Wednesday, August 10, 2011

victorian gunpowder causes an explosion of interest

Today I found an interesting BBC news story from a few days ago that occurred in Dorset- A Swanage railway maintenance man found an unexploded charge of gunpowder.

The gunpowder itself is believed to be 126 years old, placed there when when railway workers were making a passage through the chalk rock of the Challow Hill of the Purbeck Hills.

Wait... There was an unexploded charge of gunpowder sitting there for 126 years? People and trains trekked that ground for decades and no one, not even a railway maintenance worker, noticed the charge until last week?!

The unexploded charge, 
before it was removed.
image source: BBC News 
Swanage Railway infrastructure manager Alistair Hall said: "It's really incredible and amazing the unexploded Victorian gunpowder blasting charge has been in the side of the railway cutting for 126 years without anyone noticing."

Mr Hall said that since the opening of the branch line in 1885 and the end of the British Rail line in 1972 - when the tracks were torn up for scrap - hundreds of thousands of trains had travelled past the spot where the explosives were found.

He added: "Throughout all those years, nobody noticed the Victorian explosive charge - perhaps people thought it was a rock blemish or a fossil or it could have been covered by wild plants."

A British Army bomb disposal team eventually removed the explosive after "making the charge safe." Whatever that latter part means... I think, if the charge had not been detonated after 126 years it might have had some sort of defect to begin with or one that developed with exposure to the elements. Of course, one never knows about these things and a little caution with explosives of any kind is not to be laughed at.

Read the rest of the article here.

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