Elle Andra-Warner

Elle Andra-Warner is a veteran travel writer and has an abiding curiosity in all things unusual. Her monthly column Strange Tales covers everything from UFO sightings to historic oddities.

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Recent Articles by Elle Andra-Warner

The North Shore’s Mayan-inspired Resort
posted on Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017
Aztec Hotel from its early days with “Illgen” letters on the Mayan column-like exterior and four 1920s Red Crown gas pumps in front. | DAVE CANO COLLECTION So, how did a Mayan-inspired landmark resort end up on the North Shore? Back in the 1920s and 1930s, an architecture movement known as the Mayan Revival was popular with American architects, who blended Mayan building styles with motifs of other pre-Columbian Meso-American cultures, such as the Aztec. Architect Robert Stacey-Judd’s famous Aztec Hotel was built in 1924 in Monrovia, California and he…

Building with used steel shipping containers
posted on Monday, Feb 27, 2017
Thunder Bay—A cozy house built of steel? Shipping container architecture—using recycled shipping containers of heavy gauge steel as building blocks—is a growing worldwide trend. These containers can carry 30 tonnes of cargo across the oceans, sometimes stacked up nine tall on a ship. And many only travel one-way, because it’s not cost-effective to ship back empty containers. So, what can you do with these 20-foot or 40-foot used containers of heavy gauge steel? Plenty. The repurposed containers can be transformed into unique, eco-friendly, durable, stackable structures, from hobby sheds, cabins…

When Bombs Dropped on Northern Minnesota's Big Bog
posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2017
The discovery of a bomb casing in a lake in northern Minnesota’s Big Bog—technically named the Red Lake Peatlands—led Doug Easthouse, DNR park manager of the Big Bog State Recreation Area and two other state parks, to research how a bomb got into the bog. What he uncovered was almost 20 years of military history when the Big Bog was used as a bombing and artillery range. Easthouse first heard about the bomb in August 2010 from two researchers who had been studying the ecosystem of bogs since the 1970s.…

Stone Mysteries in the Northern Wilds
posted on Wednesday, Feb 01, 2017
It is the “stones” in the world that hold some of the greatest mysteries, like Stonehenge in England; giant statues on Easter Island; rune stones in Scandinavia; and standing stones of Cornwall. And here in the Northern Wilds of Minnesota and Ontario, we also have ancient mysterious stone structures, including puzzling petroglyphs, strange stone boxes, stone dolmens, circles of stones and perhaps even a stone pyramid. On a road leading to the east end of Whitefish Lake, there are secret petroglyphs (engravings cut into rock) on bedrock—secret because they are…

Ice diving into an upside down world
posted on Wednesday, Feb 01, 2017
Thunder Bay—Ice diving takes diving to a new level and into a completely different world. Considered a type of “penetration diving,” the dive takes place under ice, typically with only one entry or exit point. Thunder Bay veteran diver and instructor Wally Peterson, owner of Wally’s Thunder Country Diving, explained, “What’s up is down, what’s down is up. You can use the ice as the floor. An ice diver can stand and walk, even skate, upside down on the ice ceiling.” While ice diving is not for everyone, it is…

Thunder Bay Centennial Botanical Conservatory turns 50
posted on Tuesday, Jan 31, 2017
Thunder Bay—The year-round tropical oasis in the middle of Thunder Bay, the Centennial Botanical Conservatory, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The Conservatory, which opened on Nov. 18, 1967, was a centennial project of the Fort William Board of Parks management to commemorate Canada’s 100th birthday (cities of Fort William and Port Arthur were amalgamated by the Ontario government in 1970 to form the City of Thunder Bay). It cost $162,000 (equal to about $1.2 million in 2016) to construct the Conservatory, using 18 tons of glass and steel…

Lee Fedorchuk creates chainsaw sculptures
posted on Tuesday, Dec 27, 2016
Thunder Bay—Have you ever noticed the six-foot killer whale on Thunder Bay’s Memorial Avenue? And nearby, the blue heron, standing bear, pelican and giant mushroom, plus a life-size ninja warrior and mountain man? The statue-like carvings are some of the latest of more than 1,700 chainsaw sculptures that Thunder Bay’s Lee Fedorchuk has crafted in the past 23 years. At his North of Superior Carving shop on Memorial Avenue across from Intercity Mall, latest finished sculptures are on display outside alongside where he uses his chainsaw to make new ones.…

The Grey Jay: Canada's National Bird
posted on Friday, Dec 23, 2016
It was an announcement in mid-November that many Canadians didn’t see coming. That’s when the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS), publisher of Canadian Geographic magazine, at their AGM in Ottawa set the media abuzz with their official recommendation that the grey jay be Canada’s national bird as part of the celebrations for the country’s 150th year of existence this year. RCGS had selected the grey jay—more commonly known as the whisky jack and before 1957, as the Canada jay—after an online popular vote by Canadians, a lively public debate and…

Christmas Pasts: Childhood Memories
posted on Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016
Whether it’s recent or from your childhood, it seems everyone has a favorite Christmas or holiday memory; something special that you’ll never forget. Maybe it’s when you finally got that puppy you had been begging for. Or perhaps it was the warm, fuzzy feeling you got while singing Christmas carols as a child at the local nursing home. Curious, we asked a few of our writers to tell us about their favorite Christmas memories. By Elle Andra-Warner Looking back at past Christmases, two special memories spring up from my childhood…

Nature’s Winter Art Gallery
posted on Monday, Nov 28, 2016
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest snowflake ever recorded was 15-inches wide by 8 inches thick. It fell during a snowstorm on Jan. 28, 1887 at Fort Keogh, Montana and was witnessed by soldiers. As the story goes, a nearby rancher measured the giant snowflake, calling the storm’s snowflakes, “larger than milk pans.” This monster snow crystal, photographed by Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht, is reported to be the largest snow crystal ever photographed. It was taken in Cochrane, Ontario, when the temperature was near -15 degrees C.…

Give Thanks: Eleanor Drury Children’s Theatre
posted on Friday, Oct 21, 2016
When about 30 kids from the Eleanor Drury Children’s Theatre (EDCT) take the stage on Dec. 6 to perform The Jungle Book (with a Northern Ontario twist) at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, they will be carrying on a local tradition that started 34 years ago. The group was founded in 1982 by playwright Lauren Goulet, who as the artistic director, wrote and directed the first two productions: Grandma’s Stockings (about the hunt for Grandma’s stolen treasure chest by neighbours and 10-year-old Darby, and the Dreadful Drofulless luring them into…

Saving the Iconic Icebreaker Alexander Henry
posted on Friday, Oct 21, 2016
“Bring Back the Alexander Henry” is the rallying cry heard loud and clear these days in Thunder Bay. The former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker built in Thunder Bay—which has been a ‘museum ship’ of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston, Ontario since 1985—faces an uncertain future of being either sunk or scrapped now that the museum’s property has been sold. That is, unless the ship can be brought back ‘home’ to Thunder Bay, and the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society (LTMS) is working to make that happen. The…

Ghost Towns in Northern Wilds
posted on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016
What is a ghost town? A simple definition is a “town that no longer has any people living in it,” or as author T. Lindsay Baker (Ghost Towns of Texas) explains, it is, “a town for which the reason for being no longer exists.” In our Northern Wilds area, there are plenty of ghost towns on both sides of the border (some reports put the number at 200-300 ghost towns in Minnesota alone). In her paper on Northern Minnesota’s Ghost Towns of Cook County, Olga N. Soderberg (then President of…

The Story Behind the Roadside Inuksuk
posted on Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016
Travellers along the highways and byways in our Northern Wilds are sometimes baffled by the piles of rocks balanced on top of rock croppings, perched on boulders or placed at the edge of the boreal forest. They have asked if these mysterious stone markers have any special meaning. So, what is the story behind these hand-built stone works that are now found throughout the U.S., Canada, and beyond? Called Inuksuk (also spelled Inukshuk; plural form is Inuksuit), the history of these human-made stone landmarks goes back more than 9,000 years…

Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island
posted on Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016
Drive the Cabot Trail scenic highway and it is easy to see why Cape Breton Island has been ranked No. 1 on the list of Top Island Destinations by Travel & Leisure, and the Cabot Trail as one of the world’s most beautiful roads. The island is 10,311 square kilometres (3,981 square miles) in size, and connected to the mainland Nova Scotia by the rock-filled “S”-shaped Canso Causeway over the Straits of Canso. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is on its western and northern coasts, and the Atlantic Ocean on…

Summer Sailing on Superior
posted on Monday, Aug 01, 2016
Sailing the waters of the Lake Superior—the world’s largest freshwater lake—with Sail Superior Yacht Charters is the ultimate summer adventure, with plenty of ‘wow’ sightseeing moments. “I encourage people to get the feel of Superior. It is really easy to get on the lake, and there are so many ways to enjoy it by people of all ages and abilities,” said Captain Gregory Heroux, owner of Thunder Bay’s Sail Superior Yacht Charters. Sail Superior’s 40-foot Frodo sails the bay towards the Sibley Peninsula’s Sleeping Giant. | ELLE ANDRA-WARNER Sail Superior offers…

Stories from the Lighthouse
posted on Monday, Aug 01, 2016
The era of the lighthouse keepers tending isolated U.S. and Canadian stations on Lake Superior may be gone—the last keeper was taken off Superior in 1991—but their stories continue to make fascinating reading. So, what is it like being on an island lighthouse in a storm? First assistant keeper C. A. McKay at Rock of Ages Lighthouse—located about five miles off Isle Royale - was asked that question by Detroit reporter Stella Champney during a 1931 interview. He replied, “You can’t see anything but water. You can’t hear anything but…

WWII bombers heading north
posted on Monday, Aug 01, 2016
This B-17 Flying Fortress named “Sentimental Journey” from CAF’s Airborne Arizona Museum in Mesa, Arizona, is one of two restored WWII-era planes coming to Thunder Bay the first week in August. Notice the image of the iconic pinup star Betty Grable on the side. | Elle Andra-Warner Thunder Bay—Aviation buffs may want to mark August 1–8 in Thunder Bay on their calendars. That’s when two iconic WWII-era warplanes from American museums—the four-engine B-17G “Sentimental Journey” and twin-engine B-25J “Miss Mitchell”—will be at the Thunder Bay Airport for a week’s stay.…

Submarines in Lake Superior or the Great Lakes?
posted on Monday, Jun 27, 2016
Every so often, someone brings up the question, “Were there ever any submarines in Lake Superior, or the Great Lakes?” The crew of the USS Minnesota submarine mans the ship during her commissioning at Norfolk Naval Base on September 7, 2013. | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Over 100 years ago, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper had the headline, “Submarines May Be Built in Ontario” and went on to specifically identify the Western Dry Dock Company plant (later became Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company) in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay). It said the Canadian plant…

Lighthouse Adventuring on Lake Superior's Canadian North Shore
posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Looking for something different to do this summer? How about going on a Lake Superior adventure at a Canadian lighthouse where you can go for nature walks, hiking, rock collecting, climbing a lighthouse tower, bird-watching, visiting an art gallery or even overnight in a guest house? You can do all that and more at the Porphyry Island Lighthouse, thanks to hard work of the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior Inc. (CLLS), a non-profit charitable organization that restores, maintains and promotes lighthouses on Lake Superior’s North Shore. Porphyry Island Lighthouse is…