THE UNFORGETTABLE SUMMER OF 1960
( HOW DOES A SUMMER JOB CONNECT TO A U.S. AIR FORCE B 52 NUCLEAR BOMBER ANDAN ABANDONED MINE IN ELLIOT LAKE, ONTARIO?…AND, PERHAPS CANS OF TOMATO SOUP?}
Note: Answer the short question at the end of this article…re tomato soup
ARMED United States SAC (Strategic Air Command) B 52 nuclear bomber in flight.
Pebbly Conglomerate pillar preventing the ceiling of Can Met Uranium Mine from collapsing…Elliot Lake, Ontario 1960
Monday May 9, 1960
Reported to the office today…long TTC trip from west Toronto to 1490 O’connor Drive. Another summer in the bush no doubt.
Last year in Western Alaska was a real adventure . Two Sikorsky S52’s, a 30-06 rifle and expected to know how to run
a Turam Geophysical instrument. Three big events that bowled me over.
Where to this year? Barrie Nichols told me over the phone to prepare for Arizona. Hot place, I thought. Full of snakes was the
next thought so I hot footed down to the library to bone up on rattlesnake bites. According to a book if the rattlesnake sinks his
fangs into a leg, then encourage bleeding. Suck the venom and blood out of the wound right away. Yuck! How can I suck
the blood out of my own leg. Only some wiz bang yoga guru can do that. Got to get a snake bite kit from the company if
they expect me to go to Arizona. Nice part about Arizona would be the absence of black flies, moose flies, deer flies…maybe.
Certainly will have lots of these blood sucking bastard mosquitoes. Malaria? Wonder if they carry malaria. Look on the up
side, Al, they made a lot of good western movies in Arizona with John Wayne. Hi-yi-yipppy-yi-yay. Arizona here I come.
“So, Barrie, I am all ready for Arizona…got big hat like John Wayne.”
“Change in plans, Alan…”
“Change?” (not another Groundhog River ordeal…no, no, no!)
“Ireland, Alan, get your bag packed for Ireland.”
“What about my snake bite kit?”
“No snakes in ireland, Alan.”
“Right…funny that I spent last night in the library checking out rattlesnakes.”
Spent the rest of the day getting my papers ready…passport, etc. then phoned
Marjorie and mom to let them know about this Ireland adventure.
Tuesday , May 10, 1960
“Alan, hope you remember how to use the Turam, Ronka and an electrical resistivity outfit?”
But deep down I was not that confident. Last summer in Alaska, there were five us running
the Turam. I was just a helper to Bill Morrison who knew everything about the Turam. We were
a two man field crew…the other two man crew were Don Van Every and ian Rujtherford…the three
of them seemed to know all about the Turam. I was just learning. But I made good notes and watched
the set up system. Now a year later those guysare gone and suddenly I am top man. I thought it was only in war time that a private gets boosted to
an officer because all the officers are dead.
“Crate all the stuff up…we’re shipping it by boat to Dublin today.”
So we weighed, measured, labelled, itemized a pile of stuff. Enough to fill 8 crates…then had to get
Eric and I went to a movie show that night after I got Rev. Currie to sign my passport papers.
Wednesday May 11, 1960
Picked up the Turam from Charley Houston and had new crates made.
Then Dr. Paterson…Norm…said, “Alan, get ready to go to Blind River tomorrow…you will be going
underground at an Elliot Lake uranium mine…mine has been shut down…you will be the last human
beings down in the cage.”
“What about Ireland?”
“Still going there so make sure you fill out that list for Irish Customs.”
Phoned Marjorie in North Bay…We are a couple…love her…but no time to
stop in North Bay on way to Elliot Lake.
Thursday May 12, 1960
Nailed the top on the last crate. Found a Ronka EM manuel to study. No time for lunch or
even a cup of coffee. Packed draughting supplies and resistivity outfit for the Blind River/Elliot Lake job.
In evening I went to Scout meeting and the Rover Crew gave me a Rosary for protection in Ireland.
Mom and Eric dropped me off at the West Toronto train station for Blind River.
Wednesday May 13, 1960Wonderful night sleeping in a birth on the train…even better waking up to a sumptuous breakfast as a panorama ofCanada whirled by. Sudbury appears like face of the moon…depressing. Studied Ronka manual…best to know whatI might be expected to know. Got off train in Spragge, a place that looks like it sounds, then took taxi to Elliot Lake.Impression? Bad. Abandoned trailer camps, repossessed vehicles in car dealers, even more cars stripped naked.The boom days of Elliot Lake are over. Is it a good thing that the need for uranium has tapered off or a bad thing?Either way Elliot Lake is no longer a boom town…now a bust town…heading to become a ghost town. We will livein a CanMet guest house, very modern. CanMet mine once employed 1,000 men but has now been stripped to a workforceof 70. We only saw less than 10. Apparently the mine has just been kept open long enough for us to complete our survey.We will eat our meals in an immense empty dining hall once operated by the caterer Crawley and McKraken. One of themen assigned to us, Harry McGinnis, said waitresses were expected to do double duty as hookers. Probably another mining story that hasbeen inflated. Suppose the prostitute story could be true though. Which reminded me of an age old comment aboutsuccessful mining ventures. “If the hookers arrive, you know the mine is going to open.”
We tested the Ronka on the beach of a lake above the mine. Apparently the lake is now leaking into the mine stopes and shafts.We will see if that is true as we will be going down the shaft in the case tomorrow. Abandoned machinery here and there.
Dateline Friday May 13, 1960
“What is happening here?”“Do you mean what is happening to Elliot Lake?”“Yeah…This was supposed to be a boom town…instead I see a lot of stripped cars and House For Sale signs…and not many people wandering around.”“If you read the papers or listened to the news, you would know what has happened?“Too much Uranium 235 around? Radioactive town?”‘Don’t be silly…that U 235 is rare…maybe only a few of those atoms in a pound of uranium…No danger here except maybe the tailings ponds.”“Town feels depressed.”“Population moving out…once had 24,000 people…dropping…lucky if 7000 will remain.”“How come?”“The Yanks just said they would not renew the contract after 1962.”“Why?”“Cheaper uranium;m in a Saskatchewan mine”“Maybe, the Yanks already have 18,000 nuclear weapons…ought to be enough…”(NOTE: Not So, by 1965, the US nuclear arsenal reached higher than 20,000…since then it has been markedly reduced)Atom bomb testing was in full swing in 1960. Many detonated on the deserts of the American Southwest. All of themusing enriched uranium from the mines located at Elliot Lake, Ontario…nicknamed our ‘Atomic City’
“Who knows he truth? I know one thing…”“What’s that?”“The Cold War is still on big time.”“Right…get reminders every day…”“Yep, those Christly big B 52’s are over us every day…way up high…can see their con trails across the sky.”“And they are carrying Atom bombs using Elliot Lake uranium 235.”“Why do you always but that 235 in the conversation.”“Because that kind of uranium makes the bombs…U 235 is an unstable uranium atom…easier to knock around and loosen some neutrons…that’s whatmakes the atom bomb work, you know that of course.”“Heard it often but cannot understand how a few fractured atoms the size of peppercorns let loose enough power to blow cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki off the map…kill thousands.”“Apparently there are 100 pounds of uranium in each atomic bomb but only 1 pound is fissile…”“Fissile? New word to me.”“Means it is capable of nuclear fission…capable of the big bang you might say.”“What happens to the rest of the uranium.”“Turns somehow to radioactive dust…nasty stuff…lasts forever.”Deep underground at Can Met mine was eerie. Absolute silence. Absolute darkness…exceptfor the occasional explosive release of a roof bolt and collapse of a piece of the rock ceilingsomewhere in the blackness. The rock/ore was quite beautiful as you can see in the glareof my flashbulb.
“Have you ever seen uranium?”“Nope.”“Well, we are about to see a lot of it at Can Met.”“I thought the mine was empty.”“No mine is ever empty.”“Why not?”“How do you think the roof of mine is held up?”“Wooden timbers?”“Long ago that may have been the case but not now. Roof of the mineis held up by great thick pillars of rock….most of which contains ore.Pull those pillars and the whole goddamn mine will collapse…as you will see.”“As I will see?”“Yep, a lot of the pillars in Can Met have already been pulled. The mine is finished…you will likelyhear parts of the mine imploding…bloody dangerous place.”“Why are we going down there then?”“Beats me.”“Looking for minerals in a mine that is collapsing…makes no sense.”“I think we are just going down there to test the Ronka E.M. unit…to see how it works whensurrounded by mineralization…maybe not…to tell the truth I am just following orders … not sure why we are going down in the cage.”“Too modest, Alan.”
“Not so…do not get some kind of inflated idea of my role…I was just an instrument man…not a decision maker…best image mightbe a “fly on the wall” but there were no flies down at the bottom of the mine…could not see one anyway as it was pitch black…
This is our crew getting ready to do a Ronka EM survey deep in Can Met Uranium Mine. A mine engineerwhose name I have lost is giving directions so we would not get lost in the darkness. That might be mewearing the Ronka hoop which was composed of tightly wound copper wire.IS ELLIOT LAKE A DANGEROUS PLACE..RADIOACTIVE?Elliot Lake was the poster boy of a boom town. In 1953, uranium was discovered…lots of it. More uranium than anywhere else in the worldjust a few hundred feet below the network a sparkling clean lakes and rolling forested hills of this Shangri la of Northern Ontario.Lots of uranium found just at the time when the US was about to feverishly build atomic bombs as defence against a possible World War III against the Soviet Union.By 1960, when we were dropped deep into the stinking depths of Can Met Uranium mine, the United States had built over 18,000 atomic bombs using Elliot Lakeuranium. The population zoomed to 25,000 by 1959 with 9 mining companies in operation.This is the ‘dry’ at Can Met, a hot air room in which miners hung their mine clothing on hooksthat were then drawn to the ceiling.Can Met Mine had a short 4 year life, 1957 to 1960, and in that time processed 2.5 million tonnes or with a uranium content of between 2 and 3 lbs per tonne.Early atomic bombs contained 10 pounds of enriched uranium 235…only 1 lb of which detonated. The blast from an atomic bomb was created when the unstable Uranium 235 atoms were split thereby releasinga vast amount of energy by a chain effect atom splitting. I know that is hard to understand. How can such a small knocking around of Neutrons release such a vast amount of energy.Even scientists in the 1960’s were nonplussed. “I am become death, the shatterer of worlds,” quoted scientist Robert Oppenheimer.“The unleash power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe,” said Albert Einstein. Theywere both correct.
IN 1960, I was just a kid with an exciting assignment. A chance to explore an empty and collapsing mine deep down in the bowels of the earth.Now how many people get a chance to do that? In our case there were only five of us decending in the battered cage at Can Met uranium mine. After us The minewas to be totally abandoned to the forces of nature. Gravity would cause the mine ceilings to fail…to implode. Water was seeping into the nooks and crannieswhere collapse had not or would not occur. The mine was dead and dangerous. And, God it was exhilarating to be down there. An adventure to last alifetime. I slipped a small chip of uranium carrying ore into my pocket and still have it 59 years later.. Very pretty. Perhaps a little radioactiveas well. Only 1% of the uranium ore was the unstable U 235 so he danger was minimal. And we would only be underground for a few days even ofthe radioactivity readings were three times what is considered safe…i.e. a count of 293, far above the 100 safe level. Or so I was told. Sounded like bull shitto a 22 year old optimist.Exposure proved far more dangerous to the men whose jobs involved 8 hour underground shifts five days a week for years and years. Little was saidof these dangers at the time. Miners, most of them, did not think long term. Paycheck to paycheck. Good pay checks. The need for raw uranium to feed the military needsof the Cold War trumped any protest. The atom bombs were moreimportant than human health. And the mining jobs paid well. Elliot Lake was a boom town for a few years…miners flocked there by the thousands, manyof them new Canadians. Some renamed the town “Atomic City”, a name that had no tragic overtones. Houses were built as fast as possible many of themusing the rock waste from the mine itself as foundation stone. Houses whose foundations were so radioactive that large air conditioning fans were eventually installed beneaththe floors. Worse, however was the discovery that Elliot Lake miners had twice as many cases of lung cancer deaths than average…81 deaths as opposed to45 in a control group. “It is certain that exposure to radon leads to an increased risk of lung cancer,” wrote investigators. It was the Steel Workers Union of Americahowever that took action in 1976 when their man, Paul Falkowski, stated, “If anybody does not like to go to the hospital with lung cancer, he should have avery close looks the Elliot Lake situation before he signs on.”High pay muted any concerns. Mining was a dangerous occupation where risk of injury or death was just accepted as normal. So whyget worked up over high levels radon gas? There were no government warnings. It was only late in the life of Elliot Lake that Mr. Falkowski, the union activist, came totown with dire warnings about long term lethal consequences.Better to revel in life of the boom town where a car salesman could sell 13 cars a day, every day.And if the dealership stayed open at night the sales could double.As with all mining boom towns, men far outnumbered women in Elliot Lake in the late 1950’s. Ten men for every woman. Pimps were fast to see opportunityin that imbalance and prostitutes were moved into town as fast as the cages full of young miners went up and down. The prostitutes were housed in trailers thatcould be moved around whenever police seemed troublesome. Even trucks became moving brothels. Hookers activity was so blatant that on mine payday trucks would back right up to themine buildings offering sex services without delay. And if the police showed up, the tail gates were swung up and the truck driver would look for another spot.Elliot Lake was the reverse of the rock tune “I don’t get no satisfaction…” Quite the reverse song might have been hollered…”We all get our satisfaction atthe cage door.”Then in 1959, just a year before we arrived for our short visit, the winds of change began to blow. The United States announced it would buy no more uranium from Elliot lake after 1962. Elliot Lake’s boom became a bust almost overnight. Hence the Trailers abandoned along with cars stripped of anything valuable and left as hulks began to appear.Elliot Lake did not die completely. There was a short need for uranium for CANDU reactors and Ontario Hydro nuclear electricity installations. But not enough. By the 1990’s the last two operating mines in Elliot LakeDenison Mines and Rio Algom also closed down. The uranium ore had been depleted and the demand for uranium was no longer strong.
Elliot Lake avoided becoming a boom town when the communityattracted retired persons that move to the town by the bargain prices for the former mine community homes.Back to my journal now…May 14, 1960Can Met Uranium mine is almost abandoned We will be the last human beings to enter the bowels of the earth and see the gravesite of a uranium mine that cost 25 million dollars to open in 1957 and closed thisyear, 1960, never having made enough money to cover costs. Four years. I wonder how many atomic bombs were made from the 2.5 million tonnes of raw uranium ore blasted and scraped from the walls?Apparently 2 to 3 kg. of raw uranium were recovered per tonne of ore. Estimates are that each atomic bomb contains 100 lbs of uranium so there was enoughuranium to make many atomic bombs. Why did the United States not renew the contract? Not because pressure to end the madness of the Cold War, that’s for sure. Cheaper uranium mineswere found in Saskatchewan was the big reason.Can Met Uranium Mine had passageways that were wide and high. Enough roomfor front end loaders and Tip cars to function with ease. All passageways had oncebeen lit with electric lights. These were gone when we went down. But lurking in the darknesswere many abandoned vehicles like those picture above. It was a bit frightening whenthe cones of light from our headlamps suddenly revealed these machines
The cage was just that…a big cage capable of carrying small bulldozer down or a shift of miners up. Except for us it was empty. Harry McGinnis was our cageman, guide, and entertainer.. Decending was
disconcerting but not nearly as scaryas the mine runways and stopes. Today We descended at 8 a.m. and did not resurface until 12 p.m. The last scoop mobile ferried us from one point to another eventuallywe completed 293 determinations with the Ronka E.M. unit. Our head lamps shot out cones of light that made the blackness quite sinister. Every sense was disturbing.
Sight? We saw wallsblack with carbon beneath which was the pebbly conglomerate that held one or two percent Uranium. Once in a while. two or three large machines were revealed. Hulks. “Too old to besaved…they…stay down here as she fills with water. Quite frightening really when a cone of light suddenly reveals an immense yellow mine machine.
Sound? Most of the time no sound whatever. Then there would be a loud bang as a roof bolt gateway. Or, worse, a dull but powerful boom as some roof collapsed in s stope. Some sounds wereclose by but most were distant.Smell? There was a damp smell of water mixing with spilled oils or other unknown chemicals.Taste? Might be imaginary but there seemed to be a metallic mouldy taste in the air.Touch? A kind of wet slime on the walls as the water from the lake far above us was working its way down into the mine. Some low spots were now filledand we had to wade our way along.
Some of the mining machines were brought back to the surface for use by the nearby Denison Mine.I have no idea what this machine did underground but note two points: 1) It has a very lowprofile which suggests it worked in the stopes and may have been a machine that helped loosen ore.2) Imagine this machine fitting into the ‘cage’ that took miners down. Much too big for the cagewe used so how this machine got down the mine is a bit of mystery. Probably lowered in parts andthen put back together. If this was so, why did it come back up in one piece?
May 15, 1960Our temporary home is the former staff and guest house intended for high company officials. Luxurious. But never used much and now vacant. Can Met built this guest lodge, a large bunk house forsingle males, 22 houses for families, and a milling complex. All dominated by two winding towers for two shafts. All now abandoned. “Pearsons” was A local name for the homes as many felt Elliot Lake had beenabandoned by Prime Minister Lester Pearson.This is the Can Met Exective Lodge. A building that had hardly be used…fully filled with period furniture of the 1960’s. Buildings like this were built for minerswith families while single men lived in larger bunk houses. In 1960 a great many of these homes were boarded up with sheets of plywood. In the town ofElliot lake there were many homes that had been built privately by residents. On the hung For Sale signs but there were no bidders. Many people lost muchwhen the town mines closed.We went underground again at 8 a.m. today. Five of us. Bob McConnell, Alan Peglar, Joe Weber, Harry McGinnis and me (Alan Skeoch). The mine is quite spacious, enough room for scoop mobiles to pass each otherin the main passageways. One of these scoop machines was provided for us to travel on he main haulage way to the eastern border of the mine. This scoop was the last moving vehicle in the mine. There weremany other machines stuffed into the stopes on each side of the haulage way. Dead machines. Seemed like driving through a graveyard, underground, with coffins on all sides. Absolute silence brokenoccasionally by loud BANGS!These roof bolts are much smaller than those in Can Met and the wooden pieces were iron slabs inCan Met. But, as in all modern mines, roof bolts like these helped hold up the ceilings.“What was that?”“Roof bolts giving way…she’s collapsing you know,” said our guide Harry McGinnis.“How come?”“They pulled a lot of the pillars as they moved out…got as much high grade as they could.”“Thought we were down here to see if the mine could be saved.”“Where did you get that idea? No mine can be saved if the pillars are pulled.”“Nothing to hold up the ceilings in the stopes?”“Not a damn thing…maybe I can get my mother in law down here to do that.” (Harry hadan odd sense of humour, more of which we would hear.)“Look over there.”“Pile of rock?”“Yep, that’s where one of our shift bosses got telescoped.”“Telescoped?”“Yeah, the big chunks just folded him up like a telescope. Dead. Stone dead.”“Was that common?”“One of the cat drivers drove right into the “grizzly”…mashed him to a pulp.“What’s a ‘grizzly’?”“A crusher…takes or ore and smashes it into little bits that go up top on conveyor belt.”“Grizzly as in grizzly bear, right?”“Harry has his own names for just about anything.”I slipped This tiny piece of ore into my pocket in 1960 and have kept it ever since to remindme just how surreal this Elliot Lake job became. I was never sure why we went down in that mine.The uranium is hidden away in what is called a pebbly conglomerate. Shiny. No, youcannot see any uranium. To get uranium it would be necessary to give this chip a bathin Sulphuric acid to dissolve the mineral…and then a secondary bath in ammonia to precipitate outthe uranium only 1% of which would be U 235…radioactive form. But it is from pieceslike this in my hand that atomic bombs are made.Note: What does ‘fissile’ mean? It means that this rare U235 of uranium will explodein a nuclear chain reaction when brought to a critical mass.We had our lunch on a big flat piece of rock in a stope that was sealed off by a sign, “Dangerous”.Lunch was gritty…or seemed so.May 16, 1960A motor generator for the Turam was scheduled to arrive in Sprague this morning. So we did our draftingwhile Harry entertained us with stories about Can Met. He spoke with humour and emphasis.Whether truth was present as well was not clear.“Can Met spent $36,000 on air conditioning that never worked.”“There are $50,000 jumbos that sat underground and were never used.”“The haulage ways and stopes are filled with abandoned mine equipment.”Mac, Joe and I set up our motor generator and laid out our spread wire through the mine intoparts were we had to crawl through piles of rubble from roof bolt collapse. I am beginning tothink this Can Met adventure is meant to show the people from Denison Mines that our TramEM units are trustworthy and can discover underground conductors. So there may be a connectionto the upcoming job in Ireland. Maybe Denison execs just want some kind of proof. But I haveno idea why we are down here.Joe Weber is a former Nazi released in 1953 from some sort of prison for war criminals. He lovedtelling me stories about expensive errors made by Can Met Executives…called it a company foundedupon greed. Strange he would do this as Can Met is his employer. Then again he would soon losehis job as happened to most Can Met miners. I suppose some of them were transferred to the mainDenison uranium mine which was nearby and still functioning. While others were just let go.We continued to be entertained by Harry McGinnis who nicknamed the Can Met warehouse as“the whorehouse” since “each time you go there for a part or machine, you get screwed.”“There are $50,000 worth of spare parts for a nonexistent machine.” True or not? I do notknow but find it suspicious that the figure $50,000 is used often. “Stealing gas is common to thetune of $1,500 a month.” I wonder if these stories are just being said for my benefit.May 17, 1960Harry McGinnis was very drunk today when he arrived at our cook house. “Spent all night at theLegion.” The Legion turned out to be a shack built by his friends somewhere in the nearby bush.We went down in the cage at 8.30…rattled all the way down. Took some readings with theresistivity unit. Quickly finished and began hauling in the grounded cable. Walking alonein the blackness to the far corner of the mine is a bit frightening but also triggers curiosity.Joe Weber does not have a good word to say about anything or anybody…likely a resultof his war experience. We never probed that very deeply and he never offered an explanationas to why he spent the years from 1945 to 1953 in some kind of military prison. Best not known I guess.When I took a picture of the boys on the scoop, the flashbulb exploded. Somehow the walls ofthe mine amplified the noise making it soundl like a cannon or, worse, a roof bolt giving wayabove us.Harry spent some time criticizing the pope today and then turned back to his favourite subject, hismother in law who he described as having a personality ‘harder than a whore’s heart’.We ate lunch on top of what Harry called a ‘Portugeser’…a name that made no senseinitially.“Why is this large slab of rock called a Portuguesor?”“Good reason…see where it fell from the ceiling up there.?”“Yeah, big gash.”“Well, it fell down on a Portuguese … lots of them worked here … someof them are under these big pieces of rock…so we call them ‘Portuguesors’Truth or fiction? Hard to say.WHAT HAPPENED TO BEAR CUB LAKE?“WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THOSE LITTLE LAKES?”“What little lakes?”“Surely you remember them…lovely lakes…Williams Lake, Bear Cub Lake, Stollery Lake, Smith Lake and Long Lake?”
“They still exist in a way…but not as they were.”“Why?”“They became the Tailings Ponds for the chemicals used to get the uranium.”“Do you mean the Sulphuric Acid and Ammonia.”“Precisely…so much acid in the Tailing Ponds they need lots of fresh water.”“How long will that be”“Long long time. The Ponds are checked regularly for leaks but some treated effluentdoes drain off into Serpent River and then Quirke Lake. Tailing Ponds are one of thedown sides of the mining industry.”“Can people swim or fish in those lakes any more?”“Are you kidding. They are fenced off from the public even today…NO GO ZONES.Here is another mine machine rescued from Can Met. Behind it is a lake that was slowly percolating downinto the mine passageways and stopes. Not far away are other beautiful lakes which became lessbeautiful as more and more ‘tailings’ were piped into the waters. These Tailings ponds remain dangerousand have to be tested every year in case of leakage. Sulphuric acid washed to dissolve the uranium fromthe crushed ore. Then ammonia was used precipitate the uranium from the sulphuric acid solution. Oncethis was done and the uranium recovered the soup of sulphuric acid and Ammonia and other pollutantswere deposited in the tailing ponds resting there for all time.Is this Bear Cub Lake today?CONCLUSIONOur job is over. Still not sure why we were working underground in a mine thathad no future. It might have been a double kind of test. First, to see if the Turam and Ronkaworked…i.e. registered high readings in a place where high readings shouldbe expected. And second, maybe the Denison people wanted to see if I really knewwhat i was doing…i.e. they needed some kind of assurance before sending meto Ireland. Truth? Someone must know?Next stop was the village of Bunmahon, County Waterford, Southern Ireland. Aboveis a picture of Denison Mine Geologist John Hogan enjoying a pint of Guinness withme in Kirwin’s pub where we spent many evenings.No one will ever walk through these dark passages ever again. Can Met is a grave.alan skeochApril 2019A POST SCRIPT THAT MIGHT SCARE YOU…AS IT DOES METORONTO STAR, APRIL 11, 2019“IN his recent book, The Doomsday Machine, Daniel Ellsberg argues that probably the greatest nuclear threat today is ACCIDENTAL nuclear war— that is, a false electronicalarm triggering a pre-emptive strike by either the U.S. or Russia. Over the years there have been a number of chilling close calls.”…”Trump is now heading in the oppositedirection, embarking on modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons.”Linda McQuaig,Toronto Star Columnist
static01.nyt.com/images/2015/11/13/us/00bomber-web1/00bomber-web1-jumbo.jpg?quality=90&auto=webp 1024w, static01.nyt.com/images/2015/11/13/us/00bomber-web1/00bomber-web1-superJumbo.jpg?quality=90&auto=webp 2048w” sizes=”100vw” itemprop=”url” itemid=”https://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/11/13/us/00bomber-web1/00bomber-web1-articleLarge.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp&disable=upscale”>The B 52 Stratofortress heavy bombers first rolled off the Boeing assembly line in 1953 and since then 744 have been made. In 1960, the year we were working for a few days underground in Elliot Lake, Boeing delivered106 brand new B 52’s to the American Strategic Air Command for service as a nuclear armed strike force should America be attacked by the Society Union. B 52 bombers were in the air all the time…i.e. some bomberswere always ready to strike back should a nuclear war be triggered. The B 52 could fly 85,000 miles in one mission. Really the only limit on the B 52 was the possible fatigue of its crew. Boeing eventually delivered744 of these heavy bombers to the USAF of which 76 are still operational today, many based in Minot, North Dakota. At the peak of the Cold War we could see B 52 contrails every day as they overflew Torontoat 50,000 feet. All were armed at that time with nuclear weapons many of which contained Uranium from Elliot Lake.The con trails of these B 52’s that caused us to build an air raid shelter in our cellar. And stock it with a dozen cans of tomato soup and one old studio couch and a potential pair of laundry tubs filledwith fresh water providing mom had time enough to fill these tubs. Silly? Pointless? Comforting? All of these. Would we let the neighbours and friends into our shelter in the event of nuclear war?’That was a big moral question at the time.“The B-52 is an Air Force plane that refuses to die. Originally slated for retirement generations ago, it continues to be deployed in conflict after conflict. It was the first plane to drop a hydrogen bomb, in the Bikini Islands in 1956, and laser-guided bombs in Afghanistan in 2006. It has outlived its replacement. And its replacement’s replacement. And its replacement’s replacement’s replacement.” New York Times
1) POST SCRIPT #1HIROSHIMA 1945When that Atom Bomb was dropped by the B 29 named Enola Gay on Hiroshima in 1945 the destruction of global civilization became a possibility as the United Statesand the Soviet Union began to mass produce nuclear weapons. Hiroshima and Nagasaki became familiar to all. When the first nuclear atom bomb exploded over Hroshima about99% of the uranium that was supposed to undergo a chain reaction did not do so. A very small percentage of the explosive (fissile) uranium, maybe 2% exploded while theremainder became radioactive dust. Deadly dust. How big was the explosive material? About the size of a peppercorn…7/10 of gram…the winght of a five dollar bill. That wasenough to level a two mile radius and kill 80,000 people. Did the uranium come from Elliot Lake? No. It was the sudden need for uranium after Hiroshima that made Elliot Lakethe uranium capital of the western world.STRONTIUM 90 AND THE 1950’SEnriched Elliot Lake uranium was used in the bombs that blew apart some islands in the South Pacific Ocean after similar explosions polluted parts of the American southwest.This ended when scientists such as Canadian Ursula Franklin detected Strontium 90 in her son’s baby teeth…radioactive fallout from above ground nuclear testing. The result?U.S. President John Kennedy negotiated with the Soviet Union a Nuclear Test Bomb Treaty banning above ground testing of nuclear weapons.The Test Bomb treaty did not end nuclear testing nor did it prevent the squadrons of B 52 bombers loaded with nuclear bombs from taking to the air each day so that in the event ofnuclear a surprise nuclear attack by the Soviets the airborne B 52’s could deliver a return devastation as so graphically portrayed in the film Dr. Strangelove. Elliot Lake was involvedin the bomb business until 1962 when the US found a cheaper source of uranium in Saskatchewan.As a high school kid in the 1950’s I can still remember the con trails of those B 52’s that regularly overflew Toronto high up in the sky. Like many other Canadians, I built an air raidshelter in our cellar…one old studio couch, a dozen cans of tomato soup and other cans pilfered from mom’s supplies. “Mom, if an A bomb happens, run down cellar and turnon he ware in the laundry tubs, fill both of them…we will need that water.” It was primitive effort. How could all four of us sleep on one narrow couch? What if a neighbour wanedin as the city burned? Where would we go to the toilet? What would we do when the water ran out? How could we cook the tomato soup? Where would we go to the bathroom?How could we be sure radioactive dust did not blow in from the cellar windows? Sounds silly, but in the 1950’s fear of nuclear Armageddon was as real as the nose on your face.As fate would have it, one summer job with HuntingTech and Exploration Services sent me as an instrument man helping Abul Mousuff do a seismic survey up and down the St John River Valley. One of our base lines passed right throughthe wooded area near Andover, New Brunswick where a B 52 crashed killing all crew except one who mysteriously was able to parachute. On that crash sit I picked up this smallpiece of melted aluminum that was once part of the B 52 fusillade. Fortunately that plane was on a training flight and was therefore not carrying nuclear bombs. Or so we were told.Other B 52’s also crashed in those years, one of which crashed in the eastern USA and the failsafe blocks all failed save one on a nuclear bomb.2019…PRESIDENT OF U.S.A. AND THE NUCLEAR BUTTONI put my fears on the back burner for the last 50 years. No one in his or her right mind would start a nuclear war? Right? And the main enemy during the Cold War had collapsed andmorphed into Russia and a whole mess of splinter states. So what’s there to worry about? Worry? I think a stronger term is needed…FEAR. Every time I see the President of theUnited States walking or talking, I cannot help but notice the man behind him. You’ve seen him as well no doubt. He is in a military uniform and carries a brief case. Ever wonderwhy he shadows President Trump so closely? Inside that brief case is a button. By pressing that button the President of the US can launch a massive number of nuclear rockets aimedat specific targets. At the same time 80 or more B 52”s crews will scramble and rumble down runways from bases in the Western defence perimeter. Then, perhaps a little later,nuclear submarines roaming the oceans of the world will launch another bevy of nuclear rockets.No one would be that stupid? How long does a US president have to make such a should destroying retaliation? Five Minutes! Let me put that in big type…FIVE MINUTES!The final decision rests with him alone. And that is major worry today since President Trump takes pride in being unpredictable, impulsive and often unable or unwilling to listento advice. My fears are not just mine. In an article titled Nuclear War Should Require a Second Opinion (Scientific American, August 1017, P.8) the editors wrote“In just five minutes an American president could put all of humanity in jeopardy…that’s how long would takeoff as many as 400 land-based nuclear weapons the US to loosed…afteran initial ‘go’ order.” Once launched there is now way to stop them for there is no self-destruct switches.One man, the President of the US decides. And he has five minutes to do so. All other aspects of this nuclear arsenal has checks lest a lunatic goes nuts. Long years ago we tookour boys to a desolate place in North Dakota. “Boys, behind that barbed wire fence where that concrete bunker noses above he ground, there are nuclear rockets encased in cement silos.Extremely dangerous. Somewhere nearby, invisible to us, are two men in a control room. Those rockets cannot be launched unless both get a “go” signal to do so. Two men who have beenchecked as mentally stable and responsible.” That fact is some comfort.Why then cannot the president of the United States have a failsafe scenario where he must consult some other person before pressing that Armageddon button? Get a second opinion in other words.This article by the editors of Scientific American is concerned because Donald Trump, President of the United States “aspires to be ‘unpredictable’ in how he would use nuclear weapons.”Now here is the big question. Should our family start buying cans of tomato soup?POST SCRIPT 2: B 52 CRASHES IN NEW BRUNSWICK IN 1957While we were doing this seismic survey across the soil where the B 52 crashed we heard several very strange storiesabout the crash. Was it an accident or was it madness…i.e. deliberate. How did one man manage to bail out? The finalreport on the crash is reassuring but is it correct?
Andover, NB Bomber Explodes In Flight, Jan 1957
www.gendisasters.com/sites/all/themes/zeropoint/images/all/icons/tag.png); padding: 0px 0px 0px 20px; background-position: left top; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;”>
- New Brunswick |
- Air Disasters |
- 1957B52 EXPLODES IN FLIGHT; SEARCHERS FIND 7 BODIES.PILOT’S EYES SHIELDED IN TEST.Andover, N.B. (AP) — Frozen woodlands near here were searched today for one Air Force man still missing from the crew of an eight-engine B52 bomber which exploded in flight yesterday. Seven bodies were found and one man parachuted with minor injuries.
Hundreds of Air Force men, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and French – Canadian trappers and guides, warmly garbed against temperatures which went far below zero, hunted for the missing man.
A spokesman from the jet plane’s Loring Air Force base at Limestone, Maine, said the man may have parachuted. He said two parachutes were reported seen by residents of the area but that “they lost sight of one of them.”
The spokesman said Capt. RICHARD A. JENKINS, the commander of the craft and one of those killed, was at the controls, his head partially covered by a visor-type hood used in reflex tests. With the covering the pilot can see the instrument panel but cannot see outside the plane.
Six bodies were recovered in the wreckage or the deep snow yesterday. A seventh was found in part of the plane early today by searchers carrying portable lamps.
Several hours after the crash of the B52 jet bomber, an Air Force B29 crashed on landing at Bergstrom Air Force Base, near Austin, Tex., killing six crewmen and injuring three others.
The public information office at Loring identified five of the seven victims of the Andover crash as:Capt. RICHARD A. JENKINS, the aircraft commander, Huron, Ohio.
Capt. WILLIAM C. DAVIDSON, Stockton, Calif.
Capt. JOHN E. McCUNE, Hayward, Calif.
Capt. MARQUID H. D. MYERS, Tracy, Calif.
T. Sgt. RAY A. MILLER, Racine, Wis.
All were married and all but DAVIDSON had children.
The only known survivor was:
1st Lt. JOE L. CHURCH, Charlotte, N.C.
A spokesman at Loring said a team of Air Force flight safety experts from Norton AFB near San Bernardino, Calif., and officials of the Boeing Airplane Co., would take part in an investigation of the crash. Boeing builds the eight-million-dollar, swept-wing B52s.
Brig. Gen. William K. Martin, Loring Commander, said in a statement “an unusual maneuver may have resulted in exceeding the flight limitations of the aircraft.”
In Washington, the Air Force said the pilot was undergoing a reflex test wherein the flyer’s eyes are partly shielded and the plane put into an “unusual position. The pilot then must right the craft.
The Washington spokesman said the plane apparently had been “placed in a position beyond its capability.”
The plane was the fourth B52 lost by the Air Force on training flights since February 1956.