Why Was the Empress of Ireland Forgotten?
Historians have suggested a number of reasons why the Empress, the worst disaster in Canadian maritime history, was forgotten.
It was true that the memory of the Empress of Ireland faded quickly from the public but from the technical point of view why the Empress sank so quickly came up several times in discussions by Naval Engineers as late as 1919. Probably the most important of these was the outbreak of World War I less than two months after the sinking. The initial enthusiasm for war in all European capitals tended to push all other unrelated events aside, as men were called up or volunteered for service in a war that was widely expected to be over by Christmas. But this was war on a scale never seen before and, in time, the horrors of trench warfare on the Western Front led, in England, to a popular feeling that everything which had gone before and had contributed to the old order deserved to be forgotten. It was the fate of the Empress to be lost just before the most destructive war in European history, and to be overshadowed by all that came afterwards.
EMPRESS of IRELAND
January 1905: Construction started on the RMS Empress of Ireland under the supervision of Lloyd's Register surveyors at the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., Glasgow, for the Canadian Pacific Railway Co.
January 27, 1906: RMS Empress of Ireland launched on the Clyde.
June 5th and 7th, 1906 Empress of Ireland Sea Trials.
June 29, 1906: Empress of Ireland departed Liverpool on her maiden voyage to Quebec, Canada with Master F.J. Carey in command.
July 6, 1906: Empress delayed by fog off Cape Ray.
July 6, 1906: Empress is expected to arrive at Quebec on July 6, initial contact by Marconi wireless; lists following passenger details: 215 1st-class passengers, 314 2nd-class passengers and 777 3rd-class passengers.
July 7, 1906: Empress arrives at Quebec at 05:30 Saturday. Says that best day's run was 460 knots, a record for the N. Atlantic service.
July 12, 1906: Empress departed Quebec with large number of passengers at 3:00 pm; Captain Carey flew special flags presented to the vessel by the Irishmen of Montreal.
October 19th, 1906 Captain J.V. Forester takes over the command of the Empress of Ireland.
October 14, 1909: Empress of Ireland hull is punctured in the St. Lawrence River after hitting submerged object, but is able to reach port without mishap.
April 23, 1911: An attractive young lady, wearing male attire, has been detained here by the immigrations officials. She came from England as a passenger on the steamer Empress of Ireland. Her hair was closely cropped, and she wore a rough corduroy suit and leggings. She gave her name as Jack May. Upon arrival she went ashore with the other immigrants. She carried a rifle, and declared that she was ready for all manner of frontier work. She was very tearful when told that she could not proceed immediately to the western wilds and become a boundary rider.
October 3rd, 1913: Captain J. Turnbull takes over the command of the Empress of Ireland.
October 16, 1913: Empress of Ireland rendered diver's services clearing propeller.
February 21st, 1914: Captain J. A. Murray takes over the command of the Empress of Ireland.
May 2nd, 1914: Captain H.G. Kendall takes over the command of the Empress of Ireland.
May 28, 1914: Empress of Ireland left Quebec on her ninety-sixth voyage.
May 29, 1914: Empress of Ireland collided with Norwegian collier Storstad and sank in fourteen minutes in the St. Lawrence River near Sainte-Luce-Sur-Mer, Quebec, Canada, with an estimated loss of life of 1,014.
June 18, 1914: First dive to the Empress to test diving equipment.
June 16, 1914: Commission of Inquiry convened in Quebec, Lord Mersey presiding.
June 22, 1914: Diving operations began to recover bodies and valuables from the wreck.
August 16, 1914: Divers recover 5000 Sterling from the Empress of Ireland.
August 20, 1914: Purser's safe raised.
March 8, 1917: S.S. Storstad was torpedoed on the starboard side and sinks by the head near the coast of Ireland. Twenty seven crew members land at Bantry, Ireland but one crew members dies of exposure and exhaustion.
July 17, 1964: Empress of Ireland rediscovered by scuba divers.
November 29, 1965: Captain Henry George Kendall who in 1910 was captain of the liner Montrose radio Scotland Yard that the murderer Harvey Crippen was on board, dies in a London nursing home at the age of 91. There was no mention of the Empress of Ireland collision.
April 30, 1998: The sunken ocean liner Empress of Ireland becomes a historic site, protected from any further plundering, by the Quebec Government.
April 23, 1999: The final resting place of the Empress of Ireland, which sank with the loss 1,012 people in 1914, was declared a historic site yesterday. Anyone researching the site of the disaster, which rivaled the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. must have permission of the province's culture and communications minister.
May 12, 1999: The Canadian Coast Guard has put up a buoy marking the watery grave of the Empress of Ireland. It warns would be visitors they must have a government permit to remove anything from the sunken ocean liner.
The Canadian Pacific ocean liner sank in 1914 with the loss of 1,012 after a collision, about 20 kilometers east of Rimouski in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The shipwreck has been declared the first underwater heritage site in Quebec, and also benefits from protection under Canada's merchant marine legislation.
"It is like a big coffin," said Bertrand Blanchet, Roman Catholic bishop of Rimouski. "We have a moral duty to ensure respect for this shipwreck as for any cemetery."
September 3rd and 4th, 1999: Merlin Films is proud to inform you that our new documentary, SOMBRÉ DANS L'OUBLI, will be shown at the Montreal World Film Festival. Through the use of archival photos, exclusive interviews and detailed computer animation, the film recreates the story of the RMS Empress of Ireland, a luxurious ocean liner which sank near Rimouski on May 29th 1914, carrying to their death more than a thousand persons.