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Re: Explosion



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?
}
}-Nate

    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 
that history.
    Hey, maybe Sloan will write a song about it :)