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'Canada's Titanic' to be commemorated

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Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Friday, May 23, 2014, 3:12 PM - The Empress of Ireland is being commemorated with stamps, coins and monuments, 100 years after it sank in the St. Lawrence River.

The Empress of Ireland is considered one of Canada's worst maritime disasters -- but few know about it.

That's about to change, with the doomed ship set to be commemorated with the release of Canada Post stamps, silver coins for the Royal Canadian Mint and a museum of Canadian History exhibit, among other things.

Experts say the monuments are long overdue.

"A lot of Canadians don't know about [the Empress] and I guess I would be one of them if I didn't have a family connection," June Ivany, niece of Empress passenger Leonard Delamont, told the Canadian Press.


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The ocean liner sank on the St. Lawrence River on May 29, 1914 near the town of Rimouski, Quebec following a collision with the Norwegian ship the SS Storsdad.

The ship sunk in just fourteen minutes. It was carrying 1,477 people and 1,012 died, including Delamont.

The Storsdad did not sink.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Capt. Henry George Campbell was in charge and it was his first voyage down the St. Lawrence River as captain.

An inquiry determined there were three main factors that contributed to the sinking of the ship: The sheltered-water location where the ships collided, a failure to close the ship's doors and a failure to close the ship's portholes.

Testimony from survivors revealed that nearly all of the ship's portholes were ajar after the ship left port, a violation of maritime regulations.

When the Empress began to list water poured in through the open holes, causing the ship to sink rapidly.

Derek Grout, who wrote two books on the Empress of Ireland, told CP that the area where the ships collided is known for poor visibility and strong currents.


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Hey says that while the ship has received some recognition it pales in comparison the level of fame the Titanic has received.

"It doesn't have the sort of nobility, let's say, that the Titanic does, but there's lots of reasons why we should be remembering the Empress," he told the news agency.

"Not only because of the 1,000-plus people who lost their lives in less than 14 minutes. We need to remember the ship because of the contribution that it made, along with other ships of the period, to Canada's social and economic development." 

Artifacts have since been retrieved from the protected site where the Empress sank, many of which are on displayed at the Empress of Ireland Pavilion at the Site historique maritime de la Pointe-au-Père in Rimouski.

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