Learn more about a little-known Chicago shipwreck that took more passengers’ lives than the Titanic. Check in on the Kalamazoo River’s wildlife 10 years after the Line 6B pipeline spilled over a million gallons of oil there, and find out if COVID-19 means no basketball tournament in 2020 for four Great Lakes island schools.
WHERE WE TAKE YOU IN AUGUST
Have a question about the Great Lakes or life in the region?
Ask Great Lakes Now, and if we can answer it, we might loop it into our coverage so others can learn too.Submit Your Question
Premieres on DPTV
Tuesday, August 25 at 7:30 PM
STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES
Bad Axe, Michigan
Bay County, Michigan
Bowling Green, Ohio
Buffalo, New York
East Lansing, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mount Pleasant Michigan
South Bend, Indiana
Syracuse, New York
University Center, Michigan
Watertown, New York for Ontario signal
Watertown, New York for U.S. signal
Chicago’s Eastland Disaster
SEGMENT 1 | Chicago, Illinois
It was July 24, 1915. Workers from Chicago’s largest employer, Western Electric, were boarding steamships with their families. They were traveling across the lake to Michigan City, Indiana, for a summer picnic. Many were immigrants — mostly from southern and eastern Europe — who had come to the Windy City in search of new opportunity. Five beautifully appointed steamships were lined up along the Chicago River.
The first boat to fill with passengers that day was the Eastland, but it would never make it to Michigan City. The Eastland capsized in the Chicago River before it even set sail. Some 844 people, many of them women and children, drowned. Despite the loss of life, many are unaware of the disaster, even in Chicago.
The story is told in the documentary, “Eastland: The Shipwreck that Shook America,” which is airing on PBS stations around the country. Great Lakes Now host Ward Detwiler spoke with filmmakers Harvey Moshman and Chuck Coppola about how they made their documentary, using re-enactments shot on a similar historic steamship, computer graphics that recreate the Chicago riverfront and incorporating long-lost newsreel footage recently unearthed in overseas archives.
ORDER THE DVD OR DOWNLOAD
EASTLAND: Chicago’s Deadliest Day is available on DVD and for DOWNLOAD here.
For more information about the Eastland disaster:
- Chicago’s Eastland Disaster: Explore this Great Lakes tragedy with a Storymap
- Eastland Documentary: Filmmakers talk behind-the-scenes journey and stories
- About the film Eastland: The Shipwreck that Shook America
- WTTW’s write-up on the documentary
- “Chicago00 The Eastland Disaster” is an Augmented Reality experience
- A memorial for the Eastland
Here is other Great Lakes Now work on shipwrecks:
- Shipwreck fragment emerges along Lake Michigan beach
- “Dream Big”: Diving the five lakes in 24 hours, from the perspective of one of the divers
Watch Great Lakes Now’s second episode, Ships and Shipwrecks, here.
Turtles vs. Oil
SEGMENT 2 | Kalamazoo River, Michigan
In July 2010, a rupture in Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline spilled over a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. Along 40 miles of the river’s path, everything from wildlife to plants and trees was coated in slick black oil.
At the time, it was the second-largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.
In the days following the spill, hundreds of workers and volunteers converged on the area to contain the spill and begin cleanup efforts.
Wildlife biologist Josh Otten worked for a company Enbridge hired to help with the cleanup.
He focused his efforts on the turtles. In 2010, around 2,000 turtles were captured and cleaned, largely by volunteers, using a mix of dish soap and water.
“Somebody would just sit there meticulously, just scrubbing at the turtle, getting on all the little cracks,” he says. “We eventually got to a point where we were collecting 100 turtles a day that were impacted by the oil.”
Now, 10 years later, Josh is back on the river, studying turtles again, this time working toward his PhD at the University of Toledo. He’s finding some of the same turtles he helped to rescue in 2010.
“Here the animal is, you know, it put on growth. It’s got a larger shell. It weighs more. So I know that all of that work that we did was worthwhile,” says Otten. “All of that cleanup work helped, you know, the river. The river’s beautiful now.”
Here is other Great Lakes Now work on Great Lakes wildlife:
- Turtles vs. Oil: Great Lakes Now producer talks ecosystems, life on the water and covering the lakes
- Upside-Down Eagle: Bald eagles have faced a number of pollutants but are now a Great Lakes success story
- Great Lakes Moment: River otters return to western Lake Erie
- Piping Plovers: Film fest spotlights endangered bird’s return to Chicago’s Lake Michigan shore
SEGMENT 3 | South Bass Island, Lake Erie
Who’s your crosstown rival when you go to the only school on an island?
You’ve got to fly on a plane or ride on a ferry to find one!
For four Great Lakes island schools’ basketball programs, the competition traditions are fierce yet friendly and play out at the annual island basketball tournament, held last year on Mackinac Island.
Great Lakes Now took you courtside for those matchups between Beaver, Mackinac, South Bass and Washington islands in the segment “Island Basketball.” The boys’ team from Beaver Island and the girls’ team from Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island took the home trophies.
Immediately after, the players were already thinking about rematches in 2020.
“If they beat us on their home turf, we’re going to beat them on their home turf,” promised Nora Bailey, then a freshman at Mackinac whose girls team lost to Put-in-Bay.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic, will this year’s tournament happen? We get an update from the coach whose Ohio school is scheduled to host the two days of hard-fought games this year.
Here is other Great Lakes Now work on island life:
All “Island Basketball” coverage
- Announcer: Put-in-Bay School basketball team plays in honor of beloved announcer
- Travel Teams: How do Great Lakes island schools get their athletes to games?
- Hope and Resilience: Great Lakes islanders continue to adapt to COVID-19 conditions
- Taking It in Stride: How Great Lakes islanders are weathering the COVID-19 storm
- Growing Pains: Big crowds on a little island can bring out the darker side of Great Lakes tourism
Videos from Episode 1017Subscribe on YouTube
Large-scale dairy and animal farms fuel the annual toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie — are regulation loopholes contributing? Record-high water levels are costing lakefront towns millions of dollars, and the Midland dam breach came…
As stay-at-home orders end around the Great Lakes, does Wisconsin’s experience opening businesses predict anything for other tourism-dependent communities? How are researchers, reef restorers and hydroponic farms reacting to the pandemic? Plus, with an increase…
Produced fully during the COVID-19 pandemic, this episode checks in with people, businesses and institutions from previous episodes to see how work has changed during the public health emergency. But while social distancing keeps people inside, it lets the residents of some Great Lakes aquariums get out.
Rebuilding Chicago’s iconic lakefront, managing Buffalo’s rainwater and sewage, and tracking the annual algal blooms in Lake Erie are all part of the Great Lakes region’s effort to manage the impacts of climate change. This month, Great Lakes Now takes you to meet the citizens, city leaders and scientists who are working on these issues.
This year’s warm winter boosted ice-fishing tourism in one part of the Great Lakes while potentially spelling disaster for businesses depending on colder weather. Catch up with the communities in our documentary “The Forever Chemicals,”…
Winter doesn’t stop work around the Great Lakes. See what happens at the Soo Locks when they close for maintenance, and drop into the chilly water with commercial divers who battle the zebra and quagga mussel invasions in the lakes. In a warmer setting, join us in the Mackinac Island school gym for a tournament just for island school teams.
Travel with Great Lakes Now to the remote Canadian research station where scientists are working to understand – and protect – freshwater. Go deep into Lake Huron to see mysterious sinkholes, and watch as some homeowners try to save their Lake…
Search for a meteorite on the bottom of Lake Michigan, learn how a little striped fish might help us understand the health impacts of industrial chemicals on people, and see how a Milwaukee community is…
Go underwater with a group of women who dove all five lakes in 24 hours, and learn more about the controversy about controlling water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence. Get aboard a…
Household waste, lead and agricultural runoff are byproducts of modern life. In this episode of Great Lakes Now, get the down-and-dirty reality of what can happen when these substances get into the region’s water systems.
Floating islands on the Chicago River are creating habitats for fish, turtles and birds inside the city waterway, while up north in Lake Superior, scientists are working to protect a rocky reef from legacy mining…
Travel aboard one of the growing number of cruise ships as passengers visit First Nation communities on a Canadian island in Lake Huron. See who is winning and losing from the record-high water levels around…
The fight over an oil-and-gas pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac went to the courts, and microplastics were detected in waters around the region. The newest U.S. National Park on Lake Michigan’s shoreline means increased…
The testing, part of the school’s return-to-campus plan, is intended to track the presence of the coronavirus in wastewater flowing from residence halls and apartment complexes.
“They’re having no trouble finding and preying on moose, and that’s really significant,” said wildlife ecologist Rolf Peterson.
Capping has become a popular form of remediation for contaminated sites but requires decades-long monitoring.
Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Wisconsin utility shutoffs postponed, Lake Erie wind farm, Minnesota mine legal win
Catch the latest in Great Lakes energy news in Great Lakes Now’s fortnightly headline roundup.
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.