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A Story Of U.S. Maritime Disaster Resurfaces


A century ago America witnessed one of the worst maritime disasters in its history. Going through old news reels, a graduate student recently discovered footage of the tragedy. But film in the 19-teens was silent, and this is radio. So here's Nate Dimeo, host of The Memory Palace podcast, with the story of that ill-fated ship.


NATE DIMEO, BYLINE: There was an iceberg right ahead. You know the story. Everyone knows the story. And when congressmen sat down to rewrite down nautical safety regulations in 1915, the story of the sinking of the Titanic was in the front of their minds - the story of the too-few lifeboats, the story of 1,517 people drowning in the North Atlantic. But that story probably wasn't in the front of the minds of passengers who boarded the S.S. Eastland that July because those new nautical safety regulations made sure that every boat had enough lifeboats. And besides, the one they were about to get on was tied to a docks of the Chicago River. They couldn't have known that the Eastland had a history of listing when it was overloaded - that it was top-heavy to begin with and that having those lifeboats would be its tipping-point. And that those life boats wouldn't do any of them - any of the 844 of them - any good when the boat flipped, and they were trapped and drowned in the Chicago River.

LAKSHMANAN: That's Nate Dimeo. You can hear more stories from America's past at thememorypalace.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.