RMS Empress of Ireland
The RMS Empress of Ireland was a
Canadian Pacific that sailed between Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, and
Liverpool, England, United Kingdom.
Launched on January 26, 1906, the Empress of Ireland measured 570
feet (174 m) in length with a beam of 66 feet (20.1 m) and displacement of
14,191 tons. Her service speed was 18
knots (33 km/h), 2 propellers and she had a capacity of 1,580 passengers
The vessel, along with her sister ship RMS Empress of Britain, was
commissioned by Canadian Pacific Line for the northern trans-Atlantic route
between Quebec, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Interestingly, Empress of
Ireland and Empress of Britain were to be named Empress of
Austria and Empress of Germany respectively, however the names
were changed prior to launching. Both ships had been conceived for hauling
mail but soon distinguished themselves as ocean liners, connecting with the
parent Canadian Pacific Railway at Quebec City or Montreal. The CPR and its
ocean liners were part of the company's self-proclaimed World's Greatest
On June 29, 1906, Empress of Ireland set out on her first
trans-Atlantic crossing and soon proved herself as a reliable ship and one
of the largest and fastest ships on the northern route.
The Empress of Ireland departed Quebec City at 16:30 (local time)
on May 28, 1914 with 1,477 passengers and crew for Liverpool. Early the next
morning on May 29, 1914, the ship was proceeding down the channel in the
Saint Lawrence River near Pointe-au-Père, Quebec (eastern district of
the town of Rimouski) in a heavy fog bank. At 02:00 (local time), the
Empress of Ireland collided with the Norwegian coal freighter
Storstad. The Storstad did not sink, but the Empress of
Ireland with severe damage to its starboard hull, turned on its side as
it rapidly took on water, and sank within 14 minutes, killing 1,012
passengers and crewmen. There were only about 473 survivors.
Henry George Kendall had just been promoted to captain of the Empress
of Ireland at the beginning of the month and it was his first trip down
the Saint Lawrence River in command of the vessel.
There has been much speculation as to the circumstances of the sinking.
One theory involves the positioning of the ships when both encountered the
fogbank. According to testimony, Capt. Kendall claimed that he stayed close
to shore, encountered the fog, reversed his engines to stop for about 8
minutes, and was rammed by the Storstad, who was executing a hard, 90-degree
turn to the starboard.
Another theory has the Empress sailing north-northeast into the center of
the channel, right into the path of the Storstad.
Ultimately, the immense loss of life can be attributed to three things:
the location of which the Empress was rammed, the failure to close the
watertight doors, and the failure to close all portholes on board the ship.
Empress of Ireland on Dock List