Though a surprising number of Canadians have never heard of the Empress of Ireland disaster, this Canadian Pacific Railway steamship sinking was the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history.
It was a foggy evening on May 29, 1914, on the St. Lawrence River near Rimouski, Quebec when the collier SS Storstad, with its hull reinforced to protect against ice, rammed into the side of the Empress of Ireland. Mortally wounded, the Empress sank in just 14 minutes. A total of 1,012 people perished and 465 survived.
My colleagues and I ventured to the Empress in 1993 and 1994 to attain the underwater video scenes in this documentary. Three words come to mind after diving to the Empress of Ireland…Cold, Dark & Lonely. There is a lot of history and stories about the sinking of the Empress, but I will leave you to watch the video to capture that.
This is a short 22-minute documentary video I produced in 1995. It has been distributed to many libraries and schools across Canada, displayed in the Maritime Museum in Liverpool, is part of the Salvation Army library, presented at the 25th Diving Symposium “Underwater Canada” and a portion of it was aired on Global’s “The National”. The DVD has been distributed around the world to people who had relatives that came to Canada on the Empress of Ireland or had perished in the disaster.
I’d like to thank Deborah Brooks and Joyce Lindsay for their work on doing the script for this documentary and Steve Brooks for all his help on diving the wreck and historical resources. Also of great mention in the making of this video is Norm Pickthall for his award winning computer animation of the collision. Norm won a “Wavy” award from California for his animation. And I greatly appreciate the golden voice of Jim Blake for the wonderful narration and video duplication work he did for me. Last but not least I want to thank my wife Joyce Lindsay for all her inspiration and the fantastic painting she did of the collision that is the thumbnail image for this video.