Halifax, Nova Scotia is a busy, fast-paced city with something exciting always going on. It is a beautiful city nestled right by the water and a popular tourist attraction. This is a city where the lights always seem to be on, and people always seem to be on the go. People leave their small town in search of excitement and adventure and head over to the hustle and bustle known as Halifax, Nova Scotia.
But fresh in everyone’s mind, especially people with family ties to that area, is the horrible event that forever looms over the city. The huge disaster that is forever etched in people's memories. The date was December 6, 1917, the day of the great explosion.
The Facts and the Tragedy
It was a day that started off the same as any other day. Family members were saying goodbye as they raced off to work and school. Teens were talking about things they were planning to do and how important it was to go to the latest event. But within a matter of minutes, the talk soon changed, and horror filled the area. For thousands of people, their lives would never be the same.
Two ships, a Norwegian vessel named Imo and SS Mont Blanc a cargo ship loaded with explosives, were sailing straight towards each other in what is known as the Narrows. Imo was chartered to pick up relief supplies that were needed from New York. Neither ship knew until it was too late that they were doomed. At approximately 8:45 a.m., they collided and a horrible chain of events then ensued.
The SS Mont Blanc, being loaded with explosives, soon ignited due to the impact of the collision. Approximately 2000 innocent people lost their lives tragically that day. Buildings were collapsing all around the area, and about 9000 people were injured physically and traumatized emotionally due to this. This all happened in a mere 20 minutes, but to the people involved it seemed to go on forever. As the horror continued to unfold in front of their eyes, people were screaming and shielding their children's faces as devastation escalated all around them. Almost all structures within an 800 meter radius were wiped out, and this included the whole community of Richmond. To add to this horror was a blizzard that was to arrive the next day. People labeled that the "blizzard of glass" as it hindered all efforts to clean up and shattered people's lives even more.
SS Imo aground on the Dartmouth side of the harbour after the explosion
View from the waterfront looking west from the ruins of the Sugar Refinery across the obliterated Richmond District several days after the explosion. The remains of Pier 6, site of the explosion, are on the extreme right.
A view across the devastation of Halifax two days after the explosion, looking toward the Dartmouth side of the harbour. Imo is visible aground on the far side of the harbour.
One thing people learned at this time was how caring strangers can be in times of tragedy. Almost immediately rescue trains were coming from all over Canada and the United States to help the survivors. Several people had been made homeless from this explosion so people started working together to provide temporary shelters, food, and clothing. This truly was a day that would never be forgotten.
The Best Online Locations to Find out More
For a full reference of these events you can check out these two links:
Learn More About the People and Effects
See how it is over a hundred years later and what effects this historical event had on people and the Halifax harbour in the present time. It has links to all tourist attractions, museums, etc. A good site to gather information for a homeschooling assignment:
Read this article from a man that was there as an infant during this occurrence:
Finally, here are some worksheets for homeschooling families to do on the Halifax explosion: