My local memories: backyard volcano - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views


My father’s hardware shop sold a product called carbide when I was a boy. The term carbide seems to have a few meanings today, but this carbide was probably calcium carbide. It was used for generating inflammable gas for lighting before batteries became more reliable.

Back in the day, carbide lights were used for mining, lighthouse beacons, car, and bike lights. I remember seeing one being used as a bike light, although they were a thing of the past when I was a kid.

When mixed with water, carbide would bubble ferociously and give off acetylene gas. I’m not sure how the stuff was being used back then, but it was of great interest to inquisitive boys. When put in a can of water it was a sight to behold; throw in a match and watch the flash.

One day when the backyard dunny can was full, we dropped in a lump of carbide. The dunny became a volcano with lava erupting over the top of the can and seat, across the floor and a lava flow began encroaching on the yard. When we threw in a match, the gas caught fire and every aspect of a volcano had been recreated and without any casualties. It was great fun and an amazingly educational and successful scientific experiment. But Mum’s sense of humour was somehow lacking, and she had no appreciation for our passion for scientific experiments!

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