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150 Little Known Canadian Facts #16

June, 2017

A little bit of information about history, sports and inventions.

  1. The oldest fortified city (that’s still intact) north of Mexico is Québec City, or more accurately, Vieux-Québec. The fortifications were built between 1608 and 1871. The “Great Wall” is 46 km long, and the fort’s Citadel sits on the highest point in Québec City and is the largest British fortress in North America. The Citadel is also home to the only fully French-speaking infantry regiment in Canada—the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Forces.


  1. We all know the Bluenose as it has adorned our Canadian dime since 1937. But here are a few facts you may not know:
  • It was skippered by Nova Scotian Captain Angus Walters for decades.
  • The schooner had two purposes: cod fishing and racing. Not only did it win several International Fisherman’s Races, but its speed also helped it get into port faster to sell its catch for the best price. In fact, in 1923 it held the record for the largest fish catch brought into Lunenburg—it weighed in at 646,000 pounds!
  • It was sold in 1942 to the West Indies Trading Company where it delivered rum, sugar, bananas and war supplies.
  • In 1946, the Bluenose hit a reef near Haiti and sank.
  • The Bluenose II was built 17 years later, and the builders followed the blueprints William Roue designed for its predecessor. It was launched in 1963 with Captain Walters at the helm for the maiden voyage. When the Bluenose II went in for restoration in 2009, most of the schooner ended up in a landfill or wood chipper; the only parts salvaged were the rudder, boom and part of the bow. It was re-launched in 2015 from the same port the original Bluenose had been launched 94 years earlier: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.


  1. Our Canadian whisky is good stuff and has been in the top four most popular whiskies in the States for over 100 years. Some people believe that it gained its popularity during the Prohibition Era, but it was actually during the Civil War. The Confederates (South) stopped selling its whiskey to the Yankees (North), and all the American whiskey distilleries were conscripted to the war efforts for making weapons. By 1900, Canada was the world’s largest producer of whisky, and like Scottish whisky it’s spelled without an “e.”


  1. Canadian physician Dr. Norman Bethune changed how medicine was applied to battle zones. He developed the mobile blood transfusion collection and distribution system. While leading a surgical team in Spain during its civil war, he recognized the need for a way to collect and deliver blood to the front lines for surgeries. He outfitted a truck with a special refrigerator and sterilizing unit. This system was a stepping stone to creating the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, otherwise known as M.A.S.H. units.


  1. Have you heard of Reginald Fessenden? He was an inventor born in Ontario in 1866, 10 years before Canada was even a country. He was the first person to send a wireless two-way radio transmission across the Atlantic in 1906—Marconi had sent a one-way Morse code transmission only five years earlier. Also, on Christmas Eve in 1906, Fessenden made the first wireless public broadcast of music and voice.


  1. Instant replay was invented by German-Canadian George Retzlaff in 1955. He was working for CBC Hockey Night In Canada at the time and discovered a way to develop the film (using a “hot processor” technique) that recorded a goal so that it could be replayed within 30 seconds for all to see. About a decade later, CBS director and producer Tony Verna (American) discovered his version of instant replay during a 1963 Army-Navy football game when he rewound the video tape back and replayed the goal over the live feed to viewers.


  1. Willie O’Ree from Fredricton, NB, was the first Black hockey player in the National Hockey League. He debuted with the Boston Bruins in 1957 where his first game was against the Montreal Canadiens. He received the Order of New Brunswick (2005) and the Order of Canada (2010), and was inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.


  1. Joseph Bombardier, who was born in Québec in 1907, invented the snowmobile and the Ski-Doo. In 1935, Bombardier designed his snowmobile (which looked like a small tank) that ran on caterpillar tracks, was steered by skis and could hold two to three passengers. He patented the mechanical system in 1937 and his main customers were doctors, first responders and priests. He scaled down the snowmobile and designed a wooden version he called the Ski-Dog in 1958, but due to a spelling mistake while printing the advertisements, it was called and remained known as the Ski-Doo.

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