April 11, 2012

Empress of Ireland

Into the Mist: The Story of the Empress of Ireland
by Anne Renaud

Once the Canadian Pacific Railway had successfully linked our country coast to coast, the Canadian government had to find settlers for the vast expanse of land that lay in between. They distributed ads and posters throughout Europe, encouraging people to immigrate with promises of farmland and equipment. CPR also landed a contract to ship mail from Britain to Japan and China, via Canada. In order to carry people and mail across the oceans, CPR commissioned a fast fleet of ships. One of these ships was the Empress of Ireland.

Between 1906-1911, the ship travelled between England and Canada, carrying important people like John McCrae and Rudyard Kipling. It even ferried two murderers whose dramatic arrests were captured in real time by telegraph. 

On May 29, 1914, the Empress was on the St. Lawrence River when heavy fog suddenly crept in. The resulting collision with the Norwegian ship Storstad severely damaged the Empress. It sank in 14 minutes, with 1,012 lives lost. Since the First World War began just two months later, the tragedy of the Empress of Ireland is often forgotten.

Into the Mist is an excellent reminder of an important event in Canadian history. The many photographs illuminate life aboard ship and the newspaper articles bring the drama of the sinking to life. Throughout the book, profiles of passengers give a glimpse into their lives and the significant contributions they made in the building of Canada.

A very interesting book.

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