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The Empress of Ireland ship was the Canadian Pacific Railway Company's
At the beginning of the 1900's, the Canadian Pacific
Railway Company was a key player in steamship operations globally with the
likes of the "Empress of Ireland" ship. With a global system of
transportation, Canadian Pacific's ranked as one of the largest worldwide
systems. Ships sailed form Britain to Eastern Canada, a rail system then
stretched across Canada to the west coast port of Vancouver with more ships
continuing the relay of goods across the Pacific Ocean to the Orient.
Canadian Pacific's fleet of "Empress" liners was popular with the traveling
public. The Empress of Ireland was commissioned in 1906 for the Canadian
Pacific transatlantic route. This ship, along with her sister ship Empress
of Britain were constructed at the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering
Company yard in Glasgow.
Being one of the largest and fastest ocean
cruise ships on the Britain to Canada run, the Empress of Ireland was
never as famous as the Cunard ships Lusitania and Mauretania or the later
White Star ship Olympic. She did however meet every expectation of her
owners, and proved a very reliable ship.
In July of 1913, the Empress of Ireland participated in the Mersey Royal
Review of ships by King George V, and Queen Mary. The ship remained largely
anonymous even after this review.
The Empress would sadly be remembered by its tragic demise as were ships
like the Titanic, Andrea Doria, and Lusitania. On May 29 1914, the Empress
of Ireland left Quebec at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Traveling down the
St. Lawrence River with her 1,477 passengers, she encountered heavy fog.
Later that night, in the early hours of May 30, the empress of Ireland's
lookout spotted an incoming ship on the starboard side. In times of poor
visibility, the rules were not too complicated. Ships were to pass
port-to-port unless they were already starboard-to-starboard and could not
safely navigate port-to-port.
As the fog became more dense, the captain of the Empress ordered the ship
stopped and her engines put astern to allow the incoming ship, the Storstad,
more maneuvering room. The Storstad mad a starboard turn and emerged from
the fog directly across the path of the Empress. The collision that followed
put the bow of Storstad into the starboard side of the Empress. The ship had
holes above and below the water line - precisely where the engine room was
situated. The final demise took only fourteen minutes more.
Everything happened so quickly that there was little time for passengers to
react as many were asleep. The ship listed badly, and with portholes open,
events sped up. There was time for only one SOS distress call before the
power had failed. The ship lay on her side as though she would remain there.
Then, suddenly, the Empress of Ireland's stern rose and the ship disappeared
below the surface.
Only four of the Empress's life boats were afloat. One of the first souls
plucked from the water was the ship captain. He quickly organized the rescue
effort. Offloading the Empress passengers onto the ship that had crashed
into her, the captain made several rescue runs in the thick fog before there
were no more of the ship's survivors to be found.
The Empress of Ireland remains at the bottom of the St. Lawrence in about
130 feet of water. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company blasted a hole in
her side to remove her cargo - $150,000.00 worth of silver bullion and mail.
That hole now provides divers with access to the ship's first class dining
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