Peter “Bowser” Nissen

In July 1900, Peter Nissen came to Niagara Falls in an attempt to conquer the Niagara River. Nissen brought a specially built boat with him for this feat. His boat was 6 metres long with a 1.8 m wide beam and a depth of 1.2 m. Nissen built air compartments into the front, back, and sides of the cockpit, which was the only part of the boat which was not decked over. Bower’s first trip through the rapids was successful. The only flaw in the journey was that his boat was trapped in the Whirlpool for over an hour before being brought to shore. The following day, Nissen completed the trip to Lewiston from the Whirlpool.

Over the winter, Nissen rebuilt his boat to better suit the conditions of the rapids. It was longer and 60 cm narrower with an eight horsepower steam engine, resulting in a larger rudder, which made it more stable.

Several successful trial runs were completed in the river just below the falls after the boast was restructured. This was enough evidence for Nissen to realize it was ready to challenge the rapids. Thus, on October 12th 1901, Bowser successfully rode the boat, in a crawl space under the cockpit, through the rapids without incident.

Intrigued by the Whirlpool, Peter Nissen and friend James Rich began to do depth soundings at the Whirlpool. While doing these tests, the boat became caught in the vortex of the Whirlpool. Both Nissen and Rich narrowly escaped death as the boat sank from the damage caused by the Whirlpool.

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