The Great Halifax Explosion

What it’s about:  The Great Halifax Explosion is a gripping account about the most powerful man-made explosion prior to the dropping of the first atomic bomb in late 1945. The tragedy in Halifax, Nova Scotia was the result of a collision involving the S.S. Mont-Blanc which was carrying the explosive equivalent of 1.7 million tons of TNT. John Bacon blends the stories of several Haligonians before, during, and after the terrible day of December 6, 1917 to recreate an account that covers the explosion from local, regional, and global perspectives. An excellent telling of an overlooked piece of history and a book that taught me much about the complicated relationship between the U.S. and Canada some 100 years ago.

Some interesting bits I learned:

  • Fenway Park was designed by Halifax native James Earnest McLaughlin.
  • Most of the recovery efforts following the Titanic tragedy were coordinated out of Halifax.
  • About 1600 people were killed instantly in the Halifax explosion. Another 300+ died in the rubble of their homes and businesses.
  • Boston was the first U.S. city to provide medical and financial aid to Halifax with the first relief train leaving just 13 hours after the explosion.
  • Novia Scotia has sent Boston a spruce Christmas tree every year since the explosion as thanks.

Let’s finish with a quote:

“The passage of time naturally dulls memories, obscuring events that were vivid to our parents and grandparents. The Great has been pushed aside by World War II, the Halifax Explosion has been eclipsed by Hiroshima, and 9/11 seems to obscure everything that came before it. This is not only to be expected but is in many ways healthy. To maintain a slavish devotion to the past is not merely morbid but also counterproductive, something the survivors themselves realized when it came time to focus on their futures.”