It was a good week for those looking for solutions to mysterious booms and unexplained underground infernos. A strange explosion on a beach in Rhode Island that tossed a poor woman into the air has been solved, while an underground inferno in New Jersey that had been burning for a month with the intensity of a volcano has finally been extinguished.
On July 11th, officials in Rhode Island went on terrorist alert while conspiracy theorists went on mysterious boom alert after an explosion occurred on Salty Brine Beach, lifting 60-year-old Kathleen Danise skyward. Witnesses described the explosion as sounding like a sonic boom, prompting bomb squads and seismic experts to be brought in. While Ms. Danise was being treated at a hospital for a concussion and two fractured ribs, arguments ensued over possible causes for the blast, one of which was explosive gas formed from decomposing seaweed.
The answer is a bit more mundane. On July 23rd, the state Department of Environmental Management confirmed that a buried copper cable abandoned by the Coast Guard had corroded, causing a hydrogen buildup. Combine that with oxygen and every good science student will tell you that’s a recipe for hydrogen combustion. In lieu of any other solutions, it sounds plausible. No other evidence of hydrogen has been found but officials continue to investigate.
Meanwhile, an underground fire in Woodbury, New Jersey, that burned with the heat and smoke of a volcano has been extinguished after a month of terrifying residents and baffling firefighters. On June 23rd, a so-called macroburst storm (a downburst storm more than 2.5 miles in diameter) caused a power line to fall at a Conrail facility, igniting coal and cinder used in track building and starting what became a 30-foot-wide, 30-foot-deep underground inferno that billowed black smoke and reached volcanic temperatures of over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tracks in the area were powered off but that plus water did nothing to stop the hidden blaze. After a month of monitoring and pressure from local residents, the Woodbury fire department and Conrail workers finally extinguished the underground firestorm by digging it out with heavy equipment and back-filling the hole with rocks.
Even when loud booms and underground infernos are found to have conventional, man-made causes, they’re still pretty mysterious.