Plunge into our Pirate-Laden Past

Take a peek into our busy tank and the remains of the St. Lawrence River shipwreck the Sir Robert Peel, a Canadian steamboat that was seized and burned by real-life pirate Bill Johnston.

Ever imagine you could walk into a real-life shipwreck on your own two feet, without the need for a submarine or diving equipment? Now you can!

Wander right through a gaping hole in the bow of our recreated Sir Robert Peel, a once-mighty steamer, and explore the bowels of the pirated ship. Coming in the near future, you will be able to interact with our trained divers as they interact with you from the depths of our dive tank, which is designed to replicate the underwater environment of the St. Lawrence River. With native fish, a working underwater ROV and even a carefully hidden treasure chest, explorers will get an unprecedented view of the world of wonder just below the surface of our mighty river and explore one of the most interesting historical attractions in the 1000 Islands.

Pirates once smuggled their wares up and down the busy waters of the St. Lawrence River, which now boasts the best freshwater shipwreck diving in the world. Travelers from all over come to see the many shipwreck attractions in the 1000 Islands and explore freshwater dive sites. From your front-row perspective, immerse yourself in the rich and storied history of these peg-legged smugglers and the wreckage left in their wake. Though pirating wasn’t common in our stretch of river, there were a few maritime men whose ambitions got a little bigger than their britches: smuggler and “river pirate” Bill Johnston’s name went down in history after he and a team of American and Canadian patriots captured, looted and burned the Sir Robert Peel in 1838, fueling the flames of war between the U.S. and Britain.

As native fish and other aquatic life dart among our divers, your imagination will take flight with tales of pirates, privateers and precious plunders from the St. Lawrence River and beyond.

Sir Robert Peel and Dive Tank Fast Facts:

  • The men who stormed the Sir Robert Peel under the leadership of “Pirate” Bill Johnston shouted, “Remember the Caroline!” as they took over and burned the ship. The Caroline was another captured ship that was set ablaze and even set adrift over Niagara Falls, but this time it was Canadian loyalist forces, not rebels, who captured and burned the ship.