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Social Science Disasters & Disaster Relief

Forgotten Empress

The Empress of Ireland Story

by (author) David Zeni

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Oct 1998
Disasters & Disaster Relief, Post-Confederation (1867-), History
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 1998
    List Price

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Out of print

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Just before 2:00 a.m. on May 29, 1914, the CPR liner Empress of Ireland steamed through the Gulf of St. Lawrence fog about 20 kilometres from Rimouski. Some 1500 people were aboard, including 150 Salvation Army leaders. Suddenly, the starboard side of the Empress loomed above the bow of the Storstad, a heavily loaded Swedish collier. It rammed the Empress directly between the boiler rooms, and the St. Lawrence flooded into the gaping wound. Within 14 minutes, the Empress and 1014 souls were gone. Unlike the Titanic two years earlier, the Empress of Ireland carried enough lifeboats, but the Empress sank so fast that the boats couldn't all be launched and passengers could't escape from their cabins to board them. Nor did the wreck of the Empress lend itself to Titanic-style mythmaking. The loss of life seemed insignificant as World War I rushed on, human error rather than mysterious natural forces caused the disaster, and the victims didn't suffer the anticipation of death that so grips the public imagination. The Forgotten Empress tells every detail of this terrible accident as seen from both the Empress and the Storstad. It recreates the rescue attempts and the aftermath, plus the unsuccessful efforts to assign blame. It also includes the history of the ship, the story of the Captain, the passenger manifest, and a list of the contents of the purser's safe.

About the author

David Zeni, a former US Navy Lieutenant who lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, is the recognized authority on the Empress of Ireland disaster. An ocean liner enthusiast, he is a member of the British Titanic Society, the Steamship Historical Society of America, and the World Ship Society.

David Zeni's profile page