Diving Guideline


The wreck of the Empress of Ireland, classified a historical and archaeological site on April 15, 1999, represents a major cultural and tourist attraction in the Lower St. Lawrence region. In order to protect this unique heritage and further its value, certain rules have been set out to prevent damage that might be caused to the wreck and ensure the safety of divers.



GLANCE INTO THE PAST

The Empress of Ireland was one of the liners of Canadian Pacific, one of the most important steamship companies operating in North Atlantic at the beginning of the 20th century. Built in 1906 in Glasgow, Scotland, she made regular journeys between Liverpool and Quebec City.

On May 28, 1914, the Empress of Ireland, left the harbor of Quebec City with 1477 people on board. Around 1:30 in the morning of May 29, as a dense fog rolled in off Sainte-Luce, the Storstad, a Norwegian coal ship, collided with her, causing the death of 1012 people. It was to become the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history.




DATA SHEET OF THE SHIP

Architect :

Shipbuilder :

Length :

Breadth :

Tonnage :

Draught :

Propulsion :

Speed :

Capacity :

Quebec-Liverpool :

Francis Elgar

Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company

172 meters (564 feet)

20 meters (65 feet)

14,191 gross tons

8 meters (27 feet)

Quadruple expansion engines

20 knots

1536 passengers, and 420 crewmembers

6 days, 4 of which for the crossing of the Atlantic



TWO LAWS TO PROTECT THE WRECK

The wreck of the Empress of Ireland stands now under the protection oftwo complementary laws. As far as the Canadian government is concerned, the wreck of the Empress of Ireland stands under the responsibility of the Receiver of Wreck pursuant to part VI of the Canada Shipping Act. This act provides for that the discoverer of a wreck has the obligation to deliver it to the Receiver of Wreck. According to this act, a wreck can be a ship or any other boat, a part of a ship, her cargo, or the personal belongings of the crew or the passengers.

Since being classified an historical and archaeological site, the wreck stands under the provision of the Cultural Property Act of Quebec. In the case of the wreck of the Empress of Ireland, that means that the removal of objects or deeds that might cause damages to the wreck are now prohibited, except within an archaeological research authorized by the provincial government. Thus, in accordance with the concerned parties in the region, diving to the wreck is freely authorized and no permit is needed as long as the provisions of the Cultural Property Act are adhered to.




ACCESS TO THE WRECK

  • An marker buoy installed by the Canadian Coast Guard over the wreck states that it is a protected historical wreck.



  • The wreck lies at 42 meters (140 feet) depth on her starboard side at 6.5 nautical miles northeast from the Pointe-au-Père pier and at 4.5 nautical miles off Sainte-Luce and within the territory of this municipality. At latitude 48°37'30" N, and longitude 68°24'30" W (approximately).



  • Any removal or displacement of objects as well as any deed likely to alter the wreck is strictly prohibited under the provisions of the Cultural Property Act. Any person is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine who contravenes the provisions of the law, as well as any person who, by performing or failing to perform an act, assists another person in committing such offence.



  • Divers must use one of the three private mooring buoys installed by the Société des récifs artificiels de l'Estuaire du Québec (Artificial Reef Society of Quebec Estuary - RAEQ). These buoys adhere to the Private Buoys Regulations of the Canadian Shipping.



  • The wreck of the Empress of Ireland is accessible until Thanksgiving, when the buoys are removed. The vessels mooring at said buoys must be less than 5 tons with a lenght over all not exceeding 30 feet.



  • The RAEQ society releases itself from any liability as to the use of these buoys or any other activity over the wreck of the Empress of Ireland.



  • For safety reasons, no other buoy shall be tolerated over the wreck.

As these are private buoys, it is mandatory for the divers to register at the head office of the ARSQE (22, route du Fleuve Ouest, Sainte-Luce, phone 418-739-5271) or at de Rimouski-Est marina (418-723-0202). Registration will contribute to a better management of the site and increased safety for the divers.




SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS

The location of the wreck of the Empress of Ireland is considered a challenging dive site that entails mortal risks. Divers must take into account the depth, which may lead to mandatory decompression, strong currents, poor visibility, water temperature as cold as 4 degrees Celsius, adverse sea conditions, great distance from the site of the wreck to the shore, hazards which can trap even the most experienced diver. These conditions demand the greatest prudence and respect of scuba diving safety rules.

Experience and certification :

  • The lowest certification level recommended to dive this site is a wreck diving specialty from a recognized certification agency and the "class C" FQAS dive permit (in accordance with the Québec regulation in scuba diving - L.R.Q., c. s-3.1, a. 46.15).



  • Divers who wish to explore this wreck must have a solid diving experience with the techniques and protocols of wreck diving.



  • Divers should be in excellent physical and mental condition and should never be under the influence of neither medications, drugs nor alcohol.



  • Monitor weather conditions (temperature, tides, wind, etc) prior to every dive expeditions.



  • Prepare an emergency plan for each dive.



  • Never leave a boat unoccupied on the surface. Always keep someone with diving experience on the lookout at the surface and deploy a drift line before any divers jump into the water.



  • Have a communication system (radio, cellular phone or any other efficient apparatus) as well as a GPS on board.



  • Respect laws and regulations pertaining to navigation.



  • In view of the risks for the divers safety and the damages that migh be caused to the wreck, it is strongly recommended not to penetrate into the wreck.



  • Should divers decide to penetrate, always use a lifeline connection to the entrance, be familiar with the use of the various reels available, do it in a progressive way and have specific training (Technical Wreck Penetration).



  • Don't be completely dependant of your dive buddy. Divers should always have a buddy, however each diver must have the abilities to be independent and self-sufficient.



  • The divers must leave no mooring lines, penetration lines or any other equipment on the wreck.



  • Surfacing should always be made along the three mooring lines maintained by the RAEQ, to minimize the risk of loosing a diver due to the effects of current and/or fog.



  • Always follow the rule of thirds for breathable gas management.



  • Divers must have a redundant configuration with backup equipment.



  • Always carry an oxygen therapy kit on board.



  • Be aware that you are diving at a great distance from a public recompression chamber, closest being at Levis (an estimated 3 hours drive by ambulance).



  • Divers are responsible for their own safety. The RAEQ society releases itself from any liability and, therefore, cannot be held liable for the safety of people diving on this wreck.






IN CASE OF EMERGENCY

Divers must register all their dive trips prior to the departure and report upon their return.
In case of emergency, call immediately the Coast Guard: channel 16 VHS, *16 cellular telephone
Diving Medicine Center of Québec - Emergency: 1 888 835-7121
Rimouski Hospital - Emergency: (418) 724-8554

The installation of a buoy system over the wreck of the Empress of Ireland and the publication of this leaflet have been made possible by:




FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information about the protection of the wreck, please contact:

Michel Demers, Receiver of Wreck
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Navigable Waters Protection
101 Champlain Blvd.
Quebec City, QC
G1K 7Y7
Phone: (418) 648-5403
Fax: (418) 648-7640
demersm@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

The wreck of the Empress of Ireland belongs to our heritage; help us protect her. Your co-operation is essential to protect this historical treasure and to ensure your own safety and the safety of other divers.








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