(1967) I was working on the construction of an irrigation canal in West Africa, and it was necessary to clear the route of some extremely large trees. Gelignite was cheap and effective, and fortunately, we had George on our staff to help us use it. George possessed a Blasting Certificate, testifying to his expertise in this field.
While he was showing an African foreman how to set up the explosives, I spotted George with a cigarette in his mouth, presumably placed there because his hands were occupied with fuse cord and sticks of gelignite. For his comfort, George was seated on a 56-pound case of Special Blasting Gelatin.
Those who know explosives will realize that this situation, in itself, presented no problem. Gelignite may burn when ignited, but will not explode unless prompted to do so by a detonator. As I walked up, I saw that George was inserting a detonator into a stick of gelignite...
We all, with the exception of one tree, lived to tell the tale. However, thinking that I would not believe my own recollection of the incident unless I recorded it, I delayed running for cover until I had taken a photograph, which I have to this day. And I feel that this triumph of photography over self-preservation merits an At-Risk Survivor!
[sidebar] Gelignite is a relatively safe explosive mixture, composed of nitroglycerin absorbed into wood pulp (or guncotton) and sodium or potassium nitrate. It was invented by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist who also invented dynamite. Nobel amassed a huge fortune, which upon his death was used to fund the annual Nobel Prizes. [/sidebar]
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