The Great Molassis Flood of 1919 Killed 21 People. Yes, Molassis

Fascinating piece of history.  In 1919, 21 people were killed when a faulty tank broke and 2.3 million of gallons of molassis flooded out into the streets at a potential speed of 35 miles per hour based on a review of the science done by Harvard Fluid Dynamics students.

They covered it on the amazingly entertaining Drunk History this season, click the link to watch the sequence.

“It’s a ridiculous thing to imagine, a tsunami of molasses drowning the North End of Boston, but then you look at the pictures,” said Shmuel M. Rubinstein, a Harvard professor whose students investigated the disaster.

The students performed experiments in a walk-in refrigerator to model how corn syrup, standing in for the molasses, would behave in cold temperatures. With that data in hand, they applied the results to a full-scale flood, projecting it over a map of the North End. Their results, Ms. Sharp said, generally matched the accounts from the time.

“The historical record says that the initial wave of molasses moved at 35 miles per hour,” Ms. Sharp said, “which sounds outrageously fast.”


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