Halifax explosion mont blanc

A fire on board the French ship ignited her cargo, causing a massive explosion that devastated the Richmond district of Halifax.

The Collision: What Caused the Halifax Explosion?

Approximately 2, people were killed by the blast, debris, fires, or collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9, others were injured. On the Mont-Blancthe impact damaged benzol barrels stored on deck, leaking vapors which were ignited by sparks from the collision, setting off a fire on board that quickly grew out of control. Nearly all structures within an metre half-mile radius, including the community of Richmond, were obliterated.

Across the harbour, in Dartmouththere was also widespread damage. Relief efforts began almost immediately, and hospitals quickly became full.

Rescue trains began arriving the day of the explosion from across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick while other trains from central Canada and the northeastern United States were impeded by blizzards. Construction of temporary shelters to house the many people left homeless began soon after the disaster. The initial judicial inquiry found Mont-Blanc to have been responsible for the disaster, but a later appeal determined that both vessels were to blame. In the North Endthere are several memorials to the victims of the explosion.

Dartmouth lies on the east shore of Halifax Harbour, and Halifax is on the west shore. The completion of the Intercolonial Railway and its Deep Water Terminal in allowed for increased steamship trade and led to accelerated development of the port area, [8] but Halifax faced an economic downturn in the s as local factories lost ground to competitors in central Canada.

Just before the First World Warthe Canadian government began a determined, costly effort to develop the harbour and waterfront facilities.

As the Royal Canadian Navy had virtually no seaworthy ships of its own, the Royal Navy assumed responsibility for maintaining Atlantic trade routes by re-adopting Halifax as its North American base of operations. The success of German U-boat attacks on ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean led the Allies to institute a convoy system to reduce losses while transporting goods and soldiers to Europe. The convoys departed under the protection of British cruisers and destroyers.

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. The loading of fuel was not completed until after the anti-submarine nets had been raised for the night. Therefore, the vessel could not weigh anchor until the next morning.

Navigating into or out of Bedford Basin required passage through a strait called the Narrows. 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. 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.

Horatio Brannen, the captain of Stella Marissaw Imo approaching at excessive speed and ordered his ship closer to the western shore to avoid an accident. Francis Mackey, an experienced harbour pilot, had boarded Mont-Blanc on the evening of 5 December ; he had asked about "special protections" such as a guard ship, given the Mont-Blanc's cargo, but no protections were put in place.

halifax explosion mont blanc

Mackey gave a short blast of his ship's signal whistle to indicate that he had the right of way but was met with two short blasts from Imoindicating that the approaching vessel would not yield its position. He let out another single blast of his whistle, hoping the other vessel would likewise move to starboard but was again met with a double-blast. Sailors on nearby ships heard the series of signals and, realizing that a collision was imminent, gathered to watch as Imo bore down on Mont-Blanc.

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 two ships were almost parallel to each other, when Imo suddenly sent out three signal blasts, indicating the ship was reversing its engines. The combination of the cargoless ship's height in the water and the transverse thrust of her right-hand propeller caused the ship's head to swing into Mont-Blanc. Imo ' s prow pushed into the No.

This flooded the deck with benzol that quickly flowed into the hold. As Imo ' s engines kicked in, she disengaged, which created sparks inside Mont-Blanc ' s hull. These ignited the vapours from the benzol. A fire started at the water line and travelled quickly up the side of the ship. Surrounded by thick black smoke, and fearing she would explode almost immediately, the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship.

Towing two scows at the time of the collision, [38] 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. Brannen, and his crew realized that the fire was too intense for their single hose and backed off from the burning Mont Blanc.The Halifax explosion is regarded an unparalleled chapter in the history of maritime disasters. A cargo ship accident that occurred between a French ship carrying explosives and a Norwegian vessel carrying provisions for wartime relieving provisions, the Halifax disaster in happened just towards the fag-end of the First World War.

SS Mont Blanc was a vessel commissioned by the French and was put into operation in the year The latter was initially launched by a Norwegian whaling conglomerate, the White Star Line in the year and was used in whale-tracking and hunting for most part of its maritime operations. Halifax, located in the country of Canada in North America has been in an integral marine and naval centre.

The township was developed in the mids in order to counter the increasing French population and growth in the country by the then French rival Britain.

As a result, there were several townships that developed and came into existence in this contest of international establishment superiority.

halifax explosion mont blanc

At the time of the First World War and even during the Halifax disaster, Halifax was an established and a striking township that attracted masses by hordes. In spite of such specified guidelines, the accident occurred, magnifying its relevance and import by leaps and bounds. Sixth of Decemberwas a date that would be etched in the memories of people forever — and for entirely the wrong reasons.

It was a date that brought death and destruction in the life of innocents, who had not even played any role in the wartime happenings. After almost a century has passed since the accident took place, it can be easily shrugged off that if the traffic rules had been maintained the disaster would not have come to pass. But fate and nature have their own way of dealing with things that no amount of perspectives can change. Since the gateway through the vessels were passing at the time of their accident was known for its dual marine traffic lines, it was specified that vessels on opposite side of the lines would be positioned to their starboard.

Ironically, what transpired between the Mont Blanc and the Imo was completely contradictory to these guidelines. The Imo was on its port side albeit with permission from authorities with a speed — seven knots —not permissible in the gateway. When the Mont Blanc ship gave necessary hooting for the ship to change its course, it retaliated with a prescribed negative hooting of its own.

What accentuated and accelerated the blast was the presence of the explosives — some highly sensitive ones. With a matter of minutes, the explosives had blasted, which created a huge ripple not unlike ones seen after a nuclear bomb blasts. The official estimation of deaths was placed at around But since figures can be misleading at times and considering the number of towns that faced the brunt of the blast, it can very well be assumed that the death toll is nowhere near this put-up figure.

People in nearby residential areas who saw the Halifax disaster happen before their own very eyes met their end when the blast happened. Similar to this was the fate of ships which tried to come to the rescue of the crew members of the two collided vessels. Companies collapsed because of the impact, workers and employees lost their lives.

A tsunami broke out as a result of a tidal impact which further compounded the woes of the people. Maritime disasters are a setback to the entirety of maritime operations.

Over the years, maritime disasters have started to have a two-fold effect of affecting humans and even the marine ecosystem. This is why, utmost care and caution needs to be taken while embarking on maritime navigation so that there is not a single cause of repenting at any stage later.At a. As World War I raged in Europe, the port city of Halifax bustled with ships carrying troops, relief supplies, and munitions across the Atlantic Ocean.

At approximately a.

halifax explosion mont blanc

The Mont Blanc was propelled toward the shore by its collision with the Imo, and the crew rapidly abandoned the ship, attempting without success to alert the harbor of the peril of the burning ship. Spectators gathered along the waterfront to witness the spectacle of the blazing ship, and minutes later it brushed by a harbor pier, setting it ablaze. The Halifax Fire Department responded quickly and was positioning its engine next to the nearest hydrant when the Mont Blanc exploded at a.

The massive explosion killed more than 1, people, injured another 9,—including blinding —and destroyed almost the entire north end of the city of Halifax, including more than 1, homes. The resulting shock wave shattered windows 50 miles away, and the sound of the explosion could be heard hundreds of miles away. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

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Art, Literature, and Film History. Sign Up.Thursday, December 6,dawned bright and clear in Halifax.

The Great Halifax Explosion

World War I raged in Europe, and the port city was busy with the movement of war ships carrying troops, relief supplies and munitions.

Around eight that morning, the Norwegian ship carrying relief supplies to Belgium, SS Imo left its mooring in Bedford Basin and headed for open sea. At about the same time, the French ship SS Mont-Blanc was heading up the harbour to moor, awaiting a convoy to accompany her across the Atlantic. This small, barely seaworthy vessel was carrying a full cargo of explosivess stored in the holds and stacked on the deck. SS Mont-Blanc signalled that she was in her correct channel; SS Imo, however, signalled that she was intending to bear even further to port, closer to Dartmouth and further into SS Mont-Blanc's channel.

SS Mont-Blanc signalled again that she was still intending to pass to starboard; she was by this time very close to the Dartmouth shore and travelling "dead slow. SS Mont -Blanc, perhaps wrongly, saw only one course open -- to swing to port, towards Halifax, across the bows of SS Imo, and thus pass starboard to starboard. Perhaps the ships might have passed without incident, but SS Imo signalled "full speed astern. Reversing her engines caused SS Imo's bow to swing right, and it struck SS Mont-Blanc -- missing the TNT, but striking the picric acid stored directly beneath the drums of benzol on deck.

The impact cut a wedge in SS Mont -Blanc's side, and struck deadly sparks. The crew of SS Mont-Blanc, aware of their cargo, immediately took to the lifeboats, screaming warnings that no one heeded. They rowed for Dartmouth, leaving the now furiously burning ship to drift towards Halifax, propelled in that direction by SS Imo's impact.

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SS Mont-Blanc drifted by a Halifax pier, brushing it and setting it ablaze. Members of the Halifax Fire Department responded quickly, and were positioning their engine up to the nearest hydrant when SS Mont-Blanc disintegrated in a blinding white flash, creating the biggest man-made explosion before the nuclear age.

It was am. Over 1, people were killed immediately; within a year the figure had climbed well over 2, Around 9, more were injured, many permanently; acres, almost all of north-end Halifax, were destroyed. Women view the devastation of the Halifax ExplosionMuch of what was not immediately levelled burned to the ground, aided by winter stockpiles of coal in cellars. As for SS Mont-Blanc, all 3, tons of her were shattered into little pieces that were blasted far and wide. The barrel of one of her cannons landed three and a half miles away; part of her anchor shank, weighing over half a ton, flew two miles in the opposite direction.

Windows shattered 50 miles away, and the shock wave was even felt in Sydney, Cape Breton, miles to the north-east. There were about 20 minutes between the collision and the explosion at It was enough time for spectators, including many children, to run to the waterfront to watch the ship burning, thus coming into close range.

It was enough time for others to gather at windows, and thus an exceptionally large number of people were injured by flying glass -- 1, unfortunate survivors sustained eye damage.Teachers, not yet a subscriber? Want to hear this story read aloud by a Storyworks Jr. Find the audio read-aloud in your Resources tab. Click here! As you read this article, pay attention to the key details to help you understand what happened and why. Noble Driscoll, 13, woke up in a pile of rocks and crushed concrete.

All he could see around him were heaps of burned brick and ash. Where was his family? Where were his friends? Noble thought he might be the last person alive. It was the morning of December 6, Just minutes before, things had been normal in Halifax and Dartmouth. They sit on the Atlantic Ocean. Between them is a narrow harbor. That morning, people were busy. Moms served up bowls of oatmeal. Kids gathered their schoolbooks.

Dads went to work. Factories made flour, beer, metal items, and more. At the harbor, men carried cargo onto giant ships. Noble could see the harbor from his backyard.A fire aboard the French ship ignited her cargo of wet and dry tons of picric acidtons of TNTand 10 tons of guncotton. The resultant Halifax Explosion levelled the Richmond District and killed approximately 2, people, and the injured may have been approximately 9, A classic three-island stylegeneral cargo steamshipMont-Blanc was a tramp steamercarrying diverse types of cargos around the world.

The ship changed owners under the French flag several times and was registered at first in Marseillethen Rouen and finally Saint-NazaireFrance. She was chartered to carry a complete cargo of miscellaneous types of military explosives from New York to France in November Mont-Blanc was not an especially old vessel but was a relatively slow, common tramp steamer, typical of many wartime freighters.

Francis Mackey, an experienced harbour pilot, had boarded Mont-Blanc on the evening of 5 December; he had asked about "special protections" such as a guard ship given the steamer's cargo, but no protections were put in place. Mackey gave a short blast of his ship's signal whistle to indicate that he had the right of way, but was met with two short blasts from Imoindicating that the approaching vessel would not yield her position.

He let out another single blast of his whistle, hoping the other vessel would likewise move to starboard, but was again met with a double-blast in negation.

Halifax Explosion (Historical Film)

Sailors on nearby ships heard the series of signals and, realizing that a collision was imminent, gathered to watch as Imo bore down on Mont-Blanc. 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 Norwegian ship's bows in a last-second bid to avoid a collision.

The two ships were almost parallel to each other, when Imo suddenly sent out three signal blasts, indicating the ship was reversing its engines. The combination of the cargoless ship's height in the water and the transverse thrust of her right-hand propeller caused the ship's head to swing into Mont-Blanc.

Imo ' s prow pushed into the French vessel's No. As Imo ' s engines kicked in, she quickly disengaged, which created sparks inside Mont-Blanc ' s hull. These ignited the vapours from the benzol. A fire started at the water line and travelled quickly up the side of the ship as the benzol spewed out from crushed drums on Mont-Blanc ' s decks. The fire quickly became uncontrollable. Surrounded by thick black smoke, and fearing she would explode almost immediately, the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship.

All of the crew survived, except for one sailor who may have died of blood loss after being hit by debris from the blast, [25] year-old gunner Yves Quequiner.Halifax explosionalso called Halifax explosion of or the Great Halifax Explosiondevastating explosion on December 6,that occurred when a munitions ship blew up in the harbour of Halifax, Nova ScotiaCanada.

Nearly 2, people died and some 9, were injured in the disaster, which flattened more than 1 square mile 2. Shortly before am the Imoa Norwegian steamship carrying supplies for the Belgian Relief Commission a World War I -era relief organizationheaded out of Halifax Harbour and found itself on a collision course with the French steamship Mont-Blanc. Unbeknownst to others in the harbourthe Mont-Blanc was carrying 2, metric tons about 3, short tons of explosives —including 62 metric tons about 68 short tons of guncotton, metric tons about short tons of benzol, metric tons about short tons of trinitrotoluene TNTand 2, metric tons about 2, short tons of picric acid —destined for the French war effort.

After exchanging warning signals, both vessels initiated evasion maneuvers but ultimately collided. 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. As crowds gathered, drawn in by the rising pall of smoke, emergency personnel tried to control the damage.

However, just after amthe Mont-Blanc exploded.

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The blast and the resulting tsunamiwhich surged approximately 60 feet 18 metres above the high-water mark, pressed some three blocks into the city. More than 1, buildings were destroyed by the wave, and debris was scattered for several miles. The force of the wave heaved the Imo toward the shore where it became grounded. In the aftermath of the explosion, hospitals were inundated with the wounded, and morgues struggled to identify and document the dead.

News of the disaster spread quickly, and aid soon arrived from within Canada as well as from the United States. The Halifax community remembers the disaster each December 6 with a service at the memorial bell tower located in Fort Needham Park. Internationally, the incident influenced the adoption of stricter maritime laws regarding cargo identification and harbour traffic control.

Halifax explosion. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription.

Subscribe today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Nova ScotiaCanadian province located on the eastern seaboard of North America, one of the four original provinces along with New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec that constituted the Dominion of Canada in Roughly miles km long but not more than about 80 miles km wide at…. Halifaxcity and capital of Nova Scotia, Canada. World War Ian international conflict that in —18 embroiled most of the nations of Europe along with Russia, the United States, the Middle East, and other regions.

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