Halifax,       Nova Scotia,      Canada                     

My first International trip to a location which brings many happy memories a return visit being a priority during my remaining years.

Prepared structural, outfit and HVAC drawings on semi-submersible drilling rigs and drillship being built to Earl & Wright’s designs for the South East Drilling Co. during my two year visit.

Visit Their Web Site: Click Here

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The site of the largest man made explosion before the Atom bomb.

A monstrous explosion, resulting from the collision of two ships, the Mont Blanc and the Into (the former carrying 5,000 tons of high explosives), in the narrows leading from Halifax Harbor to Bedford Basin, wiped out the suburb of Richmond on December 6, 1917, killing 1,600 persons, injuring 8,000 and destroying 3,000 dwellings; 2,000 more persons were listed missing, and total damages were estimated to be more than $30 million .The column of black smoke rose and flattened out like an umbrella at 12,000 ft over the funeral pyre of the town that died. The anchor of the Mont Blanc is still to be found many miles away in someone's front garden near the Arndale Rotary.

Read what the papers had to say below,

Peggies Cove     (Recent Swissair Jet Crash)

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Though an enormous mishap, the explosion and fire that destroyed half of Halifax! Nova Scotia, on December 6, 1917, could indirectly be attributed to World War I, which was then raging in Europe, for it was the tools of war that worked the horrible proportions of this disaster. The Savannah News even went so far as to suggest that the Allies ‘look for the Kaiser’s hand" in fixing the blame for the calamity.
The immediate fault, however, lay with the skipper and pilot of the 5.043-ton Belgian relief ship Imo, a Norwegian vessel built in Belfast in 1889 for the White Star Line.
After changing hands and names—Runic, Tampican—over the years, she became the property of Norway’s South Pacific Whaling Company.
Bound for Europe and proceeding at half speed through the narrows between Halifax and Bedford Basin at 8:40 am., the Imo’s captain and pilot spied an approaching ship, the 3,121-ton Mont Blanc, which was laden with 5,000 tons of deadly explosives allocated for war use in Europe coming in from New York..
Built in 1899 and owned by the French Line (Cie Generale Transatlantique), the Mont Blanc carried 580 tons of TNT in her two after holds, picric acid in the forward hold and a deck jammed with tanks of benzine. The French ship was a sailing bomb.
The two ships edged toward each other in the narrows. Both vessels began to signal each other with whistles. The weather was clear and bright, although several claims that there was a light mist were later made. The pilot on the Mont Blanc, Frank Mackie, who watched the Imo veer inexplicably toward his ship on a collision course, later stated that the ramming "was due to a confusion of whistles sounded by the Imo."
Confusion ran to irresponsibility, as the captain of the Imo, realising a collision imminent, reversed his engines, causing his ship to heave over to port with her bow aimed at the Mont Blanc. Lemodec, captain of the French ship, saw that the collision was inevitable and gave orders for his ship to be manoeuvred in such a way that the Imo would strike his vessel at a place where there would be less danger of exploding her cargo.
The Imo came on with a crunch, her bow slicing one-third of the way through the Mont Blanc’s, deck. The twenty-five barrels of benzine were ripped open and spilled into the torn compartment containing the acid and dozens of bales of gun cotton. The blazing fire was instantaneous.
Captain Lemodec and his crew fought the towering fire for several minutes, retreating step by step, their fruitless efforts watched intensely by hundreds who had gathered at the nearby shoreline
Suddenly the French skipper waved his men into lifeboats, and the scrambling seamen made for shore, rowing like wild men, knowing the explosion could come at any moment.
When they reached the shore the Mont Blanc crew jumped fitfully from their boats and ran, yelling all the way, into a nearby woods to hide.
The slightly damaged Iino made for the opposite Dartmouth shore. Seventeen minutes after the collision came one of the most violent explosions ever recorded. The Mont Blanc disappeared completely when the fire reached the TNT in her holds.
The suburb of Richmond, densely populated with old wooden structures, was literally blown off the map; the explosion was heard sixty miles away at Truro. Houses, office buildings, people and animals were sent skyward at the instant of the great concussion. The Imo was lifted from the water and hurled bodily ashore at Dartmouth.
Freight cars were blown through the air for distances of two miles. Two-thirds of every crew on every ship in the harbour were instantly killed.
More than 500 schoolchildren were in their classrooms at the time the explosion occurred, and only l0in both Richmond and Dartmouth survived as their schools caved in on them like falling cards. In the Dartmouth School 200 youngsters perished. Every child and matron in the Protestant Orphan Home was killed,
At the edge of the Richmond district towered the old and resplendent Queen’s Hotel. In its lobby sat 1. M. Soy, an official of the Maple Leaf Lumber Company was thrown off his chair by the terrific blast and heard hysterical cries from those who had been expecting Trans-Atlantic German air raids for months. "The Zeppelins! It’s the Zeppelins!"
A telegrapher, four miles from the disaster, was killed at his desk by a piece of flying metal. Only one telegraph line was left standing over which Halifax could send out its pleas for help. The one remaining operator stayed at his key for only twenty minutes and then let the wire go dead when a bleeding child ran to him to tell him that his wife was dying.
More than 1,600 persons were dead under debris or blown bodily into the next district. Either bravery or shock drove Nova Scotians to uncommonly heroic acts. A railroad telegrapher burned to death in his shack rather than leave it and allow an incoming train to continue unwarned.
A dock worker dragged dozens of injured men out of burning piles of debris. When told that one of his eyes was hanging on his cheek, he refused to go to the hospital and returned to save more lives. One smartly dressed chauffeur drove scores of injured to the hospital several times, refusing to take time to have his broken ribs taped.
Many Halifax buildings of historical import were obliterated. The brown freestone and granite Dominion Building with its priceless museum of Indian artefacts was gone. Other buildings destroyed included the Government House built in 1800, the Halifax Club, the Waverly and Halifax hotels, a half-dozen churches, and the Presbyterian ladies’ College.
Fires raged moments after the explosion through Dartmouth and Richmond, rising on either side of the narrows, their sharp hills serving as a trough up through which the flames leapt in perfect drafts.
There was no fire department left to combat the fires, and they simply burned themselves out after sending pillars of black smoke rising several thousand feet into the sky which could be seen from forty miles away.
As thousands of injured limped out of Richmond and Dartmouth (more than 8,000 were injured one way or another by the blast), every restaurant in Halifax opened kitchens, giving free food to all survivors and rescuers. Drug stores gave away all their medical supplies; employers told their employees to quit work and aid the stricken.
Overnight Halifax was known as "The City of Comrades." (Within days, however, the public empathy switched to acrimonious greed; truckers extorted life savings from the homeless for moving their singed, meagre belongings; a grocer was stoned for charging a starving child ten times the normal amount for a loaf of bread; landlords hiked their rents to fabulous sums and forced their tenants to pay or move into the snow-swept streets.)
Aid was on its way to Halifax even before its fires were out and its appalling list of dead completed. Consigned to the .Red Cross, Maine’s Governor Carl F. Milliken sent the following day by rail 2,000 blankets, 1,000 cots, 400,000 square feet of beaver board (for temporary housing), 200,000 pieces of window glass, 10,000 rolls of tarred paper.
A train from Massachusetts, 450 miles from wrecked Halifax, was on its way on the night of the disaster carrying 1,100 pairs of pyjamas, 350 hospital shirts, and carloads of medical supplies. This was followed by a Red Cross Special containing twenty-five doctors, including two obstetricians, sixty-eight nurses and eight orderlies.
On Saturday another Red Cross train left Providence, Rhode Island, with sixty-two surgeons, sixty nurses, ten orthopaedic surgeons and two hospital social workers. The United States Navy offered the Red Cross 50,000 blankets. New York City sent carloads of clothing-shoes, stockings, boots and overcoats—for women and children.
It was one of the greatest outpourings of human compassion ever to sweep the continent, and these enormous supplies were soon delivered as Halifax began the tedious work of rebuilding.
The ship Imo was rebuilt. Her name, for obvious reasons, was changed once again, to the Guvernoren. She was wrecked after running aground off the Falkland Islands four years later, a hulk dying in obscurity under an alias few would connect with the great Halifax explosion.

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