49. A story of Canada’s Titanic

I think that everyone knows about the horrible tragedy of Titanic. Of course it was not the worst maritime disaster in history, but possibly, the most well-known.

But it is not  widely known that Canada has suffered a maritime disaster of a scale similar to Titanic.

RMS Empress Of Ireland was an ocean liner operated by Canadian Pacific Steamships when in May 1914, just two years after sinking of Titanic, she departed Quebec City, carrying 1,477 people to Liverpool. When she was sailing at night down the St. Lawrence river, after passing a town of Rimouski in Quebec, she has collided with Norwegian cargo ship Storstad in a dense fog and under unclear circumstances. She sank very fast, in under 14 minutes, giving very little chance for her passenger to escape (Titanic was sinking for over 3 hours). 1,012 of her passengers has died in the accident, 68% of people on board.

The wreck still lies at depths of 40 meters in St. Lawrence river and is accessible for many divers. A couple of years ago a great documentary film was shot reproducing the events and studying the mysterious events.

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This ship silhouette made of names of passengers clearly reflects the scale of tragedy. People who survived have their names highlighted in white.

P.S. If anyone is curious, neither the Titanic not the Empress of Ireland were the greatest maritime disasters in history. MV Wilhelm Gustloff that was evacuating German civilians and some Nazi officials was torpedoed by Soviet submarine in 1945, sinking it and killing around 9,400 people, over 5,000 of which were children. As for peacetime maritime disasters, the sinking of a Philippine ferry Dona Paz in 1987 had taken the greatest life toll, killing 4,386 people.

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Original ship bell of the Empress of Ireland that was salvaged in 1960s
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