Adventurers Dive Log:Scuba Diving the Empress of Ireland

Adventurers Dive Log

Diving the Empress of Ireland


Ian Kinder

MAY 29, 1914...01:20 RMS Empress of Ireland drops off her pilot and sails into disaster. Less than an hour later this proud ocean liner collides in fog with the Norwegian collier Storstad. The Empress sinks in fourteen minutes in the St. Lawrence River, taking 1,014 passengers and crew with her in the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history.

The Empress was rammed on the starboard side between the two funnels and just a few feet aft of watertight bulkhead No. 5, separating the forward and aft boiler rooms. The Storstad was estimated to have penetrated 12 to 15 feet into the Empress' side between Shelter Deck and the double-bottom hull on Orlop Deck. Some passengers were thrown from their beds by the collision, while others didn't even notice. Within three minutes water had reached the dynamos, killing the power and the lights.

How could a ship which had been designed with 10 watertight bulkheads, 11 watertight compartments, 24 watertight doors and designed to stay afloat with two watertight compartments flooded, possibly sink so quickly?

In 1914 salvage divers using the ship's deck plans exploded a section out of the port side of the Empress, where they removed mail and salvaged the purser's safe. Today, experienced scuba divers dive the wreck during the summer months when conditions are at their best. The wreck lies on her starboard side in approximately 145 feet: the depth to the port side is about 85 feet.

For the first time in North America there is a complete set of nine definitive drawings of the RMSEmpress of Ireland based on the original shipbuilder's deck plans as secured from the Strathclyde Archives in Scotland. Each deck plan drawing comes with a short chronology of events relating to the sinking of this great ship, making these drawings an invaluable research tool and ideal gift for any wreck diver or collector. The drawings are shipped rolled and ready for framing.

A new illustrated book entitled "Forgotten Empress" by David Zeni, describing the last voyage of the Empress will be released in April 1998.

Ian Kinders Empress of Ireland Site
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