On our recent trip to the Crowsnest Pass, my hubby and I spent a couple of hours walking among the massive ruins of the peak of Turtle Mountain, which slid over the east side of the town of Frank at 4:10 in the morning on April 29, 1903. The slide lasted just over a minute and a half, and at least seventy people were killed, buried under 82 million tonnes (90 million tons) of limestone.
It is an overwhelmingly surreal experience to spend time in the slide zone and try to comprehend the enormity and horror of it: an entire mountainside collapsed and spread over three square kilometres. It is now widely accepted that the mountain was geologically unstable and unseasonably warm weather as well as mining activity at the base of the mountain may have contributed to the slide; while no mining has taken place there since 1917, Turtle Mountain remains on “slide alert” and is monitored by the Alberta Geological Survey via radar and laser mapping systems. (You can watch a short video about some of the technology being used here).
The fall colours weren’t as rich as they must be now, three weeks later, but the trees were still incredibly beautiful.
If you’re interested in reading more about the Frank Slide, please click here and here. There are some amazing stories of acts of heroism and survival, as well as a few persistent legends (the town’s bank and the $500,000.00 inside of it weren’t really buried under all that rock, as many have claimed).
- Lime kilns. (therelight.wordpress.com) – taking advantage of all of that fallen limestone, lime kilns were built in 1912 by the Winnipeg Fuel and Supply Company.
Photo credit – Photo #1 was taken by R. Normandeau.
After I published this post yesterday, my Grandpa sent me a photograph that he took a few years ago as he flew over the slide zone in his sailplane. It is an incredible perspective of the magnitude of the disaster. (Photo credit – W. Mueller)
What an amazing place and historical site. I think I would be afraid to go there, despite all the monitoring of the area.
We were fortunate to find a side road that took us even closer to the base of the mountain than the area the photos show. You can hike right to the mountain and I believe it is commonly climbed (I’m not sure which face, however). We’re thinking of doing the hike maybe next year. But I wouldn’t ever climb it, that’s for sure!
That’s quite scary. I think sometimes we forget the effect our activities (mining etc) have on the safety of our surroundings!
That’s so true, and in particular more in those days, perhaps. They didn’t do the environmental studies we perform now…although horrible things still happen.
What a story, scary and fascinating at the same time! The photo’s are beautiful. Thanks for all the links too, the legends and folklore after the disaster are amazing. Have a great weekend!
I hope your weekend has been wonderful!
The stories are really fascinating, aren’t they? There is an excellent interpretive centre on the site that offers a ton of information about the slide and the history of the region; it is really interesting to tour.
This is fascinating and terrifying at the same time! The pictures you took are terrific–the bright trees against the gray, dead-looking rocks–so striking!
Thank you! It is an incredible sight to see, especially at this time of year with the changing colours of the leaves.
Wow, your photos really capture the power of this place, I am definitely going to check out the links, thanks, Annie
Thank you, Annie – I do hope you get a chance to read the links, especially the Wikipedia one. Very interesting!
The contrast of the leaves against the grey stony landscape is amazing – lovely photos Sheryl.
Thank you! It was such a cool, gloomy day, too…it just seemed to fit.
So very interesting. It must have indeed been horrifying to see those boulders come crashing down! It also must have been deafening loud.
I think I read in the Wikipedia article that you could hear the rocks falling as far away as Cochrane, which is located just northwest of where I live in Calgary. We are about 200 kilometres away from the slide zone. Insane!
Thanks for sharing this. My mom was Canadian and I recognized it right away 🙂
It is a huge part of our history…it is so incredible to stand there and try to comprehend it.
Wow, that is eerie. I had never heard of this disaster, but what a terrifying thing.
It is the second largest rock slide in Canadian history (the biggest occurred in Hope, B.C. in 1965) and the deadliest. It is incredible to think that just a few kilometres from where this slide took place, a mining disaster at the Hillcrest Mine killed 189 men in 1914 – the worst mining disaster in Canada. A place beset by tragedy.
Your photos are eerie and beautiful at the same time.The poor victims must have been sleeping peacefully in their beds. The power and unpredictability of nature can be frightening at times.
The natural world is definitely full of extremes, both beautiful and terrifying. It is difficult to stand there on those rocks and fathom the events of that morning.
How sad and frightening. Your photos of the area are amazing!
Thank you for visiting me today, Sheryl. 🙂
Thanks so much! It is definitely a terrible story.