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: http://www.friendsofcrc.ca/Projects/SHARP/sharp.html)

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. (andreperrystudio.com)

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 (andreperrystudio.com)

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). andreperrystudio.com

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 (andreperrystudio.com)

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 DarkSide.com)

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 thetimewinders@gmail.com 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



Google News Archives

Google Streetview

Library and Archives Ottawa

Fire Insurance Plans, Carleton University, Macodrum Library; https://library.carleton.ca/find/gis/geospatial-data/georeferenced-ottawa-fire-insurance-plans


A successful businessman from South of Ottawa had just built a brand new brick house for his young family, boasting the finest of Edwardian features. It was sitting waiting for them to take occupancy when Hudson Allison and his family returned from attending a Board Meeting in England. Mr. Allison was the epitome of success who seemed to make all the right decisions, with perhaps one exception…he bought tickets to come home on Titanic.


Titanic in Southhampton before its tragic crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1912.

As we approach the 110th Anniversary of the tragic sinking of Titanic, the gap of time continues to widen between us and that fateful night in 1912. A few artifacts have been recovered from the wreck on the bottom of the Atlantic when they found Titanic’s final resting place in the 1980s. Some deck chairs washed ashore and sit in museums, along with some survivor memorabilia which are our only physical connection to the ill-fated ship.

The Chateau Laurier has a curious piece of Titanic history in its lobby, a marble bust of Laurier that Charles Hays commissioned for his hotel, of which he would never see open as he perished aboard Titanic that fateful night of April 14th, 1912. (I wrote about that previously HERE.)

To honour the memory of the 1,514 lives lost that night I wanted to try and find another local connection to Titanic that may help bridge the widening gap of time between us and Titanic. That search turned up information there was indeed another local connection, just south of Ottawa. 

The Allison House that Hudson built for his new family in Chesterville, ON

It is the homestead of Titanic passenger Hudson Allison and his family, a stately Edwardian home he had built in Chesterville on his farm that was to welcome them back after their transatlantic voyage. However, the young family would never set foot in the house, as all but one member of the family perished in the icy waters the night Titanic slipped under the waves. The Allison family home still sits as a quiet memorial to that tragic night.

Hudson and Bess Allison and their children, Loraine and Trevor. (Image: Wikipedia)

Situated in Chesterville, Ontario, the Allison home was built for the successful businessman and his family in 1912. With the finishing touches being put on his new brick home, Mr. Allison and family were in England as Hudson was a member of the board of the British Lumber Corporation, and he and his family crossed the Atlantic to England for a directors meeting. While there, the Allison family took a trip to the Scottish Highlands where Mr. Hudson purchased two dozen Clydesdales and Hackney Stallions and mares for the farm back in Chesterville. 

They then reserved cabins C-22/24/26 on the First Class Upper Deck of Titanic. This cabin was just around the corner form the French sculptor Chevre that made the marble bust of Laurier that now sits in the Chateau Laurier lobby. Mr. Allison and Mr. Chevre likely passed each other in the hallways of Titanic, not realizing they were both connected to Ottawa that fateful night. 

The Allison Family cabins on Titanic (red square) and Chateau Laurier sculptor Chevre’s cabin (yellow) around the corner on the same deck.

Hudson, his wife Bess, and their children, Loraine and Trevor, all boarded Titanic for the exciting adventure across the Atlantic to their new home in Chesterville. Hudson and his wife would dine with Harry Molson from Montreal (yes, of Molson Brewery fame) the night Titanic hit the iceberg. In the aftermath of the sinking, only their young son Trevor would survive as he was hoisted into a lifeboat. Hudson, Bess and the daughter Loraine all perished, never to see their new home back in Chesterville. Trevor survived Titanic but would later die of food poisoning at the age of 18. 

In this film image released by Paramount Pictures, a scene is shown from 3-D version of James Cameron’’s romantic epic “Titanic.” (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures)

A few days after Titanic met its fate, Hudson Allison’s body was found floating in the Atlantic, the only one of the Allisons to be recovered. His body was brought to back to Canada and Mr Allison’s body was buried in the Allison family plot in Maple Ridge cemetery near Winchester, Ont.

One month after the funeral, Hudson’s brother Percy took delivery of the horses that Allison had arranged to be shipped by tramp steamer from Scotland. His house and farm was sold to new owners, and still stands much like it did back in 1912.

So, where exactly is The Allison House and his resting place? Let’s take a closer look. 


The Allison Stock Farm where Hudson’s new home was built was an Edwardian red brick home.

Together with his brothers Percy and George, Hudson acquired 100 acres of farmland to create the Allison Stock Farm, purchasing land from John Hummel for $15,000. He built the imposing red brick house and a fine set of barns which he stocked with imported livestock.

The Hummel property shown on an 1800s map that Hudson Allison purchased to build his new home.
The Allison House and farm as it appears today on Google Maps.

This home would later become the Vanden Bosch Farm. A quick Google map search of that farm reveals the location of the ill-fated Titanic passenger’s home that he never got to step foot in. Using this information I was able to spot the Allison Home. It stands back from the highway, the landscape not much different than what it would have looked like back in 1912. 

The Allison home as it appears today. Sadly, never set foot in by the young family whose lives were taken on Titanic.

Now locating the resting place of Hudson Allison was more difficult. On a cold blustery April day, the day after the Titanic sinking last year, we visited the cemetery to pay our respects to this Titanic connection. Looking for the Allison Family obelisk where he and his family are buried, we soon found the family memorial plot and paid our respects with a moment of silence to remember the Allison family that was lost on Titanic. 

This is the Allison family memorial obelisk site where the Titanic took the lives of all but one of the young family.
A closer inspection of the carved stone shows that the Titanic disaster claimed the lives of Hudson, Bess, Loraine, with Trevor the only survivor being buried with them at a later date.

The house and gravestone south of Ottawa is a sombre connection to the many souls lost along with Hudson and his family that tragic cold night on April 14th, 1912. 

Andrew King, April 2021





Driving along River Road south of Ottawa is a always a pleasant experience, with scenic views of the Rideau River on one side and pastoral farm fields on the other. Then you pass a crossroad called Snake Island Road and visions of a cursed island full of deadly snakes comes to mind. This would seem like a fictional scenario, except upon further investigation it’s actually true….there once was an island full of snakes that the road is named after.

So my quest begins…

After the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832 hundreds of unemployed laborers started to settle around the areas they once worked, the majority being of Irish descent. They traded in the pickaxes for pitchforks and switched from building canals to barns, with many of them settling in the areas south of Ottawa.

A settlement grew out of the wilds near Greely with the families of O’Connor, Devereaux, Shea, Tobin, and Otto all building a new life in the area of raised land amidst swampy marshes around Concession 4/5 and Lots 20-22.

The largest snake in Canada, (now an endangered species) the Black Rat Snake once surrounded a lost island called “Snake Island” south of Ottawa. (image: Wikipedia)

It was here on this raised land amidst the boggy marsh a settlement of families flourished finding a new life after the canal was finished. Yet what the families did not expect to find was that their new home was also the home of hundreds of snakes.

An old newspaper article from the Ottawa Citizen in 1928 describes the snake infested island. (Source: Bytown.Net)

It seemed the swamps around them were home to a large population of water snakes and black rat snakes, who would seek the higher ground when not hunting for prey in the marsh. Countless snakes slithered around the area and were said to grow up to six feet, likely the now endangered Black Rat Snake, which is the largest snake in Canada.

Measuring up to 6 feet in length, the Black Rat Snake slithered in numbers in the swamps early settlers were beginning to inhabit around the Greely marshlands. (image: Wikipedia)

One settler and his wife, John and Sally, allegedly experienced what would be a deadly snake attack. John decided to venture into the swamp and cut down some marsh reeds to feed their cow over the winter. John gathered his scythe, lunch and pipe and headed off the island to harvest the plentiful marsh reeds.

John soon came across a large snake that reared its head and lunged at John with its open fangs. Sadly for John, the fangs bit into his leg, and he required immediate medical attention which was provided by a passerby who saw the snake attack. John was bandaged up but the snake bite worsened likely by infection, and John soon died.

Not long afterwards the swamps were drained to create farm fields for the settlement, and the island of giant snakes disappeared as the surrounding waters receded.

So where was this legendary Island of Snakes exactly located? If you follow Snake Island Road from one end to the other, it begins at River Road near Kars, and stretches east to Metcalfe. It was along here that the island of snakes was located, but if the snake filled swamps were drained, where would this island have been?

Snake Island Road as viewed on Google Maps

If there was an island in a swampy land, that island would be the highest elevation topographically. That’s when I consulted a great topographic map resource and found the exact elevations of the area. The topo map revealed a highest elevation of about 92m in a marshy area, which would most likely have been the old Snake Island settlement.

This topographic map of the area shows the area of highest elevation, which would have been the original “Snake Island” back in the 1830s before the land was drained around it. SOURCE: https://en-ca.topographic-map.com/maps/q4e/Ottawa/

Using the old 1880s family names of those that settled on Snake Island, I researched a map from 1879 and saw all those same family names in that same area of high elevation. The two corresponding pieces of evidence thus pinpointed the spot that would have been the Snake Island Settlement.

Referencing Belden’s 1879 Historical Atlas of Carleton County the names mentioned in the old article were found, circled in red would be the original “Snake Island Settlement”
Compositing the topographic map with a current Google map the outline of the original 1800s Snake Island could be determined.

I drove out to this area to investigate and sure enough it is a very swampy area but the road climbs to a higher elevation area that would have been the original Snake Island.

The approach to Snake Island heading east on Snake Island Road.

This is at the current crossroads of Snake Island Road and Swale Road. There is even an out of place 1800s stone house (most period homes in this area are wood or log construction) on the top of the hill that would most likely would have been built by a former canal lock labourer who had previously built the stone locks on the canal.

The O’Connor stone home circa 1830s on what was once Snake Island.

Referencing the old 1880 map of that intersection shows the stone home would have belonged to the O’Connor family, which is listed as one of the settlers on the original Snake Island. There was even a Devereaux Road south of the intersection to confirm the location of the lost island.

The Abandoned Farmstead of the 1800s Coleman family on the original Snake Island.
The once snake infested swamplands still exist surrounding the original Snake Island.

A visit to the area reveals that much of that original snake infested swamp still surrounds the area, a reminder of the early days that gave Snake Island Road its legendary name.

Andrew King

March 2021




Google Maps

Historical Atlas OF Carleton County. Belden. 1879


The official City Of Ottawa Coat of Arms and logo that’s featured on Ottawa police and emergency vehicles show a shield with wavy blue and white lines. These lines represent the Ottawa River running from left to right, and the Rideau and Gatineau rivers represented above and below. The Nation’s Capital is surrounded by waterways, but despite our aquatic surroundings, we have no lighthouses. A feature of most shorelines surrounded by water, the City Of Ottawa curiously lacks any surviving lighthouses from the first decades of its existence, even though it was originally solely serviced by steamships. Sure, we have some modern navigational lights dotting the Ottawa River, but no classic old “LIGHTHOUSES”. 

As a fan of the old fashioned lighthouses and their symbolism of isolation and safety, I was glad to discover we did once have one across from Beacon Hill, of which I wrote about earlier, but it has been long demolished. Then I was recently contacted about one still in existence, a hidden relic of a bygone era on the Rideau River canal system. After some research proved the tip was true, it was successfully located. This is the tale of Ottawa’s LAST LIGHTHOUSE.


The Rideau Canal system stretches from Kingston to Ottawa across 202 kilometres of waterways, its largest stretch of interrupted water being called “The Long Reach” which extends 40km from the lock at Burritt’s Rapids, to the locks at Long Island near Manotick. It is along this stretch of the canal system the last lighthouse resides, hiding behind some trees amidst modern homes, a shadow of its former self.

A hastily snapped photo of The Last Lighthouse on the Rideau River.

Between Kars and Osgoode, there is an island called James Island, and on the eastern shore of the river, Doug Wallace and Harry Boyd decided to build a lighthouse in 1915. 

Situated on the eastern shore of the Rideau near James Island rests the Last Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse was a wooden clapboard beacon situated on a rectangular main building base and it is not known if it was an actual functioning government funded navigational aid, or simply a lighthouse built for fun. Nevertheless, The Lighthouse became the most popular landmark on the Long Reach between 1935 and 1967 as a Big Band Dance Hall. 

The Lighthouse’s resident orchestra during the 1950s was “The Cliff Wilkes Orchestra”, featuring Cliff, a barber from Vernon. In its heyday, the Lighthouse would be jammed with 400 people trying to dance the night away in the small Lighthouse dance hall. It was “THE” place to be on a Saturday night in the South Ottawa region, with food, drinks, swimming, boat races and regattas happening all summer long. 

Photo of the Lighthouse Orchestra, from the Osgoode Township Historical Society & Museum Newsletter, December 2005.

Canada Day, or “Dominion Day” as it would’ve been called back then, would feature a hydroplane boat race on the Rideau River which drew thousands of visitors to the Lighthouse to wacth these high speed river races during the day, and to dance and drink to the sounds of the Big Band Orchestra playing throughout the evening. 

Some of the typical 1950s river race boats that would have plied the waters in front of the Lighthouse during its heyday.

The Lighthouse became such a hotspot for raucous activity that it drew the ire of the local clergy who tried to shut its partying down, but to no avail. I can only imagine the scene on a warm summer Saturday night at the Lighthouse, roaring wooden boats pulling up to the dock, big band music blaring, couples dancing and drinking and enjoying the “river life” at this bustling beacon. As with most good things, they must always seem to come to and end, and in 1967 the Lighthouse was closed for good as teenagers found new things to do an a Saturday summer night, and the aging, older crowd just stopped attending. 

Doug Wallace, co-founder of the Lighthouse would later start up a tour boat company taking passengers up and down the Rideau Canal, that would later be sold and be known as “Paul’s Boat Lines”. 


After it closed in 1967, the lighthouse would be disassembled and modified. The pyramidal beacon would be placed off to the side of the property, with the main dance hall being converted into a residence. It is now an operating business, “Modern Living Realty Inc. Brokerage” whose office is in the historic old Long Reach landmark.

The Lighthouse Dance Hall as it appears today from River Road.

I noticed the little lighthouse on a summer boating excursion, now painted grey and red, and snapped a photo of it, not knowing it would turn out to be such a historical landmark. Now at over 100 years old, the Lighthouse remains a quiet reminder of the bygone days of river life, literally a beacon of fun and memories for so many of those that were lucky enough to have visited it over the decades.

The Lighthouse as it looks today from Google Satellite view.
The Lighthouse tower as it appears today as viewed from the river.

The beacon part of the Lighthouse has been maintained and sits quietly hiding behind some trees on the shore, still gazing out at the waters of the Rideau River, its light long extinguished, but its soul and 100 year old history intact for those of us that know it’s still there. 

Andrew King, January 2021


“On a Sunday Afternoon” Classic Boats On The Rideau Canal, Manotick Classic Boat Club, Turner, Douglas. 1989. The Boston Mills Press, Page 32.



A 13th century “cog” ship that likely visited the Canadian Arctic according to artifacts in the Canadian Museum Of History archives.

The “Medieval Period” lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century, and within that time frame the period known as the “Viking Age” spanned from the late 8th to late 11th century. The Vikings were seafaring Norse people from southern Scandinavia (present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden) that explored westward to Iceland, Greenland, and to what is now Newfoundland & Labrador. The “discovery” of North America by these hardy Norse explorers was finally substantiated when Norwegian husband-wife team of explorer Helge Ingstad and archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad uncovered a Norse settlement at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. Their study of Icelandic sagas—Eirik the Red’s Saga, Saga of the Greenlanders, described how the Norse left Scandinavia and started to explore lands to the west of Greenland only a few years after settlements were established. 

Depiction of Vikings in 1100 AD.

The stories, or “sagas” as they are called, describe that in 985AD while sailing from Iceland to Greenland with a migration fleet consisting of 400–700 settlers and 25 ships (14 of which completed the journey) a merchant named Bjarni Herjólfsson was blown off course, and after three days’ sailing he spotted a land west of the fleet. Bjarni was only interested in finding the farm of his father, but he described his discovery of this new land to Leif Erikson who explored the area in more detail and planted a small settlement fifteen years later, which puts Europeans in North America in 1000AD.

A map showing places Vikings visited during their height of exploration, including Canada.

The sagas describe three separate areas discovered during this exploration: Helluland, which means “land of the flat stones”; Markland, “the land of forests” and Vinland, “the land of wine”, found somewhere south of Markland. It was in Vinland that the settlement described in the sagas was founded, and which is thought to be somewhere in the Atlantic provinces of Canada, although their main settlement, “Hop” has yet to be found.

A model diorama showing how the Norse encampment at L’Anse Aux Meadows would have looked like in 1000AD.

What was discovered in 1960 was a temporary Norse boat repair encampment at L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland. They found some rivets, iron slag chunks, and some bone items, but nothing too indicative of “Viking” swords or amour. During archeological excavation butternuts were unearthed but have never been native to Newfoundland. This means that the inhabitants of this camp ventured further south, likely into New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, but no new evidence has yet been found, nor has any expedition been ignited to find the true Vinland/Hop settlement of these Norse sagas. Norse settlement of what is now Canada would end quickly as they battled indigenous inhabitants and harsh weather, departing our shores only ten years after building a settlement. The “Viking Age” would end one hundred years later around 1100AD. So what are European artifacts from 1250AD, the Medieval Period, doing in the Canadian Museum of History?

Let’s take a closer look.


Without being able to visit museums in person, I enjoy exploring the various museum artifacts inside the museum online. A casual search turned up some interesting artifacts I’ve never seen before, of which I will share with you below. I think they blow out of the water anything that was ever found in Newfoundland. These revealing artifacts were found on Baffin Island sometime in the last 45 years.

The artifacts are carbon dated to be from around 1250AD and include sword blades, chain mail, oak barrels, wooden boxes, iron and copper, knives, and woven cloth. They are catalogued simply as “Norse” under “origin” but we are told that the Norse left what was North America hundreds of years before that date. One explanation states that the Norse continued to travel to trade with the Inuit inhabitants of Baffin Island at that time. So it seems that it wasn’t Vikings, but medieval Europeans who brought an assortment of items found recently on Baffin Island. Did we have other European visitors prior to Cabot, Cartier and Champlain? Seems so, but their story has yet to be told in greater detail. In the meantime, let’s check out these items from over 700 years ago.


  1. IRON BLADE: OBJECT NUMBER: SgFm-4:2 MEASUREMENTS: Length 68.4 mm, Width 47.0 mm, Thickness 4.5 mm. Date made: Unknown.


DATE MADE: Circa A.D. 1250-1500

OBJECT NUMBER: PgHb-1:8483 Length 104.4 mm, Width 27.0 mm, Thickness 17.1 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: This is curious due to it being made from pine wood, which does not grow in the Arctic.

3. IRON WEDGE. Circa A.D. 1250


Length 67.7 mm, Width 22.2 mm, Thickness 11.9 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: Possible ship building tool?


Circa A.D. 1250

OBJECT NUMBER SgFm-4:2239 Length 71.0 mm;:mm, Width 30.4 mm;:mm, Thickness 19.5 mm;:mm

AUTHOR NOTE: Awls were used for punching holes in leather and canvas.

5. CLOTH FRAGMENT: Circa A.D. 1200


Water transportation accessory: Mammal wool

MEASUREMENTS Length 135.0 mm, Width 105.0 mm, Thickness 11.5 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: Catalogued as “water transportation accessory” does that mean this is part of a ship’s sail?

6. SWORD BLADE: Circa A.D. 1200


Armament edged  Length 99.3 mm, Width 37.4 mm, Thickness 6.3 mm


Circa A.D. 1200


ACTIVITY Shipbuilding

Length 38.7 mm, Width 17.9 mm, Depth 18.4 mm, Thickness 5.1 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: Shipbuilding rivets from 1200 reveal that European ships were visiting Baffin Island..whether being repaired or built.


Circa A.D. 1260


Length 183.0 mm, Width 110.0 mm, Thickness 14.8 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: An amazingly well preserved piece of wood from almost 800 years ago! Also, where did the oak come from? What was in the box?


Circa A.D. 1260

Length 169.0 mm, Width 52.5 mm, Thickness 20.2 mm, Outside Diameter 210 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: Wow! Barrel piece…was this for wine? Again, where did they get the oak for this?


Late 13th Century

OBJECT NUMBER SfFk-4:193 Iron, Muskox horn Length 153.9 mm, Width 19.1 mm, Depth 9.3 mm, Thickness 9.3 mm


Circa 14th Century


Length 146.0 mm, Width 8.0 mm, Thickness 7.2 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: Look at the exquisite detail on this piece! Such a well crafted instrument from the 1300’s! That flush hinge joint is amazing….such a unique medieval item to be found in Canada. Weird they left it behind. What did they balance with it?


Circa A.D. 1250-1500

OBJECT NUMBER: RbJu-1:269 Length 101.7 mm, Width 68.9 mm, Thickness 2.4 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: Bronze bowl is unique in that it may have been moulded and formed, for cooking?


Circa A.D. 1260

OBJECT NUMBER SfFk-4:3502 Length 206.0 mm, Width 52.6 mm, Depth 31.0 mm, Thickness 31.0 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: Again, more pine wood from where? This woodworking tool is interesting as it was likely used for shipbuilding, carpentry tasks…on Baffin Island?


A.D. 1260’s


body armour, Height 25.6 mm, Length 53.0 mm, Width 36.7 mm, Thickness 25.0 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: Medieval Chain mail! In Canada! Imagine the suit of armour this came from and how they looked standing on Baffin Island with a sword. Hard to believe a 1260 Euro swordsman was in Canada, but here is the proof.


Circa A.D. 1250-1300


Length 53.8 mm, Width 18.7 mm, Thickness 9.4 mm

AUTHOR NOTE: A carved representation, again in pine wood, of the medieval visitor to Baffin Island. A hooded cloaked figure with a cross on the chest…perhaps chainmail beneath the cloak? Where have we seen this before?


With the above artifacts representing a definite presence of medieval Europeans on Canadian soil in the 13th century, we have to speculate why they were here, and where exactly they came from. Were they trading with the Inuit for whale bone and other supplies? Did the Norse set up another settlement in North America after leaving 200 years before? The shipbuilding related artifacts suggest they had a presence for sometime, and not just a meet and greet, hello/goodbye visit. Were these 13th century medieval knights on a new crusade to the New World to expand their realm? What other artifacts are out there?

Some 13th century folks that may have visited the Canadian Arctic.

This treasure trove of unique artifacts might just be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, with other items waiting to be found on Arctic shores, or even further south where they perhaps found their pine and oak wood for these items. Unfortunately, most of these revealing artifacts of a medieval presence in Canada lie in storage and the full story has yet to be told. Maybe someday we will find more pieces to this vast puzzle called history, and soon we will snap together a more detailed story as to what our medieval guests were up to.

Andrew King, January, 2021


ALL ARTIFACT IMAGES AND INFO FROM: Canadian Museum of History Online Archives: https://www.historymuseum.ca/collections/search-results/?q=norse&per_page=25