When the Turtle Shrugged*……

“There are moments in life, so monumental and still, that the memory can never be retrieved without a catch to the throat or an interruption to the beat of the heart.. Sarah Winman. Still Life

Lens-Artists #246: Still Life challenge: Sharing an edited blog post from 2019 on Still Life as April 29, 2023 marks the 120th year of Frank Slide tragedy:

Frank Slide: It was “Stilled Life” when on April 29, 1903 at 4:10 a.m. the Turtle Mountain, overlooking the mining town of Frank (Crowsnest, Alberta), shrugged of nearly 110 million metric tonnes of rock “approximately one km wide, half a km high and 150 metres thick” imbedding the unsuspecting, sleeping residents into a stony memoriam.

On return drive from Waterton* to Calgary an off chance remark about mountain landslides made us divert to Frank Slide bypassing the mining touristy presentations of Crowsnest. The funebrial desolation, Highway 3 passes right through the boulders stacked alongside the road, muted us. The enormity of the tragedy was felt when we learn that within minutes the Turtle rocks piled up on the opposite hills, obliterating the eastern edge of Frank, the Canadian Pacific Railway Line and the coal mine. A small population, nearly 100 people, had lived in the path of destruction located between the CPR tracks and the river and out of this miniscule community nearly 70 to 90 people were buried under the rocks unable to save themselves from entombment. The lucky survivors lived to recount the harrowing experiences. Walking on the rocks seemed a violation of dignity of lives buried.

We climb the deadly boulders, take selfies and watch others in similar motions. I suppose with each passing year the tragedy gets layered over by superlatives, the largest and the deadliest landslide in Canadian history, but for the descendents the catastrophe must be a continuous source of pain and shock. Over the years Frank recovered, metamorphosing into a tourist town (Crowsnest Pass)*, a symbol of resilience.

Son and Granddaughter

Due to time constraints (unplanned ) we could not visit the Frank Slide Interactive Centre (opened in April 28, 1985), for a complete guide on sequence of events. The Centre has four levels of displays and exhibits, high-definition movies, one specifically about the Frank Slide and one about the history of the Crowsnest Pass area, plus free programs and guided trail hikes (https://frankslide.ca/)


*The Crowsnest Pass: a mountain pass on the Continental divide of the Canadian Rockies, bordering Alberta and British Columbia, owes its existence to coal mining. The first coal mine in the area opened in 1900 attracting immigrants across ethnic and cultural diversity. Over the years the mines closed down and in the present this collective of five towns, Bellevue, Hillcrest, Blairmore, Frank, Coleman offers, along with Frank Slide, historic sites, defunct mines, vibrant artistic and natural vistas for outdoor activities and adventure explorations. https://www.mustdocanada.com/

* The Turtle Mountain, looking down south at Frank, was a disaster waiting to happen. Miners could feel the rumblings and pressure from within the mountain causing the supporting timbers of mine shafts to crack and splinter. The First Nation referred to Turtle Mountain as ‘the mountain that moves’ and had warned the pioneers and miners not to live at the base of the Mountain. I suppose a new land and new resources must have been the guiding factor for setting base. 

*Town of Frank, founded in 1901 in southwestern Alberta, was named after Henry Frank who along with Samuel Gebo owned the Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company operating the mine that was the genesis of the town.

Waterton: Summer of 2019: Waterton, Canada

*A takeaway from Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED.

12 thoughts on “When the Turtle Shrugged*……”

  1. Thanks for all these info 🙏 🙏
    Well photographed and thanks for sharing.
    Wishing you a happy weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Hi Travtrails. I thought I had responded to your post, but I don’t see it here. I really enjoyed your creative post on a different type of still-ness. What a remarkable and eerie place! Thanks for sharing.

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