The Great Molasses Disaster

In this installment of weird historical events, I’ll touch on The Great Molasses Disaster, one of my favorite wacky accidents, that devastated the North End of Boston. On January 15th, 1919, a storage container holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst, flooding the streets at 35mph and killing 21 people.

Now, let’s unpack this a little. First of all, let’s picture what 2.3 million gallons of anything coming at you like a soccer mom in a carpool lane. Not great. Now picture molasses: it’s gross, it’s sticky, it’s heavy, and the more you try and fight it, the quicker it’ll take you under, like some sweet-smelling version of quicksand. Now imagine you’re on your way home from one of the many amazing restaurants in the North End when you hear something that sounds like a freight train roaring down the street, enveloping you in some sticky bullshit that slowly drowns you.

Why did this happen? Simple physics is to blame. New England weather is wild, we can go from 60 degrees and sunny, to -5 and snowy, in the same day. That’s what happened ln January 15th. The molasses was previously warmed to make it easier to transport, but when the newly-delivered molasses met the previously-delivered cold molasses, the difference in heat caused the molasses to expand and puncture the container. Thankfully, storage regulations changed, and now there aren’t any more industrial accidents*.

After all the damage was done, and the flood of molasses was cleaned up, over $9.18 million dollars (adjusted for inflation) in damage was done. Locals say that on a hot day, you can still smell the molasses. I’ve been to the North End in the summer, and I don’t buy it, unless molasses smells like the combination of great Italian food, garbage, and stale beer.

The Great Emu War

During my daily Wikipedia dive, I found something that shocked me: The Great Emu War of Australia. Now, Australia seems like both an awesome place to visit, and a horrifying deathscape straight out of Mad Max. Australia is where the British dumped their prisoners, who grew up to be hearty, resilient people, who then got beaten by flightless birds. This historical event makes me even less likely to visit Australia, just in case I run into an emu with a grudge against humans.

The Great Emu War happened in 1932 due to the ever-increasing number of emus, leading to the decimation of crops. The farmers, understanding that you probably shouldn’t fuck with a bird that can keep up with your car, called the government for aid. By the time the army arrived, over 20,000 emus were causing a ruckus across Australia. Australian leadership dispatched Major G.P.W Meredith to take care of them.

On the first day, there were 50 emus, and the Army had machine guns. No problem, right? Wrong. Those crafty little bastards used guerrilla tactics and divided the Australian forces, making it so that they were only pursuing a single emu at a time. Only 12 emus were killed before the machine guns started to jam, and the emus retreated. Emus-1, People-0.

This went on for around a month, with the emus displaying similar tactics to Zulu warriors. In the first 6 days of fighting, 2,500 rounds were fired, and only 50-100 emus were killed. Shortly after, the soldiers ambushed over a thousand emus, firing tens of thousands of bullets, and only killing around a dozen emus. Emus-2, People-0.

During the course of the conflict, the soldiers observed the emus following pack leaders, and obeying commands from them. This is a terrifying idea, that giant birds that can outrun my Honda can communicate with each other well enough to defeat a military unit.

After too many defeats from flightless birds, the Australian government had enough, and pulled the troops out. Emus-3, People-0.

This blew me away, I’ve seen emus in nature documentaries, YouTube videos, and Kangaroo Jack, but I never would’ve thought they were capable of defeating humans. If you’re from Australia, I really want to know more about this, is this taught in schools? Are there any other wacky wars like this? Let me know, I’m super interested in your crazy country.