Elk River Arts & Lectures 2018 spring series will open on Thursday, March 8, with a multimedia presentation by Missoula filmmaker and author Doug Ammons, based on his new book, A Darkness Lit by Heroes, about the 1917 Granite Mountain-Speculator Mine disaster in Butte.
The incident was the most deadly in American hardrock mining history, with 168 miners killed in a blaze that was started when a three-ton electrical cable being lowered into a shaft broke loose and its oil-soaked cloth insulation was set afire by the carbide lamp of a foreman who went to inspect the damage. The resulting inferno exploded through the two connected mining complexes, spreading poisonous gas and trapping many miners thousands of feet below the surface.
Ammons’ account combines meticulous research with a focus on the heroes of the accident. He drew on 600 pages of eyewitness testimony from 70 men who survived, as well as the mining company’s proprietary maps, personal documents and correspondence with mining engineers. He found himself drawn to the men—Mannus Dugan and J.D. Moore in particular—who were among those trapped and who were selfless in their efforts to rescue their fellow miners.
“People are capable of far more than they ever thought, and the more difficult the situation, the more the inner strengths of people appear,” Ammons said in an interview with the Great Falls Tribune. “In this case, we see all the responses humans are capable of, to the greatest and most inspirational self-sacrifice.”
Ammons is a world-class kayaker, best known for his adventure writing and filmmaking. His other books include Whitewater Philosophy, and The Laugh of the Water Nymph. His descent of the Grand Canyon of the Stikine was ranked by Outdoor Magazine as one of the 10 greatest adventure stories of the 20th century.
As part of the lecture series, Ammons will spend time with students at Park High, as well as give a free public talk. The event takes place at 7 p.m. upstairs at Elk River Books, 120 N. Main St. in downtown Livingston.
Elk River Arts & Lectures is a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring writers to Livingston for free public readings, and also to provide opportunities for those writers to interact with local public school students. For more information, call 333-2330 or visit elkriverarts.org.