The Royal Mail Ship, Empress of Ireland, was an ocean-going luxury liner on her way to Liverpool from Quebec City when she sank in the Saint Lawrence River, 14 minutes after colliding with a Norwegian collier in the early morning fog of 29 May 1914. She had 1,477 people on board—passengers and crew—and the accident claimed the lives of 1,012, more than 800 of them passengers.
Not all sunken ships are the same. There are shallow wrecks, deep wrecks, very old barely discernable wrecks, wrecks sunk in war, wrecks sunk to make artificial reefs, even wrecks placed on the sea bed for Hollywood movies. While each ship has a different history and characteristics they share one thing in common—they all have been transformed into undersea time capsules.
Below some ragged pieces of wreckage lying on the bottom beside the hull, I see something a little out of place. It’s more polished and more regular in its outline. I carefully descend and remove the pieces of metal that hide it. My colleague, Marcus Runesson, is above me providing ample light, making my task much easier.