​Almanac: The sinking of the Empress of Ireland

Almanac: The Empress of Ireland disaster 01:54

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: May 29th, 1914, 102 years ago today ... the day of a largely overlooked maritime calamity.

For it was in the pre-dawn hours of that day that the liner Empress of Ireland collided with another ship and sank on the St. Lawrence River.

Just hours out of Quebec City en route to Liverpool, England, the Empress spotted the lights of a Norwegian coal carrier, the Storstad, a few miles away.

Suddenly, a thick fog obscured each ship from the other's view.

Just minutes later, at roughly two in the morning, the Storstad crashed into the Empress, gouging a hole into her starboard side.

Immediately, the Empress listed, allowing water to enter not only the gash, but a large number of open portholes as well.

The Empress of Ireland sank in just 14 minutes.

And although there's no clear verdict as to which ship was to blame, there's NO doubt about the disaster's human toll -- 1,012 people lost their lives. Just 465 were saved.

Of the 138 children on board, only four survived.

Despite that heavy toll,the Empress of Ireland disaster is barely recalled in the United States. That's because it's been overshadowed in popular memory by the sinking of the Titanic two years earlier, and the torpedoing of the Lusitania in 1915 ... both with larger losses of life.

Still, the sinking of the Empress of Ireland is a tragedy worth remembering ... and mourning.

For more info: