June 9, 2023


If you hear loud shouts like “avast, me hearties” ringing through the air, it’s probably coming from Waterloo Region Museum’s newest exhibit, Odyssey’s Shipwreck! Pirates and Treasure.

Over the past 3,000 years, war, plunder and storms have sunk some of the world’s greatest ships, with some of the remains now on display at this exhibit. Artifacts from the 1600s to 1800s, the history of pirate lore, pirate legends, information on history’s most infamous pirate such as Blackbeard, Captain Kidd and  Barbary Corsairs are all on display at Shipwrecks!.

“There are a lot of hands-on material that are fun for kids and also grown-ups like myself,” said James Jensen, one of the Waterloo Region Museum’s curators. “There are a lot of experiences that you wouldn’t get in your everyday life or at most museums anywhere. So it’s really kind of cool that it’s so close to Conestoga and also the universities.”

One of the biggest attractions within this exhibit is the number of fun, interactive activities that are perfect for any college students  looking to find their inner child. There is a hurricane wind tunnel that simulates approximately a class one hurricane, blasting air up to 80 km/h. The exhibit also features ZEUS, a robotic arm used by the Odyssey team when collecting artifacts and treasure from shipwrecks.

Participants can control the arm in an interactive challenge to try and collect the coins scattered along the base of the robot.

“I like Zeus,” Jensen said. “The interesting thing about what Odyssey does is they don’t use divers for what they do. It’s all done using subversive robots. So, for some people, seeing Zeus in the flesh is pretty cool. They’ve seen it on the Discovery Channel and documentaries before.”

The exhibit houses over 500 priceless artifacts that have been recovered from famous shipwrecks all over the world. Some of the most impressive artifacts on display are real pirate treasure – over 400 pounds of gold and silver to be exact. Some of the silver bricks weigh almost 100 pounds. A cannon from an unidentified shipwreck from the 1700s is also on display. It is thought that the wreck the cannon was found on is a xebec, the Barbary pirate vessel of choice. Also found in the exhibit is a 1600s wooden carpenter’s folding ruler, the oldest of its kind to be found on a shipwreck and a rare mariners astrolabe, which was a sailor’s navigation tool and one of only about 100 on land today.

The exhibit is on until April 30. For more information on it or other exhibits check out waterlooregionmuseum.com.

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