CANADA’S DEADLIEST ROCKSLIDE
On April 29, 1903 110 million tonnes of limestone rock crashed from the summit of Turtle Mountain and buried part of the sleeping town of Frank, a small town near Blairmore Alberta.
The rock mass that fell was 150 metres deep, 425 metres high and one kilometre wide. The town was home to approximately 600 people in 1903.
The rock likely moved as a dense, fast-flowing liquid, covering three square kilometres of the valley. The debris averages 14 metres in depth, but in some areas it is up to 45 metres deep.
People flocked to the town from all over the world for a better life and good paying jobs.
Most of the roughly 110 individuals who lived in the path of the slide were killed, but 23 people survived. Some survivors were pulled from the Debris.
The slide took 100 seconds and rocks were moving at 120 km hr. Scientists believe another slide will take place on Turtle Mountain.
The coal seam was developed and mined between 1900 – 1918. It was about 4.5 metres thick. The house of Alexander Leitch was found partially destroyed. His three young daughters Jessie, May and Marion miraculously survived. Leitch, his wife and four sons perished.
Seventeen underground workers were temporarily trapped in the Frank Mine, but managed to dig their way to freedom 13 hours after the slide.
One of the trapped mine workers emerged to find that his home had been destroyed and he had lost his wife, children and brother-in-law.
Sid Choquette, a brakeman for the Canadian Pacific Railway, raced across the just-fallen rocks to flag down an approaching passenger train. He stopped the train before it collided with the slide.
Geologists Richard McConnell and Reginald Brock were dispatched urgently by the Canadian Government to Turtle Mountain following the slide to determine the cause.
The primary cause of the Frank Slide was the mountain’s unstable geological structure. Underground coal mining, water action in summit cracks.
The buried section of railway was rebuilt three weeks after the slide. A road was completed through the slide in 1906 and later improved during the 1920s. Before this road was finished, people had to travel over a rough road built around the north end of the debris.