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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 is the first in a 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 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the loss of RMS Empress of Ireland as it recreates the conditions leading up to the worst disaster in Canadian maritime history
• Engraved at the top of your coin is the ship's bell, which sat atop one of the ship's masts. It is perhaps the most well-known artifact to be recovered from the ship's watery grave.
• Your coin is silver-plated copper with a matte-proof finish and has a limited worldwide mintage of 15,000.
• Your coin is a prestigious addition to your Canadiana, history or commemorative display.
Your coin was designed by Canadian artist Yves Bérubé and presents an artistic representation of RMS Empress of Ireland in the final moments leading up to the collision. There is an eerie stillness to the scene as the ship sails along the St. Lawrence River. The thick fog fills the cool night air and enshrouds the ship, extending beyond the image field on both sides. The ship's bow and port side are rendered in beautiful detail, and are faintly illuminated by the light from the ship's windows and portholes. Engraved above the image field is the ship's bell, which sat atop one of the ship's masts. It is perhaps the most well-known artifact to be recovered from the ship's watery grave.
Your coin is encapsulated and presented in a Royal Canadian Mint-branded maroon clamshell case lined with flock.
Order your coin today!