[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
- Subject: Re: Explosion
- From: Andrew Rodenhiser
- Date: Tue, 19 Jul 1994 18:04:55
nflorin\!/med.unc.edu (Nathaniel Paul Florin) asked:
}I was reading a travel guide recently and it mentioned that Halifax was
}the site of the world's largest man-made explosion of the pre-atomic era.
}Do any locals know the story of this, or am I treading on touchy ground?
Well, I should be an expert since it happened on my birthday, 6th
December 1917 (ok, 51 years before I was born, but the right date). I
believe that it remains the largest manmade explosion which did not
involve nuclear fusion/fission. Two ships, the Imo from Belgium and the
Mont Blanc from France collided in the harbour in the early morning hours
(about 9am, I believe). One of the two was loaded with munitions
including gunpowder and gun cotton, nitroglycerine, etc. The ship caught
fire, was abandoned, and drifted toward shore in the north end of the
city. The blast destroyed almost every building within about a 4km
radius. The Citadel hill shielded the south and west ends of town from
the main force of the blast.
About 1600 people died and many more were blinded by flying glass, many
from watching the blazing ship through the windows of their homes. The
blast was felt in towns 100km away. The ship's anchor landed in a
churchyard 7 miles away, and remains there today.
The following day there was a terrible blizzard which greatly hampered
rescue efforts and resulted in the deaths of countless others who were
trapped in wreckage or left without proper clothes and shelter.
I wouldn't say it's a touchy subject, it's an important part of our
history, the subject of several interesting books, and a testimony to the
community spirit of all those who volunteered to care for the wounded and
orphaned and to rebuild. The Hydrostones, a section of the north end
where all the buildings are made of concrete bricks which were for
whatever reason the building material of choice for the new homes, stand
as a monument to this. One section has recently been converted from a
residential block back into the commercial market, with a deli, pastry
shop, pasta shop, hardware store, as it was in the twenties, to recapture
Hey, maybe Sloan will write a song about it :)