Protecting the Empress

buoy
Photograph courtesy of Rob Rondeau, ProCom Diving.

Scientific underwater archaeological studies are extremely expensive to conduct. To date, most artifacts have been recovered from underwater sites by private interests.

Uncontrolled souvenir hunting, though, is destructive. It results in the loss of forensic evidence and the dispersal of artifacts. It can also accelerate corrosion of the ship and damage marine life in and around the wreck.

Heritage preservation tries to accommodate recreational and scientific interests by keeping wreck sites intact. It works with the dive tourism industry, an important economic factor in some coastal regions, by including dive tour operators in the initial archaeological mapping of wreck sites. Recreational divers appreciate that they must respect a site's integrity.

In 2001, UNESCO's Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage set standards for protecting wreck sites. The Empress of Ireland wreck has been protected as a provincially-designated historic site since 1999.

artifact: door knob
Door knob. Royal Alberta Museum, Western Canadian History collection. Photograph courtesy of Rob Rondeau, ProCom Diving.

Captain's clock
Captain's clock. Royal Alberta Museum, Western Canadian History collection. Photograph courtesy of Rob Rondeau, ProCom Diving.

last review/update: Jun. 11, 2015