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Author Topic: Today in History: The Halifax Explosion  (Read 49 times)
von Corax
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Prof. Darwin Prætorius von Corax


« on: December 07, 2017, 04:46:20 am »

100 years ago today, on 6 December 1917, at approximately 7:30 a.m. AST, the Norwegian-registered SS Imo, sailing empty or "in ballast", was granted clearance to depart Halifax, Nova Scotia's Bedford Basin and enter the Narrows between Halifax and Dartmouth en route to New York NY to pick up a load of relief supplies for the Belgian Relief Commission. Excessive speed and a series of poor decisions lead her into the path of the French-registered tramp steamer SS Mont-Blanc, which was transiting the Narrows from Upper Harbour to Bedford Basin en route from New York NY to Bordeaux, France with a full load of TNT, picric acid, benzole and guncotton. The collision which occurred at 8:45 a.m. AST did not severely damage either ship, but did rupture several barrels of benzole motor fuel which flooded Mont-Blanc's decks and drained into her hold where the fumes were ignited by sparks struck as the two ships separated.

At 9:04:35 a.m. AST the flames reached the rest of Mont-Blanc's cargo and triggered the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of atomic weapons. The Halifax Explosion killed over 2000 people and injured another 9000, many of whom had been drawn to watch the spectacle from the docks or from their front windows. The blast levelled 160 hectares, damaged every building within a 2.6 km radius, and was felt as far away as Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island; it also exposed the harbour floor, and the subsequent 18 metre tsunami wiped out the Mi'kmaq community of Tufts Cove/Turtle Grove. The smoke plume rose 3600 metres; Mont-Blanc's forward 90mm gun landed over 5 km to the north at Albro Lake, while a half-tonne piece of her anchor fell over 3 km to the south at Armdale; the last body was not recovered until the summer of 1919.

The legacy of the Halifax Explosion is wide-reaching. Coroner Arthur S. Barnstead refined the use of body bags and toe tags introduced by his father John H. Barnstead in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster of 1912. Major strides were made in the science of ophthalmology; thousands of the casualties had been watching the fire from inside buildings and had been struck by flying glass; some 5900 eye injuries were reported but only 41 were permanently blinded. Boston surgeon William Ladd realized that surgery on children was not the same as surgery on tiny adults, and returned home to effectively invent the discipline of pediatric surgery.

Heritage Minutes: Halifax Explosion
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« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2017, 09:46:20 pm »

A dreadful, dreadful event, much worse than many a wartime battle. "They also serve ...".
Not all wartime casualties happen on the battlefield.
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