Righting the Eastland
PREPARATIONS TO RIGHT THE EASTLAND
The Commonwealth Edison company provides 125 tungsten-nitrogen lights to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts. These are setup along the starboard side of the Eastland (which is facing up out of the water). Ten flood lights are setup on the Reid Murdoch Building to illuminate the wharf area.
Walter C. Steele, secretary and treasurer of the St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company, writes to Captain Robert Young of the Dunham Towing and Wrecking Company (the local affiliate of the Great Lakes Towing Company) soliciting a bid to right the Eastland. The bid received is for $34,500, and the Great Lakes Towing Company is awarded the contract to right the Eastland.
The Favorite, a 181-foot (steel) specialized salvage vessel owned by the Great Lakes Towing Company, is deployed from Duluth, Minnesota and arrives in Chicago. Captain Alexander Cunning is the wrecking master. (The Favorite, equipped with a variety of salvage equipment, also has large ballast tanks that can be filled to lower the vessel in the water, later to be pumped out to right any vessel moored to her. The Favorite also has underwater sealed lights to assist divers, as well as search lights on deck.)
PRELIMINARY WORK TO MAKE THE EASTLAND WATERTIGHT
The funnels, spars, smokestacks, masts, boats, and all other deck obstructions are cutoff and removed. Divers seal these areas of the ship.
The holes in the starboard side of the hull are patched. These holes had been cut in the hull days earlier by rescuers using oxyacetylene welding torches.
The hatches, portholes and gangways are closed. The portholes and gangways on the under (port) side of the ship are obstructed by great piles of luggage, ship furniture, and debris, making it very difficult to close these.
RAISING THE EASTLAND IS DELAYED
The aft bulkhead, which had been broken into during the rescue attempts, is sealed and reinforced by divers. The pumping begins and as water is pumped out of the hull of the Eastland, the aft bulkhead begins to weaken due to the tremendous water pressure.
The pumping is delayed, and the divers are sent back into the water to further brace the bulkhead.
The shifting of the coal to the port side when the Eastland capsized also delays the efforts to right the ship. The mud which has gathered in the hull also hinders the righting.
The port and starboard ballast tanks are completely filled with water to provide rolling weight while righting the Eastland. The filled ballasts will also help to balance the ship once it is raised.
OTHER VESSELS DEPLOYED TO ASSIST
A 100-foot pontoon boat carrying a hoisting apparatus is deployed from Cleveland, Ohio, and arrives in Chicago.
The tugs Michigan, Rita McDonald, and Kenosha arrive and are used to move equipment and to provide power (steam) for the pumps.
THE SALVAGE EFFORTS CONTINUE
The pumping, which several days earlier had been suspended, resumes. The hull is pumped out with the assistance of the three tugs.
The tug boat Favorite is moored to the bow of the Eastland. Cables are extended under the water and around the hull of the Eastland. The cables are then brought up out of the water and secured to the starboard side, being fastened to the iron standard streak.
The large pontoon boat is moored at the stern of the Eastland. As with the Favorite, cables are run to the starboard side of the Eastland, being fastened to the chop forward of the stern.
All preparations are completed by late evening, with plans to right the Eastland on Friday.
THE RIGHTING OF THE EASTLAND BEGINS
Harbormaster Adam Weckler suspends navigation on the Chicago River. A barge with several coffins is made available should any bodies be recovered.
The stern of the Favorite and the stern of the pontoon boat are flooded with water until each is lowered 8 to 9 feet into the water. The engines draw up the cables until the tug and the pontoon are pulled as deeply into the water as is advisable. Pumps start to remove the water from both the Favorite and the pontoon. The natural buoyancy of the tug and the pontoon, coupled with the work of the engines pulling in the cables, brings the Eastland up out of the water.
Although it was estimated that the Eastland would right itself when pulled to a 45 degree angle, the Eastland still will not float unassisted.
The Eastland is pulled to approximately a 80 degree angle before righting itself. A slight list continues due to the coal, mud and debris on the port side.
The Eastland is completely trimmed once the coal, mud and debris are removed from the wreck.
The righting of the Eastland is finished. A crew of 32 men has worked 12-14 hours per day for 16 days.
The Eastland is turned over to its owners, the St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company.
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