Bear Swamp: Flyrock

by kfrego

Flyrock is a term used to describe rocks that fly into the air when explosives are detonated. One of my adventures was associated with flyrock. New England Power had control over Harriman Reservoir near  Wilmington, Vt., a few miles upstream from the Bear Swamp Project. For years boats had been damaged by hitting the top of a submerged old powerhouse during dry spells. This was a dangerous situation. In the summer of 1971 an executive of New England Power destroyed his outboard motor when his boat went over the old powerhouse with only a foot of water above it. He had enough stroke to get the problem fixed.

Harriman reservoir was drained in the winter. New England Power gave us a contract to lower the old concrete powerhouse structure and adjoining earthfilled dam. All the equipment needed was brought up from Bear Swamp. My crew included a D-8 dozer and operator, two laborers, a jack leg drill, and misc hand tools. The dozer worked lowering the old dam while we drilled the old concrete structure for blasting. We anticipated two blasts to level the building. The blasts would fracture the reinforced concrete and the dozer would push the walls down. We were ready to blast on Tuesday, but couldn’t get our powder crew until Thursday.

Our blasters and powder truck came after lunch and we loaded the drill holes. The weather was in the 20’s all day with snow flurries. There was about 15 inches of snow on the bottom of the empty reservoir. We carefully measured and loaded the drill holes with dynamite and electric caps. We pulled back about 1000 feet to blast. When the first few delays went off everything really looked good. We were on a small knoll in the reservoir. As the delays continued detonating we saw several pieces of flyrock going out into the reservoir. They were about the size of a volleyball, 10 feet off the ground, with a flat trajectory. Just after turning my head back to the remaining blast delays my eye caught a glimpse of movement just above the snow. In a split second a piece of flyrock nailed me just above my ankle, knocked my feet out from under me, and dumped me in the snow. I stood up momentarily and fell back down again. The softball size piece of concrete cut the double layer of leather between the lace eyes of my sorrell boots. The felt liners underneath the leather saved my leg. An xray and examination confirmed nothing broken. Arley the blaster drove me home. My foot was swollen and numb.

It was a long painful night. I drove my stick shift pick-up to work the next morning with one foot. The crew sat me on the dozer fuel tank, packed me in on the dozer, and sat me beside a nice fire for several days. We leveled the old powerhouse with the first blast. We finished the job well before our schedule date.

The doctor said we were both lucky. My bones weren’t broken………and he didn’t have to spend half the night putting them back in place.