Monday, January 21, 2008

The Boston Molasses Disaster

At a quiz tonight, to my great surprise, I got a question on the Boston Molasses Disaster correct. It deserves to be better known, as at least 21 people met a sticky and surprising end.

At 529 Commercial Street, a huge molasses tank 50 ft (15 m) tall, 90 ft (27 m) in diameter and containing as much as 2,300,000 US gal (8,700,000 L) collapsed. Witnesses stated that as it collapsed there was a loud rumbling sound like a machine gun as the rivets shot out of the tank, and that the ground shook as if a train were passing by.

The collapse unleashed an immense wave of molasses between 8 and 15 ft (2.5 to 4.5 m) high, moving at 35 mph (56 km/h) and exerting a pressure of 2 ton/ft² (200 kPa). The molasses wave was of sufficient force to break the girders of the adjacent Boston Elevated Railway's Atlantic Avenue structure and lift a train off the tracks. Nearby, buildings were swept off their foundations and crushed. Several blocks were flooded to a depth of 2 to 3 feet.

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