The Berkeley Blast – 500 tons of Dynamite that blasted out the glass of San Francisco 8 miles away

“A witness near the California Powder Works reported seeing a huge column of white smoke shoot hundreds of feet into the sky seconds before he was knocked down and rendered senseless for several minutes.”

The disaster in Beirut was only a few days ago.

1869 Alfred Noble patented his invention Dynamite which is a safe method of using Nitroglycerin which had an unfortunate tendency to explode when subjected to a large shock. Dynamite made it relatively safe. The California Powerworks had the patent and started manufacturing Dynamite in Santa Cruz and in San Francisco on or near what became Golden Gate Park. There was another plant called the Hercules plant (Hercules in Greek Lore killed Giants) and so they operated facilities near each other which had a tendency to explode.

Explosions were common in munitions plants and after the second blast in San Francisco on or near Golden Gate Park that blew out the glass from downtown San Francisco to Cliff House, the city fathers decided that instead of replacing the glass in the buildings of San Francisco every time one of these things lit up, they would send the plants to Berkeley across the Bay to what is now Albany California at the Polo Grounds. The plant blew up three times and rebuilt each time until the big blast.

The following is the official record of the incident. Holden, Edward S. “Powder Explosion at West Berkeley, July 9, 1892.” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 4, no. 25 (1892): 187-90. Accessed August 8, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40667068.

“”The Giant Powder Works plant, near West Berkeley, a suburban place on the northeastern coast of the bay, about eight miles from San Francisco, was blown up at nine o’clock A. M. on the ninth of July, and it is believed to be the most extensive explosion of the kind that has ever happened. Being situated on a spit of land projecting out into the bay there was a free course for air disturbance to the city, and other surroundings on the southern and western side of the bay, and windows were crushed for a distance of ten miles where no elevated land intervened.
The air disturbance followed channels where the physical formation permitted horizontal flow, and even streets in the city seemed to have guided the lines of greatest effect. Continue reading “The Berkeley Blast – 500 tons of Dynamite that blasted out the glass of San Francisco 8 miles away”

Benicia CA – TOURTELOT PROPERTY (48970005) Housing on unexploded shells on Gunnery range

What happens when you build a housing development and then 6 years later you find unexploded artillery shells on the property? Perhaps it might have been a clue that the property was once called the Benicia Arsenal and that during World War II it was an artillery range?

Site History

Prior to 1990, the Tourtelot Property consisted of approximately 220 acres of undeveloped grassland situated in the northwest corner of the former Benicia Arsenal. The Army leased the Tourtelot Property from 1944 to 1960 for artillery testing, ordnance and explosives (OE) demilitarization, and demolition of damaged and obsolete munitions. In 1990, Granite Management Corporation (Granite) began grading the site for home construction. In 1996, Granite found concrete-filled howitzer shells and live ordnance on the site. Granite then retained the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to characterize the site for OE and chemical impacts to soil and groundwater. Contaminants on the Tourtelot Property included: petroleum hydrocarbons; polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons; dioxins/furans (combustion by-products); volatile organic compounds; trinitrotoluene; and OE. Continue reading “Benicia CA – TOURTELOT PROPERTY (48970005) Housing on unexploded shells on Gunnery range”