Today marks the anniversary of “America’s most fascinating and surreal disaster.”
As noted in a previous column, on Jan. 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 p.m to 7 degrees at 10 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.