The Frank Slide
Most of The Outlander is fictional, but the slide at Frank, which catastrophically plagues the closing third of the story, is based on the factual landslide at Frank, Alberta in 1903.
Frank, Alberta was a small Canadian mining outpost that was inaugurated as a town in 1901. On April 29, 1903, 74 million tons of limestone slid from the top of Turtle Mountain and blanketed nearly three-square kilometers of the valley floor. The slide removed the entire top of Turtle Mountain, dammed the Crowsnest River, which formed a lake, blocked the Canadian Pacific Railway, buried seven houses and other buildings near Frank, obliterated the majority of the mine's exterior infrastructure, and killed 70 people. Although some believed that an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands and the town's subterranean mining operation was to blame for the slide, it was later determined that Turtle Mountain's unstable geological structure and the weather were the real culprits.
Frank was immediately evacuated following the slide, but some people were soon allowed back into the area. Despite the large destruction, the railway and mine were out of service for only a month. Though the town continued to prosper, the southern portion of Frank was shut down in 1911 due to concern about further geological disasters.
Not everyone who was in the pass of the debris died. A few women and a toddler were pulled alive from the mud, and seventeen men trapped inside the mineshafts were able to get out by digging through 20 feet of limestone boulders in a massive effort that took 14 hours.
This article was originally published in May 2008, and has been updated for the
June 2009 paperback release.
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