Early Twentieth Century Disasters

In the early part of the XXth century, inspection and control were lax, safety measures somewhat non-existent, and large disasters occurred more often than 100 years later. Here are four.

The General Slocum was a cruise ship in Brooklyn, New York, built near the end of the Nineteenth Century.  On June 15, 1904 it was chartered by a church group for an enjoyable cruise to Long Island and a picnic.  The ship was carrying an estimated 1331 passengers, mostly German immigrants or second generation German-Americans from a Lutheran Church in lower Manhattan.  The disaster that befell it is less well known than the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, discussed below, which also took place in New York City.  Shortly after leaving the dock a fire started on the ship.  It is still unclear exactly how the fire started.  Witnesses claimed the fire started in either a cabin filled with paint or one filled with gasoline.  The passengers could either die by fire or die by drowning, since most probably could not swim, and the clothing of the early Twentieth century made swimming difficult.  There were mostly women and children on the ship, and the large skirts on the women made swimming difficult.  Ship safety quality had not been maintained: the fire hoses were rotten, the life preservers fell apart and the crumbling cork acted as a dead weight for the wearers, and the life boats were not accessible, in some cases wired down or painted to walls.  To coin a phrase, it was a disaster waiting to happen.  The captain of the ship also made bad decisions that delayed rescue.  Help was slow in arriving.  The ship left dock at 9:30 for a church picnic, and the fire was noticed at 10, which is when the chart is drawn.  As a result, over 1000 people died.  Since most of the people lost were from Little Germany in Manhattan, that neighborhood declined after the disaster.  The captain was sentenced to 10 years in Sing Sing.  He was released after 3 and a half years.  Steamship inspection was reformed.



Slocum Fire


The first thing we notice in the chart of this event is the conjunction of Sun, Mars, Pluto, and Venus, with Mars and Pluto (major violence) within one-half degree.  And that conjunction is trine Saturn: Extreme violence on that day (Sun) affecting mostly women (Venus).  The trine indicates that the death in this case had long lasting (Saturn) effects. The Sun opposite Uranus suggests the suddenness of this disaster (and don’t forget that the word “disaster” means “bad stars”, that is a evil combination of planets, and is essentially an astrological word).  The sextile between Jupiter and the Sun, and from the sixth harmonic chart we can see how close that sextile (conjunction is the sixth harmonic) actually is, shows that this disaster was indeed big, that is, Jupiterian.



Slocum Sixth Harmonic


The sinking of the Titanic is a famous disaster, and movies have been made of the incident.  The Titanic was supposedly unsinkable, and it left London on its maiden voyage for New York City, filled with both poor people and the rich.  It struck an ice berg in the North Atlantic at 11:38 pm ship time on April 14, 1912.  It took two hours and 40 minutes to sink and more than 1500 people died, making it one of the largest maritime disasters in history.  The Titanic lived up to its name: it was four city blocks long and 11 stories high; it included a gym, a swimming pool, and a squash court.  Since it was considered unsinkable, only half the number of needed lifeboats were provided.  Another problem was a lack of binoculars which prevented crew members stationed in the crow’s nest from seeing the iceberg they were approaching.  The ship was equipped with state of the art communications, but somehow the warnings about ice that were received never were passed on to the bridge.  Many of the lifeboats were lowered half full since ship’s crew was not certain they had been tested for seaworthiness.  Even though there was a close ship when the accident happened, that ship (later identified as the British ship Californian) never responded to the Titanic’s plight.  Most people could have been saved if a rescue ship was available when sinking began.



Titanic Hits Iceberg


In the chart for the time the Titanic hit the iceberg, and thus the “birth” of the accident, we see the approaching New Moon at the bottom of the chart, so there was no available lunar light at the time of the collision.  There is a semisquare between Mars and Saturn, which suggests the difficulties in rescuing people, both through the half-filled lifeboats and the difficulty of getting a rescue ship.  Pluto hit the Descendant about 20 minutes later, as the ship was sinking.  There is a wide Pluto Mars conjunction here just as seen previously.  There is a one degree Moon square Pluto (periled humanity) that became exact in another two hours, about when the ship finally sunk.  At the same time Neptune came to the Descendant, indicated the ship’s watery grave.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire is well known, but relatively few people died as a result of that fire that took place in a commercial building in Manhattan.  Only 146 people died, mostly from fire in a building from which they could not escape, but some from jumping as they tried to escape the fire.  On Saturday March 25, 1911 at 4:40 in the afternoon a fire broke out on eighth floor.  Immediately a bookkeeper called the company offices on the tenth floor and appraised them of the fire.  Those on the tenth floor exited immediately.  Those on the eighth floor also ran for their lives and escaped.  But no one told the workers on the ninth floor.  Fire escapes collapsed and some got out by climbing down the elevator cables, and others used the two small freight elevators.   Some thought the fire began in a box of fabric scraps that a cigarette was thrown into.  The doors were locked to prevent the workers from leaving, as required by the owners to prevent stealing, and only one of the four large elevators was in working condition.  This incident is famous for highlighting the poor working conditions available for young women in the early Twentieth Century, and caused many demands for reform of labor laws.  Currently, as most clothing manufacturing has moved overseas, such disasters happen in foreign counties, such as the famous one that was reminiscent of The Triangle Shirtwaist fire that occurred in Bangladesh a few years ago.  The owners of Triangle Shirtwaist refused to allow unionization (workers wanted to join the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union — ILGWU — but were prevented by the owners).  After this fire, the ILGWU was much more popular with the public.  The owners of the business paid a week’s wages to the families of those who had died, and received $200,000 from insurance.



Triangle Shirtwaist Fire


In this chart we have Moon conjunction Mars (fiery deaths of women) square Saturn conjunct Venus (loss of females).  Pluto is in the tenth house, loosely conjunct the Midheaven and reaches the MC 50 minutes later.

The SS Eastland was also a passenger ship used for cruises, and based in Chicago.  The workers from a General Electric affiliated plant started boarding early for a picnic, a break from their mundane lives.  After the Eastland had been build, it was found to be top-heavy and prone to listing on one side.  On the morning July 24, 1915 the ship soon filled to capacity, which was over 2500 people.  While it sat at dock, the Eastland began to list to one side, causing passenger to gather on the other side.  It kept listing, and finally tilted over 90 degrees to the port side so that the deck was half submerged and the ship rested on the bottom, which was only 20 feet below the surface of the water.  Many were trapped under water, and some were crushed by heavy furniture that moved when the ship tilted.  Even though they were only 20 feet from the dock, 848 lost their lives.  After the sinking of the Titanic, changes had been made to lifeboats carried, and some think that the Eastland was top heavy and thus had a tendency to capsize because of all the lifeboats it carried on the top deck, called the Hurricane Deck.  People dived into the water attempting to rescue passengers, and welders arrived and attempted to open the hull to remove trapped passengers; neither operation was very successful.



Eastland Lists


In the Eastland chart, the Moon opposite Pluto jumps out at us; Moon and Pluto have already been mentioned several times in this entry; major events affecting women, and these two planets are trine and sextile the event Ascendant, showing that it happened in this location.  Sun is tightly conjoined with Neptune; this could indicate the watery doom that befell many on that day, or the confused responses to an accident that happened while the ship was at dock.  Mars Uranus combination are famous in accidents (consider the meanings of those two planets) and here we have a trine between Mars and Uranus. And, as in the first cruise ship accident discussed, here there is a Sun-Jupiter aspect — Sun trine Jupiter with orb about two degrees: Another large death toll.