Losing the Empress: A Personal Journey: The Empress of Ireland's Enduring Shadow

Losing the Empress: A Personal Journey: The Empress of Ireland's Enduring Shadow

Losing the Empress: A Personal Journey: The Empress of Ireland's Enduring Shadow

Losing the Empress: A Personal Journey: The Empress of Ireland's Enduring Shadow

Synopsis

The Empress of Ireland's last voyage ended on May 29, 1914, when she was rammed by a Norwegian coal-carrier in a fog patch on the St. Lawrence River near Rimouski. For David Creighton, her voyage still continues.

In Losing the Empress, Creighton delves into the lives of his grandparents - Salvation Army officers who were lost on the Empress - and the lives of their five orphaned children who would soon be plunged into World War I. His discoveries reveal amazing details about the Empress, which sank in fourteen minutes with a greater loss of life than the Titanic disaster.

Shipwreck nostalgia, last voyage dinners, Salvationists, the British Empire and the world wars fought to preserve it; everything comes into focus when the author joins Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard on a film shoot at the sunken liner's site. Losing the Empress lyrically traces a personal journey into the past and into the future.

Excerpt

In 1914 my grandparents drowned in the Empress of Ireland disaster, leaving five orphans of whom the youngest was four-year-old Cyrus Creighton. When he also died later in California, his siblings had his remains brought all the way to Toronto. Why? For burial in the British soil of his lineage.

“Our hearts are in Canada,” said my father. “This may be sentimentality but what would the world be without sentiment.”

When sentiment is at war with reason, which should come first? For Herman Melville, the answer was clear: “I stand for the heart. To the dogs with the head.” Having written the ultimate shipwreck novel, Moby-Dick, he deserves notice.

Happenstance once found me in the company of oceanographer Robert Ballard, who sleuthed the Titanic’s final resting-place. This man of science told me that in youth, he locked his grandmother and himself in a room for all-out argument to make her accept evolutionary theory. Score one for the head.

With my own evangelistic kinfolk I was more timid — keenly debating the idea of evolution with my father, but fearing that his faith might be undermined. For me, the heart won out.

Ballard feels that it is wrong when someone attains truth only to have it denied. Yet between sentiment and truth, which one is prior? You need both, says he.

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