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Critical Mass

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In the early part of the 19th century, the world experienced an economic boom of unprecedented growth referred to as 'The Industrial Revolution.' Fuelled by the introduction of the steam engine, everything from manufacturing to transportation on both land and sea became totally redefined. Yet this revolution also brought with it a darker side that emphasized progress at any cost, exacting from some, the ultimate price.

The Quebec Bridge: On August 27, 1907, the workers on the suspension bridge across the St. Lawrence notice that Beam Chord A-L has been slowly bending. One engineer is so alarmed that he goes to the construction company's headquarters in New York to ask for help. While he is away, the beam gives way and plunges 50 meters into the water. Many are killed on impact, but those who are trapped in the twisted steel are slowly drowned by the rising tide. Of the 75 casualties, 35 are Mohawks from the nearby Caughnawaga Reserve, leaving no family on the reservation untouched by death. A second attempt to complete the bridge in 1916 also fails as the centre span falls during the opening ceremonies. The world's longest cantilever bridge claims a total of 89 lives before reaching shore to shore.

The Molasses Flood Disaster: As the temperature rose on January 15, 1919, something disastrous was about to happen. The earth heaved under the feet of workers as they heard the sound of ripping and tearing steel bolts accompanied by a booming roar as the bottom of the giant molasses tank split open. A geyser of yellowish-brown fluid spouted into the sky, followed by a deadly tidal wave of molasses. With a horrible hissing, sucking sound, it splashed across the street, crushing everything in its path. Twenty-one people were found dead and countless others were injured.

2002, 46 min 45 s

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