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It was the greatest maritime disaster in Canadian history—a tragedy unparalleled by the loss of life and the speed at which the events unfolded. The sinking of RMS Empress of Ireland made headlines around the world in 1914; sadly, the onset of the First World War would quickly overshadow the events that transpired in the waters near Rimouski, Que.
Built in Scotland by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Empress of Ireland was launched on January 27, 1906. Measuring 172 metres long and 20 metres wide, the Canadian Pacific Railway steamship was widely regarded at the time as one of the fastest and most comfortable passenger ships for the transatlantic journey between England and Canada.
On the afternoon of May 28, 1914, the Empress left its berth in Quebec's harbour for its first summer voyage to Liverpool. In the early morning hours of May 29, the liner was steaming down the St. Lawrence River near Pointe-au-Père when at 1:40 a.m., the Norwegian collier Storstad was sighted at about eight miles to starboard. Both crews attempted to anticipate one another's course as a thick fog engulfed both ships, forcing Captain Henry George Kendall to bring the Empress to a stop. But minutes later, the Storstad emerged from the fog at a mere 30 metres from the Empress – it was too late for either ship to alter its course and at 1:55 a.m., the Storstad's reinforced hull ploughed into the centre of the Empress.
The Empress could not withstand such damage to its compartments. Water rushed into the Empress, trapping many passengers inside their cabins. The ship listed sharply on its starboard side, allowing water to pour in through the portholes and rendering it impossible to close most of the watertight doors. The tragedy was further compounded when only a few of the lifeboats were able to be launched before the ship turned over completely on its side. In the span of a mere 14 minutes after the collision, RMS Empress of Ireland had sunk to its final resting place.
Of the 1,477 passengers onboard RMS Empress of Ireland, 1,012 perished including 134 children. For most, the Empress will be forever linked with its tragic end, but it is also remembered for the thousands of immigrants who boarded this great liner to make their journey to a new life in Canada. In 1999, the wreck site was classified as a historical and archaeological property, and it has since earned a protected status as a National Historic Site.
Order the first coin in this new series and watch for the next ones!
• Your coin commemorates the 100th anniversary of the loss of RMS Empress of Ireland and features edge-lettering that displays the ship's name, as well as a bell: one of the recovered artifacts from the wreck.
• Your coin features a stunning colour portrait, framed within the coastline of the St. Lawrence seaway, and shows the RMS Empress of Ireland moments before her collision with the Storstad.
• Your coin is the first in a 3-coin series that commemorates well-known vessels that have been lost in Canadian waters, and the stories that have emerged from the events surrounding their final fate.
• Your coin is 99.99% pure silver, is GST/HST exempt and has a limited worldwide mintage.
• Your coin is a prestigious addition to your Canadiana, history or commemorative display.
Designed by Canadian artist John Horton, your coin uses selective paint to recreate the imminent collision of RMS Empress of Ireland and the Norwegian collier Storstad during the early morning hours of May 29, 1914. Rolling in from the coast (engraved in the background), the thick fog comes between the two ships in the coloured centre portion of the image field. The shadowy image of the Storstad emerges from the right side of the image, its sharp bow in line to make contact with the Empress's starboard side. The passenger ship's stern and funnels are partially unobstructed by the fog in this image to provide a glimpse of the liner before tragedy would send it to its final resting place on the bottom of the St. Lawrence River.
Your coin is encapsulated and presented in a Royal Canadian Mint-branded maroon clamshell with a custom beauty box.
Order your coin today!