06 December 2014

Ships explode in Canadian harbor

A Belgian steamer and French freighter exploded today in Canada's Halifax Harbor in 1917. Both ships were carrying with ammunition. The explosion left part of the town leveled and killed nearly 1,600 people and injured approximately 8,000 others.

The Mont Blanc - the French freighter - had picked up a load of TNT in New York City and was meeting up with the Imo - the Belgian steamer. The freighter, due to poor visibility, slammed into the steamer. Both ships caught on fire and the crews of both ships abandoned them. The Pictou, a British ship, was also in the harbor at the time and was also filled with ammunition. Her crew, seeing the fires on the other two ships, immediately fled. The High Flyer, which was to be the lead ship in this ill fated convoy across the Atlantic, attempted to stop the disaster, Twenty-three men from the High Flyer were sent to sink the vessels but were too late. The explosion occurred as they reached the ships.

Centrally located on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Halifax was a major industrial city. In the midst of hard times and war, the city was flourishing.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, in commemoration of the 97th Anniversary of the explosion, will offer free admission today, 6 December 2014. Fabric artist Laurie Swim and songwriter David Stone and friends will be featured during an afternoon program at the museum.

To be honest, until I started researching a particular line for a client I had never heard of this tragic event. My client's father had enlisted in the Canadian Army that year. In fact his "Particulars of Recruit" paperwork shows he received his medical examination just the day before this event. He was living in Montreal at the time but Canada's WWI activity has now gained my interest due to  his involvement in the war.

Sources:
Halifax Explosion Remembrance Book. http://novascotia.ca/archives/virtual/remembrance/. Last accessed online 6 December 2014.

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/. Last accessed online 6 December 2014.

The Halifax Explosion. http://www.halifaxexplosion.org/intro.html. Last accessed online 6 December 2014.

Today in History. History Channel. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ships-explode-in-canadian-harbor. Last accessed online 6 December 2014.

Photo:
A Public Domain image from Wikipedia.org.
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.