Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Halifax Explosion


One hundred years ago today on December 6, 1917, the worst disaster in Canadian history occurred in the maritime port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. That morning, two ships collided in its harbour -- the French cargo ship SS Mont-Blanc and the Norwegian ship SS Imo. The Mont-Blanc was packed with TNT and other explosives being shipped to France for use in World War I. It caught on fire and blew sky-high.

The resulting blast levelled a big part of Halifax, killed nearly 2,000 people and injured another 9,000. It was the world's largest man-made explosion until the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima nearly 30 years later.


As stated in Wikipedia:

Nearly all structures within an 800-metre (half-mile) radius, including the entire community of Richmond, were obliterated. A pressure wave snapped trees, bent iron rails, demolished buildings, grounded vessels, and scattered fragments of Mont-Blanc for kilometres. Hardly a window in the city proper survived the blast. Across the harbour, in Dartmouth, there was also widespread damage. A tsunami created by the blast wiped out the community of Mi'kmaq First Nations people who had lived in the Tufts Cove area for generations.

And then, just to add to the misery, a blizzard occurred, hampering rescue and relief efforts. Trains full of supplies and aid were sent to Halifax from across Canada and the northeastern United States. The American city of Boston was especially quick and generous in sending doctors, nurses, medical supplies and funds, which is why Nova Scotia annually donates a huge Christmas tree to Boston every year in friendship and gratitude.


If you ever go to Halifax, be sure to visit the Halifax Explosion Memorial Bell Tower which was erected near the collision site. It is a very solemn and beautiful place of commemoration.


There is also an old historic Anglican Church called St Paul's, located in downtown Halifax on the Grand Parade, that is worthy of a visit. It survived the Explosion because it was outside the immediate blast radius.


Inside the church doors, however, a spike is still embedded high up on the interior wall where it was blown by the force of the Explosion. And towards the back of the church, you can see the famous "Explosion Window." Local legend has it that, due to the intense light and heat generated by the Halifax Explosion, the profile of one of the church’s deacons was etched into the glass of a second story window of the church.


Here's a better view of the Explosion Window --


[All photos from the internet]

47 comments:

mistress maddie said...

A great post and learned something. Nice to learn something of Canadian history......since we may soon be residents!!!! A beautifully done memorial too.

anne marie in philly said...

oh wow; did not know this. the metal shard in the wall of the church indicates how powerful this blast must have been. those poor people who died...

thank you for posting this.

Kay G. said...

Debra, thank you for this post. I think you have written of this before but if not for you, I would not have known about it.
The shard in the wall somehow makes it more personal.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i haven't thought about this in years! great post!

CJ Kennedy said...

I saw your post from Magic Love Crow's page. I'm from Boston and the city had the annual lighting of the tree from Halifax last week. During the ceremony, it was mentioned that a disaster, an explosion had occurred in Halifax and the city of Boston sent aid. The news piece never mentioned the explosion happened in the harbor. I thought something happened in a factory so I'm glad to know the real history.

laurie said...

devastating!

Marie Smith said...

Such a tragic event. A reminder of the fragility of life!

Frank said...

Thanks for the post. This is something we never learned in history class (in the US). What a horrendous event. Nice to know the Boston connection is still going on. I was in Halifax once...spent most of the day in a Mall waiting out a hurricane and then having car repairs on my 1976 Fiat 128 Sport Coupe.

DEZMOND said...

Oh, lawd, why did they allow a TNT filled ship near any other ships and city? How terrible.
Exactly a hundred years ago my city was part of Austro-Hungarian Empire, we became a Yugoslav city only after the war.

Anna of Mutton Style and Years said...

Thank you for sharing. We don't think of Canada as having those kind of disasters. Interesting about the window. I wonder if it's true.

Jeanne said...

I had heard mention of this over the weekend on a news show. What a tragedy. Glad the spike was left as a way to remember. And that window! Wow!
A beautiful memorial for a tragic event.

Theresa Young said...

Wow! I've never heard of this.

Joanne Noragon said...

For a time in the thirties my dad was a radio operator on ships in the great lakes. This story was among the ones he told. Explosions were not that uncommon, but this was the worst. In his day there was an explosion of the Chicago docks due to grain dust and, probably, cigarettes.

Bob Slatten said...

I hadn't heard of this before. Amazing old photos, and the Halifax Explosion Memorial Bell Tower is beautiful.

lady M said...

Such a terrible tragedy - I don't even remember hearing about it in Canadian history class in 9th grade!

Susan said...

What a tragedy! I had heard about this, but didn't realize how devastating it was for the communities. This has given me another reason to be fond of Boston, and to expand my knowledge of Canadian history.

e said...

I love your historical posts. I will definitely visit the memorial next time I'm in Halifax.

Kirk said...

I have a bit of the history buff in me, but did not know anything about this. Thank you.

A Heron's View said...

This is new to me and the first time I have read about this tragedy, which must have been truly terrifying
for all those involved. About the window and the facsimile of the deacon on the glass, then yes I understand that other similar phenomenas occurred when the atom bombs were dropped on Japan.

Jenn said...

Thanks for this Debra! There was some interesting info and photos I hadn't seen of this before. Remember the Heritage Minute commercial that featured this disaster?

BW Bandy said...

Nicely done.

MrsDuncanMahogany said...

When visiting Halifax a few years back we went to explore all we could about the explosion. We went to the church - eerie how the cutout of the glass resembles a side profile of a man.

I love Halifax. I would move there in a heartbeat and never look back.

CraveCute said...

Thank you for this informative post. What a tragic event this was, so much devastation.

Leeanna Henderson said...

You should be a history teacher. I love hearing about Canadian history. It's so interesting to hear about other places in the past.

Jono said...

I am embarrassed to say I had never heard of this. Such tragedy and such resilience. Thanks for telling the story.

brewella deville said...

Those poor people...here, on top of everything have a blizzard to go with that.

Rosemary said...

I stayed in Halifax many years ago now, but knew absolutely nothing at all about this tragic explosion.

bill lisleman said...

yet another lesson learned from blogging. thanks
that explosion is difficult to comprehend

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Horrific! We just watched a documentary about this a couple of days ago or so. I can't find the link or else I'd share it with you. It's worth watching.

Janie Junebug said...

I didn't know anything about this! How awful.

Love,
Janie

Barbara said...

OMG. I never heard this story. So tragic.

By the way I was at Target looking at little girl things and saw a purse with a bee on it. Thought of you right away.

bj said...

I don't think I ever knew about this. Oh, my....
It's so hard to imagine how 2 large ships could run into ea other...
night ??..fog?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ bj -- It was 9:00 o'clock-ish in the morning. I don't think it was foggy. I think it was just somebody's navigational error. The collision occurred at a narrow part of the harbour.

Elsie Amata said...

How the heck do I not know this? This literally had me saying, "Wow" out loud as I read and looked at the pictures. That spike is just plain eerie but also serves as a humble visual of what occurred. We have a building around here that still has a cannonball stuck in its wall to also serve as a reminder.

Elsie

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

How tragic Debra. Thanks for sharing some history. Saddens my heart to hear about such tragedies.

The Happy Whisk said...

That last photo of the window ... spooky looking.

bj said...

Thanks for coming by...and the gout flares are better...thanks for your friendship, She Who Seeks...xo

Adam said...

So you guys got jealous of the Titanic and had to go and get your own worse disaster? Nice try Canada, but we finally outdid you. Last year on Nov 8 we created the worst disaster ever, it cannot be trumped.

Birdie said...

I remember learning about this. I can’t even begin to imagine such devastation.

Mitchell is Moving said...

Thanks for this fascinating post. I knew about the explosion but knew none of the details, not even what caused it. Devastating.

G. B. Miller said...

I remember reading about this while at my 1st state job (microfilming old CT newspapers). If I remember correctly, one of the explosions actually wiped out the 1st wave of rescuers (fire and medical) that arrived on the scene.

Missy George said...

Interesting story..What a tragedy..Devastating for sure..Thanks for sharing the details..

Magic Love Crow said...

So very, very sad!!! Such a tragedy! I never knew anything about the church and the window. Thanks for sharing all of this Debra! Big Hugs!

Fundy Blue said...

Hi, Debra! Thanks for sharing the story etched into the heart of every Bluenoser. My grandmother told me once that she felt the explosion in Smith's Cove. All the best to you and your Rare One!

JACKIESUE said...

never heard about this..how terrifying it must have been...

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

What about Vince Coleman - telegraph operator who stopped the train that was coming into Halifax. I know because I saw it many times on the CBC History Minutes.

baili said...

thank you for this one Debra as knew nothing about such big accident of history!

felt sorry for people who died out of manmade explosive material .
Bell Tower is great but i wish to give them tribute we should avoid using science for destroying the earth and humans