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Wharton Steel Company
Wharton Mine Inundation

Hibernia, Morris County, New Jersey
October 19, 1911
No. Killed - 12

Bureau of Mines Investigation Report  PDF Format
In October 1911, the New Langdon shaft was being sunk and had reached a depth of about 1,500 feet on the variable dip of the ore.  At the same time a drift, several levels above the shaft bottom was being driven to tap some old workings supposed to be about 250 feet from the shaft.  Those workings had been abandoned and filled with water, so that their exact extent could not be determined.

On October 19, the drift was thought to be over 100 feet from the old workings, but blasting of a round in the face broke through, allowing water to enter and flood the drift and the shaft below its level.  Miners working in the drift and adjacent levels escaped, but 12 men in and near the bottom of the shaft were drowned.

No accurate maps of the area were available, and estimates of the distances involved underground were obtained by measurements between surface openings.  No test holes were drilled ahead of the drift face, and men were allowed to remain on the lower levels while the drift round was blasted, because it was estimated that the drift still had more than 100 feet to go to the water-filled old workings.

After the mine was unwatered, a drift was driven safely on a lower level to tap the flooded workings. Test holes were kept ahead, and the unwatering was done through boreholes.

Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume III

12 Jersey Men Drowned Far Down in Mine
Trenton Evening Times, New Jersey
October 20, 1911

Hibernia, N.J., Oct. 20. -- Buried beneath hundreds of feet of water, twelve miners were drowned in one of the Wharton Steel Company's mines near here shortly after 1 o'clock this morning.

The victims had no chance of escape.  With a tremendous roar, the water broke through the wall of the pit in which they were working and in a few minutes the mine was flooded.

The dead:
  • Foreman, David Slaight
  • Joseph Swenty
  • George Pollich
  • Andrew Miskoshek
  • John Manister
  • Paul Ketra
  • Joseph Swingler
  • Michael Nejoc
  • Michael Compus
  • Stephen Mida
  • George Kermus
  • Joseph Ploskunka
The shaft in which the accident occurred is on the side of a mountain literally honeycombed with abandoned workings in which millions of tons of water have collected.  Only a thin wall stood between the men and death and an ill-timed blast of dynamite shattered the barrier and released the flood.

As soon as the news of the accident was known, every man and woman in this little town rushed to the scene.  In the chill early morning with the rain falling in torrents they clustered helpless about the mouth of the shaft, the weeping, hysterical women, relatives of the victims imploring the men to do something, but there was no hope from the first.

The pumps were rigged as soon as possible and willing hands have kept them going without a moment's pause, but it will be a day or even longer before the mine can be emptied sufficiently to permit the recovery of the bodies.

The mine is owned by the Wharton Steel Company, one of the few large concerns which is not connected with the United States Steel Corporation.  It was founded by the late Joseph Wharton of Philadelphia, and owns mining interests in various parts of mining interests in various parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and other parts of the East.

The Hibernia mines have been operated for nearly a century.

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