The sinking of Empress of Ireland

This post card of the Empress of Ireland was posted from Hampton in July 1908. She was one of the great liners of her day, a treasured part of the Canadian Pacific fleet.

The horrible fact, about which there can be no dispute, is that the Storstad crashed bow on into the side of the big Canadian liner, striking it on the starboard side about midway of its length. The steel-sheathed bow of the collier cut through the plates and shell of the Empress and penetrated the hull for a distance of about twelve feet, according to the best testimony.

The water didn’t flow in. It rushed in. From such stories as could be gathered from survivors and from members of the crew, it appears that Captain Kendall and his officers did all that was humanly possible in the fourteen minutes that the Empress hung on the river.

This 8 X 10 glossy, an artist’s depiction of the Storstad ramming the Empress of Ireland, was sent to the press on June 1, 1914. This example was purchased from the archives of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Captain Kendall said that he rang to the engine-room for full speed ahead, with the object of trying to run ashore and save the passengers, but almost immediately after the engines stopped and the ship began to list rapidly. The captain of the Storstad declares that it was this action of Captain Kendall that prevented him from holding the bow of the Storstad in the gaping hole it made and that it was the Empress herself, with the way upon her, following the order “Full steam ahead,” which drew away from the Storstad, bending the collier’s bow out of the great gash in the liner’s side, and disappeared in the fog. What further damage may have been done as the vessels parted no one seem to know certainly.

Logan Marshall, The Tragic Story of the Empress of Ireland (L.T. Myers, 1914).

Early on the foggy morning of May 29, 1914, the Empress of Ireland was steaming down the St. Lawrence near Pointe-au-Pére when she was struck amidships by the Norwegian collier Storstad. She went down almost immediately, taking 1,073 people with her. More passengers were lost than on the Titanic two years earlier–the sinking of the Empress of Ireland was the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history.

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Bruce Wishart
Whimsies. Sometimes about writing.
Sometimes about folklore. Sometimes
about the sea, or life on the coast.
And sometimes not.