Star Wars fans! Is the Mole the Sandcrawler? Help us solve this mystery.

mole

King County Archives, Solid Waste Division, 07/22/1968.

In a galaxy far, far away… actually the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill near Maple Valley, Washington, there was a peculiar piece of equipment called “The Mole.” Measuring 48 feet long, a towering 27 feet high, 19 feet wide and weighing almost a whopping 150 tons, the Mole was a giant experimental machine, funded a by $300,000 grant, operated by King County engineers and designed by Renton architectural and consulting firm Johnston, Campanella, Murakami & Company. Tested from 1968 to 1971, the Mole was basically a mega trash compactor that roamed around the landfill, smashing garbage 15 feet into the ground. The Mole was a creature of the former King County Public Works department, the predecessor to a number of agencies including King County Roads and Solid Waste.

mole-4

King County Archives, Department of Transportation.

To give you a better perspective of the Mole’s size, here are some statistics:

What else is 48 feet long? It’s the maximum allowable length of a semitrailer or 3-1/2 1964 Volkswagon Beetles lined up length-wise.

What is 27 feet high? A giraffe can grow to 20 feet tall. A standard telephone pole is 36 feet.

What else weights 150 tons? The world’s largest mammal – the Blue Whale – weighs 115 tons. A 1,600 square foot house (unfurnished) weighs 172 tons.

Engineers had high hopes for the mighty Mole. They thought it could revolutionize how solid waste is compacted and stored. See 1960’s promotional video below about the Mole.

(The film above was produced in 1966 by Carmon Film Productions, with the King County Department of Public Works Sanitary Operations Division, the Bureau of Solid Waste Management, and the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Original title: Waste Away)

But that wasn’t the fate of the mighty Mole. Engineers concluded that the type of soil at Cedar Hills wasn’t suitable for the Mole, so it was mothballed and auctioned off on August 2, 1973. See the Seattle Times ad below. But who bought it? And why would someone want a giant trash compacter? Maybe that wasn’t what the buyer intended.

seattle-times-mole-ad-from-1973

An ad in the Seattle Times from 1973 advertising the sale of the Mole.

According to King County legend… a famous movie studio bought the Mole to use as a prototype. Take a really close look at the Mole. Have you seen it on the silver screen? Can you help us solve our mystery and answer this question:

Fact or fiction: Is the Mole the Star Wars Sandcrawler?

Mole photo.jpg

King County Archives, Solid Waste Division, 07/22/1968.

For more information about the Mole, visit these pages: http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/records-licensing/archives/exhibits/at-home-07.aspx

http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/records-licensing/archives/exhibits/CedarHillsAndTheMole.aspx#WasteAway