The Empress of Ireland Disaster: Canada’s Titanic

By Jack Ripley | January 29, 2024

Lessons Learned After the Titanic

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 was still fresh in the minds of many people when another maritime disaster occurred in North America in the wee hours of May 29, 1914. In this incident, a passenger ship named The Empress of Ireland, outfitted with the latest safety updates implemented after the loss of the Titanic, struck another ship in the foggy Saint Lawrence River and sank in less than 15 minutes. Let’s take a closer look at this incident, which has the notoriety of being Canada’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.

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Illustrated London News

Following the sinking of the Titanic, changes were made to passenger ships. Ships needed to be equipped with watertight compartments and there needed to be enough lifeboats for every person on board. 

The Empress of Ireland

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public domain

The Empress of Ireland complied with these upgrades. The Empress of Ireland, along with her sister ship, The Empress of Britain, was built in Scotland by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, which called itself the “world’s greatest transportation system.” Both ships were being used by the Canadian Pacific Steamships to run their passenger route across the North Atlantic, transporting passengers between Liverpool, England, and Quebec City, Quebec. They were instrumental in boosting the population of Canada in the early 1900s. In just a few years, tens of thousands of passengers traveled on either The Empress of Ireland or The Empress of Britain, making it the primary mode of transportation between Canada and Great Britain. The Empress of Ireland had a great track record. It had 95 uneventful crossings. It was the 96th one that proved fateful.