On Monday, May 28, 1914, William Clark boarded the Empress of Ireland, which left the Port of Québec at 4:27 p.m.
The 44-year-old Irishman worked as a boiler operator, an exhausting job.His work was to shovel coal into the gigantic furnace.
The Empress required 2,600 tons, or a quarter ton per minute, of coal to produce enough steam to travel between Québec City and Liverpool.
William was familiar with this demanding work, as he had had the same job on the Titanic on April 15, 1912.
At 2:09 a.m., amid fog, a deafening noise resounded followed by violent shaking. William knew that sound all too well: the ship had collided with something.
The lights went out, the screams echoed, and the ship began to tilt. William did not waste one moment and headed for the life raft assigned to him.
He managed to unhook the boat, but as he was about to board it, he was thrown into the St. Lawrence River.
The Empress’s furnaces had just exploded. The liner sank in only 14 minutes, unlike the Titanic, which took nearly three hours to sink.
After miraculously ending up on the shores of Pointe-au-Père, William touched his lucky clover.
He noticed that it was a Norwegian coal ship—the Storstad—that caused the collision.
Of the 1,477 passengers, 1,012 died and 465 survived. On June 10, 1914, lucky William told the Northern Daily Mail:
“Even now I can hardly believe that I am the only man in the world who has sailed in the two ill-fated liner and had
survived the two greatest shipping disasters of modern days. If there’s any luck on the sea, surely I have had it all…”