This morning at 5:15 am, our dive boat captain, Jean-Pierre Bouillon, greeted me at my hotel door with an important message. Our original plan was to leave the marina at 8 am but the captain felt that the time to go was now. Although, I was up already and had the computer fired up for a little writing before our scheduled later dive time, I immediately shut-down and woke up the rest of the dive team. The seas were very calm and the weather was in the high 60's – just perfect for a dive out on the Empress. We made our way down to the Rimouski marina by 6:15 am and we were out of the harbor on our way to the Empress by 6:30 am.
We decided to moor over the extreme bow section as I had a little project that I wanted to do with visiting the entire length of the downed mast. I decided to have Charlie Howlett dive with me the entire day, as he had a video camera and wanted to checkout some novel places on the Empress. It only took about 3 minutes to get down to the bow railings at about 85 feet as we were positioned on our downline between the bow letters 'of' from the brass portside letters that say EMPRESS of IRELAND. I took Charlie aft of the downline and we proceeded to the entranceway to the third class cabins. From this area we could see a piece of porcelain china that has the logo "Canadian Pacific Railways" on it. The mast was easily recognizable and had fallen over the starboard railing and out into the muddy waters of the St. Lawrence. The mast was not as thick as Titanic's mast and the lookout had to climb into the crow's nest from the outside. The crow's nest was fairly intact and relatively low to the deck. Following the mast into the mud, we decided to visit the stairs where crewmen and third class passengers made their way down into the bowels of the ship. Although the stairs were missing, the railings were perfectly in place. One poignant item that we saw in this area was a passenger's leather shoe-this is a constant reminder that 800 people are still entombed here and to treat the wreck with much respect and dignity.
Following an hour and a half surface interval, I decided to take Charlie to the Second Class Dining room and pantry area. This section of the ship has collapsed quite significantly since a salvage operation that took massive amounts of fine teak decking from the mid-ships of the Empress in the early 1990's. From the narrowing view into the pantry, clearly visible is the carving table where passengers lined up to get their food. Additionally, there are several plate racks still standing but with their fine Minton porcelain missing or slid off the starboard area down to the lower parts of the ship. On returning to the downline, I discovered a beautiful intact First Class porcelain pitcher with the familiar flower pattern. I left this wonderful pitcher where is was and will have Tony film this later this week on our subsequent dives to the Empress.