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AN ARTIFICIAL EARTHQUAKE
HENRY M. HYDE
T 8:20 o'clock on the evening of west of Chicago, fifteen young women
February 9th, a farmer living working over-time in a book-bindery, on the prairie near Kenosha, unanimously fainted and fell over in a
Wisconsin, went down into long, unconscious row.
1 the basement of his house to For a few seconds the equilibrium of inspect his incubators, which held 1,000 five states was disturbed. A whole vileggs. Suddenly the iron covers of the lage was wiped out of existence; chimheaters rose up on end and the man was neys were overturned and thousands of thrown forward into the midst of the panes of glass were broken over a seceggs.
tion a hundred miles in diameter. In A moment later a huge pane of plate Chicago and a score of smaller cities the glass leaped out from the third story police were called out and fire comwindow of a skyscraper in Chicago, panies rushed madly around the streets fifty miles away—and shattered itself searching for unlocated and non-existent on the pavement.
explosions. The emergency exits in a At almost the same instant, at Michi hundred theatres were blown open by gan City, Indiana,-fifty miles still the same sudden blast and in one or two farther away—more than a hundred con instances frightened men attempted to victs dropped down on their knees and save themselves by leaping from the winprayed that God would spare them. dows.
And over at Elgin, Ill., thirty miles At least Iralf a million terrified people rushed out of their houses into the Hell Gate reef, which, until 1876, made streets, crying, with white lips, that an East River, New York, a terror to shipearthquake was upon them.
ping. But that was a mere baby's fireIt was not an earthquake. It was cracker when compared with the more merely the explosion of a powder mill than a thousand tons of giant powder at Pleasant Prairie, Wis., fifty-five miles and the 35 tons of dynamite which—exnorth of Chicago, one of the many scat- ploded by some mysterious and forever tered plants for the manufacture of high hidden accident-dug holes in the earth explosives, which are owned by the a hundred feet deep, by three hundred Dupont Powder Company.
feet square, and threw half the populaBut as an explosion it appears to tion of the middle West into a spasm of have been vastly the greatest and most fear. far-reaching in its effect, since gun- As in most powder explosions, the powder was first invented. It was per- exact cause of the disaster will always haps the nearest man had ever come to remain a mystery. The first explosion rivalling the resistless and elemental occurred in and utterly destroyed the forces of nature. As an artificial glazing mill. It is in this room that the cyclone and earthquake in combination, granules of blasting powder, after being there has never been anything like it. moulded, are glazed with a thin coating Cities across the Mississippi River in of graphite, to prevent the absorption Iowa felt the force of the shock, while of moisture which will ruin unglazed the seismograph in the observatory of powder in a short time. For the purpose Saint Ignatius College at Cleveland, of glazing, the powder is put into steel Ohio, three hundred and fifty miles away cylinders containing graphite. There from the scene of the blast, recorded for were two men in the glazing room when nearly half an hour the tremors of the the explosion occurred, E. S. Thompson stricken earth.
and Edward Hilliard. Thompson was The largest amount of explosives ever one of the oldest and most experienced intentionally discharged at one time men in the plant. He was instantly seems to have been 120 tons of blasting killed by the blast and his mangled body powder, backed by twenty tons of dyna- was found some distance away. Hilliard mite, used in the destruction of the Great was blown through the roof of the glaz
ing mill, but escaped unhurt. Even mill went up—following the glazing mill more remarkable was the escape of half blast—they were blown up into the air a dozen men working in the soda mill and alighted on another building, which, some distance away. When the soda in its turn, then exploded. The second explosion deposited the men on the chinery and debris on the spot which ground at the side of a third building, they had just left. Nothing could better which, as they fled for safety, rose up illustrate the whimsical and mysterious into the air and dropped tons of ma- action of high explosives than the fact that these human missles went unscathed directions and at a distance of only fifty through a series of tremendous blasts miles they passed unnoticed. Over a which broke a thousand windows and large portion of the South side of Chishook great skyscrapers more than fifty cago, for instance, there was no recogmiles away.
nition of the explosion, while in CleveThe first result of the explosion was land, Ohio, the seismograph vibrated the instant liberation of billions of cubic violently. The great difference is due feet of gas, which swept out from the to the varying constitution of the crust common center with almost incalculable of the earth. In directions where conviolence. It was this first hammer blow tinuous strata of solid rock ran away of the gaseous wave, seeking room for from the center of the disturbance earth expansion, which shook buildings and waves were transmitted quickly and overturned brick chimneys. It was fol- with slowly diminishing violence, while lowed an instant later by the return of when such strata gave way to great the compressed air about the circumfer- deposits of sand and gravel the shock ence of the circle, rushing in toward the was poorly transmitted and quickly abcenter, where something like a vacuum sorbed. The fact that a terminal mohad been created. This rebound of the raine of loosely packed sand and detritus great air wave greatly lowered the pres- underlies much of Chicago accounts for sure outside the houses and other build the escape of certain parts of the city ings, leaving the pressure inside much from any very noticeable effects of the higher and more nearly normal. It was earth waves. this higher pressure on the inside that The after effects of the explosion have caused the destruction of window glass, been varied. In two or three cases the every pane, so far reported, having deaths of people who were seriously ill fallen out, as if struck a heavy blow at the time have been ascribed to the from within. The pressure from with shock. The Dupont Company has come out, in the first instance, was undoubt- forward and voluntarily offered to pay edly as strong as the reaction which fol- all damages caused by the blast. And in lowed it. That it was not as effective in both Wisconsin and Illinois bills have destroying the glass may have been at been introduced in the State legislatures least partially due to the fact that a win- looking towards the more strict reguladow-pane is supported against outside tion and control of powder mills and pressure by the whole strength of the other places where great quantities of heavy window frame, while against high explosives are stored. pressure from within, there is no pro What seems to be needed is a lawtection but the putty.
backed by competent and honest inspecIn addition to the air waves, earth tion—which will prevent the accumulawaves of great intensity and duration tion and storage in a single location of were set up by the explosion. Much any such tremendous amount of blasting comment was caused by the fact that powder as a thousand tons. while at a distance of more than 300 As well live on the crest of a live volmiles in certain directions the earth cano as within fifty miles of such a vibrations were strongly felt, in other potential and ever-ready earthquake!