RMS Empress of Ireland

From Academic Kids

The RMS Empress of Ireland was a steamship owned by Canadian Pacific that sailed between Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, and Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Missing image
EmpressofIreland1912.jpg
Empress of Ireland

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 and crew.

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 Transportation System.

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 (north 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.

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