On January 15, 1919—an unusually warm winter day in Boston—patrolman Frank McManus picked up a call box on Commercial Street, contacted his precinct station and began his daily report. Moments later he heard a sound like machine guns and an awful grating. He turned to see a five-story-high metal tank split open, releasing a massive wall of dark amber fluid. Temporarily stunned, McManus turned back to the call box. “Send all available rescue vehicles and personnel immediately,” he yelled, “there’s a wave of molasses coming down Commercial Street!”
Scientific American examines the physics of the 1919 Great Molasses Flood in the North End. The scientists explain why the non-Newtonian fluid wave can be more devastating than a tsunami (and why swimming in it is impossible). In total, twenty-one people were killed with over 150 injured. Read the full Scientific American article.