Revisiting History: Capsize of Passenger Ship SS Eastland

by Marilyn J. Muir, LPMAFA

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It was to be a grand day for the employees and families of Western Electric of Cicero, IL, the fifth annual boat tour and picnic. A beautiful boat ride on the Chicago River, part of Lake Michigan’s water shed leading to a picnic in Michigan City, IN, a whole day of relaxation and luxury for those who worked so hard and their families. Their employer was celebrating its workers! Imagine that in this day and age! Five tour ships had been commissioned for the event, with the SS Eastland as one. Loading began about 6:30 AM and by 7:10 all 2572 passengers were on board. Little did they know the adventure they anticipated was not to be – destiny stepped in to run the show. They never even got to leave the dock.

Loaded to capacity with excited passengers and a full crew, many were atop the deck so they could witness departure, watch the skyline, and wave to those staying on land. Others were below decks. It was early morning and cool. All were eager to get started on their day’s adventure. By 7:15 AM the ship started to list to port. The crew did their best to alleviate the situation in the few moments they were allowed. At 7:28 AM the ship lurched then quickly rolled over, sinking to the bottom of the Chicago River bed, which was quite shallow (only twenty feet deep at that point).

Unfortunately, when the ship heeled over, those below decks were either trapped by falling furniture and other bodies or injured, and corridors and rooms turned into coffins. The death toll was 844 men, women, children and crew. A nearby ship moved close enough to allow some of the survivors on deck to leap to safety. Film and photos from 1915 are available on the internet*. Because they are black and white, they starkly show the pathos of the event.

Astrologically, at the moment of the capsize, the Midheaven, the goal or mission of the charted event was 27 Taurus 48.

The capsize and bottoming took only scant minutes. I checked several articles but could not locate much detail. My guess is somewhere around five to eight minutes. Why? The Midheaven was within orb of a conjunction to the fixed star cluster the Pleiades at approximately 29 Taurus, definition: “something to weep about.” With a loss of 844 passengers and crew, this certainly qualifies.

According to Vivian Robson in his The Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology the primary body for this star cluster is Alcyone at 28 Taurus 52 as of January 1, 1920. Since a fixed star only moves fifty seconds per year by precession, it is accurate enough for this example. There is a five-minute window of motion for the Midheaven to advance to 29 Taurus and another 4 minutes of motion before it moved into 00 Gemini and out of sign and orb. Five to eight minutes seems reasonable to me for a twenty-foot drop of an enormous passenger ship to the bottom of the riverbed. Part of the ship remained above water – it did not totally submerge. The photos are quite vivid!

  • Note: ancient astrologers held Alcyone in such high regard that many saw it as the “Great Central Sun” around which the whole universe moved. Modern astronomers and astrologers do not read it that way. I find the idea tantalizing! With that kind of recommendation (I like ancient astrologers) it is a powerful point in the heavens.

Rising was 3 Virgo 03, with chart ruler Mercury at 11 Cancer 23 conjunct Saturn at 9 Cancer 14. This is part of a tight Cancer stellium with the rim planets Pluto 2 Cancer 26 and Venus (ruler of the Midheaven) 16 Cancer 54, a 14.5-degree tight stellium. Look to the opposite point of the chart and there is the Moon at 3 Capricorn 57, activating each member of the stellium in its applying opposition. This stellium is actually part of a separating T-square that involved six out of ten planets. Also, for those who study clusters, there are six of ten planets within 28 degrees of space (Cancer to early Leo). Note: Watch for both stelliums and clusters in important events and in the charts of those people who cause or participate in important events.

What about the fact that the Moon has already passed the opposition to Pluto about three hours earlier? Process. There is more to this story than is first evident. Separating aspects represent the part of the story that is its history. Events only look like stand-alone happenings. There is always a process. Something led up to the event, plus the event had consequences. In modern terms, we are looking at the “back story” of the event. The rescue efforts, the retrieval of the bodies, the burials, the raising of the ship from the ocean bed, financial repercussions, etc. are the continuing story of the event (applying aspects).

The Moon moved into Capricorn beginning about eight hours earlier on the clock (one degree of Moon motion equals two hours on the clock). Just prior to that, the Moon had squared Jupiter at 28 Pisces 28R. Jupiter is in and ruling the eighth house of catastrophe and is strong in its own sign (dignity) but is less strong because it is retrograde and so the greater benefic was left behind (separating). BUT… that was an operational T-square just 5.5 degrees or 11 hours earlier on the clock.

First the Moon triggered Jupiter (over-expansion, lots of high hopes and expectations, might be overloading). Then the Moon triggered Pluto (the powers that be overruled common sense, or perhaps even greed with the Jupiter/Pluto, the Dark Lord of the Underworld, combination). Note also that the chart ruler Mercury had completed the conjunction to Saturn within the two days prior to the tour. The floor plan for this disaster might have been cast much earlier, before passengers even got on board.

Yes, the weight of the excited passengers on the upper deck did tilt the balance. That is true. But it was later revealed that the ship initially had design flaws that “made her susceptible to listing”. In other words, she was “top-heavy”, especially when passengers congregated on the upper decks. Remember, this was a tour boat that catered to passengers. This defect reportedly was fixed early in her service, but it proved critical for the death dive.

If we look at the timing factors we can trust, the 7:10 am ship loaded gave 29 Leo 33 rising, conjunct fixed star Regulus 28 Leo 43 (Robson: 1/1/1920 position). With a 23 Taurus 25 Midheaven, only 1.5 degrees from Capul Algol, the most malefic fixed star in the sky. Regulus (can bring violence and trouble when rising: Robson) is square the Midheaven (goal and mission) of the capsize chart.

The ship started listing about 7:15 AM with 24 Tau 38 on MC, half a degree from Algol. The Ascendant switched to 00 Vir 31. Chart rulership went from the Sun/Neptune conjunction at 00 Leo 11-33 to Mercury conjunct Saturn in that strong stellium. This is another example of cascading errors that led to eventuality. Perhaps everyone did their best under difficult circumstances, but somewhere along this line, mistakes were made that contributed to the eventual deadly conclusion. 844 lives were lost, the worst peacetime passenger maritime disaster for the U.S.

Aftermath… To me the key aspect in this chart is the Moon opposed Pluto, which then moved on and opposed Saturn, Mercury, and Venus, as it was moving to its Full Moon position in early Aquarius opposing the existing Sun/Neptune conjunction. Can you imagine what the authorities had to deal with at that time? This was 1915, not 2017 as I write this. They did not have the tools and facilities we have today. Try to put your mind back there in 1915 as they attempted to stabilize this situation and its aftermath.

One very good note, Western Electric provided $100,000 for relief and recovery efforts for family members and the victims of the disaster. For 1915, that was substantial.

We have elements of a backstory, a tragic event and its aftermath… Process. We have cascading errors that led to tragedy. All of it is visible in the charts. And they say this stuff doesn’t work.

Charts: July 24, 1915, Chicago, IL, loading 6:30 AM, 2572 passengers on board by 7:10 AM, listing started at 7:15 AM, capsized at 7:28 AM, sank to bottom quickly.

Note cascade effect and fixed stars on angles.


*Google SS Eastland for more articles, videos and photos (be sure you are looking at Eastland photos)

Published in AFA Today’s Astrologer Mar 2018 vol 80#3, republished with editing.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.