Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 1017: Recoveries

Learn more about a little-known Chicago shipwreck that took more 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.

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Recoveries – Episode 1017

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.



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Premieres on DPTV

Tuesday, August 25 at 7:30 PM


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In the Month of August on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 1017.

Photo courtesy Chicago History Museum.

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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. 


EASTLAND: Chicago’s Deadliest Day is available on DVD and for DOWNLOAD here

For more information about the Eastland disaster: 

Here is other Great Lakes Now work on shipwrecks: 

Watch Great Lakes Now’s second episode, Ships and Shipwrecks, here.

An oily turtle on the Kalamazoo River. Photo courtesy of Stantec Consulting Inc.

the Cost of High Water - episode 1016 map

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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: 



Craig Schuffenecker, coach of the basketball teams at Put In Bay School on Lake Erie’s South Bass Island, spoke with Great Lakes Now’s Nick Austin about the fate of the 2020 Great Lakes Islands Basketball Tournament for Episode 1017 of the monthly program. Photo by Great Lakes Now.

Map of places visited in this episode.

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Island Rebounds

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

Videos from Episode 1017

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