Baltimore, MD Harbor Explosion, Mar 1913
"In another instant a terrific shower of pieces of iron of all sizes, some pieces as large as my fist and others as big as my head, were flying straight down from the air. I saw these pieces go straight through our heavy plate. The smooth smokestacks of the collier were filled full of holes, and by the concussion alone were mashed almost flat."
"Around me on all sides were the men who had been tossed into the air and thrown back. Many men were cut and injured by the pieces of iron. Some were killed instantly."
Ship Lifted High on Waves.
"The dynamite ship was an iron ship throughout, and this made the damage to our ship all the greater. The Chine was about 500 feet away, but the force of the explosion was so great that our ship was lifted high up on the waves."
"Our firemen, who were shoveling coal, got the full force of the explosion in their faces. Many of them were burned. I expected to have 150 men in the crew by tonight, and about 100 men were on board."
Immediately after the first shock of the accident Capt. THOMPSON ordered his men to make a close inspection of the entire ship. They found many holes in her side.
Iron Drives Through Plates
Pieces of iron went straight through her plate, which in spots was three-quarters to seven-eighths of an inch thick.
One hole was big enough for a man to put his head through. This hole is eight feet above the water line. Other holes are near the water line.
J. G. REESE, of Cardiff, Wales, chief engineer of the Alum Chine, gave a graphic description of the scramble for safety from the ship and the explosion that followed.
"I was in the engine room when I heard a man on deck cry "The ship is afire!" I looked around and saw smoke coming from the hold in the bow and made a dash for the stern, realizing that a dynamite explosion would follow. I didn't jump; I fell into the launch Jerome, and sailor after sailor followed me, some in the same fashion. One man was cut on the forehead."
"When we had all we could carry aboard, and no one seemed to be coming, we put on full speed. About five minutes later, when we were about 200 feet away, the explosion came."
Great Column of Fire.
"I can picture it now. It seemed like a great column of fire 50 feet high and 20 feet across, topped by another column of black smoke 200 or more feet higher, came up from the sea, completely enveloping the ship. It was several minutes before the smoke cleared away and the sea became calm, but when it did there was no sign of either the ship or the barge that was alongside of it. They both seemed to have disappeared completely, and not a sign of life was visible."
How the fire started in the coal bunkers of the Alum Chine is so far a mystery. Some have ascribed it to spontaneous combustion, while one of the rescued declares he saw a fellow stevedore stick a balehook into a box of dynamite. This explanation appears improbable. Had such an incident occurred there would have been an immediate explosion.
Property Loss $600,000.
Conservative estimates place the actual property damage in excess of $600,000. In addition, there are innumerable minor losses which are not considered and cannot be estimated.
The chief losers are the owners of the Alum Chine, which cost in the neighborhood of $375,000.
Upon the Maryland Steel Company, builders of the collier Jason, evolves the next greatest loss. While a thorough survey may result in finding very serious defects in her construction, a superficial examination of the collier Jason indicates a damage of $100,000. To this amount can be added the expense of getting the collier ready for her official test.
The cargo of the Alum Chine has not been entirely accounted for, but from figures given out by the interested shippers this loss will entail nearly $100,000. The JOSEPH R. FOARD Company stated that the only cargo they had on board was the dynamite, which was valued at about $70,000.
The Alum Chine was a small tramp of 1,767 tons gross burden, was owned by the Alum Chine Steamship Company, of Cardiff, Wales. She left New York for Baltimore on February 26, arriving March 1. She expected to sail today for Colon, where her load of dynamite was to be used for government work on the Panama Canal.
The Washington Post District of Columbia 1913-03-08