That Abandoned Ship into Niagara: “La Grande Hermine”

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Header Image by: Christine Hess

While journeying along the QEW from Toronto to Niagara Falls, travelers often spot an intriguing yet mysterious sight – the “abandoned ship,” affectionately called the “Pirate Ship” or “Ghost Ship.” It’s a captivating landmark that sparks questions. Why does it rest there? What tales lie hidden within its rusted frame?

This vessel, known as “La Grand Hermine” or humorously as “The Big Weasel,” finds its home along the Jordan Harbour’s shoreline. Nestled between Hamilton and St. Catharines on Lake Ontario’s western coast, it’s become one of Niagara’s most recognizable features.

Though the ship stands still, it weaves an air of wonder and anticipation. The Grand Hermine isn’t just a static artifact; it’s a gateway to stories of adventure and the passage of time. Once a replica of explorer Jacques Cartier’s ship, it sailed the high seas and found its way to Lake Ontario.

Today, it might be stationary, but the ship continues to leave a lasting impression, prompting passersby to ponder the mysteries concealed within its aged timbers. It’s a testament to the power of history and the way even the quietest relics can evoke curiosity and fascination on the journey to Niagara Falls.

La Grande Hermine, a reproduction of one of Jacques Cartier’s ships from his 1535 exploration, tells a remarkable tale if only it could speak. This majestic vessel, measuring 140 feet in length, is the largest of the trio that ventured the waters of the St. Lawrence River.

Originally built in 1914 in Quebec, it began its journey as a ferry on the St. Lawrence before transforming into a cargo ship and later a floating restaurant. The ship’s life took a fascinating twist in 1991 when it was converted into a replica of its former self.

In 1997, it reached Jordan Harbour, destined for an exciting new role as either a restaurant or a casino, the details varying in different accounts. Tragically, the businessman behind this vision passed away before seeing it come to life, waiting for permission and struggling with the funds to bring it to Niagara Falls. The ship remained docked at Jordan Harbour.

In January 2003, a devastating arson fire scarred La Grande Hermine, though it miraculously survived, its slightly damaged and ‘rustic’ appearance adding character to photographs and deepening the intrigue surrounding this enigmatic shipwreck. The ship’s past is etched in its timeworn planks, and its presence continues to captivate travelers on the journey through Niagara.

La Grande Hermine stands proudly as a unique Niagara landmark, a cherished gem on the roadside that has captivated the hearts of countless visitors. Over time, several kind souls expressed interest in purchasing and restoring this intriguing ship for various purposes. Yet, like an old mariner yearning for the echoing cry of an SOS, La Grande Hermine patiently awaits the call that will breathe new life into its timeworn form.

Though this ship’s destiny remains uncertain, it continues to cast its enchanting spell on those who pass by. La Grande Hermine serves as a testament to the enduring mysteries of history and the compelling allure of the unknown, forever a part of the captivating landscape along Jordan Harbour’s shores.

La Grande Hermine Masts Removed

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, working through the Coast Guard, recently undertook a significant operation to remove the masts of the historic vessel, La Grande Hermine. This was a precautionary measure due to concerns over safety and the potential environmental impact posed by the decaying structure. In March 2021, a technical assessment of the ship’s condition raised alarming issues, highlighting the looming threat of a partial or complete collapse. While the Coast Guard is actively contemplating the future of the entire wreck, the removal of the masts was deemed an immediate necessity.

Mayor Sandra Easton of the vibrant community of Lincoln highlighted the importance of La Grande Hermine as a prominent tourist attraction. Visitors to this iconic landmark contribute significantly to the local tourism economy, often extending their stay to explore the other captivating attractions that Lincoln has to offer.

Click here for the Town of Lincoln’s full statement.

This intriguing landmark, partially grounded and slightly tilted, stands just a few meters from the shore, creating a unique spectacle. Travelers headed to Niagara Falls can catch a glimpse of this piece of local history at Jordan Harbour.

A quick stop is all it takes to witness La Grande Hermine’s curious position. Admission to the site is free, providing an excellent opportunity for capturing memorable photographs.

2793 Beacon Boulevard, Jordan Station, ON.

From Toronto:
Take the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) to exit 55, Jordan Road
Turn left at the stop sign, and left again on Jordan Road
Turn left on North Service Road
Destination on the right

From Niagara:
Take the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) to exit 55, Jordan Road
Turn left on North Service Road
Destination on the right

Here’s some more story and closer footage of the vessel that CHCH News covered:

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