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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Shattered City by Janet F. Kitz

Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to RecoveryShattered City - The Halifax Explosion and The Road to Recovery by Janet F. Kitz is an overview of the harbor explosion and eye witness accounts of the fire and explosion that destroyed a good portion of Halifax, Nova Scotia. During her research Ms. Kitz interviewed many survivors, examined unclaimed effects at the Nova Scotia Museum and, as a member of the Halifax Explosion Memorial Bells Committee, was able to uncover records and documentation.

On December 6, 1917 a series of events led up to a disaster that killed nearly 2,000 people in Halifax and injured many more. 12,000 homes were damaged and 6,000 people were left without shelter. To make matters worse, a blizzard descended on the town shortly after the explosion.

I visited the Maritime Museum of The Atlantic several years ago, which has exhibits of personal items and details of this catastrophe. The extent of the damage was overwhelming. The people of Halifax, you may remember, recovered many of the bodies from the Titanic and buried them in Nova Scotia just a few years earlier.

The Mont Blanc, carrying explosives, had been looking for a convoy to join after being refused by British Naval authorities in New York who considered the ship too slow to join the Atlantic Convoys leaving from a New York harbor and trying to avoid the patrolling German U-boats. Instead, the captain of the Mont Blanc received orders to travel up the east coast toward Halifax, Nova Scotia to join a convoy there and cross the Atlantic toward France. Before the war, a ship carrying explosives would not have been allowed into the harbor, but the basin was currently in control of the British Admiralty and the Mont Blanc passed inspection. When the submarine nets were opened, the Mont Blanc continued toward the harbor. After numerous miscommunications between the authorities, the delay of cargo-loading of the Imo and the failure of the delayed ship to adhere to normal practice of ships passing port side to port side, a collision occurred. 

Fragments of the Mont Blanc erupted like a volcano, taking with it several of the harbor piers. The barrel of one of the ship's guns landed 3 1/2 miles away. Part of the anchor weighing 1,140 pounds landed in the ground 2 miles from the explosion. Destruction spread over 320 acres.

Other links:
http://www.halifaxexplosion.org/intro.html
http://www.halifaxhistory.ca/HalifaxExplosion.htm
http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/news-halifax-explosion
Images and Maps 
Halifax Explosion

There is also a DVD
Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion Poster

1 comment:

Joanne said...

wow - quite a story. My knowledge of anything Canada is very weak. I need to start reading history, geography, etc and get to know our northern neighbors.