Springhill Nova Scotia Mine Disaster – Oct. 23, 1958

“The Springhill Bump”

springhill mine - headlineThe 1958 Bump which occurred on October 23, 1958 was the most severe “bump” (underground earthquake) in North American mining history. The 1958 Bump devastated the people of Springhill for the casualties they suffered; it also devastated the town, as the coal industry had been its economic lifeblood.

The No. 2 colliery was one of the deepest coal mines in the world. Sloping shafts 14,200 feet (4,300 m) long ended more than 4,000 feet (1,200 m) below the surface in a vast labyrinth of galleries off the main shafts. In the case of the No. 2 colliery, the mining techniques had been changed 20 years before this disaster, from “room and pillar” to “long wall retreating” after reports documenting the increased danger of “bump” phenomena in the use of the former technique.

springhill mine - minersOn October 23 a small bump occurred at 7:00 pm during the evening shift, but was ignored as this was a somewhat common occurrence. However just over an hour later at 8:06 pm an enormous bump “severely impacted the middle of the three walls that were being mined and the ends of the four levels nearest the walls.”

The bump spread as three distinct shock waves, resembling a small earthquake throughout the region, alerting residents on the surface over a wide area to the disaster. Dräger teams and teams of barefaced miners entered the No. 2 colliery to begin the rescue effort. The rescue teams encountered survivors at the 13,400-foot (4,100 m) level walking or limping toward the surface. Gas released by the bump was encountered in increasing concentrations at the 13,800-foot (4,200 m) level where the ceiling had collapsed, and rescuers were forced to work down shafts that were in a partial state of collapse or were blocked completely by debris.

springhill mine - survivor and sonAny miners who were not covered either in side galleries or some other shelter were immediately crushed during the bump, the coal faces having been completely destroyed. 75 survivors were on the surface by 4:00 am on October 24, 1958. Rescue teams continued working, but the number of rockfalls and amount of debris slowed progress.

Meanwhile, the Canadian and international news media had made their way to Springhill. The disaster actually became famous for being the first major international event to appear in live television broadcasts (on the CBC). As the world waited and those on the surface kept their vigil, rescuers continued to toil below the surface trying to reach trapped survivors. Teams began to arrive from other coal mines in Cumberland County, on Cape Breton Island and in Pictou County.

After five and a half days (placing it around the morning of Wednesday, October 29, 1958) contact was established with a group of 12 survivors on the other side of a 160-foot (49 m) rockfall. A rescue tunnel was dug and broke through to the trapped miners at 2:25 am on Thursday, October 30, 1958.

On Friday, October 31, 1958 the rescue site was visited by various dignitaries, including the Premier of Nova Scotia, Robert Stanfield and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh who had been at meetings in Ottawa.

On Saturday, November 1, 1958 an additional group of survivors was found; however, there would be no more in the following days. Instead, bodies of the dead were hauled out in airtight aluminum coffins, on account of the advanced stage of decomposition, accelerated by the Earth’s heat in the depths of the No. 2 mine at 13,000–14,000 feet (4,000–4,300 m) from the mine entrance.

Of the 174 miners in No. 2 colliery at the time of the bump, 74 were killed and 100 trapped but eventually rescued.

Source Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springhill_mining_disaster

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20 thoughts on “Springhill Nova Scotia Mine Disaster – Oct. 23, 1958

  1. Just started reading the book about this mine disaster,,,,,very close knit community
    How horrific to be trapped and see your work mates and pals hurt or died at scene
    The scars and physcholgical trauma ,,,,poor men and their families
    Well written and documented

    • Hi Don

      Thank you for visiting the site and taking the time to share your memory.

      Although I am in Ontario, I recall it very distinctly as well. Everyone was glued to the radio and newspapers (we didn’t have TV at the time) to see if they had rescued anyone else.

      It was a tragedy indeed!

      Gerry B.

    • I received a comment from Harold Brine addressed to “Don,” so I am presuming it is you.

      The comment reads: Hi Don, Harold Brine here, I am still here at 84 years of age. I was with the group of 12 trapped, I am the only survivor left. I was only 26 yrs., old then and thought I’d never see the light of day again all I thought of was will my daughter remember me. I ‘am truly Blessed to be here today. My thoughts are still with our brothers we lost and after. I think out of the group of 8 trapped Herbie Pepperdine is the only one left from that group. I left Springhill in 1958 for Toronto,Ontario arriving there New Years Eve 1959, with my then wife Joan Comier-Brine and daughter BONNIE Brine-Cole who was only 2 & Half years old.Who lives in Erin, Ontario. I am truly Bless I have two beautiful and wonderful Grandchildren Darren Cole lives in Acton, Ontario with his wife Sheri & Great Grandson Andrew Cole, Granddaughter LuAnne Cole in Barrie,Ontario, my loveing wife Murriel Campbell-Brine, we live in Geary, N. B. Where we retired. I have had a lot of heart problems as I am not all that well, but still able to get around a bit. You no it is interesting out of all the books that have been written I have never been interviewed it’s interesting what they have written about me. Well when all said and done I do appreciate all the people out still thinking of us God Bless you and all. May I ask you are you the son of Merle, God Bless Harold.

      Regards, Gerry B.

    • Hi Don, I’m Afnan. Me and my peer Sarah are doing a heritage fair project on the Springhill Mining Disaster and we were wondering if you would be willing to do an interview on the topic.

  2. This morning I read the article on the 1958 Springhill Mine Disaster, with tears of remembrance. I was 11 when the “Bump” happened. My Dad, Alfred Legere, was one of the 74 men who lost their lives on that tragic day. He was 49 and left behind 11 children and his wife, Margaret, to mourn. Such a sad time for our town of Springhill when so many lives were changed. Thank you Gerry Burnie for this article and for remembering.
    Linda (Legere) Schneider-Ontario

    • Hello Linda

      Thank you for visiting my site, and for your remembrance. A very sad event, indeed.

      To remember those who have passed before is to make them live again; therefore, it is important that we remember their lives and contributions.

      Regards,

      Gerry B.

    • Thank you for visiting my site, and for taking the time to comment.

      Yes, Springhill has seen its share of tragedies;therefore, it is important to remember with respect for their sacrifice.

      Gerry B.

  3. my Father had worked the shift Just Before the new shift were to go down to work when that bump occurred , but I think because he worked in the coal mines ,, it shortened his ,life he died in 1960 . never forgotten the way of life for those poor devils & their Families

  4. Hi Don, Harold Brine here, I am still here at 84 years of age. I was with the group of 12 trapped, I am the only survivor left. I was only 26 yrs., old then and thought I’d never see the light of day again all I thought of was will my daughter remember me. I ‘am truly Blessed to be here today. My thoughts are still with our brothers we lost and after. I think out of the group of 8 trapped Herbie Pepperdine is the only one left from that group. I left Springhill in 1958 for Toronto,Ontario arriving there New Years Eve 1959, with my then wife Joan Comier-Brine and daughter BONNIE Brine-Cole who was only 2 & Half years old.Who lives in Erin, Ontario. I am truly Bless I have two beautiful and wonderful Grandchildren Darren Cole lives in Acton, Ontario with his wife Sheri & Great Grandson Andrew Cole, Granddaughter LuAnne Cole in Barrie,Ontario, my loveing wife Murriel Campbell-Brine, we live in Geary, N. B. Where we retired. I have had a lot of heart problems as I am not all that well, but still able to get around a bit. You no it is interesting out of all the books that have been written I have never been interviewed it’s interesting what they have written about me. Well when all said and done I do appreciate all the people out still thinking of us God Bless you and all. May I ask you are you the son of Merle, God Bless Harold.

    • Hello Herald

      What an honour it is to have you visit my site, and to have your comment as well.

      I cannot even imagine what it must have been like to be trapped underground and wondering about your survival. But, what joy it must have been to see the light and freedom once more.

      I rejoice that you made it and that you can still tell the tale.

      Warm regards,

      Gerry B.

  5. I live in Toronto. In 1965 our family set out on a summer vacation to Atlantic Canada. The trip was by car and took two weeks to go from Toronto to Montreal and on to Quebec City, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and back through the eastern US States and so on; back to Toronto. One of days was dedicated by my mother to visit Springhill, NS. We stopped off at the local Post Office to see if
    we could get information about where the coal mines were. We followed the instructions given by
    the lady manning the post office to one of the mine heads. What an incredible reception we were given when we finally made it to the mine head. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon on an early August afternoon. We must have talked with over a dozen miners. Each one of them were gracious in sharing their stories of 1957 and 1958. I still think of these men today and wonder what ever happened to them. I was 12 years old. I’m 63 now. I still have a large piece of anthracite that I was given to me by one of the miners. Boy did my Mom ever get our vacation right. She said a vacation is about keeping memories. That day is etched in my mind forever and ever. God bless all these men. There is also another connection to Springhill NS. My brother and I have worked on all the Anne Murray Television Specials on CBC-TV in the 1980’s and 90’s. Also Rita and Friends with Rita MacNeil . I was in CBC studio 40 when “Working Man” was filmed with the miner’s choir here in Toronto. Having visited Springhill that August day in 1965 as a young boy gave such special meaning when the miners backed up Rita. Just thought I would share this amazing story with you.

    Corey

    • Thank, Corey, for sharing such a lovely reminiscence.

      On your trip east, you took very much the same route as I do – crossing a Gananoque and through the northern states. A beautiful trip.

      Anne Murray, Rita McNeil and the Men of the Deeps bring back memories, too. I believe I first saw Anne Murray of the Don Messer show – well before she became a star.

      Many thanks again.

      Gerry Burnie

      • Very nice to hear from you Gerry. I don’t know what triggered memories of Springhill couple of days ago. I will never forget talking with those miners. Real men. Do you know what I mean by real. It seems as though people like that don’t exist anymore. Yes Anne Murray did first appear on Don Messser. I got to work with the technical producer that did the Messer show in Halifax…late fifties – sixties. Our family really enjoyed that show. Half an hour once a week on a small portable black and white TV. Where do you live Gerry? I used to do a lot of business with a magnetics company in Gananoque on Herbert Street. Do you remember the old A&P on main street and the Gananogue Shipping Lines. Great memories.

  6. I was touring through Eastern Canada in 1976 when I saw the sign for Springhill. The song about the disaster came to mind. I headed for the site wondering if this was the same Springhill. I had a great visit with the retired miners. Both my grandfathers were West Virginia coal miners and I inherited a fascination with everything coal. When I mentioned my grandfathers the guides were especially welcoming. Even though the work is hard and dangerous my grandfathers loved it. I may never understand that but I loved visiting them in West Virginia and being around coal towns. Springhill was the high point of my tour thanks to the wonderful people there. I’m glad I found this site.

    • Thank you for vising the page, and for your comments Lowell. Yes, it is good to learn our history and appreciate what our forefathers went through to leave what we enjoy today.
      GB

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