From Islapedia
Empress, Santa Catalina Island, 1917
Empress on souvenir spoon by C. M. Robbins, Santa Catalina Island, c. 1920

Empress (#202834) (1906-1935), 77.5-foot gas side-wheel glass-bottom vessel built at Terminal Island by the Meteor Boat Company and added to their fleet of successful glass-bottom boats, Lady Lou and Cleopatra.

Empress was destroyed on her mooring in a northeast storm on October 3, 1935. No one was aboard at the time [MVUS 1936].

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In the News~

October 13, 1905 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. New glass-bottom boat. After a year of more than ordinary success, in which they found three glass-bottom powerboats unequal to the demands, the Meteor Boat Company has had plans drawn for a unique boat, the like of which has never been known. Its capacity will be 270 persons, 150 of whom can sit on the upper deck under an awning, and at the glasses, to view the wonders in the depths of the sea. J. D. Martin of the Meteor Boat Company, drew the plans and proposed to have the new boat in commission by March 1 next. The hull will be 75 feet long and 18 feet wide, while the width of the lower deck over all will be 25 feet. The upper deck will be 14 x 60. There will be two rows of glasses fore and aft, with lenses 20 x 60 inches and one inch thick. One of the most unique features will be that it requires no wharf at which to land, but will run up on the beach with its cargo and receive and hand the passengers from a gang-plank.”

February 15, 1906 [LAT]: “San Pedro. The glass-bottom boat Empress, built for the Meteor Boat Company of Avalon, was launched today from the yards of Fulton & Iverson on Terminal Island. The new craft was christened by little Lucilla Iverson, daughter of one of the builders. The Empress will be used in the excursion business at Avalon. She is 80 feet long, 18 feet wide and has a carrying capacity of 118 passengers. Her sister boat, the Cleopatra, has but a capacity of but fifty-six passengers. The Empress will be commanded by Captain Martin and will be equipped with sixty-five-horse power engines, with an eight-horse power engine for electric lighting purposes.”

March 2, 1906 [LAH]: “There is being constructed at the Fulton yards one of the finest glass-bottomed boats ever built. It is ready for engines, which are slow in arriving. It will be called the Empress and will be used almost entirely at Catalina. It is 80 feet in length with an 18-1/2-foot beam and a 27-foot extreme beam. It has seats for 150 people who can watch the marine gardens. It was built for the Meteor Boat Company.”

March 22, 1907 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The management of the steamer City of Long Beach announces its intention of running an excursion to Catalina every Sunday throughout the coming season. On their first trip last Sunday they carried 199 passengers. They made no attempt to land here, but took a trip to Moonstone Beach, through the marine gardens on the power glass-bottom boats Empress and Cleopatra.”

October 4, 1907 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The glass-bottom boats, Lady Lou and Empress, used at Catalina Island during the summer for viewing the marine gardens, have been brought to Long Beach for the winter and dry docked at the Western Boat and Engine Works for repairs and an overhauling.”

October 4, 1907 [LAH]: “Long Beach, Oct. 3. — The Lady Lou and the Empress, the glass bottom power boats used through the summer by the Meteor Boat Company for making trips across the marine gardens at Catalina Island, have been brought to the Western Boat and Engine Works at the foot of Third Street for the winter season.”

November 7, 1907 [LAT]: “Santa Catalina Island — S.S. San Diego leaves Los Angeles, 6th and Main streets, 8:45 A.M. operating in connection with large glass-bottom powerboats, Empress, Cleopatra and Lady Lou for the Marine Gardens. Important Notice: These boats are large and safe, and regularly licensed by U.S. inspectors. Combination rowboat tickets sold by other lines will not be accepted on these boats. Meteor Boat Company. Ticket office 6th and Main St.”

September 3, 1909 [LAT]: “Avalon. Avalon is preparing for the Venetian evening, which will be celebrated next Saturday… “The Empress, the Lady Lou and the Cleopatra, the Meteor Company’s powerboats, will be lighted by special dynamos, and all the launches and small craft will take part in the water carnival, conveying visitors free of charge to and fro, over the glowing waves…”

July 8, 1914 [LAT]: “Avalon. On Monday morning the entire second contingent of Times Camp boys were guests of the Meteor Boat Company and enjoyed probably the best known of Santa Catalina’s attractions and one which none of the young Times guests should miss, the view of the beautiful submarine gardens through the large glass-bottom boat Empress

July 22, 1914 [LAT]: “Times Camp, Santa Catalina Island… Was the trip to the marine gardens any class? Put the question to any of the boys who accepted the hospitality of the Meteor Boat Company, owners of the Empress, yesterday, for a trip to the marine gardens. Almost every boy in camp piled onto the Empress…”

July 20, 1915 [LAT]: “Avalon… Three times a week the entire camp is guest of the Meteor Boat Company for a trip to Moonstone Beach. Usually the beautifully equipped glass-bottom boat Emperor, the largest boat of its kind in the world, is used to convey the happy lads to the beach of moonstones and sardonyx…”

October 10, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “The glass-bottomed powerboat Empress was taken to Catalina Harbor Monday.”

January 1, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “The glass-bottomed powerboat Empress, Captain T. Moricich, is expected from Catalina Harbor today. Owing to the increasing volume of business it has been found necessary to bring the boat back from its winter mooring in that land-locked harbor.”

October 1, 1924 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain Everett Adargo and Mr. H. P. Vedder went to Los Angeles Sunday afternoon to bring back the glass-bottomed boat Empress, which has been on the dry dock at Los Angeles harbor, having the woodwork below the waterline painted with copper paint.”

July 18, 1927 [LAT]: “Fictionists’ stories of battles with sharks in the deep were reenacted in real life yesterday when Harry Boosinger slew his quarry at Catalina Island. The shark was not a real man-eating kind, because there are none such hereabouts, but the thrill was no less genuine. A whale on exhibit was about to be towed from Avalon when Harry, a professional diver on the glass-bottom boat Empress, dived under to see what was making the dead mammal ripple the water. An eight-foot thresher shark glared back at him as it fed on the blubber beneath the whale. Harry drew his trusty knife and swam to the attack… [the whale] happened to be a Bryde whale…”

September 20, 1932 [LAT]: “Captain Clause Walton, port captain for the Wilmington Transportation Company’s pleasure fleet at Avalon, yesterday brought the glass-bottom boat Empress from Catalina Island to undergo annual overhaul at the yards of the Wilmington Boat Works. The craft will return tomorrow. She will be followed for overhaul by the glass-bottom Princess and Phoenix and by the searchlight boats Betty O and Blanche W.”

July 22, 1937 [TI/Avalon]: “Remember the gale a few years ago when the the entire superstructure of the glass-bottomed boat Empress was torn from the hull? Well the hull was subsequently taken to Los Angeles Harbor, where the glass bottom was taken out and a regulation deep-sea bottom installed. Just recently the Owl Boat Company of San Clemente bought the reconstructed vessel and it has been anchored off San Clemente as a fishing barge. It is said live bait will be provided for fishermen who visit it. This is a town on the mainland called Clemente — not San Clemente Island.“