Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Great Molasses Explosion

January 15th will mark the 100th anniversary of the Great Molasses Flood. In Boston's North End, a tank filled with molasses burst sending a wave of molasses up to 25 feet high through the streets at 35 miles per hour and knocking buildings off their foundations.

Here is a simulation on YouTube of the flow. User ingomar200 factored in topography, building heights and the size of the tank to create this. He shows the velocity contours later in the video.
This is from a 1917 Bromley Atlas showing the area-via the Boston Planning & Development Agency.
Molasses was used in the manufacture of munitions, The tank is the blue circle. It was conveniently located near the docks and next to the elevated railway that was partially destroyed by flowing molasses. The tank was constructed in haste and inadequately.

21 people and many horses were killed. Some city blocks were flooded to a depth of 2-3 feet. Cleanup of the area took weeks and the harbor was brown for months. Victims brought a successful class action suit against the owners who tried to use fear of terrorism to avoid punishment, claiming that anarchists had placed dynamite in the tank.

Here is the Boston Globe from January 16, 1919 - via the Boston Public Library's flickr page.
and their diagram of the area.

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