19 January 2012

Landslides in the British Newspaper Archive

Posted by Dave Petley

An interesting ongoing project is the creation of the British Newspaper Archive, which seeks to digitise the British Library’s back catalogue of newspapers over the next decade.  This will provide searchable access to 40 million pages of historic news.  The newspapers date from 1800.

The team is only part way through the project, but the scanned material to date (and it should be added that they are scanning up to 8000 pages per day) is now available as a searchable archive.  There is a great deal of material there.

In terms of landslides this starts to create the opportunity to generate a dataset of past landslide events, a project that would be deeply fascinating (is anyone interested in working with me on this?).  For example, a simple search for “landslide AND killed” brings up this on just the first page:

12th Feb 1929: Many Persons Killed by Landslide Lisbon. Torrential rains have caused a landslide near the village of Miraodella. Two houses have been destroyed and persons killed.

29 Dec 1930: MANY KILLED BY LANDSLIDE. ALGIERS, Sunday. Many persons are believed have been killed in a landslide which buried two native houses here yesterday evening. The dwellings were situated in Mustapha Hill.

8 Aug 1930: Sixteen natives, fifteen whom were women, were killed in consequence of a landslide while they were working a clay at Melilla, Morocco

3 Nov 1917: Working at Plaxtol Kent, a 16-year-old lad named llerliert Maynard, was killed by a 70- ton landslide of sandy soil

07 Mar 1929: LANDSLIDE MADEIRA. FIVE KILLED, AND HOUSES OVERWHELMED. A message from Funchal, Madeira, received Lisbon last night, states that a disastrous landslip, due to tho recent rainstorms, has occurred in the St. Vincent Valley. Many houses are buried.

30 Dec 1899: TREMENDOUS LANDSLIDE.  ENGLISH VISITORS KILLED. Rome, December 22.—This afternoon there was a tremendous landslip at Amalfi, in the Gulf of Salerno. Part of a mountain crashed downwards towards the sea, burying the Hotel Cappuccini Convento.

06 Mar 1899: LANDSLIDE ON RAILWAY. THREE TRAINS WRECKED. New York, Monday Morning.  News has reached here from low a of an extraordinary railway accident which occurred in that State yesterday near Altoona, Polk County.

03 Sep 1927: A motor car containing five persons was swept away by a landslide on the shore of Lake Geneva on Sunday. All the occupants were killed.

15 Nov 1930: It is feared that sixty people lost their lives in ‘the collapse of houses owing to a landslide at Lyons.  Twenty-five would-be rescuers were killed.

11 Mar 1933: ENGINE OVERWHELMED BY LANDSLIDE. DRIVER AND STOKER KILLED. An engine driver and his stoker were killed on Saturday when their engine fell a hundred feet down a cliffside between Barmouth and Llwyngwril.

26 Sep 1924: LANDSLIDE DEATH ROLL. Locarno, Thursday.—The number of dead as a result of the landslide yesterday evening is lower than was at first supposed. Nine persons have been killed and five injured.

And there are many, many more besides.  With a reasonably inexpensive subscription it is possible to then look at the original article, meaning that a great deal of material could be obtained, and of course correcting the OCR errors.  Of course it would also be interesting to see how the reporting of these events has changed too, and at the understanding causes.