A lesson not well enough learned


Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Point taken on the Eastland's stability problems. I think in the end, adding in the extra boats amounted to little more then the straw breaking the camel's back.

I wonder if they ever paid off on that $10,000?
wink.gif
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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> wonder if they ever paid off on that $10,000?

No. The $10,000.00 reward was offered while the ship was operating out of Cleveland. She had come close to capsizing on a Sherman Williams company picnic, and again on an excursion of the Maccabees, and word of mouth in Cleveland was that she was dangerous. So, the owners went on the offensive and offered the reward to anyone who could prove Eastland was unsafe. No one took them up on it, evidently, but the public was not reassured and after wracking up big losses she was transferred back to Chicago.

I always felt that the title "Victim of the Titanic" was really stretching the point. She had at least 6 near misses, each with the potential to kill thousands, plus other scary but not potentially fatal rolls, and apart from the lifeboats there was something seriously wrong with Eastland.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Jim is correct. There was always a stability problem with Eastland. However, it did not roll over until after that "straw" mentioned by Mike of the additional lifeboats. It doesn't take a lot of weight to cause disaster once GZ approaches zero. I have used Eastland only to point out that lubberly legislation can put people more at risk even if it makes them "feel good." Eastland was not the only ship of the period to have stability problems from huge loads of lifeboats piled on upper decks. It was, fortunately, the only one to have fatal stability problems.

Eastland should have been withdrawn from service and either re-built or made into razor blades even before the Cleveland episodes. Something was seriously wrong with that ship's stability. But, it wasn't fatal until...

This kind of wonky thinking was seen most recently in the USA with air bag requirements for automobiles. The legislators and their enforcement minions rammed through air bags that the serious safety engineers warned were deadly. It was only after people began being killed by those so-called "safety" devices that sanity prevailed over legislative fervor. Now, "second generation" air bags are proving less life threatening.

The problem with armchair safety experts (meaning for the most part newspaper reporters and lawmakers) is that they have the freedom to view ships as nothing more than launching platforms for lifeboats. Any other purpose is discarded in their fantasy that safety overrides all other concerns. To them the only reason anyone buys a ticket on a ship is to stand in line for a lifeboat. Real passenger ships have to be compromises between comfortable "hotel/casino" and reasonable safety. The current standards reflect that reality, although perhaps with too much emphasis on the ancient technology of hardshell lifeboats.

--David G. Brown
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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> Something was seriously wrong with that ship's stability. But, it wasn't fatal until...

It was within seconds of being fatal as early as 1904. In that incident, just as in the 1915 capsize, water had begun pouring into the main deck, which in 1915 marked the point of no return. However, in 1904, the crew saved the ship by driving the passengers to the lower decks and restoring balance, but it seems that they survived by a hair. My point being that the lifeboats (and the concrete floor laid down in the dining room!) may have been the determining factor in the 1915 disaster, but even without them it would have eventually happened.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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>A concrete floor in the dining room?

The wooden floor rotted out in places from spillage (how cheap must the wood they used have been, or how frequent the major spills) and so in her final renovation it was removed and replaced by a floor of poured concrete. Two summers before, in an effort to reduce her tendency to heel, her funnels had been reduced in size by one third.

Eastland, in her first season, had no stability problems. She was "modified" during the winter of 1903/'04, after which she was never the same again. The standard Eastland "heel" pattern consisted of a slow roll to one side, a recovery and then a dramatic heel in the other direction- always when the ship was standing still, or moving at slow speed. One author likened her to a bicycle, in that she was exceptionally stable at speed but wobbly and difficult to control at a crawl or a standstill. The 1904 near disaster happened as she departed South Haven for Chicago. As she moved out into the lake she rolled slowly to one side, recovered and then began to heel to the other. Just like in 1915, she rolled so far over that water began to pour through her Main Deck embarkation doors, but unlike 1915 the crew took preventative action and drove the passengers from the upper decks (allegedly in some cases by firehose) deep into the ship and the doors, fatal in 1915, rose above the waterline. Restored to an even keel, the Eastland continued on to Chicago despite the desire of her shaken passengers to return to South Haven. This near miss was witnessed by hundreds on shore, which started the Eastland's bad 'rep' on Lake Michigan. There were at least 5 more identical incidents at pier or at slow speed, but unlike the seen- by- a- whole- city 1904 incident they are not as well documented.

What is appalling about the 1915 disaster is that the heel and recovery cycle was run through several times before the fatal accident. As I recall, the picnickers in the general room, in high spirits, at one point called out "all together-hey!" in unison with one of the faster heel-and-recoveries.
 

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