Last updated: April 30, 2018 at 17:47 pm
Pioneer wreck diver; public speaker; salvaged approximately 500 objects from the RMS Empress of Ireland over the course of 600 dives starting in 1970; founded the Empress of Ireland Historical Society; led dives on the Empress of Ireland for Équipe Cousteau and for Robert Ballard.
Philippe Beaudry is by far the most famous of all Empress divers. He made the first of his more than 600 dives on the Empress in 1970 and in the ensuing 25 years proceeded to amass a collection of Empress artefacts and collectibles second to none. Beaudry hosted Équipe Cousteau when the famous French ‘plongeur’ and his team explored and filmed the Empress during production of the 1982 National Film Board documentary, St. Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea. In one wreck scene filmed in the captain’s quarters, Beaudry locates a straight razor and the missing glass window of the captain’s clock, which he’d previously recovered. In another, Beaudry and Cousteau diver Bernard Delemotte emerge from the water and climb aboard the anchored Calypso where they are greeted by Ronald Fergusson, the wireless operator who issued the distress signal from the fast-sinking Empress. Beaudry was also acquainted with Grace Hanagan, a child survivor who was orphaned by the tragedy. Beaudry became a serious student of the Empress and her story, traveling to England to meet with relatives of some of the survivors in his research quest.
When a commercial venture proposed to blast the ship’s deteriorating hull for salvage scrap, Beaudry was among the first to raise the alarm and he aggressively lobbied local and provincial authorities to prevent such action. He was outspoken. And it nearly cost him his life when a bomb was planted under his front porch. Fortunately, the Sûreté du Québec bomb squad dismantled the explosive device before anyone was hurt. In 1999, as controversy raged over the fate of the wreck, the Quebec Government finally declared the Empress of Ireland protected from salvage of any kind. Today, Beaudry remains as passionate as ever and continues to lecture on the Empress of Ireland at dive shows around the world.
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Jeffrey Gallant is the Editor-in-Chief and Records Keeper of the Diving Almanac. He is also a contributing editor of DIVER Magazine, and the scientific director of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG). Jeffrey started diving in 1982.