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The Tapioca Time Bomb

It was reported on September 14, 1972 that firemen in Cardiff, Wales had spent several days putting out a fire on the 12,000-ton Swiss vessel Cassarate. Timbers stacked in the upper holds of the ship had caught fire 25 days earlier while at sea and the crew was able to keep it under control. When the ship docked in Wales, firemen moved in to finally squelch the flames.

But there was one big problem: the lower holds of the ship held 1500 tons of tapioca. The water used to put out the fire above seeped downward and the tapioca began to swell. In addition, the heat began to cook the tapioca. The ship had become a gigantic steam oven. Firefighters were concerned that the pressure of the swollen tapioca could burst the ship’s steel plates and cause it to sink.

Once the smoldering lumber could be removed, the plan was to unload the tapioca into trucks and then haul it off for disposal. One estimate said that there was enough tapioca to fill 500 trucks, although another estimated 200 truckloads. Either way, that is a lot of tapioca.

Luckily, the pressure began to subside and the decision was made to sail the ship to Rotterdam and let the Dutch deal with the problem. 

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3 years ago



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