December 4, 2016

As World War I raged in Europe, the port of Halifax was filled with ships carrying troops, relief supplies, and munitions across the Ocean. On Dec. 6, 1917 the Norwegian vessel Imo left its mooring in Halifax harbour for New York City. At the same time, the French freighter Mont Blanc, its cargo hold packed with highly explosive munitions was forging through the harbor’s narrows to join a military convoy that would escort it across the Atlantic.
At 4 minutes 35 seconds after the hour of 9 o’clock in the morning the two ships collided triggering the largest man-made, pre-nuclear blast in world history.
The massive explosion killed more than 1,800 men, women and children, injuring another 9,000–blinding 200–and destroyed almost the entire north end of the city of Halifax. The destruction covered 325 acres of Halifax and Dartmouth, 12,000 buildings were laid flat or uninhabitable. It tore up railroads and hurled boat anchors from the harbour out across the surrounding area.
Nearly a century after it happened, new perspectives on the Halifax explosion are coming to light through a collection of photos and hand-written letters obtained by the Nova Scotia Archives depicting the devastation left by the explosion.
James Burn Russell, a wireless operator aboard the patrol ship Cartier wrote the following on the back of a photo.
“The mass of ruins is the sugar refinery. This was taken 20 minutes after when we were looking for any remains of the Blanc. There were none. We were 400 yards from here when it happened.”
One photo shows the Halifax Railway Station after the blast, where the roof had completely caved in, killing 60 people.
Several other photos show the blasted ruins of homes in Halifax and Dartmouth. Many are nothing more than rickety, windowless frameworks after the blast, while others have been reduced to piles of shattered wood.
Archivists say these accounts are invaluable records of that historic event, that will now be preserved forever online.
Sharon Tipping, a native of Nova Scotia, says she’s pleased these new records are now available to the public.
Tipping’s ancestors were devastated by the explosion,
with 44 of 66 members of the family killed in the blast.
“If you don’t know where you came from, how do you know where you are going.”
Halifax Explosion Dec. 6, 1917
For decades, N S has given a Christmas tree to the people of the City of Boston to express sincere thanks for the help they provided during a difficult time following the Halifax Explosion in 1917.


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