Tag: disaster

OTD: Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

On this day in 1986 we all watched how the Space Shuttle Challenger was ripped apart by an explosion 73 seconds into it’s flight. The event was seen live on TV in many countries and for that brief point in time a large portion of the world was left speechless.

The Destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger, January 28th, 1986

Challenger was really a wake-up call to NASA about complacency and the result that the Space Shuttle fleet was grounded for almost three years while the investigation, hearings, engineering redesign of the solid rocket boosters, and other behind-the-scenes technical and management reviews, changes, and preparations were taking place.

The human cost was great too. Seven crew members lost their lives in the disaster.

The crew of STS-51-L: Front row from left, Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair. Back row from left, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judith Resnik.

The cause of the disaster  is attributed to the failure of O-ring seals used in the solid rocket boosters (SRB) joint that were not designed to handle the unusually cold conditions that existed at this launch. The seals’ failure caused a breach in the SRB joint, allowing pressurized burning gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and external fuel tank. This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB’s aft field joint attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces broke up the orbiter.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster)

 

DRW © 2020. Created 22/05/2020.

Image of Challenger Explosion attributed to Kennedy Space Center / Public domain. This image or video was catalogued by one of the centers of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under Photo ID: GPN-2004-00012 and Alternate ID: 86-HC-220.

Crew photograph retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_256.html

Tribute photograph retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/flyout/multimedia/challenger/2010-07-29.html

Updated: 23/03/2020 — 06:39

Remembering Coalbrook

To be continued…….

The Coalbrook mining disaster happened on 21 January 1960 at the Coalbrook coal mine of Clydesdale Colliery over a year before I was born. However, I remember my parents talking about it, but further than I never heard of any official commemoration or coverage and it was usually mentioned when yet another disaster occurred in the mining industry in South Africa. Unfortunately it has also been relegated to memory, and the purpose of this blogpost is to help keep the memory alive of those who did not return, and who are still entombed underground, in the place where they met their death.

From what I can read it is also classed as the worst mining disaster in the history of South Africa and the seventh worst mining disaster in the world (as at May 2014) (https://www.mining-technology.com/).  437 men lost their lives in the disaster, most of these being African mine workers. A number of rescue attempts were made but the operation was called off after 11 days with no bodies being recovered and with no hope of finding survivors.

In December of 1959 a collapse occurred at the mine that was really a precursor of what was to come. Management did not take sufficient heed of this warning and the miners reluctantly returned to work. However on the 21st of January the mine suffered from a “….cascading pillar failure where a few pillars fail initially and this increases the load on the adjacent pillars causing them to fail. This cascading failure caused pillar collapse over an area covering 324 hectares.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalbrook_mining_disaster) In essence the cutting down of support pillar sizes had brought down the roof! 

The human tragedy outweighs the economic one. Each miner probably supported a family or was connected to a family. They had wives and children, parents and grandparents, each was affected by the loss of those men who laboured in dangerous conditions to produce the coal that fired the power stations that supplied the country with electricity. 

Unfortunately the men who died were quickly forgotten, although in their communities they would  be mourned and remembered. In 1996 following the closure of Coalbrook South the new owner of the village and workshops erected a memorial using a coal cutter from the mine as a backdrop to an inscription on a stone plaque which reads:

IN MEMORY OF THOSE 435
MINERS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
IN THE COALBROOK-MINE DISASTER
ON 21-01-1960
“AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS YOU ARE
STILL IN OUR HEARTS AND THOUGHTS”

The new and much larger memorial consists of an amphitheatre situated at the site of the south shaft. The  names of the 437 men entombed in the mine are engraved on stone plinth placed around the inside perimeter and two granite tablets at the entrance commemorate the disaster. 

Sadly the memorial at Holly Country near Sasolburg has been mired in controversy, issues raised include misspellings of names, poor workmanship, incorrect information and a blatantly plagiarised inscription.  It appears that even 60 years after the fact Coalbrook is still mired in controversy.  

The images used in this post were kindly supplied by Piet Lombard and are used with permission.

I have had to rely on a number of sources in this short commemoration. The primary source being 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalbrook_mining_disaster

http://www.theheritageportal.co.za/article/1960-coalbrook-disaster

http://schuitemaberend.blogspot.com/2011/04/coalbrook-mine-disaster-1960.html

There are a number of images of the memorials and area at: 

Coalbrook Mynramp

 

DRW © 2020. Created 21/01/2020 

Updated: 15/02/2020 — 08:57

Remembering the Titanic 2019

Every year in mid April we commemorate the loss of the Titanic.  It is a well known story that has been analysed, filmed, written about, speculated on and done to death. My own interest in the ship came about when I read about the spot where she had gone down, that ships avoided for fear of encountering bodies. In later years I would raid the local libraries for books about the ship and try my best to obtain a model of her.  I have however lost my interest in the ship and now concern myself with other things because realisically there is not much more that I can add to the story of the ship and its people.

The last interesting discovery that I made was in Liverpool where the Transatlantic trade was dominated by the Mauretania and her sister. Titanic and her sisters would not use that city as a base, but rather use Southampton. However, Titanic was registered in Liverpool and there is a memorial to her in that city. 

The memorial commemorates the 244 engineers who lost their lives in the disaster. It was designed by Sir William Goscombe John and constructed circa 1916 and is a Grade II* listed building.

The memorial is inscribed:

IN HONOUR OF

ALL HEROES OF THE

MARINE ENGINE ROOM

THIS MEMORIAL WAS ERECTED

BY INTERNATIONAL INSCRIPTION

MCMXVI 

and

THE BRAVE DO NOT DIE

THEIR DEEDS LIVE FOREVER

AND CALL UPON US

TO EMULATE THEIR COURAGE

AND DEVOTION TO DUTY

More images of the memorial are available on the relevant page at Allatsea

While it is easy to remember the passengers who lost their lives in the disaster; the crew tend to get forgotten, especially the men who remained at their posts right up till the end. Irrespective though, over 1500 people lost their lives on this day in 1912 in a disaster that has somehow become the “poster boy” for maritime disasters, and the only North Atlantic liner that almost everybody knows about. 

DRW © 2019. Created 15/04/2019

Updated: 04/12/2019 — 20:26
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