Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Wave of History Rediscovered

It all started with cookies. You'd be surprised how many paragraphs of my life can start that way. Anyway, cookies. Rachel and I were baking a prepackaged bag of "Old-Time Chocolate Chip cookies." Apparently "Old-Time" means "sweetened with molasses" because that's what they tasted like. This started a discussion over the true nature of molasses: what is it? This obviously led to a quest for answers which inevitably ended where all quests for answers end... Wikipedia.

While reading the wiki entry for molasses, I came across a curious link at the bottom of the page. It read as follows:

Boston Molasses Disaster

Being of an inquiring mind, I clicked on the link. This is what I discovered.

On January 15, 1919 in the town of Boston, a 2,300,000 gallon tank of molasses burst, killing 21 people and injuring 150. The wave, at it's epicenter, was estimated to be 40 feet high, and was, on average 8-15 feet high traveling at 35 miles per hour.

Here is an excerpt written by a bystander of the incident in question,

"Molasses, waist deep, covered the street and swirled and bubbled about the wreckage. Here and there struggled a form — whether it was animal or human being was impossible to tell. Only an upheaval, a thrashing about in the sticky mass, showed where any life was.... Horses died like so many flies on sticky fly-paper. The more they struggled, the deeper in the mess they were ensnared. Human beings — men and women — suffered likewise."

It's horrible and hilarious at the same time. People were killed by a wave of molasses traveling 35 miles per hour.

Here's a picture of the aftermath
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