Description: This pair of manuscript accounts - dated December 12, 1908, the date of the enormous and horrific explosion at Bas Obispo, in the Panama Canal Zone's Culebra Cut - summarize many of the key points of what was reported in the immediate aftermath of the worst single accident during the construction of the Canal, and offers a story of how one man survived it. They are each written on the verso of a mounted photograph of the destruction.
1. "Results of 28 Ton's of Dynamite Explosion Killed & Injured 100 People. One Man saved by jumping in Dipper of Steam Shovel (Supt, Donnehue). All were killed on Steam Shovel. Explosion was on Right side of Cut 500 ft from Shovel, which is on left side of Cut. 56 men were taken by special Train to Ancon Hospital. Those who did not have a chance to Live were taken to the Police Station." On the other side of the card is a photograph showing an overhead view of the 90-ton steam shovel destroyed in the blast. People examining the damage can be seen behind it and to the right. Photograph measures approximately 7" x 5", card measures approximately 9" x 7".
2. "Photo taken shortly afer 28 ton's of Dynamite Exploded, Killing & Injureing 100 people. Remains of Steam Shovel, entire crew was Killed. Explosion was 500 ft. from Shovel on opposite side of Canal. no one blamed for the Accident." On the other side of this card is a photograph showing a different, ground-level view of the destroyed steam shovel, partially buried under rock. Onlookers and damaged train cars can be seen in the background. Photograph measures approximately 5"x 7", card measures approximately 6" x 9".
The official casualty count of this disaster ended with 26 dead and 49 wounded, though it could have been much worse, with 120 laborers recorded on scene and a train carrying 500 others having just gone around a bend out of harm's way. It was set to be a record-breaking explosion, with 51 holes, each 60 feet deep, loaded with dozens of tons of dynamite. A powderman was loading the last charge when it exploded prematurely and the massive concussion set off all the others. 60,000 cubic feet of rock filled the Canal, and the blast was felt clearly 30 miles away in Colon. The cause of the blast has never been found, though possibilities have been posited that range from chemical reactions to drunk workmen.
Condition: Corners of the card mounts are bumped, one photo has a few small spots of emulsion loss around perimeter, both have light soil. Generally in good condition. An interesting first hand account of one of the many ways that enormous numbers of canal workers lost their lives.