She is a landmark passed without a second glance by many every day. I took to the air with my drone to capture this fine lady in all her fading glory. This is the story of La Grande Hermine. Enjoy.
Constructed in 1914 this one hundred and forty foot long ship began life as a humble ferry on the St. Lawrence river before doing duty as a cargo ship. In 1991 she was rebuilt to resemble the largest of the three ships used by the pioneering explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535, and became a floating restaurant.
La Grande Hermine, which translates as The Big Ermine, or more colloquially The Big Weasel, came to her final resting place in 1997. She and amenities including a boat launch, a small marina with docks and a bar / restaurant are accessible from the QEW North Service road at Jordan Harbour.
The ship’s owner at the time she arrived professed an intention to turn her into a floating casino restaurant with her home in Niagara Falls. He passed away while awaiting approvals and hurdling red tape. She has languished here ever since, as a beacon to passing tourists and a sightseeing spot for locals. This perhaps proves the old adage, better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
In 2003 the ship caught fire due to some adventurous teenagers trying to stay warm and losing control of the fire. That’s another salutary lesson, kids. Most of the wood burned away down to the steel hull but surprisingly the masts as well as the Crow’s Nests survive.
She sits feet from the shore. Adventurous souls (including your author) have swum or rowed out to explore more closely. I rowed, since I was heavily laden with camera gear. (Watch The Video). Life is simpler with a drone. I cannot in good conscience recommend swimming. The water is full of sharp metal to impale and infect, and the algae and mud could easily drag you to your doom. So don’t do it.
What cannot be seen from the road is the far side of the sunken ship. As the video shows, one brave teen painted a question. That act of vandalism took imagination, preparation, and not a small amount of bravery. Though I deplore it I had to smile, and I always wondered that the answer was.
There is life in the old girl yet. La Grande Hermine is home to nesting birds of several varieties including Geese, and Swallows. They and their nests should be left undisturbed, please. This shipwreck is their home, not ours. Below the waterline, fish thrive in the shadowy depths of the submerged hull, and who knows what treasures the mineral-rich rusty waters surrounding this shell of a ship conceal?
Life is amazing. It goes on, always finding a way. Let that be my closing thought.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, most affectionately… The Big Weasel.