Surplus danger

When I was a lad, seventeen years of age a friend of mine found a bottle of sodium metal from an old abandoned oil refinery in town., what must have been at least a kilogram or so. The bottle must have been thirty years old. It was a soft waxy metal floating in an oil , I believe it was mineral oil. It was sized out in a bunch of half cylindrical shapes, about four inches long. I would guess each chunk weighed around 150 grams or so. Each chunk, if tossed into a body of water would explode with the sound of a 12 gauge shotgun blast and sometimes make an impressive amount of flame and smoke, as well as a column of water ten feet high and sometimes smaller pieces would continue to explode around ten feet away.

We would stick a knife blade in the soft pieces immersed in oil, pull them out of the oil and drain them for a few seconds. Then the sodium would be dropped of a cliff into a lake below. The cliff was about forty feet high and we had a couple explode with enough force to make the water rain back down on us, meaning the water shoot at least fifty feet off the surface. The way to make the big blasts was to stuff a few pieces of the sodium, maybe as many as four or five into an old sock. This kept it relatively together long enough to really react. If you dropped three or four in by themselves they would shoot out across the lake in all directions, like miniature speedboats. , often exploding and jumping around along the way. It was like a fireworks show at night complete with explosions, sparks and flame. Some would swim as much as a few hundred feet out over the water of the lake while skipping and exploding into smaller fragments.

The most memorable moment was from my friend who threw half of the bottle in one day when we ran out of creative ideas for it. He drained the oil out first and tossed what must have been at least half of the supply, glass container and all (!) into a shallow lake. We ran fast and far with me cursing at him all the way. We thought that a few hundred feet was a safe distance.

After the explosion that ensued we found the bottom of the bottle about two hundred feet past where we thought we where safe. It had been shot out of the water somehow and flown over our heads, had it hit one of us it surely would have decapitated someone.

The description of the explosion it made was beyond words. It began as a three foot fireball and a loud roar which became increasingly louder until it became a shrill scream, much like a jet taking off. The crescendo was a loud explosion which made a gigantic smoke ring about five feet across. A real, giant , perfectly round smoke ring that lasted for about twenty seconds as it slowly rose and disappeared.