Skip to comments.Two ships collided in Halifax Harbor. One of them was a floating, 3,000-ton bomb.
Posted on 12/06/2017 5:48:01 AM PST by billorites
On the bright, freezing morning of Dec. 6, 1917, a French captain steered his ship, the SS Mont Blanc, up the channel leading to the piers of Halifax, Canadas major Atlantic port. Just after 8:30, as the ship steamed into the bottleneck between the ocean and the inner harbor, he looked up to see something that shouldnt have been there: the SS Imo, a Norwegian freighter, heading straight toward him on his side of the skinny narrows.
The two massive ships blasted their whistles, attempted a few evasive maneuvers and then collided, bow to bow. It was not a fatal blow.
In marine terms, what happened was a fender bender, said historian Roger Marsters. It was only the character of the cargo that made it what it was.
What the Imo had rammed was a 3,000-ton floating bomb. The Mont Blanc was crammed with munitions, bound for the war raging in Europe. Its holds were crammed with 2,500-tons of TNT and picric acid. The decks were crowded with barrels of high-octane benzole.
The resulting blast was the biggest man-made explosion of the pre-atomic age, according to analysts. It devastated the busy port city, leveling more than a square mile of the waterfront, killing more than 2,000 people and injuring 5,000 more, almost 12 percent of Halifaxs population. The massive iron hull disappeared, blown into shrapnel that tore through neighborhoods miles from the harbor. A half-ton chunk of its anchor still lies where it landed 2.5 miles away. Halifax became the standard of blast comparisons for decades, unsurpassed as an explosive disaster until Hiroshima replaced it in 1945.
The horror of crushed schools and victims stumbling bloodied and blown naked through the rubble has stamped the city to this day, said Marsters, curator of marine history at the Nova Scotia Museum.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
It’s staggering that such an event is likely not known by many, including myself.
You are never too old to learn about history.
And there is plenty of history to learn.
heartbreaking story by the way.
BTW, anyone know why just hitting it would cause the munitions to go off?
Picnic Acid. Very unstable.
IIRC, I read the blast blew all the water out of the Bay.
Blown to Halifax.
It wasn’t a violent collision, but enough to topple barrels of airplane fuel carried on deck. The resultant fire is what set off the cargo of TNT and pyric acid.
To put it in modern terms, that was a 3-kiloton explosion. Smaller than Hiroshima (10 to 15), but getting into the tactical nuke area.
Darn I thought this was another US Navy screw-up that could be used as fodder for this weekends game. Go Army! Beat Navy!
The and the molasses avalanche have always stood out to me as older disasters
Having owned ships once I can attest they do bump into each other now and then
I imagine that if you went to school in Canada then the explosion is something you were exposed to.
The 1900 Galveston hurricane is not something that most people in the States know much about. Texans, however, are well familiar with it.
Fuel and the acid acted as the oxidizer.
Wow I just read the story. Sheesh! What a tragedy!
The explosion didn’t happen right away, the two ships scraped each other for several minutes, causing a friction fire that set off the cargo.
BTW, Halifax was very carefully studied in the 1940s re: urban blast effects by the Hiroshima bombing planners, as it was the largest single explosion up to that point.
We in the Boston area have some history behind this. We get a beautiful Christmas tree sent to us every year from Nova Scotia, and they display it at the Prudential Center:
On December 6, 1917 at 9:04:35 am, the Halifax Explosion severely destroyed much of the city, by the largest man-made explosion up to that time. Boston authorities learned of the disaster by telegraph, and quickly organized and dispatched a relief train around 10 pm to assist survivors. A blizzard delayed the train, which finally arrived in the early morning of December 8, and immediately began distributing food, water, and medical supplies. Numerous personnel on the train were able to relieve the Nova Scotia medical staff, most of whom had worked without rest since the explosion occurred. Nova Scotian children study the explosion in school and they know “Boston was one of the first responders, and really a lifesaver.”
Nova Scotia donated a large Christmas tree to the city of Boston in thanks and remembrance for the help Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee provided immediately after the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Another tree was sent in 1971, and every year since.
The annual gift was started by the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers Association to promote Christmas tree exports as well as acknowledge the Boston support after the explosion. The gift was taken over by the Nova Scotia Government in 1976 to continue the goodwill gesture and to promote trade and tourism.
In 2017, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the explosion, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Halifax Mayor Michael Savage, and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil unveiled a plaque on the Boston Common near the site of the tree. The tree that year was donated in honor of first responders in the two cities.
It is so important to the people of Nova Scotia that “people have cried over it, argued about it, even penned song lyrics in its honour.” Joseph Slauenwhite donated the first two trees. The tree typically comes from the southern half of the province, but in 2014 the tree came from Antigonish County, in the north and in 2016 the first tree ever from Cape Breton Island was selected.
I know about it from cable TV.
I’m 49. Maybe found out at 34.
History channel I think.
Vaguely remember the show stating that one weather man said some newfangled instrument was suggesting a devastating hurricane was coming, but that’s all I recall.
I live right near what used to be Richmond. It’s still well remembered here.
What a horrible story.
a 48-hour enucleation marathon
Sends shivers down my spine.
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