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Ever Heard Of This One?

The Fall of the Eastland

At a pier on the Chicago River on 24 July 1915, as the passenger steamer SS Eastland prepared to embark across lake Michigan, chief engineer Joseph Erickson grew increasingly concerned about his ship’s demeanor. While the long line of passengers strolled up the gangplank, the engine room crew pumped water into the ballast tanks to keep the ship and its shifting load on an even keel. But the Eastland was being more persnickety than usual on that particular morning, seemingly intent on leaning a bit to one side or the other.

The hundreds of Western Electric employees on board the passenger liner were bound for the company picnic in Michigan City, Indiana, just across the lake. The annual event was typically filled with frolicking and festivity, so the ship was brimming with excited families and plentiful picnic baskets. When the vessel reached its capacity of 2,500, the gangplank was brought in and the ship’s orchestra sprang into action in the ballroom. Many passengers began dancing in spite of the crowded conditions, unconcerned with the slowly increasing slope of the dance floor.

Joseph Erickson had only been employed as the chief engineer for a few months, but he was familiar with the vessel’s history of similar incidents. The prior episodes of listing had always been resolved by shuffling ballast, so he saw little cause for concern; however the Eastland’s crew did not fully anticipate the effects of some recent modifications to their ship. The vessel’s owners had recently added some weight to the upper decks, including several additional life boats and a few dozen tons of deck-reinforcing concrete. Together these factors raised the steamer’s center of gravity considerably.

Today’s Insults

You are a devilishly lascivious rapscallion and a vapid, cold-hearted mass of neuroses and complexes. - anon

My wife’s a hobby horse. – Shakespeare

You dipsticked, baboon-groping, armpit-smelling, toe jam-guzzling, pimple-nibbling, wank-faced masked gimp! – unknown

Pushing forty? She’s hanging on for dear life. - Ivy Compton-Burnett