Following a 3:45 am wake-up call by Captain Jean-Pierre Bouillon, we got great news that the weather had subsided and that we would be getting an early start out to the Empress. Leaving the marina by 6:00 am we were quickly out to the dive site and the Empress. The surface currents were strong and the teams were divided into two groups based on our dive project plan. I was in the first group and took Charlie, our videographer, on a trip to the third class dining room area. Ray and Tony, our photographer, went up towards the crew’s quarters to get some photos of the shoe that I discovered the other day, the cargo area including the winches and the forecastle area.
Entrance to the third class dining area is achieved by access through the hull. It is a bit tricky to find this area but I have spent many years accessing this area and had no problems coming right to it. The day before, I spent plenty of time with Charlie describing the wine, beer and mineral water stores and let him go into this area first, so I would not mess-up his visibility and he could film. It took him about 6 minutes to completely film the stores and he came out of the ship. From that point, I accessed the third class pantry and the third class dining hall. The attached fixtures where the chairs and tables once were are still in the dining room. The room walls back into the food stores and passageways were still in very good condition. At about 15 minutes, I decided to take Charlie over to the grand staircase so that he could film the lower step and the remaining banister.
Because the seas were starting to build, Charlie and I were the only ones to get in a second ( and our final) dive to the Empress. I decided that I wanted to re-explore the first class dining room and carving table. Going through the upper portions of the 1914 explosion hole, there is much damage to this area from the teak salvage operations of the early 1990’s. I was stunned to see all the teak planking uprooted and in some cases, actually block passage in this area. I did not want Charlie to access this part of the ship because it was too dangerous. I spent about 5 minutes in this area and did a quick visit to the carving table and then decided that I would take Charlie back to the second-class pantry for a final visit. After a slow return to our tie-in point, where we saw the remnants of a beautiful leather sofa, it was time to say goodbye. Throughout the course of the dive day, Charlie and I had visited all three dining rooms. During our decompression ascent, I sang my best rendition of ‘Oh Canada’ ( like my good friend, Dr. Steve Brooks of Burlington, Ontario) through my closed-circuit rebreather that even Charlie complimented me on.
Nautical Research Group, Inc. has had a great trip to the St. Lawrence and the wreck site of the Empress of Ireland. We would like to thank Captain Jean-Pierre Bouillon and Dany St-Cyr for all their support and assistance. I would like to thank my excellent dive team of Tony Granata, Ray Stine and Charlie Howlett for a wonderful experience diving and filming the Empress. Once we have had a chance to process the data, Nautical Research Group will share portions of our study results to you via this weblog and our corporate website. We hope that you have enjoyed our Live from the Dive Site Coverage of the Empress and encourage you to pick-up a copy of Forgotten Empress by David Zeni and Dark Descent by Kevin McMurray. Another wonderful book that describes this tragedy in detail is Fourteen Minutes by James Croall. We look forward to starting our Live from the Dive Site Coverage over the wreck site of the famous RMS Titanic later this week. After a 14-hour drive back to New Jersey with the diving gear, it is off to St. John's, Newfoundland to board the Russian research vessel, Akademik Keldysh on July 7th for departure to the Titanic. We look forward to having you 'on-board' for this next adventure!