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1930s & Earlier / Empress of Ireland Tragedy 1914
An almost forgotten maritime tragedy is the sinking of The Empress of Ireland, a trans-Atlantic ocean liner owned by the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company. At about 2 a.m. on May 29, 1914, during one of its regular voyages from Quebec City to Liverpool, it collided with the Norwegian ship Storstad in the cold waters of the St. Lawrence River. Out of the 1,477 passengers aboard, 1,012 perished. The high death toll was largely attributable to how quickly the ship sank (14 minutes) and that most of the passengers were in bed when the accident occurred. Among the dead were 167 Salvation Army musicians who were travelling to England to perform at a charity function. A Canadian inquiry into the disaster blamed the Storstad for the collision while a Norwegian inquiry blamed the Empress of Ireland. For years the Empress of Ireland was visited by scuba divers who plundered some of its valuables. However, it is now illegal to dive near the wreck as the Canadian government has declared it a maritime gravesite. (There are human remains inside the ship.) There are no living survivors from that awful night. The last one died in 1985.