Once again, I had a topic all set for this week’s blog when I received an email from the Eastland Disaster Historical Society, Chicago’s official sponsor of the 100th Anniversary Commemoration next July 24th. The director, Ted Waccholz, has been very busy making arrangements for ceremonies, and memorials, and family/friends reunions for the weekend-long commemoration (Friday 7/24 through Sunday 7/26).
But he’s also done something truly remarkable. He’s commissioned an animated re-enactment of the capsizing complete with an almost minute-by-minute timeline of events leading up to the capsizing in the Chicago River. Created by Sebastian Burdon of Creative Not, the animation is breath-taking.
Over the years, I’ve envisioned the capsizing a hundred times. But through the magic of Burdon’s extraordinary animation, I became a passenger on that beautiful excursion steamer. I felt the slant of the deck beneath my feet, saw the river water rise toward the rail with each list, and experienced that gut-wrenching moment of terror when the unimaginable was about to take place. That momentary pause when the ship seemed suspended in time between heaven and the inevitable hell.
Watching the animated capsizing, we can better understand the degree of list the Eastland experienced that fateful morning. The ship begins with a slight list to starboard (dockside) when the excited passengers are hurriedly boarding. But as the boarding slows, the ship begins one of four precarious lists to port (riverside). Each list to port becomes more and more severe until recovery is impossible and the Eastland capsizes.
**Note: The Chicago River was about 20 feet deep at the spot where the Eastland was docked. The ship was approximately 40 feet wide, so that when she went over, half of her went under water and half of her stayed above the water line. In the animation, you can see how she looks like she’s been dissected perfectly in half.
Thank you, Ted and Sebastian, for creating this Eastland animation. Be sure to like the Eastland Disaster Historical Society Facebook page, so you can stay informed of all the upcoming events. I promise to keep you posted as well. The 100th anniversary is only nine months away. Mark your calendars and be a part of history! I’ll be there. Come join me.
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