1900: Were Two Huge “Kablooies” Connected?….Story by John Vonderlin

Can Anyone Explain the Explosions?

Story by John Vonderlin

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While perusing the Newspaper Archives, I came across a couple of articles about two long ago events, that while seemingly wildly unrelated, have a strong connection to me in several ways. They both tell the story of what could be the two largest “Kablooies” to have occurred in historic times on the Coastside. Likewise, they both occurred at sites whose exact locations are now lost, turning them two minor mysteries right side-by-side on my must-find-and-visit site list. Perhaps, one of your readers can help?

The first article is from the January 7, 1909 issue of “The San Francisco Call.”
Charge Successfully Displaces 65,000 Yards of Material
Jan.6  One of the most difficult tasks of the Ocan Shore Railroad was carried to a successful conclusion near San Gregorio, when 16,000 pounds of explosive was set off in one blast. successfully displacing 65,000 cubic yards of material. The grading between Long Bridge and San Gregorio is nearly completed.
The second article is from “The San Francisco Call,”  January 14, 1900

Remarkable Phenomenon at Pescadero Probably Caused by Explosion of Subterranean Gases  Santa Cruz January 13

A remarkable phenomenon occurred on Pescadero Creek at 11 o’clock last night, when nearly two acres of land thickly covered with redwoods and including a section of the creek was raised up bodily ten to fifteen feet above the surrounding land. The upheaval was accompanied by a heavy rumbling sound and is supposed to be an earthquake. A long section of the wagon road was elevated and destroyed. The elevation of a portion of the creek bottom changed the course of the stream, which had cut a wide new channel around the upraised ground. Much of the timber had been prostrated, while all that is still standing leans heavily towards the higher ground. Many dead fish were found. As there are oil indications in the vicinty the upheaval may have been caused by a gas explosion in the depths below.


Of the two mysteries the location of the site of the enormous manmade explosion should be the easiest to solve. By studying the planned route of the Ocean Shore Railroad north of San Gregorio, I should be able to locate the site of the largest roadbed cut, which is probably also the site of the titanic explosion. Sixty five thousand yards of material are difficult to hide, even a hundred years later. Such a huge explosion deserves a story, even if its force was wasted on a route that was never finished or used. Sound and fury, yes, but much ado about nothing.
The two -acre uplift site may be more difficult to find. The reference to oil indications helps a bit, as I’ll detail in a later posting. The most interesting thing about it is, whether caused by earthquake or subterranean gas explosion, its proximity to the proposed Worley Flats Dam site might have greatly magnified its significance had it come to light during the public hearing part of the dam’s planning process. Whether a repeat of this phenomena would have produced a tidal wave of disturbed water over the dam, or caused a complete failure of the dam would have been a matter of much concern for the dam’s more catastrophically-minded opponents. That is, assuming they had ever read a small filler article in a seventy year old newspaper from a distant city. Enjoy. John
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