Origin Story: The Tapioca/Mineshaft Connection

The aphorism ‘Never throw tapioca down a mine shaft’ is only weird if you don’t know its origin story. So let’s unweird it right now.

Here’s what happened: Gordon Flaherty was down his mine shaft at the Wounded Moose Gold Mine, which is currently for sale, back in August 1896: The Yukon Gold Rush. It was light out 24 hours a day and nobody knew how to handle it. Gordon was on a roll and had been down there for 36 straight hours. He was getting a little delirious. Meanwhile, his wife, Geraldine, was sick and tired of waiting for him to come up and eat the tapioca she had made 35 hours ago. She made the best tapioca north of the 60th Parallel. It was long since cooling down, it was starting to spoil. Much like Gordon’s mind down there in the shaft.

Geraldine heard Gordon holler something so she walked over to the shaft opening and hollered back “Pardon? I din’t hear ya!” Gordon hollered again: “Don’t throw down the tapioca!” With the little bit of sanity Gordon had left, he realized Geraldine might be angry at how long he’d been down there and that she might just want to send that tapioca down the shaft right into his face. Gordon also realized that the combination of his burning oil lantern, the mine’s natural sulfuric fumes, and the sulfuric-like smells coming from his armpits, mouth and especially his behind, the air was a little bit unstable already. Add in some spoiled tapioca travelling at 9.81 m/s, it might just result in something of a spectacular chemical event.

However, when Gordon yelled “Don’t throw down the tapioca” what Geraldine heard was “Throw down the tapioca” so she did. It is still to this day noted as the largest explosion in the Yukon’s history and is why you need a license to own tapioca in any of the Canadian Territories. You can pick one up in Whitehorse as long as you can prove a basic standard of personal hygiene. So there you have it. The Great Tapioca Explosion of 1896. #tdc1531

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