On April 29, 1903, at 4:10 a.m., 82 million tonnes (30 million cubic
metres) of limestone crashed from the summit of Turtle Mountain and
buried a portion of the sleeping community of Frank in the valley below.
The dimensions of the rock mass that fell are staggering: 150 metres
(500 feet) deep, 425 metres (1,400 feet) high and one kilometre (3,280
The bustling coal mining town of Frank, located at the
base of Turtle Mountain, was home to approximately 600 people at the
time of the slide in 1903. Fortunately, the slide missed most of
the townsite, including all of the commercial section and most of the
residences. Of the one hundred or so unfortunate individuals who lived
in the southeast end of the townsite and were in the path of the rockslide,
an estimated 90 were killed.
Scientists have determined that the primary
cause of the Frank Slide was Turtle Mountain's unstable geological
structure. Underground coal mining, which had begun in Turtle Mountain
when the Canadian American Coal and Coke Company mine opened in 1900,
may have contributed to the disaster. This, along with the freeze/thaw
cycle of water in summit cracks and severe weather conditions on the
night of the slide, may have triggered it.
The elevation of the north peak
of Turtle Mountain is 2,100 metres (6,920 feet) and the south peak
is 2,200 metres (7,217 feet) high. The coal seam that was mined from
within Turtle Mountain is 3-7 metres (8-23 feet) thick, and is
pitched at approximately an 85 degree angle. An outcrop of the coal
seam can be seen on Turtle Mountain.
Amazing stories of tragedy and
triumph from the wake of the Frank Slide:
- Seventeen underground mine
workers on the night shift in the Frank Mine are trapped by the slide,
but manage to dig their way to freedom.
- Following the slide, Big Charlie,
a mine horse, is trapped underground for a month before being found
- A brakeman for the Canadian Pacific Railway, Sid Choquette,
races across the just-fallen rocks of the slide to flag down an approaching
passenger train. Choquette heroically stops the train before it collides
with the slide.
- Fifteen-year-old Lillian Clark stays overnight in Frank
at the boarding house where she works rather than return home to
her family’s cottage on Manitoba Avenue. She is safe, but her entire
family is killed in the slide.
- The Bansemer family’s home on Manitoba Avenue
is moved 6 metres off its foundation by the slide, but everyone in
the cottage survives.
- The Ennis family’s home is crushed by the mud
and rocks of the slide, but everyone in the family miraculously survives,
including their baby daughter, Gladys, who goes on to a long life
and becomes the last living survivor of the slide, passing away in
the Leitch family’s cottage on Manitoba Avenue, father, mother and
four sons are killed but the three daughters survive.
- Rumours travel
the world about the entire town being buried with only one survivor
– a baby girl named ‘Frankie Slide.’ Although completely untrue,
these rumours and myths are passed on for generations.
Last reviewed/revised: July 29, 2015