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  • Writer's picturePatricia Sutton - Author

Why did the SS Eastland Capsize?

Tipping Points: Size, Safety, Concrete, and Capacity

Tipping Point #1: Size

Built narrow for speed, the ship was labeled “Cranky,” because its dimensions caused it to roll, or list, until it gained enough speed.

  • Width: About the length of a school bus. (38 ft.)

  • Length: Almost the length of a football playing field. (265 ft.)

  • Height: About 4 stories tall. (45 ft.)

Tipping Point #2: Safety

Congress passed LaFollette’s Seaman’s Act of 1915 as a result of the Titanic's sinking in 1912. It included a “Lifeboats for All” provision. As a result, just days before the Eastland Disaster, 3 extra lifeboats and 6 more life rafts were installed on an already top-heavy ship.

Added 8 – 15 tons to the uppermost deck

Tipping Point #3: Concrete

In the months leading up to the summer sailing season of 1915, repairs to the dining room’s damaged wood floors and the gangway entrances, where water sometimes flowed in, included the use of concrete. On the middle or ‘tween deck where the dining room was located, 2 inches of concrete was spread 40 – 50 feet in length over the entire width of the ship and then was covered in linoleum. On the main deck, the entrances were reinforced in the same way.

Added 30-57 tons to ‘tween and main decks

Tipping Point #4: Capacity

July 24, 1915 would be the first time after these renovations that the SS Eastland carried the newly increased passenger load of 2,500.

Nearly 1/3 of those passengers would die

Capsized! The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster by @ChicagoReviewPress arrives July 1, 2018. Preorder now wherever books are sold.

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