Associated Press reports Harvard scientists who study fluid dynamics turned their eye to the Great Molasses Flood and, after studying how molasses flows at different temperatures, concluded that the relatively warm molasses that flowed out of that North End tank quickly cooled in the relatively chill Boston air (the disaster happened during one of our January thaws), going from liquidy to gooey and trapping people and horses.
Among other things, the Great Molasses Flood took out the elevated subway tracks that ran over Commercial Street, as shown in this photo by news photographer Leslie Jones.
At 12:30 p.m., take a moment to remember the 21 people killed by a gooey, bittersweet flood of more than 2 million gallons of molasses, just moments after the machine-gun-like sound of rivets giving way echoed across the North End and the tank burst on an unseasonably warm January day in 1919, thanks to shoddy construction by the tank's owner. Read more.
Around 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, 1919, a large, poorly maintained tank full of molasses on a warm day burst, sending a huge wave of gooey death rampaging down Commercial Street, drowning or crushing 21 people and several horses and cats as it battered the supports of the el that ran down the street and knocked a neighboring fire station off its foundation.
As with so many other major events in the early and mid-20th century, Leslie Jones was there to chronicle the aftermath.
Scientific American breaks it down for us, explains why the nature of molasses made the flood far worse than if it had just been some rogue wave tearing through the inner harbor:
On this day in 1919, 21 people died when a poorly maintained molasses tank off Commercial Street exploded, sending more than 2 million gallons of the syrup roaring down the street at 35 m.p.h. The above photo is from the Boston Public Library's collection of molasses images and shows what the stuff did to the elevated that ran down the street at the time.
At first, the woman in front of me jumped a bit when I popped my head over the seatback and said, "Would you like me to autograph that?"
We had just taken off from Charlotte, on a connector flight from Boston to Hilton Head, and her movement had caught my eye when she pulled a copy of Dark Tide from her bag and settled in to read. When I asked the question, she glanced quickly from me to the book and back to me again, and said, "No â€“ you're notâ€¦are you?" But there's no author's photo on the paperback, after all, so she wasn't entirely sure. ...
Michael reminds us that tomorrow is the 86th anniversary of the Great Molasses Flood, when 21 people drowned in molasses after a giant North End storage tank full of the stuff burst. Molasses fans will recall it happened on an unseasonably warm January day - good thing there aren't any molasses tanks left in the North End today, eh?