The Oscar - Humungous Explosion in Nanaimo
Has everybody heard of the Oscar, a steamer loaded with "1800 kegs of dynamite" (An Historic Timeline for Nanaimo, from the City's site) that ran aground on the other side of Protection Island in 1913 and created a MASSIVE explosion? I think it was the biggest explosion to date (surpassed in size 4 years later by the Halifax explosion).
Apparently the Oscar was in a big winter storm, out by Entrance Island, and a fire started on board. So they headed back toward Nanaimo, and ran aground on Protection Island. The crew got OFF that flaming dynamite-laden ship and ran to the other side of the island, and took cover in a coal mine there. Nine minutes later the ship and its cargo blew to smithereens, flattening most of the trees on the island and sending bits of shrapnel all the way to Nanaimo.
There's all kinds of local lore concerning this event, and I'd love to hear some of it (I've only heard oral accounts, but written documentation would also be cool).
For instance, it's said that a piece of the ship sailed all the way over the island, across the harbour, and through the roof of a church in town.
Also, the mayor of the time saw the light from the explosion, and stood up to see, and then of course the blast arrived, smashing all the glass inward - not sure how hurt he was.
There are efforts to find bits of the Oscar, but there isn't much to find I guess.
Last edited by riverrat; 11-08-2011 at 10:21 PM.
Reason: fixing grammar
Lots of Oscar's metal bits are still on the tidal shelf. Bolts with nuts and other rusted fittings are found in one concentrated section between the Lighthouse and Smuggler's Park. I recall it was either a history book or the PI Museum Society where I learned these were from the Oscar.
Originally Posted by riverrat
If you are really interested in the Oscar Explosion, check out newspaper articles of the day. They treated it with some hilarity.
Also talk to the Protection Island Community Association and the PI museum as they put together a one hour skit about 3 years ago with the Oscar as its theme. Dug up some interesting stories.
The worst injury was a cut to one man's eye and he was sent to Vancouver. He recovered. Many near misses too.
There is a huge hole in the beach floor at low tide areas-best seen if you scuba dive. The foundations of buildings were shaken/cracked and most windows in what is now downtown were broken. Fireplaces had bricks come loose. Schools were closed.