In February 1907,the Austro Hungarian Lloyds Steam Ship Imperatrix, enroute from Trieste to Bombay, went aground on the North West side of the island iof Elaphonisi in the middle of a severe storm. A number of the crew attempted to abandon ship by using the lifeboats but these were all destroyed on the rocks and all in them were drowned. The remaining passengers and crew spent a very uncomfortable two days on the wreck before being rescued via a wooden gangway and raft constructed by the locals of the area. A messenger was sent to Chania, over the mountains in the middle of the winter, and rescue vessels from the Occupying Powers were sent to the aid of the Imperatrix, the first to arrive being a Russian Torpedo Boat.
In the end it is believed that 39 of the crew were lost but all the passengers saved.
The only monument to those lost was the stone light house which was built on Elaphionisi very shortly afterwards. However, this was destroyed in 1945 as the Germans retreated. It was replaced by a much less imposing light on a steel frame but I have been told that this fell down last autumn, certainly when I visited it in July 2005 it was in a very precarious state!
The remains of the Imperatrix can only now be reached by sea and have been mapped and photographed by myself and divers working out of Aqua Creta Dive Centre in Paleochora.
I hope within the next few months to put up a web site giving much more detail of the Imperatrix and her fate and tentative plans are being discussed to see if we can put a monument on the island to mark the forthcoming 100th anniversary.
If anybody has any more information on the Imperatrix I’d be more than happy to hear from you.
It’s been pointed out to me in "another place" that the foreign warships based in Crete at that time weren’t from the "occupying powers" but were from foreign powers stationed in Crete to guarantee the autonomy agreement.