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13 Strange Things You Didn’t Know About Canada

From secret underground labs to UFO landing pads, Canada can be a weird, wild and wonderful place. Here are 13 strange facts you didn’t know about our home and native land.

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Did you know Canada is the garter snake capital of the world, or that we hold an annual bathtub race? How about our strange attempts to make contact with extraterrestrials, or Newfoundland’s unique connection to Mars? Here are the 13 strangest things about Canada that you never knew.

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1. You Can See More Snakes in Winnipeg Than Anywhere Else

Just 130-km north of Winnipeg is the Narcisse Snake Dens conversation area, where each spring, tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes slither out from their dens for a few weeks from mid-April to early May. Fortunately there are viewing platforms set up so you can watch them from afar.

(Photo courtesy of Germanpickle/Flickr)

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2. We Have a Secret Underground Labratory in Sudbury, Ont.

Canada is at the forefront in the international search for new forces and forms of matter thanks to SNOLAB. Designed for the study of neutrino and dark matter physics, it’s the deepest clean laboratory in the world dedicated to this type of work. The lab, which was once the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, was built in a mine to avoid interference from environmental and solar radioactivity.

(Photo courtesy of queensu/Flickr)

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3. McGill put the Green in Greenbacks

We’ve taken a lot of jabs from the U.S. for our Monopoly-coloured Canadian currency, but what most don’t realize is the green ink used for American money was invented at McGill University in Montreal, in 1857, by Thomas Sterry Hunt.

(Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

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4. We Harvest Icebergs in Labrador and Newfoundland

Every spring, massive islands of ice broken off of glaciers in Greenland parade through ‘Iceberg Alley’, past the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland. Entrepreneurs are harvesting chunks of these cool marvels for some pretty unique products, including wine, vodka, beer, and even skincare products.

(Photo © Newfound and Labrador Tourism)

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5. We Built a UFO Landing Pad in St. Paul, Alta.

One of Canada’s most unique Centennial projects in 1967 was the building of the world’s first UFO Landing Pad in St. Paul, Alberta. The town provided the land, and local businesses provided building supplies and labour for the raised cement pad. Making things even stranger? Paul Hellyer, then Minister of National Defense, flew in (by helicopter, not spaceship) to officially open it.

(Photo courtesy of mylegalta/Flickr)

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6. Most of the World’s Caesium is in a Lake in Manitoba

The best-known use of this element is in Caesium-based atomic clocks – which are so accurate they would only be off by 2 seconds over a 65 million year lifespan. It’s also used as a lubricant for large drilling projects. The world’s richest deposit of caesium (roughly two-thirds of it) is at Bernic Lake, Manitoba.

(Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

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7. We Have the World’s Safest Highways (for Animals)

There are million-dollar highway overpasses in Banff National Park which have been used by grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars, moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, wolverine and lynx. By 2014, there will be 38 wildlife underpasses and six overpasses from Banff National Park’s east entrance to the border of Yoho National Park. Ontario built its first bridge for animals over Hwy 69, south of Sudbury, in 2012.

(Photo courtesy of cmh2315fl/Flickr)

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8. Alberta has a National Park Larger Than Switzerland

Wood Buffalo National Park straddles the border of Northern Alberta and southern Northwest Territories. It was created in 1922 to protect the world’s largest herd of roaming Wood Bison, and the park is also home to the last known nesting site of whooping cranes.

(Photo courtesy of mrjorgen/Flickr)

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9. Vancouver Island is Home To an Annual Bathtub Race

It’s a crazy competition that started as Nanaimo’s Centennial event in 1967. The first year close to 200 ‘tubbers’ raced a 36-mile course in converted bathtubs – 48 finished. Today, the high-performance “bathtubs” cover the 90-minute course the last weekend of July, as part of the weekend-long Nanaimo Marine Festival, which includes a Bathtub Parade. 2013’s race day is July 28.

(Photo courtesy of kams-world/Flickr)

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10. Buffalo Was Almost a Province

The province of Buffalo proposal was spearheaded in the early 1900’s by Sir Frederick Haultain, who was the first Premier of the Northwest Territories. His proposal failed to sway Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, and in 1905 the section of N.W.T. was divided via a north-south line, creating Alberta and Saskatchewan in the process.

(Photo by Thinkstock)

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11. We Speak on Behalf of Santa Claus

It’s thanks to thousands of kind Canadians that kids around the world get answers to their letters and emails to Santa each year. Canada Post volunteers have answered more than 1 million letters in 30 languages (including braille). They ask that you don’t include cookies, but do include the postal code: HOH OHO.

(Photo by Thinkstock)

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12. Peterborough, Ont. is the Canoe Capital of the World

You can learn more about canoeing at the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, home to the world’s largest collection of canoes and kayaks. National Paddling Day, which was originally celebrated on June 26th, has now evolved into National Paddling Week, which will be celebrated across Canada, June 15-23, 2013.

(Photo by Thinkstock)

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13. Newfoundland Left its Mark on Mars

Commander Hadfield has been educating and entertaining us from space for the last few months, but Canada’s reach into space extends further than the International Space Station. There is a crater on Mars that has been named for the town of Gander, Newfoundland. The 39-km (diameter) crater was dedicated to Gander in 1991 because of the town’s history of pioneering aviation and aerospace technologies.

(Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)