Le Grand Hermine Was No Pirate Ship, But Still Fascinates

Written by | Travel

Everything sounds better au francois, they say – as a case in point, consider this cherished landmark known as La Grande Hermine.

Le Hermine wreck

“La Grande Hermine” translated literally, “The Big Weasel,” is one of the most recognizable landmarks along the Niagara stretch of the Queen Elizabeth Way. I have passed through this ship innumerable times but I didn’t really take the necessary time to stop and give it the time it was due.

Last month, while in the area to attend a wedding, my friend decided it’s time we stop to explore this beauty. For starters, I learned that it has become a bird sanctuary all season ’round. There are many birds and ducks
that call it home from one season to the next throughout the year. Nearby this shipwreck is a boat rental company so that you can rent canoes and paddle around it. It is pretty amazing experience. Take a look:

The 140-foot ship was conceived to replicate the largest of three ships French Explorer Jacques Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence River. The Hermine was built in in 1914 in Quebec and set sail as a ferry on the St. Lawrence only to eventually find service as a cargo ship, a floating restaurant, and in 1991, it was converted to a replica ship. At one time the vessel did duty as a haunted pirate ship at Halloween to help raise funds for a student hot lunch program.

The shipwreck is nestled now at the bottom of the Jordan Harbour not far from the western shore of Lake Ontario, between the cities of Hamilton and St. Catharines. The ship came into port at the Jordan Harbour in 1997, and sank after an arson attack in January of 2003, causing this floating piece of nautical history to go up in flames. What’s left of the hulk is rusting, damaged and becoming slowly reclaimed by nature, but is still an interesting site to see.

The ship was towed into the Jordan Harbour to await further relocation to a spot near Niagara Falls in hopes of turning it into a gambling venue, but the owner passed away before authority was granted. Since then, the wreck has been a distinctive landmark and popular tourist attraction, often mistakenly called a “pirate ship” in Niagara. This misunderstood curiosity lists strongly to one side, half sunken and half afloat, only a few meters off the shoreline in a manmade cove near the Jordan Harbour.

Enjoy new highlights of travel photographer Edwin Santiago’s journeys each week.

Last modified: January 17, 2018