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Eastland Steamer Danielle Lacko MEP-200-01 March 2, 2001 Topics of Discussion Background What Happened Causes Results of Disaster Background Commissioned in 1903 Occurred July 24, 1915 at 7:30 AM Western Electric Picnic Occurred on the Chicago River (downtown) It was docked

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eastland steamer

Eastland Steamer

Danielle Lacko


March 2, 2001

topics of discussion
Topics of Discussion
  • Background
  • What Happened
  • Causes
  • Results of Disaster
  • Commissioned in 1903
  • Occurred July 24, 1915 at 7:30 AM
  • Western Electric Picnic
  • Occurred on the Chicago River (downtown)
  • It was docked
what happened
What Happened
  • 6:40 passengers started boarding
  • 6:41 ship began to list starboard
  • 6:48 port ballast 2 and 3 were partially filled
  • 6:53 ship lists to port- starboard ballast 2 was partially filled
  • 7:07 water was emptied from port ballast 3
  • 7:10 no more passengers allowed on board
  • 7:10-7:15 listing to port increased to 10-15 degrees
what happened5
What Happened
  • 7:16 tried to fill starboard ballast 2 and 3
  • 7:18 ship righted itself
  • 7:20 port list returned- water came on ship- stopped the engines
  • 7:23 list became worse
  • 7:27 list reached angle of 25-30 degrees
  • 7:28 list reached 45 degrees
  • 7:30 capsized
  • Metacentric Height
  • Ballast System
  • Management/Human Error
metacentric height
Metacentric Height
  • WHAT IS IT???
  • Measure of stability of a ship in the water
  • Positive, negative, zero metacentric height
positive height
Positive Height

-The Ship’s Metacenter is

above the center of gravity

-Righting arms are created

-The ship rights itself

negative height
Negative Height

-Center of gravity is

above the metacenter

-Negative righting arms

-Ship capsizes

zero height
Zero Height

-Metacenter and center

of gravity at the same


-No righting arms

-Stays at incline

metacentric height12
Metacentric Height
  • Original design had a metacentric height of 18 inches
  • 60ft of length taken away (lower metacentric height)
  • Another deck added (top-heavy)
  • Thought it was for freight
  • Addition of Ellis and Eaves Draft System (speed) and McCreery System of Air-Conditioning (cooling)
metacentric height cont
Metacentric Height cont.
  • Sleeping compartments taken out
  • Concrete added (15-20 tons)
  • Addition of lifeboats due to sinking of the Titanic (LaFollette’s Seaman’s Act)
  • There was an easy inclination test to measure and calculate the height- never done
ballast system
Ballast System
  • WHAT IS IT???
  • Large tanks at the bottom of a ship
  • Used to stabilize the ship by emptying and filling tanks with water
ballast system cont
Ballast System cont.
  • Eastland had twelve tanks
  • Water was pulled into pipe
  • Connected to a manifold
  • Into desired tank
  • The tanks were different sizes
problems with the ballast system
Problems with the Ballast System
  • There were no gages- time was used
  • Same manifold used for water to leave ballast tanks
  • Water couldn’t be pumped from tanks on one side to the other
  • Slow process of opening and closing different tank valves
errors during the disaster
Errors During the Disaster
  • 6:48 port ballast 2 and 3 filled- dangerous due to negative height
    • Free surface effect
    • Shifted list to port side
  • 7:07 water emptied from port ballast 3
    • Didn’t empty port ballast 2
    • Still weight below center of gravity
  • 7:16 starboard ballast 2 and 3 wouldn’t fill
management human error
Management/Human Error
  • New Chief Engineer in 1915, Joseph Erickson
  • He was used to working on ships with a long metacentric height
  • No one discussed addition of lifeboats with him
  • He was not told that the changes may have cause the metacentric height to be negative with a heavy load
  • He didn’t know the capacity had been increased
  • He didn’t know the ship should be handled differently
  • 841 passengers died- more passengers than died on Titanic (829)
  • 22 families were wiped out
  • Worst disaster in terms of loss of life in history of Chicago
  • Morgue was set up in the Armory because there were so many dead that needed to be identified
why people died
Why people died
  • People were stuck in the lower decks
  • They were crushed or drowned
  • American Red Cross. Eastland Disaster Relief. Chicago, Illinois: American Red Cross, 1918.
  • Bowen, Dana Thomas. Lore of the Lakes. Cleveland, Ohio: Freshwater Press Inc., 1969.
  • Davis, Lee. Man Made Catastrophes. New York, New York: Facts on File Inc., 1993.
  • “Engineer’s Report Blames Eastland Disaster on Poor Design, Overloading and Mishandled

Ballast.” Engineering Record 21 Aug. 1915: 221-222.

  • Griggs, John. “Excursion to Death.” American Heritage Feb. 1965: 32-35.
  • Hilton, George W. Eastland Legacy of the Titanic. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1995.
  • “Probable/Possible Causes.” Eastland Disaster Historical Society. Home Page. 1998-2001 <


  • “The Eastland Disaster of 1915”


  • “The Capsizing of the ‘Eastland’.” Engineering News 29 July. 1915: 225-227.
  • “Chicago Historical Information.” Chicago Public Library. December 1996 <http://cpl.lib.uic.edu/004chicago/disasters/eastland_photos.html>
  • “Photos.” Chicago Historical Society. 1998-2001 <http://www.eastlanddisaster.org/postcards.htm>