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Centenary of Halifax, Nova Scotia explosion


PennySycamore

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December 6 marks the centenary of the collision of the Belgian relief ship  Imo with the French munitions ship Mont-Blanc in The Narrows of Halifax Harbor.  This was the largest man-made explosion of the non-nuclear age.  It devastated the city of Halifax, wiped out the Mi'kmaq First Nations fishing village, hurled the Mont-Blanc's anchor shaft weighing 1.1140 pounds 2 miles and killed at least 2000 people. 

There are two recent articles about the Mont-Blanc disaster that I wanted to mention.  The first was in the September Smithsonian and it tells how a British sailor aboard the Acadia had kept a diary of that terrible day.  The Acadia was berthed in Halifax harbor so Frank Baker witnessed the devastation firsthand.  Frank emigrated to Australia in his later years and gave the diary and some photos of his time aboard the Acadia to his son Rex who forgot about it for about 20 years.  He pulled it out of the drawer where he'd kept it, read it, and realized the significance of the diary.  He contacted the Dartmouth Historical Society and offered it to them.  He took it to Halifax himself.  It is the only known eyewitness account of the tragedy.  (if you want to read this article and don't subscribe to Smithsonian, maybe you can find it at the library.  It's well worth reading.)

The other article is in the November-December issue of Yankee.  It talks about the explosion and the deep bond of friendship that developed after the city of Boston after Boston aided Halifax so much in the aftermath of the explosion.  The governor of Massachusetts send trainloads of doctor, nurses and medical supplies to Halifax without waiting for a reply from the authorities there knowing that help would be needed.  Then he sent carpenters and other builders to help re-build the city.  The next December, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to Boston in thanksgiving to the aid that the city had gotten from Boston after the explosion.  The tradition of sending  a tree to Boston continues to this day.

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I read the Janet Kitz book, Shattered City, after my first visit to Halifax.  We had visited the heartbreaking exhibit about it at the Halifax Maritime Museum. The next time I was in Halifax I made a point to see the exhibition again and still found it very moving. There were so many families completely wiped out, but also some amazing stories of survival and of people stepping up to help. 

It's also quite sobering to see in person how large an area of the city was destroyed.  Such a sad anniversary. 

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I only just found out about the Halifax explosion via the children's book series The 39 Clues. (It's a bit of a plot point in the first book of the fourth series.) I'm kind of amazed anyone survived, especially if they were at the Harbour at the time. 

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1 hour ago, Ozlsn said:

I only just found out about the Halifax explosion via the children's book series The 39 Clues. (It's a bit of a plot point in the first book of the fourth series.) 

How do you like The 39 Clues books? I've read and enjoyed books by Peter Lerangis and Rick Riordan, but I haven't talked to anyone who has read this series. 

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6 minutes ago, WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo? said:

How do you like The 39 Clues books? I've read and enjoyed books by Peter Lerangis and Rick Riordan, but I haven't talked to anyone who has read this series. 

It's... variable. There are bits I'm enjoying but the number of authors means it's occasionally a bit patchy. Also the lead characters being related to every famous person you've ever heard of grates a bit after a while!  Having said that the racing around the world and the bits of historical trivia are quite fun. It's also aimed at 8-12 yo readers so I'm possibly being overly picky, heh.

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Thanks for the information.  I had forgotten about this and it will make great re-learning.

Also, World Works boy and girl both loved 39 clues for a time.  Girl is still totally into the Lightening Thief books but not the movies (apparently the movies suck but I enjoyed them).

 

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