The Devil's Breath

The Devil's Breath

The Story of the Hillcrest Mine Disaster of 1914

Book - 2013
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On a warm spring day in June of 1914, two hundred and thirty-five men went down into the depths of the Hillcrest mine found in Alberta's Crowsnest Pass. Only forty-six would make it out alive. The largest coal-mining disaster in Canadian history, the fateful tale of the Hillcrest Mine is finally captured in startling detail by Stephen Hanon. A deft examination of the coal mining industry in an Alberta just on the cusp of the Great War, The Devil's Breath is a startling recollection of heroism and human courage in the face of overwhelming calamity. Hanon examines the history of the mine itself, its owners and workers, possible causes for the disaster and the lasting effects that it had on those who lived, while educating readers on the techniques used to wrench coal from the bowels of the earth.
Publisher: Edmonton : NeWest Press, c2013
ISBN: 9781927063293
Branch Call Number: 971.234 HAN 2013 23
Characteristics: xv, 325 pages : illustrations, maps


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Mar 24, 2014

March 24, 2014.....I've only read a few pages, but it looks like it's going to be a good one. Not just facts, but stories. Nice. I live where this took place, and the 100th anniversary is coming up in June. I think the events and ceremonies will mean a lot more to me, if I read this before they all start. I've got quite a line-up on my "to read" shelf, but I think I'll bump this one to the top.......April 2, just 30 or more pages to go. I have to say it did get a little dry in some places, but I slogged through and learned a lot. I watched the DVD made by Rick Smallwood in 2003, and that was very informative as well, but the two stories varied in their facts a bit. As I read this book, I am very interested to learn about how the facts were left out, or embellished by the lawyers in the inquiry following the disaster. It was in everyone's interest to get this mine going again, and the miner's safety was never assured. The DVD mentioned that there was another explosion in 1926, that happened when there was only 2 men in the mine, otherwise this tragedy could very well have been repeated, and interesting enough, the mine was not closed down until 1939, not because of safety issues, but because of a lack of need for the coal. The book tells of how many mines were in operation, in Alberta, during that period in time and states that it was surprising that there were not more tragedies like this one, although there were quite a few. After reading this book, I have to say, I have a new high regard for any miners that must venture underground to make a living. It really isn't safe, no matter what the precautions, and going to work is pretty much like playing Russian roulette on any given day. Scary stuff, sure glad I never had to experience that!

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