Ask most people what famous maritime disaster is linked to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the answer will no doubt be, “Titanic, of course,” - being the port where many bodies and some wreckage ended up after that great tragedy of 1912.
But because the carnage of the Great War overshadowed everything else at the time, an event that took place just five years after Titanic may not be as well known. It resulted in the deaths of around 2,000 people, injury to another 9,000 as well as the demolition of much of Halifax itself.
It was caused by an explosion, the greatest ever man-made prior to the invention of the atomic bomb, and was the result of a collision between two ships in the harbour, between the empty Norwegian vessel Imo, and the French vessel, Mont-Blanc, which was loaded down with explosive supplies intended for the war in Europe.
This info sheet produced by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic gives a good summary of exactly what happened on that fateful day, 6 December, 1917.
And the even more comprehensive“In the blink of an eye” website is excellent and is totally dedicated to the explosion and its aftermath.
The long list of names in the Nova Scotia Remembrance Book can make for sober reading with so many children listed, including those who had just arrived to begin the school day and those in an orphanage.
One wonders at how many individuals living safely in Canada were grieving or deeply concerned for their loved ones fighting overseas, never for one moment imagining that the horrific tools of war would end their own lives.
|Frozen in time, the moment of detonation (Maritime Museum of the Atlantic)|
The last few nonagenarian survivors of the great explosion all died quite recently, among them Verna Jeffries and Mary Murphy
In 2005, a film was made of event, “The Shattered City”
|Never forgotten. The Fort Needham Bell Tower where every year a memorial service is held|
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