This 2014 $20 pure silver coin commemorates 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Empress of Ireland on the St. Lawrence River on May 29, 1914, after being struck by a Norwegian collier in the dense fog. The loss of the Empress of Ireland remains the greatest maritime disaster in Canadian history, with a loss of lives approaching that of the Titanic just two years earlier. (1,012 perished, including 134 children)
The coin is the first in a new 'Lost in Canadian Waters' series, and combines selective colour, an artistic design, edge lettering, and an extremely low mintage of just 7,000 coins. This series is expected to be extremely popular, and may sell out very quickly as did the Titanic coins in 2012.
The unique full colour design created by artist John Horton captures a terrifying moment in time on the morning of May 29, 1914. The shadowy image of the Norwegian collier Storstad is seen emerging from the fog at the far right of the coin, its sharp bow in line to make contact with the Empress's starboard side. The collision is imminent and unpreventable. The passenger ship's stern and funnels are partially unobstructed by the fog, providing a final glimpse of the liner before tragedy would send it to its final resting place on the bottom of the St. Lawrence River. The top and bottom of the coloured portion of the coin feature the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence where the ship went down.
The edge lettering on this commemorative coin displays the ship's name, as well as a bell: one of the recovered artifacts from the wreck. The coin is engraved with the word 'Canada', the date '2014 and face value - 20 Dollars'. The coin weighs just over one ounce of pure silver. As a pure silver coin struck by the Royal Canadian Mint, this item is HST/GST exempt.
The Empress of Ireland was launched as a Canadian Pacific Railway steamship on January 27, 1906, and was regarded at the time as one of the fastest and most comfortable passenger ships for the transatlantic journey between England and Canada.
On the afternoon of May 28, 1914, The Empress left its berth in Quebec's harbour for its first summer voyage to Liverpool. In the early morning hours of May 29, the liner was steaming down the St. Lawrence River when at 1:40 a.m., the Norwegian collier Storstad was sighted. Both crews attempted to anticipate one another's course as a thick fog engulfed both ships, forcing Captain Henry George Kendall to bring the Empress to a stop. But minutes later, the Storstad emerged from the fog at a mere 30 metres from the Empress. It was too late for either ship to alter its course and at 1:55 a.m., the Storstad's ploughed into the center of the Empress.
Water began to rush into the Empress, trapping many sleeping passengers inside their cabins. Only a few of the lifeboats were able to be launched before the ship turned over completely on its side. Just 14 minutes after the collision, RMS Empress of Ireland had sunk. Of the 1,477 passengers onboard, 1,012 perished including 134 children.