A horrific landslide in 1903 provides a picture of the coming collapse of modern society—a collapse most will be too distracted to see coming! What can the Frank Slide teach you about being prepared for the future?
North of Montana in southern Alberta—along the Crowsnest Highway near the British Columbia border—is a desolate expanse of haphazardly strewn grey limestone boulders. In contrast to the surrounding pine-covered foothills and ruggedly beautiful mountain valleys, this area appears drab and lifeless. Vegetation is sparse there, as most of the fertile soil is buried under several metres of rocky rubble. This boulder-covered valley is a memorial of the deadliest landslide in Canadian history—a horrific event, and one not without warning.
In the morning of April 29, 1903, before the sun had even breached the horizon, the residents of the coal-mining town of Frank were abruptly awakened. The ground quaked violently, and a terrifying rumble engulfed the sleepy mountain community. It lasted for just one minute and forty seconds, but that short time was enough for it to wreak incredible devastation. At 4:10 a.m., the northeastern face of Turtle Mountain collapsed. A 425-metre-high, 1000-metre-wide, and 150-metre-thick section of the mountain came loose, sliding down the northeastern slope. Rocks from the slide covered three square kilometers, burying a quarter of the town in rubble 14 to 45 metres deep. The scale of the landslide was enormous. Approximately 44 million cubic metres of limestone, weighing 110 million tonnes, came crashing down—enough to build a wall one metre wide and six metres high all the way from Victoria, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia (Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, FrankSlide.ca/learn).
Seventy-two townspeople in the path of the slide were killed, along with an unknown number of transient workers camped at the base of Turtle Mountain (“Canada’s Deadliest Rockslide—The Night Turtle Mountain Crashed Onto the Town of Frank,” The Calgary Herald, April 28, 2021). Estimates suggest that 100 people died, but the exact number is unknown, as few bodies were recovered from the rubble.
These deaths were tragic—and they could have been avoided had people heeded the warning signs.
The town of Frank was founded in 1901—two years before the slide—as a coal-mining town. It was situated near the base of Turtle Mountain, where coal had been discovered a year earlier. Soon, the mountain was honeycombed with mining shafts, and tonnes of coal were being removed daily from tightly packed coal veins.
The men working the mine told of strange happenings. George Hie, one of the miners, gave an account of his experience, saying, “Two weeks before the actual slide took place I happened to be working at the twelfth level of the coal mine. I heard the mountain cracking. The pressure was so great at this place that a six-inch timber was broken. During the days that followed many were killed or injured by accidents caused by the continuous pressure” (“Death and Destruction Rode Frank Slide,” The Province, December 14, 1946).
Other miners also spoke of movement within the mines: “A senior miner pointed out that new movements of walls were observed from time to time in the six months before the landslide, each one occurring between one and three in the morning, presumably when temperatures were at their lowest. This miner described the experience of these movements as being like a ship’s violent shaking when struck with a large wave” (“Turtle Mountain Landslide—Alberta, Canada—April 29, 1903,” DevastatingDisasters.com).
The strange occurrences within the mines were warnings to the mine workers, their families, and their friends.
Turtle Mountain is composed of various layers of sedimentary rock, the result of a large inland sea that once covered much of North America. The sifting action of the water sorted particulates by size, creating horizontal stratification. Sediments at the lower layers formed into sandstone and shale, which are relatively soft. The upper layers of sea sediments became limestone, which is relatively heavy and dense.
The mountain is an anticline structure, formed by the folding of rock strata into an arch-like shape. In such a structure, the once horizontal seabed is thrust upwards to near vertical. The peak of the mountain, weakened by the incredible strain pulling it apart, developed fissures and crumbled away over time. With the protective peak gone, the rock layers were exposed to the inclement Alberta weather. The softer layers eroded away, leaving the layer of heavy limestone precariously supported and making the mountain geologically unstable. The structure of Turtle Mountain was a warning sign those familiar with geology would have understood.
The First Nations people—the Blackfoot and Kutenai—who lived in the Crowsnest Pass area would not camp near Turtle Mountain. They knew the mountain to be unstable and referred to it in their oral traditions as “the mountain that moves” (“The Day the Mountain Moved,” MacLean’s, April 28, 2003).
Such names ought to have been a warning to the early settlers looking to start a new life in western Canada. The experience of the indigenous people living there was discounted, trumped by the broad valley, plentiful water supply, and availability of coal.
The winter of 1902–03 saw more snowfall than usual. This was followed by a spring that started uncharacteristically early and warm. During the day, the melting snow runoff mixed with the spring rain. In the evening, the temperatures fell and the water that had seeped into the mountain fissures froze and expanded.
The early spring of 1903 meant additional weeks of freeze-thaw activity. The day prior to the landslide was warm with a lot of runoff; however, the evening saw the temperature plummet to a six-month record low (DevastatingDisasters.com). These abnormal spring conditions served as another warning that went tragically unheeded.
The town of Frank was growing and prosperous. It seemed to have everything going for it—except that it was built at the base of an unstable mountain. The danger was not unknown; warning signs were evident. Yet on the fateful morning of April 29, 1903, the people of Frank were unprepared for the terrible event that occurred.
As devastating as the collapse of Turtle Mountain was, a far greater collapse even now looms over all the earth. This collapse will involve more than falling stone and will claim far more lives. The coming collapse—economic, political, military, and environmental—will bring the entire world to the brink of destruction and kill billions. Jesus Christ prophesied that this time of catastrophe will be unlike anything mankind has ever experienced (Matthew 24:21–22) and will come suddenly (1 Thessalonians 5:2–3). Like the Frank Slide, this global collapse will not come without warning. Rather, it will be the direct result of man’s disobedience to God and His laws. Yet if any choose to heed the warnings, turn to God, and repent of their wickedness, the Almighty will have mercy on them (2 Peter 3:9).
Even if your nation persists in rejecting the word of God and His ways, you can choose individually to accept your Savior’s sacrifice, repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit to help you obey Him as you draw ever closer to Him, despite the God-rejecting world around you. If you recognize that God is calling you to hear His warnings, request a free copy of Christian Baptism: Its Real Meaning from the Regional Office nearest you, or read it online at TomorrowsWorld.org. Collapse is ahead, but you can heed God’s warning and be among those He protects.