Pat Shingleton Column

"As Thick as Molasses..."

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Posted: Jan 10, 2013 7:00 PM by Pat Shingleton

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Topics: A Surreal Disaster. 1919. Molasses

Today marks the anniversary of "America's most fascinating and surreal disaster." As noted in a previous column, on January 11, 1919, Boston's Daily Globe reported that "a cold air mass settled in." The following morning, the mercury tumbled from 36 degrees to 20 at 2:00 p.m to 7 degrees at 10:00 p.m.; then 2 degrees. Crews from the ship Miliero pumped a half million gallons of molasses from its warm hold into tanks holding existing cold molasses causing a bubbling churn; vibrating the tank's walls. Workers reported the walls were groaning. This process activated fermentation, aided by a temperature rise to 50. Then the top of the 58 foot tank blew and a 50 foot wave of 2 million gallons rushed over the streets killing 21, injuring 150.

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