located at top.

A 1950s satellite image shows the once remote NORAD QRA facility. Missile bunkers located at top.

 

The actual CF101 Voodoo fighter jet that would have been stationed inside the special QRA hangars.

Photo of an Ottawa based CF101 Voodoo fighter jet that would have been stationed inside the special QRA hangars.

A special isolated hangar and some missile bunkers were constructed at a remote part of the Uplands airport that would house Cf-101 Voodoo fighter jets supplied by the USAF after the cancellation of the Avro Arrow program. Ottawa would most likely have seen Avro Arrows stationed in these specially built QRA intercept hangars if the Arrow program was not cancelled. Along with the special windowless secret hangars, special bunkers were constructed to house missiles for these jets on alert, including nuclear missiles. The Voodoo’s primary armament was the nuclear-tipped AIR-2A Genie unguided air-to-air rockets, and was used as Canada’s primary means of air defence.

A model of the Ottawa NORAD Alert fighter jet.

A model of the Ottawa based NORAD Alert fighter jet.

Another 1962 document labelled “PROGRAM NUMBER 10-SECRET” it is mentioned that “special weapons (most likely nuclear) needed to be housed. “A requirement exists to provide RCAF Station Uplands with special armament storage facilities to accommodate the ready-use weapon loads required by CF101 aircraft and to provide these bases with facilities for security control of such weapons.” I was unable to find confirmation that nuclear weapons were actually stored in the bunkers, but it seems likely if the Voodoo was usually armed with the Genie missile. A future Ottawa Citizen article says no nuclear weapons were ever housed in Ottawa.

Currently unused, the Cold War era facility is clearly in good shape, even the pilots mess hall and barracks are still standing.

As of November 2015, the Cold War era facility is clearly in good shape, even the pilots mess hall and barracks are still standing.

These “special weapon” facilities were indeed built, and can still be seen today near the QRA hangars at the south end of Ottawa’s airport. Surrounded by barbed wire fencing there are a number of these special built concrete bunkers surrounded by earth piles meant to absorb any explosion of the missiles inside the bunkers. Air vents can clearly be seen from the road sticking above the bunkers and a quick Google map search clearly shows these missile bunkers in aerial images of the area.

A 1965 aerial image shows the missile bunkers for the fighter jets armament.

A 1965 aerial image shows the missile bunkers for the fighter jets armament.

as seen from the road the facility that once housed the standby-fighters during the Cold War.

As seen from the road the facility that once housed the standby-fighters during the Cold War.

as seen from the road the facility that once housed the standby-fighters during the Cold War.

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The bunkers as they appear today that once housed the missiles for the Voodoo fighters in the nearby hangars.

Operational as 410 Squadron as of Christmas Day 1961, these secret NORAD QRA stations provided a unique lifestyle for its occupants during the Cold War.  Ottawa pilots and ground personnel spent up to a week at a time inside the hangar, ready to jump into a ready fighter jet at a moment’s notice. In the event of an alert, hangar doors quickly opened allowing the jets to take off almost immediately. Eating facilities and sleeping quarters were located in between the two hangars, and the bunkers situated a few hundred metres away housed the missiles that the planes would be armed with to intercept the Soviet aircraft.

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a current aerial image of the old Cold War facility. Net ORANG medi-vac chopper.

A current aerial image of the old Cold War facility. Note ORANG medi-vac chopper.

In 1964 Defence Department cuts axed the QRA NORAD facilities and Ottawa’s unit was disbanded with its 8 Voodoos saying farewell to the Nation’s Capital. At midnight on March 31 the commanders give up alert commitment and 410 Squadron ceased to exist.

An Ottawa Citizen article describing the shut-down of the NORAD facility in Ottawa.

An Ottawa Citizen article describing the shut-down of the NORAD facility in Ottawa.

Of the six QRA facilities constructed, only a few remain in existence. The QRA facility in Bagotville, Quebec was designated a National Historic Site in 2005, and with Ottawa’s facility in relatively good condition despite sitting unused in a remote part of the airport, it would seem appropriate to take the necessary steps to protect and preserve this unique part of Ottawa’s, and Canada’s Cold War history.

SOURCES

Bing Maps

Google Maps

GeoOttawa

Google News

“Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story Of Canada’s Cold War Arsenal” by John Clearwater, 1998

CF-101B Voodoo, No. 410 Squadron, RCAF Station Uplands, 1960s (1:72) by Hobby Master Diecast Aircraft
Item Number: HA3709

“Camping Canadian” a blog by Steffan Watkins: http://campingcdn.blogspot.ca/2012/11/rcaf-voodoo-and-genie-storage-facilities.html