Notable Events



                    Empress of Asia - Maiden Voyage



May 3, 1914 - Record Crossing


Yokohama to Race Rocks, British Columbia: 9 days 2 hours 44 minutes


Average speed: 19.19 knots


Senior Officer: Captain Samuel Robinson


Note:  On Thursday, April 30, 1914 the EMPRESS OF ASIA logged 473 nautical miles in 23 hours and 10 minutes. The average speed attained that day was 20.4 knots.




April, 1918 - Russian Railway Service Corps


In 1917 the Russian Railway Service Corps left the United States for Russia by way of Japan.  The Corps was composed of American railway personnel who had been dispatched to assist the Kerensky government of Russia to maintain and develop the Trans-Siberian Railway.  However, by the time the Corps reached Japan the Kerensky government had been replaced by the Bolsheviks.  Some of the Corps were to remain in Japan and later serve in Siberia.  Others, not needed in Asia because of the changing political climate, were returned from Japan to the United States, including one group aboard the EMPRESS OF ASIA arriving in Victoria and Vancouver on April 29th, 1918.  France was reported as the next assignment of this group.



1919 - Asia Land Settlement Committee


Hundreds of World War I veterans returning home on the Empress of Asia decide to settle together in a co-operative farming community upon their return home to British Columbia. After meetings with both the Provincial and Federal Governments, a 14,000 acre lot of land in the Courtney Valley is settled by 120 veterans and their families. For more details, please see the Asia Land Settlement Committee page.



October 2, 1919 - Collision


On October 2nd, 1919, while outbound from Hong Kong and en route to Shanghai, the EMPRESS OF ASIA collided and destroyed a Junk that was sailing from Shantou to the fishing grounds.  The collision occurred at night, 145 miles Northeast of Hong Kong.  . 

The EMPRESS OF ASIA stopped, lowered a boat and successfully rescued the Junk�s crew of four.


February 19, 1920 - First Motion Pictures


When the EMPRESS OF ASIA sailed from Vancouver for the Far East on February 19th, 1920 several movies were included as entertainment for travelers.  The Vancouver Sun issue of February 18th, 1920 stated that the ship would show five films with famous stars, five comedies and five films that showed the natural beauties of Canada as seen form a CPR transcontinental train.  Motion pictures were to become a regular feature of entertainment and with dances, dining and deck games form the core of onboard social activities.



April 17, 1921 - Record Crossing


Yokohama to Race Rocks, British Columbia: 8 days 21 hours 38 minutes


Average speed: 19.65 knots


Senior Officer: Captain A.J. Hailey, Chief Engineer James Lamb


Note:  G.M. Bosworth, Chairman of Canadian Pacific Ocean Services Lt. was on board as a passenger.



June 12, 1921 - Record Crossing


Yokohama to Race Rocks, British Columbia: approximately 8 days 19 hours 6 minutes


Average speed: approximately 19.83 knots


Senior Officer: Captain A.J. Hailey


The EMPRESS OF ASIA is reported to have experienced good sailing weather and to have reached Race Rocks in record time, reducing the achievement of April 17th, 1921 by 2� hours.



October 5, 1922 - Collision


On October 5th, 1922, while docked at Victoria, the EMPRESS OF ASIA was struck by the American steamer DOROTHY ALEXANDER.  The collision occurred as the DOROTHY ALEXANDER was attempting to dock.  . 

Lifeboat Number 18 on EMPRESS OF ASIA was badly damaged in the incident.


February 23, 1924 - Collision

On February 23, 1924, while riding a flood tide up the Whangpoa River towards Shanghai, the EMPRESS OF ASIA encountered a small squall.  The squall caused the ship to head off course and towards the British cargo ship KABINGA that was lying at anchor in the river.  In spite of putting engines full astern and dropping both anchors, the EMPRESS OF ASIA collided broadside with the anchored ship.  No injuries were reported but both ships received damage to lifeboats, rails, and davits.


July 20, 1924 - Record Crossing


Yokohama to Race Rocks, British Columbia: 8 days 14 hours 48 minutes


Average speed: 20.29 knots


Senior Officers: Captain L.D. Douglas, Chief Engineer R.H. Shaw

Note:  This was the fastest crossing ever attained by the EMPRESS OF ASIA.


August 10, 1924 - Collision


In the darkness of the early morning of August 10, 1924, the EMPRESS OF ASIA, sailing towards Yokohama from Victoria, collided with the NAKAYOSHI MARU.  The NAKAYOSHI MARU, a Japanese fishing vessel with a crew of 40 was from the port of Kuwagasaki in the Prefecture of Iwate.  The collision occurred approximately 290 nautical miles north east of Yokohama.  


The EMPRESS OF ASIA immediately launched a lifeboat to offer aid.  No injuries were reported on either ship, however the NAKAYOSHI MARU sustained damage to her masts and upper bow but was able to proceed without assistance.



January, 1926 - Leona Kearns of the Philadelphia Bobbies


On the voyage that concluded upon reaching Victoria on January 29th, 1926, the EMPRESS OF ASIA encountered a violent and massive storm that raged over 3,000 square miles of the North Pacific and battered the ship from Yokohama to Vancouver Island.  The barometer dipped to 28.26, a reading associated with hurricanes, and wind velocities of 70 miles an hour were reported.  Large waves washed over the lower portions of the ship and it was at times necessary to reduce speed.


The Philadelphia Bobbies, a girls baseball team, had played a series of games in the Orient during 1925.  Three members of the team boarded the EMPRESS OF ASIA in Japan to travel home to the United States.


Two team members, Leona Kearns and Nelly Shanks, ventured onto the Second Class deck during the storm.  The two were caught by a huge wave that covered the deck.  Leona Kearns lost her life when swept overboard.  Nelly Shanks, although bruised, was saved by a railing.  The EMPRESS OF ASIA turned around in the storm and circled the location of the mishap, but found no one.


1926, January 11 Collision between TUNGSHING and the Empress of Asia.

Courtesy of Drew Waveryn


January 11, 1926 - Collision


On January 11th, 1926, while outbound from Shanghai, the EMPRESS OF ASIA collided with the 1,900-ton steamer TUNGSHING.  The collision occurred near Blackpoint on the Whangpoa River.  The TUNGSHING was owned by the Indo-China Steam Navigation Company and was bound from Hong Kong to Shanghai.

The TUNGSHING sank while unsuccessfully attempting to make shore and ten lives were reported lost.

The EMPRESS OF ASIA assisted in the rescue of survivors and then returned to Shanghai briefly for repairs to the stem section of the hull that had been damaged in the collision.


1926-1927 - Hankow: The removal of refugees from Shanghai


During 1926 and 1927 nationalist sentiment in the Hankow (Wuhan) region of China became intense.  Increasingly this activity began to be directed at the British presence in the region and the privileged position that Britain enjoyed at its concession at Hankow.


During this period of unrest many British residents abandoned the region usually travelling down the Yangtze River to Shanghai.  At Shanghai during this period, the lobbies of hotels were converted to dormitories to accommodate the refugees.

One party of refugees, comprised mostly of missionaries and their families, boarded the EMPRESS OF ASIA while the ship visited Shanghai and traveled to British Columbia on the voyage that arrived on January 24th, 1927.


August 1, 1927 - Record Silk Shipment


The EMPRESS OF ASIA, commanded by L. D. Douglas, concluded a Pacific crossing upon reaching Vancouver on August 1st, 1927.  On this voyage the ship carried the largest silk shipment ever loaded in her holds; measuring 1,000 tons and valued at $12,000,000.00.  A special train of 20 cars awaited the arrival of the ship at Vancouver to expedite the raw silk to mills on the East Coast.



February, 1928 - Storm


The EMPRESS OF ASIA, commanded by A. J. Hailey, concluded a Pacific crossing upon reaching Vancouver on February 13th, 1928. The ship reached Victoria 11 hours behind schedule, having been delayed by a terrific storm that struck 2 days out of Yokohama.  Captain Hailey is reported to have described the storm as producing the heaviest seas that he had ever experienced in his long career.  One large wave hit the bridge, breaking many windows despite the fact that the structure is 65 feet above the waterline.  The wave poured into the bridge and nearly swept the helmsman and Officer of the watch away. While the ship was pitching and rolling during the storm, a floating object was struck, damaging the port propeller.



July 5, 1931 - Expanded Service to Hawaii, announcement of


J. J. Forster, Canadian Pacific Steamships general passenger agent announced on July 5th, 1931 that in recognizing the increasing popularity of Hawaii as a destination for North American travelers, the EMPRESS OF ASIA would be placed in the Vancouver-Victoria-Honolulu service in the winter of 1931 and summer of 1932.  Honolulu would be called upon sailing westward on December 25th, 1931 and sailing eastward, visited again on June 4th, 1932.



November 12, 1931 � HMS PETERSFIELD


On November 12th, 1931 the British minesweeper HMS PETERSFIELD, sailing from Shanghai to Hong Kong, encountered a storm and ran aground on Tungyin Island, approximately 420 Nautical miles north east of Hong Kong.  Aboard the PETERSFIELD was Admiral Howard Kelly, Commander of the British Naval Forces at China Station.  The PETERSFIELD made a SOS call that was answered by the EMPRESS OF ASIA and the German liner DEFLINGER.  Both ships stood by at the accident site and participated in the rescue of the crew of the minesweeper.  All were successfully rescued, however the PETERSFIELD was a total loss.

The EMPRESS OF ASIA had been sailing from Shanghai to Hong Kong when the radio call for help was received and the arrival at Hong Kong was delayed 15 hours.


December 16, 1934 - Cape Ortegal

The EMPRESS OF ASIA�s scheduled arrival at Victoria was delayed several hours by an emergency that occurred on December 16th, 1934 off the coast of Vancouver Island.  A distress message was received from the British freighter CAPE ORTEGAL, loaded with cargo and listing 160 miles off Tatoosh.  The EMPRESS OF ASIA responded to the call for assistance and sailed south for about 30 miles to reach the CAPE ORTEGAL and stand by while the freighter adjusted direction and manage to get underway.  The CAPE ORTEGAL, with the assistance of the tugboat SALVAGE KING, successfully reached Victoria on December 18th, 1934.


September 9, 1937 - Collision with the SOUDAN in the Whangpu River


The EMPRESS OF ASIA was at Shanghai on September 9th, 1937 having arrived from Japan with many passengers who, fearful of an expanding Asian war, were evacuating Japan and returning to China.  When the ship attempted to leave the dock at Shanghai and sail to Hong Kong, the current in the Whangpoo River dragged the ship out of control.  The stern swung out into midstream of the Whangpu, and a lighter was smashed, the towline to an assisting tug was broken, and the P&O liner SOUDAN was sideswiped.  Fortunately the damage to either ship appears not to have been severe and the EMPRESS OF ASIA reached Hong Kong on September 10th, 1937.



December 10, 1937 - The loss of the PRESIDENT HOOVER


On December 10, 1937, the PRESIDENT HOOVER of the Dollar Steamship Company ran aground on Hoishoto Island, approximately 20 nautical miles east of the Taiwanese city of Tai-tung.  The PRESIDENT HOOVER, a 21,900-ton passenger liner, had been sailing from Kobe to Manila when the mishap occurred. 


The PRESIDENT HOOVER made a distress call that was answered by several vessels including the EMPRESS OF ASIA and the German freighter PREUSSEN.


The EMPRESS OF ASIA, commanded by George Goold, was sailing from Hong Kong to Nagasaki and was approximately 260 miles away when the distress call was received.  The EMPRESS OF ASIA changed course and sailed at full speed to the site of the wreck along with the PREUSSEN and number of other ships that offered assistance.


No loss of life occurred from the grounding of the PRESIDENT HOOVER but the ship was considered a total loss.



March 18, 1938 - Typhoid Fever Incident


On March 18th, 1938 Dr. J. W. McIntosh, Vancouver Health Officer, reported that a crewmember arriving in Vancouver on March 12th, 1938 aboard the EMPRESS OF ASIA had been diagnosed with typhoid fever and consequently all crewmembers would be immunized immediately.

The ship sailed for the Orient on March 19th, 1938, and Vancouver Health Officer�s efforts appear successful as no cases were recorded on this voyage.


April 22, 1938 - E H Gibbon Incident


Elwyn Gibbon, a 27-year-old American pilot from Everett Washington, was returning home to the United States during April of 1938.  Gibbon had served as a pilot in the Chinese Air Force as a member of unit called the Foreign Volunteer Squadron during a period of 1937-1938 when hostilities with Japanese forces were experienced.  When he left this position he decided to return to the United States and booked a passage on the EMPRESS OF ASIA, en route to Vancouver, for himself and his wife.


When the EMPRESS OF ASIA reached Yokohama on April 22nd, 1938, Gibbon was promptly removed by Japanese authorities for interrogation.  The authorities sought strategic intelligence and information on Chinese air attacks on Japanese positions at Pengpu in Anhwei Province and Formosa during 1938.


The EMPRESS OF ASIA sailed from Yokohama on April 23rd, leaving Gibbon in Japanese custody.  Mrs. Gibbon remained with the ship and arrived in Vancouver on May 2nd, 1938.


Gibbon was eventually released on April 28th, and on May 3rd, 1938, sailed aboard the PRESIDENT TAFT bound for North America.

No Canadian representation was made to Japan as Canada recognized that the EMPRESS OF ASIA was in Japanese territorial waters when Gibbon was removed.  Nevertheless the incident ominously demonstrated the rising tensions on the world diplomatic stage.


August 6, 1938 - The Rescue of Lim Cheong Hee


The EMPRESS OF ASIA, commanded by George Goold, sailed from Hong Kong for Vancouver on August 5th, 1938.  The following day a bamboo raft was sighted with a single occupant who was subsequently rescued by the EMPRESS OF ASIA.  The rescued individual, Lim Cheong Hee, a 62 year old fisherman from the village of Wai Lai in Kwantung Province in China, had been adrift for four days after having been blown off shore by a gale.  He was treated for exposure and left the ship at Shanghai.



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