The Empress of Ireland is not just another shipwreck but it is a wreck of monumental importance in the history of transatlantic travel. In magnitude of loss, this was a big disaster. Add the loss of passengers on Swiss Air 111, Egypt Air 990, TWA 800, and Pan Am 103 and the total is still 100 short of the 1102 lost on the Empress. Consider also that the Titanic's loss two years before the Empress "solved" the shipwreck potentiality. Wave a shipbuilder's magic wand and lifeboats were added to the Empress as well as to all transatlantic vessels. The public's faith in safely crossing the North Atlantic was assured. Wrong! The Empress shattered this myth. More improvements to ensure safety were needed. One that resulted from the loss of the Empress was to design liners with a raked bow that projects forward to absorb the impact of a collision.
The Empress's contribution to the colonization of North America is yet another example of her legacy. While Titanic failed to complete a single crossing...the Empress made 191 successful crossings. She delivered over 200,000 people many of whom settled in Canada and the border states of America. Many people are unaware that a Canadian Pacific ship would have many Americans on board but any crossing would find a handful to several hundred Americans sailing.
Sadly, the Empress is the forgotten of the "big three" liner losses beginning in 1912 with Titanic and ending with Lusitania in 1915. Many historians say the Empress faded overnight with the outbreak of hostilities in World War I. A thousand lives lost at sea in peacetime pales in comparison to the public's rising threshold for wartime deaths.
As an author and student of transportation disasters, I believe the travelling public wanted to erase the legacy of the Empress. She reminded people that travel is a lottery at a time when everyone thought that danger had been mastered. A confident, Edwardian-era public did not want to contemplate their vulnerability so they allowed the Empress to fade from contemporary memory and hence from history. --- David Zeni, Author, FORGOTTEN EMPRESS, Available through Amazon Canada ( in stock) or Amazon (4-9 days) in the United States.