Thursday, January 1, 2015
Poisonous Pea Soup
You all know how fond I am of New York. I don't think I've ever written about my obsession with London. I adore big, sprawling cities that make little sense to outsiders. (Tokyo shares similar charms.) While I appreciate the formal beauty of towns such as Paris, I prefer chaos. I want to be surprised, shocked, or titillated every time I take a turn. London delivers. It's a big, beautiful mess. I wouldn't want to live there, but it's a city I'll never get tired of visiting.
And, of course, London's long history puts New York's four hundred years to shame. I could write a thousand posts on the strange events that have taken place in London, the bizarre figures who have called it home, and the fabulous fictional characters the city has produced over the last thousand years. (This blog is named Bank St. Irregular for a reason.)
But today, I'll focus on pea soup fogs. Like most Americans of my generation (and possibly yours), I always romanticized the fogs that once descended on London. They called to mind natty trench coats and Sherlock Holmes tales. (Not to mention Jack the Ripper.) Of course the London fogs were anything but romantic. "Pea-soupers" were a direct product of pollution. That picturesque fog was poison, and every time it rolled into town thousands of people perished.
The pea-souper of December, 1952 may have killed more than twelve thousand people. (To put that into perspective, it's almost four times the number of people who died here in New York on 9/11.) Fortunately, those deaths led to legislation that eventually cleared the skies over London.
Check out the wonderful Nickle in the Machine blog for more pictures of the 1952 killer fog. I love it when another blog does my work for me (and does a much better job than I would have done).