Today he is remembered as one of the heroic figures from the disaster. Captain Brannen and Albert Mattison of Niobe agreed to secure a line to the French ship's stern so as to pull it away from the pier to avoid setting it on fire. Trucks and wagons soon began to arrive with bodies. 2019 bk 144 - The explosion at Halifax on December 6, 1917 was the largest man-made explosion until the the atomic bomb explosions in 1945. Roughly 5,900 eye injuries were reported, and 41 people lost their sight permanently. Destruction was widespread, with many homes destroyed or damaged. News of the disaster spread quickly, and aid soon arrived from within Canada as well as from the United States. [45] He first spotted Imo when she was about 0.75 miles (1.21 km) away and became concerned as her path appeared to be heading towards his ship's starboard side, as if to cut him off. The North Street Station, one of the busiest in Canada, was badly damaged. Halifax Harbor in Nova Scotia supports the communities of Halifax on the west shore and Dartmouth on the east shore. [101][102] Men and women turned out to serve as everything from hospital aides to shelter staff, while children contributed to the relief effort by carrying messages from site to site. 100 years ago, the Canadian port city of Halifax was struck by one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. Coleman remembered that an incoming passenger train from Saint John, New Brunswick, was due to arrive at the railyard within minutes. Crowds gathered around to watch the fire from the initial collision. Lane closures: Lanes 1 and 2 will be closed. [111] A precise Mi'kmaq death toll is unknown; records show that nine bodies were recovered, and the settlement was not rebuilt in the wake of the disaster. [134], A judicial inquiry known as the Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry was formed to investigate the causes of the collision. Port explosions have devastating effects far beyond the site of the actual blast. Le 6 décembre 1917, le Mont-Blanc arrive dans le port d’Halifax en provenance de New York. Directly opposite to Pier 9 on the Halifax side sat a community in Tufts Cove, also known as Turtle Grove. A fire on board the French ship ignited her cargo, causing a massive explosion that devastated the Richmond district of Halifax. [10][11] The Canadian government took over the Halifax Dockyard (now CFB Halifax) from the Royal Navy. [60] Mont-Blanc's forward 90-mm gun landed approximately 5.6 kilometres (3.5 mi) north of the explosion site near Albro Lake in Dartmouth with its barrel melted away, and the shank of Mont-Blanc's anchor, weighing half a ton, landed 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) south at Armdale. [37] Soon afterwards, Imo was forced to head even further towards the Dartmouth shore after passing the tugboat Stella Maris, which was travelling up the harbour to Bedford Basin near mid-channel. [67] All but one of the Mont-Blanc crew members survived. Proceedings began at the Halifax Court House on 13 December 1917, presided over by Justice Arthur Drysdale. [130] Immediately following the explosion, most of the German survivors in Halifax had been rounded up and imprisoned. [148] Prime Minister Robert Borden pledged that the government would be "co-operating in every way to reconstruct the Port of Halifax: this was of utmost importance to the Empire". [1] The blast was the largest human-made explosion at the time,[2] releasing the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT (12 TJ).[3]. That’s when, on the morning of December 6, 1917, a massive shock wave, often called the largest manmade explosion before the atomic bomb, stopped the clock. To reach the wounded, rescue personnel had to walk through parts of the devastated city until they reached a point where the military had begun to clear the streets. [153] The lack of coordinated pediatric care in such a disaster was also noted by William Ladd, a surgeon from Boston who had arrived to help. A memorial at the Halifax Fire Station on Lady Hammond Road honours the firefighters killed while responding to the explosion. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). A thick cloud of smoke billowing over Halifax and nearby towns, such as Africville, in Nova Scotia, Canada, after a munitions ship exploded in the Halifax Harbour on December 6, 1917. The captain's son, First Mate Walter Brannen, who had been thrown into the hold by the blast, survived, as did four others. These factors drove a major military, industrial, and residential expansion of the city,[11] and the weight of goods passing through the harbour increased nearly ninefold. [138] All three men were charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence at a preliminary hearing heard by Stipendiary Magistrate Richard A. McLeod, and bound over for trial. [90] Spotting the large and rising column of smoke, Tacoma altered course and arrived to assist rescue at 2 pm. Von Steuben arrived a half-hour later. 10, the overnight train from Saint John, is believed to have heeded the warning and stopped a safe distance from the blast at Rockingham, saving the lives of about 300 railway passengers. [74], The death toll could have been worse had it not been for the self-sacrifice of an Intercolonial Railway dispatcher, Patrick Vincent (Vince) Coleman, operating at the railyard about 750 feet (230 m) from Pier 6, where the explosion occurred. Coleman was killed at his post. [38][39][40], Francis Mackey, an experienced harbour pilot, had boarded Mont-Blanc on the evening of 5 December 1917; he had asked about "special protections" such as a guard ship, given the Mont-Blanc's cargo, but no protections were put in place. [26] Ships carrying dangerous cargo were not allowed into the harbour before the war, but the risks posed by German submarines had resulted in a relaxation of regulations. [130] While John Johansen, the Norwegian helmsman of Imo, was being treated for serious injuries sustained during the explosion, it was reported to the military police that he had been behaving suspiciously. [161] Fragments of Mont-Blanc have been mounted as neighbourhood monuments to the explosion at Albro Lake Road in Dartmouth, at Regatta Point, and elsewhere in the area. Across the harbour, in Dartmouth, there was also widespread damage. [53] As the lifeboats made their way across the harbour to the Dartmouth shore, the abandoned ship continued to drift and beached herself at Pier 6 near the foot of Richmond street. In the final moments before the explosion, hoses were being unrolled as the fire spread to the docks. [62] The shock wave from the blast travelled through the earth at nearly 23 times the speed of sound and was felt as far away as Cape Breton (207 kilometres or 129 miles) and Prince Edward Island (180 kilometres or 110 miles). His insights from the explosion are generally credited with inspiring him to pioneer the specialty of pediatric surgery in North America. As crowds gathered, drawn in by the rising pall of smoke, emergency personnel tried to control the damage. A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice, Benjamin Russell, found there was no evidence to support these charges. [20] Merchant ships gathered at Bedford Basin on the northwestern end of the harbour, which was protected by two sets of anti-submarine nets and guarded by patrol ships of the Royal Canadian Navy. [54], Towing two scows at the time of the collision,[39] Stella Maris responded immediately to the fire, anchoring the barges and steaming back towards Pier 6 to spray the burning ship with their fire hose. All available troops were called in from harbour fortifications and barracks to the North End to rescue survivors and provide transport to the city's hospitals, including the two army hospitals in the city. [89] Out at sea, the American cruiser USS Tacoma and armed merchant cruiser USS Von Steuben (formerly SS Kronprinz Wilhelm) were passing Halifax en route to the United States. The Halifax Explosion was a disaster that occurred in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, on the morning of 6 December 1917. The area of Halifax along the shoreline⁠— what had been known as Richmond⁠— made up the majority of what would soon come to be known as the Devastated Area. [129] The Halifax Herald continued to propagate this belief for some time, for example reporting that Germans had mocked victims of the explosion. La mañana del 6 de diciembre de 1917 la ciudad canadiense de Halifax sufrió la mayor explosión producida por la humanidad antes de la bomba atómica. Temperatures of 5,000 °C (9,000 °F) and pressures of thousands of atmospheres accompanied the moment of detonation at the centre of the explosion. Ships were expected to keep close to the side of the channel situated on their starboard ("right"), and pass oncoming vessels "port to port", that is to keep them on their "left" side. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. [93], Adding to the chaos were fears of a potential second explosion. The two ships were almost parallel to each other, when Imo suddenly sent out three signal blasts, indicating the ship was reversing its engines. [108] An additional 9,000 were injured. Updates? [96][100] The commission would continue until 1976, participating in reconstruction and relief efforts and later distributing pensions to survivors. Firefighter Billy Wells, who was thrown away from the explosion and had his clothes torn from his body, described the devastation survivors faced: "The sight was awful, with people hanging out of windows dead. The ship entered the Narrows well above the harbour's speed limit in an attempt to make up for the delay experienced in loading her coal. Aftermath of the 1917 Halifax Explosion [139] On 17 April 1918, a jury acquitted Wyatt in a trial that lasted less than a day. Le Mont-Blanc prit feu et explosa vingt minutes plus tard, tuant 2 000 personnes et en blessant des milliers d'autres. Halifax Explosion on 6 December 1917: 2.9 kt of TNT (12 TJ) 5. [33], Imo was granted clearance to leave Bedford Basin by signals from the guard ship HMCS Acadia at approximately 7:30 on the morning of 6 December,[35] with Pilot William Hayes on board. [140], Drysdale also oversaw the first civil litigation trial, in which the owners of the two ships sought damages from each other. Full service resumed on 9 December when tracks were cleared and the North Street Station reopened. [91] Troops at gun batteries and barracks immediately turned out in case the city was under attack, but within an hour switched from defence to rescue roles as the cause and location of the explosion were determined. These ignited the vapours from the benzol. Therefore, the vessel could not weigh anchor until the next morning. [41][38][46] The captain ordered Mont-Blanc to halt her engines and angle slightly to starboard, closer to the Dartmouth side of the Narrows. Dartmouth lies on the east shore of Halifax Harbour, and Halifax is on the west shore. The French ship caught fire after several drums of benzol—a highly combustible motor fuel derived from coke-oven gases—tipped over on the deck, spilling their contents, which ignited, and the vessel drifted into a pier. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Reason: Barrier repairs are planned. This work follows the love affair of a young woman and an injured soldier. The train was loaded with injured and left the city at 1:30 with a doctor aboard, to evacuate the wounded to Truro. [119], Dartmouth was not as densely populated as Halifax and was separated from the blast by the width of the harbour, but still suffered heavy damage. Guess this will be my last message. [87][88], Royal Navy cruisers in port sent some of the first organized rescue parties ashore. [120], There were small enclaves of Mi'kmaq in and around the coves of Bedford Basin on the Dartmouth shore. [112][124] Africville's small and frail homes were heavily damaged by the explosion. L'explosion de Halifax se produisit le 6 décembre 1917 à Halifax, en Nouvelle-Écosse au Canada, lorsque le cargo français Mont-Blanc, transportant des munitions à destination de l'Europe alors en guerre, entra en collision avec un navire norvégien, l'Imo. [109] As many as 1,600 people died immediately in the blast, tsunami, and collapse of buildings. [111] About $30 million in financial aid was raised from various sources,[118] including $18 million from the federal government, over $4 million from the British government, and $750,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. [66] The blast killed all but one on the whaler, everyone on the pinnace and 21 of the 26 men on Stella Maris; she ended up on the Dartmouth shore, severely damaged. The five-inch (127-millimetre) hawser initially produced was deemed too small and orders for a ten-inch (254-millimetre) hawser came down. Unable to ground his ship for fear of a shock that would set off his explosive cargo, Mackey ordered Mont-Blanc to steer hard to port (starboard helm) and crossed the bow of Imo in a last-second bid to avoid a collision. The last body, a caretaker killed at the Exhibition Grounds, was not recovered until the summer of 1919. [131] It turned out that the letter was actually written in Norwegian. The first left Truro around 10 am carrying medical personnel and supplies, arrived in Halifax by noon and returned to Truro with the wounded and homeless by 3 pm. In deference to its symbolic importance for both cities, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has specific guidelines for selecting the tree[172] and has tasked an employee to oversee the selection. For other uses, see, 1917 maritime disaster in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, The peak of the cloud was measured at 3,600 metres (11,811 feet or 2.25 miles) by Captain W. M. A. Campbell of the inbound Canadian merchant ship, Mont-Blanc pilot Francis Mackey recalls Halifax 1917 explosion, Determining 9:04:35 a.m. as the precise time of the Halifax Explosion, Surviving the disaster of the Halifax Explosion, Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, largest artificial non-nuclear explosions, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery, List of accidents and incidents involving transport or storage of ammunition, "Halifax Explosion memorial service draws large crowd", "Sources of threat and sources of assistance: the maritime aspects of the 1917 Halifax Explosion", "Blizzard Cuts off Halifax / 20,000 Survivors Destitute", "Mont-Blanc pilot Francis Mackey recalls Halifax 1917 explosion", "The Harbour Remembers the Halifax Explosion", "Determining 9:04:35 a.m. as the precise time of the Halifax Explosion", "The Royal Naval College of Canada Closes", "Vincent Coleman and the Halifax Explosion", "Halifax officially unveils municipality's newest ferry, the Vincent Coleman", "Surviving the disaster of the Halifax Explosion", "Helping hands for victims of Halifax Explosion", "Pennies from Hell: A Milkman's pennies from the Halifax Explosion", "Injured dying in snowbound relief trains", "Disasters in history: the Halifax Explosion of 1917", "Helmsman of ship that hit Mont Blanc held as spy", "Halifax and the Precipitate Birth of Pediatric Surgery", "The silence after the blast: How the Halifax Explosion was nearly forgotten", "Precious Metals: N.S.
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