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{{main|History of Halifax, Nova Scotia}}
 
{{main|History of Halifax, Nova Scotia}}
 
[[Image:Halifax_Pre-1917.jpg|thumb|250px|View of Halifax before the 1917 explosion looking toward the industrial north end from downtown]]
 
[[Image:Halifax_Pre-1917.jpg|thumb|250px|View of Halifax before the 1917 explosion looking toward the industrial north end from downtown]]
During [[World War I]], Halifax quickly became a major international [[port]] and [[Navy|naval]] facility. Halifax has one of the world's largest [[Harbor#Natural harbours|natural harbours]] and was well connected through direct [[Intercolonial Railway of Canada#First World War|railway]] connections to other Canadian and North American cities. The harbour became a major shipment point for war supplies, troopships to [[Europe]] from [[Canada]] and the [[United States]] and hospital ships returning the wounded. All neutral ships bound for North America had to report to Halifax for inspection. After German submarine attacks began in 1916, Halifax's harbour assumed an even larger role as an assembly point for merchant ships awaiting naval escort in [[convoy]]s. A large army garrison protected the city with forts, gun batteries and anti-submarine nets. These factors drove a major [[military]], [[Industrial sector|industry]] and [[residential]] expansion of the city.<ref>''The Halifax Explosion and the Royal Canadian Navy'' John Armstrong, University of British Columbia Press, 2002, p.10-11.</ref>
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During [[World War I]], Halifax quickly became a major international [[port]] and [[Navy|naval]] facility. Halifax has one of the world's largest [[Harbor#Natural harbours|natural harbours]] and was well connected through direct [[Intercolonial Railway of Canada#First World War|railway]] connections to other Canadian and North American cities. The harbour became a major shipment point for war supplies, troopships to [[Europe]] from [[Canada]] and the [[United States]] and hospital ships returning the wounded. All neutral ships bound for North America had to report to Halifax for inspection. After German submarine attacks began in 1916, Halifax's harbour assumed an even larger role as an assembly point for merchant ships awaiting naval escort in [[convoy]]s. A large army garrison protected the city with forts, gun batteries and anti-submarine nets. These factors drove a major [[military]], [[Industrial sector|industry]] and [[residential]] expansion of the city.<ref>''The Halifax Explosion and the Royal Canadian Navy'' John Armstrong, University of British Columbia Press, 2002, p.10-11.
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HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE THE COW JUMPED OVER THE MOON... KEITH GAVIN HAS GAIDS X</ref>
   
 
== Prelude to disaster ==
 
== Prelude to disaster ==

Revision as of 20:08, 13 March 2008

Halifax Explosion
Halifax Explosion blast cloud restored.jpg
View of the mushroom cloud roughly 15-20 seconds after the blast, taken 21 km (13 miles) away from the Northwest Arm of Halifax Harbour.
Location Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Date 6 December 1917
9:04:35 (AST)
Attack type
ship collision and explosion
Deaths 1,950 (approximate)
Non-fatal injuries
9,000 (approximate)

The Halifax Explosion occurred on Thursday, December 6, 1917, when the City of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, was devastated by the huge detonation of a French cargo ship, fully loaded with wartime explosives, that had accidentally collided with a Norwegian ship in "The Narrows" section of the Halifax Harbour. Approximately 2,000 people (mostly Canadians) were killed by debris, fires, or collapsed buildings, and it is estimated that over 9,000 people were injured.[1] This was the largest man-made explosion until the first atomic bomb test explosion in 1945 and is still one of the world's largest man-made, conventional explosions to date.

At 8:40 in the morning, Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship which was chartered by the French government to carry munitions, collided with the unloaded Norwegian ship Imo, chartered by the Commission for Relief in Belgium to carry relief supplies. Mont-Blanc caught fire ten minutes after the collision and exploded about twenty-five minutes later (at 9:04:35 AM).[2] All buildings and structures covering nearly two square kilometres along the adjacent shore of the exploded ship were obliterated, including those in the neighbouring communities of Richmond and Dartmouth.[1] The explosion caused a tsunami in the harbour, and a pressure wave of air that snapped trees, bent iron rails, demolished buildings, grounded vessels, and carried fragments of the Mont-Blanc for kilometres.

Halifax in wartime

View of Halifax before the 1917 explosion looking toward the industrial north end from downtown

During World War I, Halifax quickly became a major international port and naval facility. Halifax has one of the world's largest natural harbours and was well connected through direct railway connections to other Canadian and North American cities. The harbour became a major shipment point for war supplies, troopships to Europe from Canada and the United States and hospital ships returning the wounded. All neutral ships bound for North America had to report to Halifax for inspection. After German submarine attacks began in 1916, Halifax's harbour assumed an even larger role as an assembly point for merchant ships awaiting naval escort in convoys. A large army garrison protected the city with forts, gun batteries and anti-submarine nets. These factors drove a major military, industry and residential expansion of the city.[3]

Prelude to disaster

On December 1, 1917, Mont-Blanc, a 3,121-ton, 97.5 metre long by 13.7 metre wide freighter, departed New York City, USA to join a war convoy assembling in the Bedford Basin (Halifax), Canada. The vessel did not fly warning flags for its dangerous cargo in order to avoid being targeted by the German Imperial Navy, which had sunk many of the newer, faster ships, leaving less than ideal vessels to aid in war efforts. It carried on board 2,653,115 kilograms (2,653 tonnes) of explosives. The cargo would have been valued at US$3,601,290 in 1917 (upwards of US$60 million today), and consisted of the following:

On December 5, Mont-Blanc, captained by Aimé Le Médec, arrived at the examination point off McNabs Island and requested permission to enter the harbour, but was too late. Halifax Harbour had two antisubmarine nets that were closed for the night at sundown. These nets prevented both submarines and surface ships from entering or leaving. These nets were in place during the war to prevent the Central Powers from attacking Entente shipping and reinforcements being sent to Europe - the primary threat being the German Imperial Navy's U-boat fleet. At the same time, Imo, a 5,043-ton, 131.5 metre long by 13.8 metre wide vessel, captained by Haakon From, was to sail for New York to pick up relief supplies destined for civilians in Belgium, but its coal supplier arrived late and it too, missed the sunset cut-off time, and was stuck for the night inside the harbour, on the other side of the submarine nets. The Imo at the time carried no cargo.

Collision and fire

The next morning, shortly after the harbour's opening around 8:30 AM on December 6, Imo attempted to depart through the starboard channel when it met an oncoming ship. At the time, two-way passage by vessels through the narrow section of the harbour (called "The Narrows" - connecting the Atlantic Ocean and outer harbour with the Bedford Basin) was unrestricted, provided that vessels followed established collision avoidance regulations. The two vessels agreed to pass on their incorrect sides (according to nautical regulations), with Imo steering to port. This was a convenience for the incoming ship, which was docking on the Halifax side of the harbour.

By roughly 8:15 AM, Imo remained in the port channel as Stella Maris, a tugboat towing two barges, evaded Imo by remaining on the Halifax side of the harbour.

As Imo departed through the port channel, Mont-Blanc was entering via the starboard channel. After a series of whistle blows communicated from both vessels indicating their intent to remain on course, Le Médec eventually ordered Mont-Blanc hard to port, sending the ship into the center channel. At the same time, Imo reversed its engines in order to stop, but the backward action of the propellers brought her to the center channel as well. The combination of last minute evasive maneuvers by both vessels sent them back on their collision course.

At roughly 8:45 AM, Imo's prow struck and became lodged in the starboard bow of Mont-Blanc, sparking the benzol and picric acid. Imo attempted to pull back and dislodge, which likely generated further sparks. By now the barrels of benzol stored on the Mont-Blanc's deck were aflame.

As the fire spread out of control, Mont-Blanc's crew were unable to reach fire-fighting equipment and, aware of their volatile cargo, quickly abandoned ship upon the captain's orders. Within 10 minutes, their two rowboats containing the 40-man crew reached safety on the Dartmouth side of the harbour as the burning ship continued to drift towards the Halifax shore. Any warnings shouted by the French speaking crew were not understood as they fled further inland away from the burning ship.

Other ships came to aid the burning Mont-Blanc. Notably, Stella Maris had begun an attempt to extinguish the ship's flames with its fire hose. Failing this, and unaware of the danger, the vessel made two attempts to tow the abandoned Mont-Blanc away from the docks. HMCS Niobe and HMS Highflyer also sent crews to assist.

Hundreds of onlookers gathered on the shores of the harbour, watching as Mont-Blanc eventually drifted into Pier 6 on the Richmond waterfront, spreading the fire onto land, igniting some munitions cargo that was stored on the pier. West street (Station 2) members of the Halifax Fire Department, along with the first motorized fire engine in Canada, the Patricia, had arrived on the scene to combat the fire. Brunswick Street, Gottingen Street, and Quinpool Road stations all responded to the fire as well.

Explosion and aftermath

At 9:04:35 AM, the cargo of Mont-Blanc exploded with more force than any man-made explosion before it, equivalent to roughly 3 kilotons of TNT. (Compare to atomic bomb Little Boy dropped in Hiroshima, which had a power of 13 kiloton TNT.) The ship was instantly destroyed in the giant fireball that rose over 1.6 kilometres (1 mi) into the air, forming a large mushroom cloud. Shards of hot metal rained down across Halifax and Dartmouth. The force of the blast triggered a tsunami, which rose up as high as 18 metres above the harbour's high-water mark on the Halifax side, caused by the rapid displacement of harbour water in the vicinity of the blast, followed by water rushing back in towards the shore. The effects were likely compounded by the narrow section of the harbour. There was little information documented on this event as witnesses were generally stunned and injured as the wave washed ashore, though the wave contributed to the death toll, dragging many victims on the harbour front into the waters. Imo was lifted up onto the Dartmouth shore by the tsunami. A black rain of unconsumed carbon from the vessel fell over the city for roughly 10 minutes following the blast, coating survivors and structural debris in the black substance.

View from the waterfront looking west from the ruins of the Sugar Refinery across the obliterated Richmond District. Pier 6, ground zero of the explosion, is on the extreme right.

Since the explosion occurred in the winter, the blast caused stoves, lamps and furnaces to tip or spill, spreading fires throughout the devastation, particularly in Halifax's North End, leaving entire streets on fire. Fuel reserves were high in preparation for the winter. Many people who had survived the blast were trapped in these fires. Problems were compounded as firemen from surrounding communities arrived and were unable to use their equipment, as hoses and hydrants were not standardized across communities or regions. Winds cooperated, and firemen, soldiers and other volunteers had most of the fires contained by evening.

A view across the devastation of Halifax, looking toward the Dartmouth side of the harbour. IMO can be seen aground on the far side of the harbour.

Some 1.32 km² (325 acres) of Halifax was destroyed, essentially leaving a 1.6 kilometre (1 mi) radius around the blast site uninhabitable. Many people who had gathered around the ship either to help or watch were amongst those killed in the blast, or were subsequently hit by the resulting tsunami. Others who had been watching from the windows of their homes and businesses were either killed instantly or severely injured by the flying glass as their windows shattered inwards.

Professor Howard Bronson of Dalhousie University later detailed that the disaster had damaged buildings and shattered windows as far away as Sackville and Windsor Junction, roughly 16 kilometres (10 mi) away. Buildings shook noticeably and items fell from shelves as far away as Truro and New Glasgow, 100 kilometres (62 mi) and 126 kilometres (78 mi) away respectively. The explosion was felt and heard in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, roughly 215 kilometres (135 mi) north, and as far away as North Cape Breton, 360 kilometres (225 mi) east.

Fragments of Mont-Blanc rained down all over the city. A portion of Mont-Blanc's anchor shaft, weighing 517 kilograms (1140 lb) was thrown 3.78 kilometres (2.35 mi) west of the blast on the far side of the Northwest Arm, which is now part of a monument at the corner of Spinnaker Dr. and Anchor Dr., while a gun barrel landed in Dartmouth, over 5.5 kilometres (3.5 mi) east, near Albro Lake. A piece of wreckage was driven into the wall of St. Paul's Church, where it remains today.

Rumoured second explosion

A rumour of a second explosion had started roughly an hour after the first. Despite the high number of disciplined rescue workers, many of whom were military personnel, and although there are no records of an order to evacuate, soldiers reportedly had begun to clear the area with fear that smoke rising from the naval ammunitions magazine at Wellington Barracks was an impending second explosion. This site did store a large amount of explosive material and munitions, but the smoke/steam was a result of scattered coals being extinguished by personnel on site. Many rescue efforts were halted as masses of people fled to the high grounds and open areas of Citadel Hill, Point Pleasant Park and the Halifax Commons, under the order of uniformed men. Rescuers and victims alike were delayed until almost noon when the situation was cleared, although some rescue parties ignored the evacuation and kept working. In the chaos and confusion, fear of German attacks had become rampant, leaving many to believe that the initial blast was not an accident, further fueling the idea of a second explosion.

Blizzard

The following day brought a blizzard which dropped 40 centimetres (16 in) of snow on the community. Those who remained trapped in rubble, the injured, or those who had not been found or tended to, were often left in the bitter cold, adding to the tragic losses. Rescuers were forced to work through the storm, and many people who were left homeless found shelter wherever they could. Houses left standing did not have windows after the blast, leaving survivors to use tar paper, carpets and other available materials to seal their homes from the elements. The snow, however, did aid firemen in ensuring any remaining fires were extinguished.

Human loss and destruction

Explosion aftermath: Halifax's Exhibition Building

While it is unknown exactly how many deaths resulted from the disaster, a common estimate is 2,000, with an official database totaling 1,950 names made available through Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management in the Book of Remembrance.[4] As many as 1,600 died immediately in the blast, the following tsunami, and collapsing of buildings, with an additional 9,000 injured, of whom 6,000 were seriously injured. 1,630 homes were completely destroyed in the explosion and ensuing fires, with 12,000 more houses damaged. This disaster left roughly 6,000 people homeless and without shelter and 25,000 without adequate housing. The city's industrial sector was in large part gone, with many workers among the casualties and the dockyard was heavily damaged.

The explosion killed more Nova Scotian residents than World War I itself. Detailed estimates showed that among those killed, 600 were under the age of 15, 166 were labourers, 134 were soldiers and sailors, 125 were craftsmen, and 39 were workers for the railway.

Explosion aftermath

Many of the wounds were also permanently debilitating, with many people partially blinded by flying glass. Thousands of people had stopped to watch the ship burning in the harbour, with many people watching from inside buildings, leaving them directly in the path of flying glass from shattered windows. Roughly 600 people suffered eye injuries, and 38 of those lost their sight permanently. The large number of eye injuries led to better understanding on the part of physicians, and with the recently formed Canadian National Institute for the Blind, they managed to greatly improve the treatment of damaged eyes. The significant advances in eye care as a result of this disaster are often compared to the huge increase in burn care knowledge after the Cocoanut Grove Fire in Boston. Subsequently, Halifax became internationally known as a center for care for the blind, accounting for a large proportion of patients.

According to estimates, roughly $35 million Canadian dollars in damages resulted (in 1917 dollars; adjusted for inflation, this is approximately CAD$500 million in 2007 dollars).[5]

Communities affected

Although Halifax was hit the hardest and suffered the most damage, with the North End obliterated, several neighbouring communities and settlements also suffered casualties during and after the blast.

Dartmouth

The Dartmouth side of the harbour was not as densely populated as Halifax, and separated from the blast by the width of the harbour, but still suffered heavy damage. Estimates are that almost 100 people died on the Dartmouth side. Windows were shattered and many buildings were damaged or destroyed, including the Oland Brewery and parts of the Starr Manufacturing Company. Nova Scotia Hospital was the only hospital located on the Dartmouth side of the harbour, and treated many of the victims there.

Mi'kmaq settlement

The small Mi'kmaq settlement located directly opposite Halifax, in Tuft's Cove (also known as Turtle Grove), was completely obliterated. Unfortunately, little information was recorded on the effects of the disaster on the First Nations community. The settlement is known to have dated back to the 1700s, and on November 6 was slated to be relocated as reservations were established through Indian reserve status lobbying. Fewer than 20 families resided in this community, and had not begun their move before the collision and fire drew the attention of onlookers around the harbour. Records show that 9 bodies were recovered, and the settlement was abandoned in the wake of the disaster.

Africville

The black community of Africville, located on the southern shores of the Bedford Basin, adjacent to the Halifax Peninsula, was reported to have been protected by the surrounding topography, with the majority of damage arising from windows shattering. It is unknown how much information was simply not reported by officials.

Heroism and rescue efforts

Many individuals, groups and organizations contributed to the rescue and relief in the days, months and years following the disaster. Specific acts of heroism and bravery by individuals are detailed below.

Vince Coleman

The death toll could have been worse if not for the self-sacrifice of an Intercolonial Railway dispatcher, P. Vincent (Vince) Coleman, operating at the Richmond Railway Yards. He and his co-worker learned of the danger from the burning Mont-Blanc from a sailor and began to flee. Coleman remembered, however, that an incoming passenger train from Saint John, New Brunswick was due to arrive at the rail yard within minutes, and he returned to his post to send out urgent telegraph messages to stop the train.

Stop trains. Munitions ship on fire. Approaching Pier 6. Goodbye.

The train is believed to have heeded the warning and stopped a safe distance from the blast at Rockingham, saving the lives of about 300 railway passengers. Furthermore, Coleman's message was heard by other stations all along the Intercolonial Railway helping railway officials to respond immediately. The rescued train was later used to carry injured and homeless survivors to Truro, Nova Scotia. Coleman was killed at his post as the explosion ripped through the city. He is honoured as a hero and fixture in Canadian history, notably being featured in a "Heritage Minute" one-minute movie[6] and a display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Firemen

Firemen were among the first to respond to the disaster, rushing to Mont-Blanc to attempt to extinguish the blaze before the explosion even occurred. They also played an instrumental role in regaining control of the devastated city after the blast, with members arriving to assist from across Halifax, and by the end of the day from as far away as Springhill and Amherst, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick, via relief trains.

Halifax's Fire Department at the time comprised 8 fire stations, 122 members (36 of whom were fully employed), 13 apparatus (1 of which was motorized), and roughly 30 horses. West Street's Station 2 was the first to arrive at pier 6 with the crew of the American LaFrance-built Patricia, the first motorized fire engine in Canada.

They were responding to Box 83, the dockyard alarm at the corner of Roome Street and Campbell Road (now Barrington Street), as Mont-Blanc drew near to its resting place at Pier 6. Although the dockyard alarms were routine for the department, today was different, as North End general storekeeper Constant Upham could see the serious nature of the fire from his home and called surrounding fire stations to advise them. Upham's store was on Campbell Road, directly in view of the burning ship, and as one of the few buildings at the time with a phone, he placed his call sometime after 8:45 that morning. Despite this warning, none of the firemen knew that the ship carried munitions. It was believed however, that the vessel's crew was still onboard, as West Street's Station 2, Brunswick Street's Station 1, Gottingen Street, and Quinpool Road's Station 5 responded to Upham's call.

Fire Chief Edward P. Condon and Deputy Chief William P. Brunt, were next on the scene, arriving from Brunswick Street in the department's 1911 McLaughlin Roadster. The heat was overwhelming, and Chief Condon pulled the Box 83 alarm again. In the final moments before the explosion, hoses were being unrolled as the fire spread to the docks. Retired Hoseman John Spruin Sr. was on his way from Brunswick Street in a horse-drawn pumper, and Hoseman John H. E. Duggan was traveling from Isleville Street's Station 7 with another horse-drawn firefighting wagon.

None of the firemen knew the danger that they faced as 9:04 arrived, bringing about the explosion that obliterated the dockyard fire site. Fire Chief Edward Condon and Deputy Chief William Brunt were killed immediately along with crew members, Captain William T. Broderick, Captain G. Michael Maltus, Hoseman Walter Hennessey, and Hoseman Frank Killeen, of the Patricia. John Spruin and John Duggan were both struck and killed by shrapnel en route to the fire. Their horses were also killed instantly in the blast. Patricia hoseman Frank D. Leahy died on December 31, 1917 from his injuries. Nine members of the Halifax Fire Department lost their lives performing their duty that day.

The only surviving member at the scene was Patricia driver Billy (William) Wells, who was in the vehicle at the time of the blast. He recounts the event for the Mail Star, October 6, 1967,

That's when it happened ... The first thing I remember after the explosion was standing quite a distance from the fire engine ... The force of the explosion had blown off all my clothes as well as the muscles from my right arm...

It is explained that Billy was standing again as the tidal wave came over him. He managed to remain on land.

...After the wave had receded I didn't see anything of the other firemen so made my way to the old magazine on Campbell Road ... The sight was awful ... with people hanging out of windows dead. Some with their heads off, and some thrown onto the overhead telegraph wires ... I was taken to Camp Hill Hospital and lay on the floor for two days waiting for a bed. The doctors and nurses certainly gave me great service

Notably, firefighter Albert Brunt also survived the blast, by chance, as he slipped while attempting to jump onto the Patricia as it rounded a corner on its way to the docks.

A new pumper was purchased by the city and arrived just a few days after the explosion. The Patricia was later restored by the American LaFrance company for $6,000, who donated $1,500 to a fund for the families of the firemen. The families of firemen killed in the blast received $1,000 from the city (close to $15,000 in 2007 dollars), with the exception of one, who received $500.

On the 75th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, December 6, 1992, the Halifax Fire Department erected a monument at the current Station 4, at the corner of Lady Hammond Road and Robie Street, in honour of the fallen members who died fighting the fire on Mont-Blanc.

Medical relief

Almost immediately following the blast, Halifax hospitals began to overflow with the dead and injured. Anybody with medical training and experience, both military and civilian, found themselves tasked with the treatment of thousands. Doctors and nurses aware of the disaster began to arrive as early as that afternoon, arriving from Amherst, Truro, Kentville and New Glasgow, Nova Scotia via relief train. The Military medical staff was among the immediate response teams, with vessels in the harbour or within sight of the smoke or earshot of the blast arriving to aid. American support was strong, particularly from Massachusetts, with support trains bringing doctors, nurses, orderlies and much needed supplies to the effort. The first relief train left from Boston at 10:00 PM on the day of the explosion. Relentlessly chugging through wintery terrain and through heavy snowfall, the train reached Halifax just over 30 hours later at 3:00 AM on December 8, unloading much needed food, water, medical supplies, and some aid workers to relieve the ones working non-stop at shuffling through the remains of the battered city.

Many of the emergency procedures involved eye injuries and removals, lacerations, or amputations, with operating rooms and medical wards working around the clock for several days. Medical students at Dalhousie University were enlisted to assist, even those who had just begun studying in September. The Red Cross, Salvation Army and Saint John Ambulance all focused their resources to the disaster, and away from the war overseas.

The lack of coordinated pediatric care as noted by a surgeon from Boston named William Ladd who had arrived to help is generally credited with inspiring him to pioneer the specialty of pediatric surgery in North America. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/77/5/764)

Facilities

Halifax at the time had 4 public hospitals, 4 military hospitals, and 7 private hospitals. The most important were Victoria General Hospital and Camp Hill Hospital, taking many of the critically injured while redirecting minor injuries to other sites and temporary facilities.

Victoria General Hospital was the largest civilian hospital in Halifax at that period. Three operating rooms ran non-stop after the explosion, treating the critically injured. The hospital still exists today as a part of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, a 10 building group of facilities formed in 1996, and are now known as the Centennial and Victoria Buildings.

Located behind Citadel Hill, Camp Hill Hospital was a military hospital completed earlier the same year. It was built quickly in order to treat the large number of wounded returning from the war in Europe. It was completed only a few months before the explosion, and treated 1,400 wounded in the first 24 hours after the blast.

Archibald MacMechan, who collected many accounts of the disaster, describes Camp Hill Hospital as,

a synonym for horror ... broken bones, scalds, burns due to the contact with stoves or boilers, contusions, maiming, internal injuries--but undoubtedly the most ghastly wounds were those inflicted by the flying glass.

Also, the Hospital for the Insane, also known as Mount Hope helped handle the casualties on the Dartmouth side of the harbour. Having opened in 1859, Mount Hope was designed to support 250 patients when completed. It was renamed to the Nova Scotia Hospital in the early 1900s. It accommodated 200 patients following the blast. The hospital still exists today as part of the Capital Health District Authority, and is a fully accredited teaching facility affiliated with Dalhousie University.

Popular culture

Memorial Bell Tower was erected in Halifax as a memorial to the lives lost or changed forever by the Halifax Explosion

The canonical novel Barometer Rising (1941) by the Canadian writer Hugh MacLennan is set in Halifax at the time of the explosion and includes a carefully researched description of its impact on the city. Following in MacLennan's footsteps, journalist Robert MacNeil penned Burden of Desire (1992) and used the explosion as a metaphor for the societal and cultural changes of the day. MacLennan and MacNeil exploit the romance genre to fictionalize the explosion, similar to the first attempt by Lieutenant-Colonel Frank McKelvey Bell, a medical officer who penned a short novella on the Halifax explosion shortly after the catastrophic event. His romance was A Romance of the Halifax Disaster (1918), a melodramatic piece which follows the love affair of a young woman and an injured soldier.

More recently, the novel A Wedding in December (2005) by Anita Shreve has a story-within-the-story set in Halifax at the time of the explosion. The explosion is also referred to in some detail in John Irving's novel Until I Find You (2005) as well as Ami McKay's bestselling The Birth House (2006). Ami McKay includes a passage in which protagonist Dora Rare travels to Halifax to offer her midwifery skills to mothers who go into labour after the explosion.

Keith Ross Leckie scripted a mini-series entitled Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion (2003), which took the title but has no relationship to Janet Kitz's acclaimed non-fiction book Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery (1989). The miniseries follows soldier Charlie Collins through a romantic affair and his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder. The movie exploited computer technology in order to achieve impressive special effects on a relatively small, by international standards, budget of $10 million. However the media and historians criticized distortions and inaccuracies in the film. One aspect which was criticized was the representation of German spies in the city; Jim Lotz's The Sixth of December (1981) also toys with the idea Halifax was home to a network of enemy spies during the war.

Joel Plaskett references the event in the song "Truth Be Told" on the album La De Da (2005).

Christmas

Every Christmas since 1971, Nova Scotia has donated a large Christmas tree to the City of Boston in thanks and remembrance for the help the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee provided immediately after the disaster. The annual gift began with the Christmas tree grower's association and was later taken over by the Nova Scotia Government. The tree is Boston's official Christmas tree and is lit near Copley Square throughout the holiday season. Knowing its symbolic importance to both cities, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has specific guidelines for selecting the tree. It must be an attractive balsam fir, white spruce or red spruce, 12 to 16 metres (40 to 50 ft) tall, healthy with good colour, medium to heavy density, uniform and symmetrical and easy to access.[7]

For the Christmas tree extension specialist the "tree can be elusive, the demands excessive, and the job requires remembering the locations of the best specimens in the province and persuading the people who own them to give them up for a pittance." Most donors are "honoured to give up their trees... [and] most will gladly watch their towering trees fall" since everyone knows the reason it is being sent to Boston. Nova Scotian "children study [the explosion] in school and they know Boston was one of the first responders, and really a lifesaver." The trees "don't often come from tree farms, but from open land where they can grow tall and full." It is so important to the people of Nova Scotia that "people have cried over it, argued about it, even penned song lyrics in its honor."[8]

See also

Further reading

  • Curse of the Narrows: The Halifax Explosion 1917, Laura M. MacDonald, Harper Collins Ltd., 2005.
  • Explosion in Halifax Harbour: The illustrated account of a disaster that shook the world, David B. Flemming, Formac Publishing, 2004.
  • The Halifax Explosion: Surviving the Blast that Shook a Nation, Joyce Glasner, Altitude PRess, 2003.
  • The Halifax Explosion and the Royal Canadian Navy: Inquiry and Intrigue, John Griffith Armstrong, UBC Press, 2002.
  • Ground Zero: A Reassessment of the 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbour, Alan Ruffman and Colin D. Howell, eds., Nimbus Publishing, 1994.
  • The Halifax Explosion: Realities and Myths, Alan Ruffman, 1992.
  • The Survivors: The Children of the Halifax Explosion, Janet Kitz, Nimbus Publishing, 1992.
  • Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery, Janet Kitz, Nimbus Publishing, 1989.
  • The Halifax Explosion December 6, 1917, Graham Metson, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1978.
  • Miracles and Mysteries: The Halifax Explosion, December, 1917, Mary Ann Monnon, Lancelot Pres, 1977.
  • The Great Halifax Explosion, Dec. 6, 1917, Joan Horwood, Avalon Publications, 1976.
  • Catastrophe and Social Change: Based upon a sociological study of the Halifax Disaster, Samuel Henry Prince, AMS Press, 1968.
  • The Town That Died: The True Story of the Greatest Man-Made Explosion Before Hiroshima, Michael J. Bird, 1962.
  • Barometer Rising, Hugh MacLennan, Collins Publishing, 1941.
  • A Bolt of Blue, Joseph Sheldon, Cox Brothers Halifax, 1918.
  • Heart Throbs of the Halifax Horror, Archibald MacMechan and Stanley K. Smith, G.E. Weir Halifax, 1918.

References

  1. ^ a b http://www.cbc.ca/halifaxexplosion/he2_ruins/he2_ruins_explosion.html
  2. ^ CBC - Halifax Explosion - Disputes over Time
  3. ^ The Halifax Explosion and the Royal Canadian Navy John Armstrong, University of British Columbia Press, 2002, p.10-11. HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE THE COW JUMPED OVER THE MOON... KEITH GAVIN HAS GAIDS X
  4. ^ http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/virtual/remembrance/
  5. ^ Source: Maclean's, 07/01/99, Vol. 112 Issue 26, p24, and Government of Nova Scotia, Canada.
  6. ^ http://www.histori.ca/minutes/minute.do?id=10203
  7. ^ Hana Janjigian Heald (December 15, 2006). "Nova Scotia's Christmas Tree gift to Boston has a Dedham connection". The Dedham Times. 14 (51): 3-3. 
  8. ^ Keith O'Brien (November 26, 2006). "Oh! Christmas tree". The Boston Globe. 

The Halifax Explosion in popular media

  • Thermometers Melting by Glenn Grant, in Arrowdreams: an anthology of alternate Canadas, 1997 ISBN 0-921833-51-2. (Fictitious Short Story)

External links



44°40′09″N 63°35′47″W / 44.66917°N 63.59639°W / 44.66917; -63.59639