The Disaster Of The “Toffee-Apple” Tsunami

Samuel Reason | December 23rd, 2017

In 1919, The Great Molasses Flood hit Boston, Massachusetts and surely is one of the strangest man-made disasters the world has ever witnessed. What is Molasse you ask? It is a thick black treacle liquid made from refining sugar cane or sugar beets. Sugarcane molasse is mostly used as a sweetener or flavoring foods in the United States as it is very nice in taste and aroma, it is the main ingredient when making commercial fine brown sugar.

Well, we all love a little sugar, but this disaster was extremely deadly. On the 15th January 1919, the wave of syrup that exploded out of the refining factory caused 21 deaths and injured over 150 other people. It even flattened whole buildings and ruined streets completely. But how could syrup be so deadly?

upload.wikimedia.org

A 90-foot wide cast iron tank was being used to contain two and a half million gallons of crude molasses, that the United States Industrial Alcohol Company’s refining factory had just received two days prior from their Caribbean rum manufacturers. The tank was actually located about 50 feet in the air, high above the street level. This meant that when the cast did explode, its contents came bursting out within a matter of seconds and did not give the workers any prior notice. This caused a huge wave of sticky substance to crash down the streets, reports say it was 15 feet high and hurtled down the roads at speeds over 35mph.

The problem was a rapid change in Boston’s overnight temperatures when the molasse had arrived it was quickly heated in its cast iron container to make it easier to be refined. The drop in temperature would have caused the substance to expand, like a cake and explode open the container. You see when you heat the molasses it makes it more liquid and easier to move into a storage tank, but when it is colder it becomes a thicker syrup. Researchers claim had this shipment arrived in the summer this disaster would never have happened, or not have claimed as many lives.

The thick syrup mess that came cruising down the streets of Boston easily entangled pedestrians. The substance engulfed them completely, it was so sticky they could not get out and people that got stuck drowned. In fact, survivors who did make it to the hospital were described as walking toffee apples!

Next Article
  • A Sealed Garden That Was Last Watered 46 Years Ago

    One keen gardener was curious in 1960 and decided to plant a seed in a bottle which he promptly sealed up. David Latimer never thought he would be on to one of the first self-sustaining ecosystems, which has become an amazing case study for biologists around the world. When you break it down, this plant...

    Read More
  • Olympics Athletes Are Zapping Their Brain For Performance Increases

    A strange phenomenon is taking over the sports industry at an alarming pace, one that sees professional athletes zapping their brain in name of increasing their performance. The technology uses brain simulation with the goal of increasing everything an Olympic athlete needs to grab that gold medal. The basic explanation...

    Read More
  • The Sea Creature That Eats Its Own Brain

    There is one little creature that lives in tidal pools and over shallow ocean areas, that has a rather strange and fascinating characteristic: it eats its own brain. The sea squirt is a little undersea animal which is part of the tunicate family. Whenever poked or threatened, this small animal...

    Read More
  • Pokemon Go A Security Fear For The Pentagon

    If you happen to love Pokemon Go but work for the American government at the Pentagon, well that is just too bad. All employees are banned from playing Pokemon Go inside the Pentagon walls, due to its mapping features. Anyone working at the facility in Arlington, Virginia has been given...

    Read More
  • The Infamous Porthemmet Beach Hoax

    In some regions of the world no matter how much the local area survives off tourism, there is just a general distaste for tourists in general. All these strangers tramping around your Townsquare asking for directions, one of those places in Wales. With all the coastlines and beautiful beaches, locals can tend to get very...

    Read More
  • A Castaway Who Survived 14 Months At Sea

    One man defied all the odds and was able to survive lost at sea for over 14 months. This is no story of being washed up on an island and finding coconuts, this man just drifted around the ocean for months on end. He is called Jose Salvador Alvarenga and...

    Read More
  • The Romans Actually Invented The Swiss Army Knife

    When you think of the Swiss Army Knife you would have thought it was invented in Switzerland - and it was, unless you count Roman’s version as the first one. A spoon, a knife, a fork, and toothpick - all the tools you need to extract the meat out of the shells of seafood. This...

    Read More