Halifax is a city built right beside the ocean. There is a sheltered harbour there that doesn’t freeze during the winters and so it is a good place for ships come in to dock and deliver their goods or passengers. During the early 1900’s it had a population of around 50,000 people.
One day, the 6th of December, 1917, a ship called the Imo was leaving the harbour through the narrow opening to the open sea. It was travelling a bit faster than it should have been and was on the wrong side of the waterway.
A ship called the Mont Blanc was entering the harbour on it’s way to the Bedford Basin. Ships coming into the harbour were supposed to have the right-of-way. They whistled at each other, telling each other to move out of the way, but were not able to sort it out in time.
Unfortunately the two ships hit each other, making sparks which started a fire on the Mont Blanc.
For several minutes the fire on the Mont Blanc sent black smoke into the air. This attracted attention from people on the shore and from the firefighters and other sailors who set out on their way to help put the fire out.
There were only a few people who knew that the Mont Blanc was carrying explosives. The crew of the Mont Blanc lowered their lifeboats and paddled away as fast as they could, and left the ship to drift into the harbour.
The fire eventually reached the ammunition and exploded. It was a huge explosion that shattered windows in a town 100 km away. The blast toppled buildings, set buildings on fire, and killed nearly 2000 people, and injured 9000 more. And to make it even more difficult, the next day a blizzard began.
Many people came to help and sent medical aid, doctors, and money. especially a group of people in Boston, Massachusetts.
In remembrance of the relief provided, every year the people of Halifax send a large Christmas tree to Boston to say “Thank you.”
If you are able to find this at your library or have it at home, read “Halifax Explodes” in the Canadian Flyer series by Frieda Wishinsky.
Notebook Page: The Halifax Explosion
Activity: Saying thank you can sometimes be something we mean to do, but somehow never get around to. So, take some time today and make some handmade “Thank You” cards, so that you never have an excuse not to send that note. Included in the notebook page is instructions for making a card and envelope if you need it, but you can easily make cards out of extra paintings or artwork. If you don’t have any extra artwork hanging around, here is an idea for decorating the front of your cards: Fingerprint Art