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Pontypridd, Mid-Gamorgan

April 12, 1893, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Three Hundred Men Below the Fire.
There Was an Explosion, and Then Flames and Smoke Shut Off the Buried Workmen.

Special to The Morning Call

London, April 11. This afternoon the little village of Pontypridd, in the county of Glamorgan, Wales, was startled by a dull roar, followed by a cloud of smoke and flames that came from one of the coalpits on the hills near the town.

In a few minutes the news had traveled to the village and into the country surrounding the mine that there had been an explosion of coal gas far down in the earth and that 300 miners had been entombed alive. At once a crowd began collecting, but flames and smoke were still belching from the pit, the engine-house was on fire and burning fiercely and it was for a time utterly impossible to attempt to go down Into the mine or to rescue those who were known to be below, dead or dying it might he, or possibly alive and yet knowing themselves cut off from all hope of rescue.

How the accident occurred was not clear at first, nor even yet can it be known definitely. It seems, however, that there must have been gross carelessness somewhere, for there is no doubt that, unknown to the officials, the shaft over which the engine was working became filled early in the day with gas and coal dust. There had but to drop into it then a spark from the engine to cause a catastrophe, and this would seem to be precisely what happened.

As soon as possible after the occurrence of the accident volunteers were called to go down to the rescue, and from out of the crowd where wives and sisters and mothers and sweethearts and little children were sobbing for those who were below, brave men stepped forward to the mouth of the pit from which volumes of smoke came thicker and thicker, and literally fought their way down against the fire. The effort was vain. It might have been foreseen from the first that it could not succeed. Five bodies were found in the first drift, and then the attempt at rescue was abandoned. The rescuers were literally driven back by the volumes of flame and smoke, for in that pit nothing human could have lived.

Explosion in a coal mine.

The men returned to the surface, bringing up with them five burned and blackened bodies, and then in the attempts at identification the scene was heartrending. Women and children gathered about the corpses, and those who found their dead there knew that to them the worst was over, while those who found not their dead had still upon them the gloom of uncertainty. It was an uncertainty, however, in which there was little of hope.

Meanwhile efforts were making to flood the mine and to resume the work of rescue, but in the nature of things these efforts would be long in the carrying out. The coal mines near Pontypridd are miles in extent, and aside from the difficulty of locating the fire, it would still be difficult to secure a sufficient quantity of water to give the work promise of success. While these efforts were being made, and while other rescuing parties were being made up, there was a shout from the hillside at a little distance from the burning shaft, and then it became known that seventy men had succeeded in reaching the surface through the main dip working, led by a miner who knew the roads. They had a frightful experience in getting out, literally fighting their way through fire and smoke, and when they reached the open air many of them fell exhausted, to be carried to their homes by friends and neighbors, too much overcome to tell of their sufferings, or in many cases to speak at all.

South Wales: Glamorgan, Monmouth, Brecknock, Carmarthen, Pembroke, Cardiff. 1920Map of South Wales. 1920.

South Wales.

Many more, however, were yet below, and these it was necessary to reach that they might be saved if any were yet living, or that their bodies might at least be brought to the surface for a burial different from that in a burning mine. The attempts at rescue were not abandoned, therefore, though fraught with small hope. At 9:45 o'clock this evening it is still impossible to obtain more than meager details of the accident, and the men who saved themselves were too much confused and frightened to observe the positions of their fellow-workingmen. They were unable to give any clear account of the distribution of the miners, and the work of rescue must therefore proceed with all the difficulties of uncertainty.

At present the flames and smoke would render any attempt at rescue vain if not fatal to the party making the descent. There is little doubt, moreover, that most if not all of the men left below have been suffocated or burned to death.

Coal Mountain Elementary.The second attempt to enter the seam in which the fire started proved fruitless, and, although the rescue party saw six dead bodies they were prevented by smoke and beat from reaching them.

The number of men still in the burning mine cannot now be ascertained, although it is known that the number will reach over 200.

The fire is above the places of refuge, and, anyway, the men were working at such a distance from these places that it Is doubtful if any could have reached them alive.

The town of Pontypridd is on the Taff River near Lanwit and has coal and tin mines and manufactories of chains and cables.

At midnight the fire is burning in all the sections of the mine near the shaft. The service pipe, which is used to pour water Into the mine, has burst, and the difficulties in the way way of quenching the fire have increased greatly. The rescue of the men below is regarded as hopeless.

The Cockle Gatherer
'S trusaidh mi na Coilleagan

Cockle Gatherers.

I dal a du vil, i dal a du horo
Blythe I gather cockles here
I dal a du vil, i dal a du horo
Blythe I gather cockles here

Joy scream of sea gulls
Down on the skerry there
Joy scream of sea gulls
Blythe I gather cockles here

Laughter of sea waves
Down on the skerry there
Laughter of sea waves
Blythe I gather cockles here

Chorus, ending with
Still I gather cockles here.

From Songs of the Hebrides

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

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