Other disasters of Titanic's proportions


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Dec 12, 1999
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Here's a picture taken well after the disaster, where men are trying to right the wreck of the Eastland. Eastland was salvaged, and restored, and remained in service with the State of Illinois National Guard (or something like that) until 1945.
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Dec 12, 1999
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All of the above photos are from postcards that were published, and that people purchased. I think there were similar, macabre types of postcards with the Lusitania disaster (but that may have been connected to war propaganda). There were no such postcards for the Titanic disaster -- so far as I know.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Thanks for those postacards Jan. As to whether there are any commemorations of the disaster, I can't really say. The local newspapers may run a little blurb in the "This Day In History" column, but outside of the maritime history circles we run with, I suspect hardly anyone cares. Hell, mention even the Lusitania, and you would be amazed at how many blank stares I get.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Jim Kalafus

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There is a plaque commemorating the disaster close to where the wreck occurred, and a couple of survivors were there for the unveiling in the late 1980s, but if the account in Shipwrecks is to be believed, a few years prior to that the Chicago Historical Society hadn't heard of the disaster. One aspect of the Eastland I'd like to see better researched are the years she spent operating out of Cleveland- there was at least one near-capsizing during the summer of 1912, and apparently enough near-misses for the owners to run a newspaper ad promising a substantial cash reward to anyone who could prove that the Eastland was unsafe. The book of a few years back was not as detailed as it might have been concerning this period, and left me wondering if any accounts of the mishaps on Lake Erie have come to light.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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In fact, there were many "near misses" in terms of Eastland's capsizing. The eeire thing is that they usually occurred in the month of July. As follows:

1903:

July - Eastland, newly built, lists seriously so that water comes in gangways.

1904:

July - list to port, then to starboard (3,000 passengers aboard) on return from South Haven, Michigan.

1906:

August: with 2,530 passengers aboard, the Eastland lists seriously so that formal complaint is filed -- the ship's capacity is reduced to 2,400 passengers.

1910:

An advertisement in 2 newspapers challenges anyone to prove that Eastland is not seaworthy.

1912:

July - while leaving Cleveland, the Eastland lists to port, then severely to starboard.

1915:

March - LaFollette Seaman's Act is passed, and signed into law by President Wilson. It requires ships to have lifeboats based on passenger capacity, not gross tonnage. The Senate Committee was warned in testimony that the requirements would make Great Lakes ships topheavy.


April - tons of concrete are added between floors on top deck.

July - 3 lifeboats are added when capacity is increased to 2,570.
 

Jim Kalafus

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As I recall there was a Sherwin-Williams picnic with a near- capsizing, and also a Fraternal Order of the whoevers outing which nearly ended in disaster. However, most of the Lake Erie incidents are at best anecdotal and post-date the $5000 reward. I'd like to find out what happened during the season prior to the running of the ad to cause such a reaction on the parts of the public and the steamship line.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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The History Channel had a program last week about the disastrous winter of 1913 on the Great Lakes which was an eyeopener. Hugging the East Coast all my life, those lakes in my mind always seemed like just large mudpuddles. If the contents of the lakes were emptied over the USA, it would reach a depth of 6 FEET coast to coast! Now that got my attention. Finally flying over Lake Michigan in 1991, the thing looked more like a mini-ocean than a lake with surf and waves to match. November seems to be the deadly month for storms and Nov. 1913 was a corker. Funny we don't hear about all the ships which went down. Estimates range from 6-10 thousand ships hit the bottom there since recorded history of the Lakes! Maybe after the 1912 Titanic, it was not big news. ANyway, other than the EddyFitz homepage, here are a few very good Lakes pages I have found with many links- at least 3 hours of good surfing! The Great Lakes now get my respect!
greatlakeshistory.homestead.com/home.html
http://www.schoonerman.com/glakes.shtml
http://home.gci.net/~alaskapi/success/shipwreck.htm
http://www.abc.se/~m10354/uwa/wreckbas.htm
 

Jim Kalafus

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There was a book out a few years back on the Great Lakes Storm called Ships Gone Missing, which was fairly well researched but which suffered the major structural flaw of devoting a separate chapter to each of the ships which vanished in the storm (off the top of my head- Wexford/Hydrus/Argus/Price/ Carruthers/Regina/Plymouth and several others) instead of interweaving the stories- since all of the ships sank there is literally no tension as one reads the separate chapters with their known outcome. But still a worthwhile read, and the illustrations are good, too. And, of course there is an anecdotal Titanic link: a passenger aboard the liner Huronic which was battered by the storm for (I believe) two days but which did not capsize like the others was making the voyage to take her mind off of the loss of a relative who had travelled third class aboard the Titanic and had been lost. Enduring the near capsizing was, I am sure, just the tonic she needed. Since the account neglects to name the lost relative I have a hunch that it a piece of newspaper fiction, but interesting nevertheless.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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TOOT! That's me blowing my own horn. I am just finishing a new book called, "White Hurricane." It focuses on the storm of November 9 to 11, 1913 on the Great Lakes. Nearly three years of research have gone into this book about what is possibly the single worst natural disaster in U.S. maritime history. "White Hurricane" will be out in April (or so my publisher says). It is already available for pre-pub order on Amazon.com.

Twelve vessels foundered with a loss of at least 250 lives (nobody kept an accurate count). Eight of those ships went down on Lake Huron during a four hour period of time from 8:00 p.m. to midnight on November 9. There were no survivors from any of the foundered vessels.

One liferaft came ashore with frozen bodies tied to it. All wore lifevests except the captain. His vest was on the lone woman aboard the raft.

The biggest mystery surrounds the steamer Charles S. Price that rolled over and floated belly-up for days. To date, nobody has explained how this happened. Even more mysterious--the chief engineer's body was found wearing a lifevest from another ship, the Regina.

The engineer was found mingled with wreckage from the Regina, including one of the ship's lifeboats. We now have proof that the crew of Regina did launch a boat into 35 foot waves, 90 mile an hour winds, and white-out snow.

Then there's the story of Captain Jimmy Owen who took his ship out on Lake Superior with its hatches still open...despite the weather. Neither he nor his ship have been found.

Look for "White Hurricane" at a bookstore near you sometime after April.

TOOT!

--David G. Brown
 
May 8, 2001
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Hey Cap'n. I wondered where you had been lately. I believe I heard about this, but only in a brief passing, and I'm trying to place when. Maybe in school while learning about the Great Lakes.
Were you able to solve any of the mysteries surrounding this tragic event?
Glad to see you back on the E.T. board!
Colleen
 

Jim Kalafus

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Mr Brown- I look forward to your book! That story about Captain Owen is certainly unbelievable (not in the "I doubt it happened that way" , but in the "what was he thinking?" sense) as too was the Price/ Regina connection.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Colleen -- Yes, I believe that I have done a credible job of attempting to solve the Price/Regina mystery. My hypothesis explains why at least the Price's chief engineer would have been found in a Regina lifevest. And, it also explains why no sailors from the Regina were found in Price vests. What, me tell more? In the book!

Captain Owen was probably not the only one to leave harbor with open or semi-closed hatches. That is still the practice today, although nobody wants to talk about it. I see ships leave the Toledo grain docks with open hatches several times each summer. That's not really a problem unless there is a winter hurricane blowing.

For those who enjoy evil coincidences, of the eight ships that sank during the worst four hours of the storm, five were US flag. Those five ships were all built by the American Shipbuilding yard in Lorain, Ohio.

Then there's the story of the steward's wife who fell into the engine room when the galley was destroyed by a wave. Or, the sailors who survived their ship stranding in Death's Door Passage only to discover that the wooden hull was on fire.

For the Titanic crowd -- what I have learned about the type of damage sustained by ships that survived the storm is quite illuminating. The racking strains caused rivets to "pop" by the dozens. After the storm many ships required a winter of work just to replace hundreds of missing rivets and cracked shell plates. The implications for Titanic revolve around the strains imposed on the hull as it sank.

-- David G. Brown
 
May 3, 2002
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Wellington, New Zealand
Has anyone heard of the Tay Bridge disaster?
During a Gale in 1875 a new bridge failed and collapsed sending a passenger express train into the river Tay in Scotland. There were no survivors and the designer was disgraced in the ensuing inquiry.


Martin
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Indeed I've heard of it, thanks to the immortal verse of William McGonagall, poet and tragedian.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

'Twas about seven o'clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem'd to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem'd to say --
'I'll blow down the Bridge of Tay.'

Beware, there's miles more of it!
 
J

John Meeks

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I believe the designer was Sir Thomas Bouche.

Apparently he assumed a wind loading that most engineers wouldn't have used for a garden shed, and examination of the wreckage proved much of the material used in construction to be sub-standard.

The original stone foundation piers are still in place, right alongside the 'new' bridge (Did Robert Stephenson build that one?)

I can't remember wether Bouche simply died in disgrace or actually took his own life - either way he 'lost face' in a big way with the engineering community, not to mention the public at large.

John M
 
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