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The Boston Molassacre


From Wikipedia:

"On January 15, 1919, a molasses tank at 529 Commercial Street exploded under pressure, killing 21 people and injuring 150. A 40-foot wave of molasses buckled the elevated railroad tracks, crushed buildings and inundated the neighborhood. Structural defects in the tank combined with unseasonably warm temperatures contributed to the disaster."

The thought of a 40-foot wall of goo from a collapsed tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses is almost impossible to process. The pictures below give an idea of the havoc that was unleashed.

Damage to the El as a result of the flood. (Wikimedia Commons)

Aftermath of the flood

This map shows the area affected (Wikimedia Commons)

Firemen stand knee-deep in molasses after the explosion. Copyright © Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.


Cutting the tank with an acetylene torch in the search for bodies. Copyright © Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

About a month ago, an almost-empty jar of molasses leaked onto a shelf in our kitchen. It took me an hour to clean up the mess. Yet, astonishingly, 300 people were able to clean up the disaster in about two weeks, putting in over 87,000 man-hours.

Some folks say that on a hot summer day, you can still smell molasses in the area. It wouldn't surprise me.

I love molasses, but not that much.

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Sep. 17th, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
Some think that this was one of Lovecraft's inspirations for the famous scene in At the Mountains of Madness where the protagonists are chased by a Shoggoth.
Sep. 17th, 2012 10:49 am (UTC)
I've read about this previously; it's one of the world's worst industrial accidents by loss of life.

With the exception of natural disaster inflicted cases such as the Fukushima power plant, they could have been avoided. They were a consequence of either and all of greed, ignorance, lax safety procedures, risk-takers, and in some cases racism such as the 1944 Port Chicago Disaster (black men made to work in unsafe conditions) and both racism and paranoia in the 1991 Hamlet chicken processing fire (again black men working in atrocious conditions, and external doors locked unnecessarily).

A bit off topic, but there's an odd and rather mysterious industrial disaster. A fireworks factory at Wallerawang in the Blue Mountains: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cCHPu2TsTQ . Since the day it happened I've been waiting on the results of the investigation, yet I haven't heard of or been able to find any information about the cause. There are no official casualties but rumours abound that one or more intruders who broke into the plant may have been vaporised in the initial blast.
Sep. 18th, 2012 09:10 pm (UTC)
I had never heard of that one. What interested me was the judge's decision. It reflects the sad truth which you so eloquently expressed in your most recent post: "shit happens." In today's world, every lawyer hungry for billable hours can find a client willing to file suit against anyone - that is, if they're not already doing it themselves - to press the issue of "who's to blame?" Let a meteorite land in the middle of times square, and a thousand lawyers would flood the court dockets with suits against the FAA, NASA, and the Man in the Moon for not warning them of the potential threat in time, as well as the fortune tellers who told you to go see "Cats" today. Sometimes stuff just happens.

Edited at 2012-09-18 09:11 pm (UTC)


The Old Wolf

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