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Maritime Disasters: SS Eastland

May 24th, 2016 by Piper Smith

The S.S. Eastland was a passenger ship based in Chicago and used for tours. Due to a recent act passed by Woodrow Wilson, the ship was carrying so many lifeboats that it became top-heavy and unstable. One morning, passengers began boarding the Eastland on the south bank of the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle Streets around 6.30 a.m., and by 7:10, the ship had reached its capacity of 2,752 passengers. The ship was packed with many passengers standing on the open upper decks. Sometime in the next 15 minutes a number of passengers rushed to the port side, and at 7:28, the Eastland lurched sharply to port and then rolled completely onto its side, coming to rest on the river bottom, which was only 20 feet below the surface. Many other passengers had already moved below deck and consequently, hundreds were trapped inside by the water and the sudden rollover. Although the ship was only 20 feet from the wharf, and in spite of the quick response by the crew of a nearby vessel, the Kenosha, a total of 841 passengers and four crew members died in the disaster.

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