The great ‘Smog’ settles in

It’s Saturday morning 6th December 1952 and the London Smog is so dense that residents in some parts of the city could not see their own feet as they walked!  The heart of London was paralyzed – you couldn’t see to walk and transport was at a stand-still.  Boat traffic on the Thames came to a halt; air flights were grounded and trains were cancelled.  Even at mid-day drivers had their headlights full on, and their head hanging out of the window, as they inched their way through town.  Many just gave up the trouble, parked their car and took to the London Underground – seemingly the only thing working at near full activity.

The buses also carried on – but had their conductors holding flashlights as they walked in front of the iconic double-decker buses to guide drivers down city streets. Where there was no buses wheezing pedestrians groped their way around the city’s neighborhoods, trying not to slip on the greasy black ooze that coated the pavements.  By the time they returned home Londoners resembled coal miners – their faces and nostrils blackened by the air.

Weekend soccer games were cancelled – but Oxford and Cambridge Universities carried on with their annual cross-country competition on Wimbledon Common!  They did, however, have the help of track marshals who continually shouted, “This way, this way, Oxford and Cambridge” as runners materialized out of the thick haze.

During the period of the fog, huge amounts of impurities were released into the atmosphere. On each day during the foggy period, the following pollutants were emitted: 1,000 tonnes of smoke particles, 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 140 tonnes of hydrochloric acid and 14 tonnes of fluorine compounds. In addition, and perhaps most dangerously, 370 tonnes of sulphur dioxide were converted into 800 tonnes of sulphuric acid.

It was not until Tuesday 9th December that things began getting back to ‘normal’.

We’ll be there to report.



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