I have talked to people from the area that say that you can still see the "water line" of the molasses if you know where to look.
Fascinating. Although I would not agree with the final wording in the article. An excellent example for learning purposes? Yes! But a "beautiful story"? Never. Not when so much damage and death was the result.
Sorry, that just hit me wrong.
It is an interesting story. I had read of it many years ago, and seen a picture or two. But that is the best and clearest photo I can recall seeing of the aftermath.
Thank you for sharing it.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
I agree with Wayne, it's not a beautiful story. It was an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress. On January 15, 1919 when 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst from a gigantic holding tank in the city’s North End, 21 people were killed and about 150 more were left injured. A part of Boston's history and should not be forgotten. I believe several factors that occurred on that day and the previous days contributed to the disaster. The tank was constructed poorly and tested insufficiently. Fermentation occurring within the tank, carbon dioxide production would have raised the internal pressure. The rise in local temperatures that occurred over the previous day also would have assisted in building this pressure. Records show that the air temperature rose from 2 to 41 °F. Two days before the release, warmer molasses had been added to the tank, reducing the viscosity of the fluid. When the tank collapsed, the fluid cooled quickly as it spread and the viscosity increased dramatically.
The failure occurred at a manhole cover near the base of the tank, it is possible that a fatigue crack there grew to the point of being critical. The hoop stress is greatest near the base of a filled cylindrical tank. The tank had been fully filled only eight times since it was built a few years previously, putting the walls under an intermittent, cyclical load.
Several authors have said that the Purity Distilling Company was trying to outrace prohibition in the United States, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified the next day (January 16, 1919).
An inquiry after the disaster revealed that Arthur Jell, who oversaw the construction, neglected basic safety tests, such as filling the tank with water to check for leaks. When filled with molasses, the tank leaked so badly that it was painted brown to hide the leaks. An investigation first published in 2014, applying modern engineering analysis, found that the steel was not only half as thick as it should have been for a tank of its size and it also lacked manganese, which would have made more brittle as a result.
Boston's North End molasses tank
Very interesting story. I can't even imagine what that had to look like if caught on film. I'm guessing from a physics standpoint it was beautiful only because when is there ever an opportunity to see a quite non-viscous material of that quantity disperse so quickly (or slow like molasses). But beautiful can't really apply to anything which killed people.
One thing that caught my attention in the photo from the article is the 2 door car approx center right of photo. I can't figure out that wheel or shadow of a wheel that appears centered beneath the car. Was that some sort of odd towing device? Sort of a tricycle trailer? Maybe just a photographic anomaly from technology of that day. Nothing more than a curiosity to keep me busy avoiding my day job.
It looks like a wheel reflection in the shiny molasses. I think he is parked in some and the debris just looks like a towing devise.
The building to the top right in the photo in the link says Ocean Steamship Company Savannah Line. As far as I know, there is still an Ocean Steamship Company down at the ports in Savannah.
In the fifties when at engineering school in England, we were studying fail-safe design. Basically the idea is that any failure of say a relay or level detector, the failure should default to a safe mode.
At that time this Boston disaster was part of a design study issue, in that there was only one upper level detector and when activated, energized a relay. Modern fail-safe design procedure would be at least two upper level detectors and a relay de-activate when the upper level is reached. This way, loss of power to a control panel will not result in an overflowing tank.
All great fun to a now retired control engineer....
Wisdom helps you avoid mistakes.
Mistakes give you wisdom.
How would you clean up after that?
There was a harbor spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Hawaii in 2013, it killed everything due to widespread de-oxygenation. In the Boston disaster, I guess you could bring in a massive herd of livestock to lick it up?
There was a story about this accident on the History channel a few years back. Very interesting interviews with the people that were there.
Ed, by rough reckoning, the recent spill in Hawaii was "only" a third of what flooded Boston in '19. ?? I don't get it. Why is it necessary to store such volumes of . . . molasses ??
Anyhow, cleaning up, if you brought in the cows, when they all scoured from over-eating the molasses, there would be an even bigger mess to clean up !! ; > )
According to Wikipedia, there reason the molasses was there -
"The disaster occurred at the Purity Distilling Company facility...
Molasses can be fermented to produce rum and ethanol, the active ingredient in other alcoholic beverages and a key component in the manufacturing of munitions."
Thanks for that, Brian. It still seems inadvisable to store such a huge lake of the stuff, even today.
Warren noted there were opinions that Purity was trying to "race" the Volstead Act (18th amendment) which was ratified a day after the disaster, but I'd hazard they probably had a large steady market for alcohol regardless ?
The 18th Amendment didn't become effective until October 28, 1919 - how much rum could they have made in 9 months and two weeks, anyhow ?? ; > )
You reckon those guys selling rust removal products are stock piling it?