One hundred years ago today the largest man-made explosion prior to World War II devastated Halifax, Nova Scotia. Two ships collided in the harbor, one carrying 2,300 tons of wet and dry picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 10 tons of gun cotton and 35 tons of benzoyl. The subsequent blast killed 1,900 people, and left 10% of the city’s population injured.
Holiday visitors to Boston enjoy the beautiful Christmas tree at the Prudential Center, an annual gift from Halifax citizens, grateful for the many Bostonians who fought their way through a raging blizzard to come to their city’s aid.
I first learned of the disaster from an obituary in a Boston area paper. The deceased lost her sight as a young child on that terrible winter day. Her face pressed against a window, she watched the ships burn. Then the explosion; a shock wave shattered thousands of windows. Shards of glass tore into her eyes. Others suffered a similar fate.
The Halifax disaster and Boston’s relief mobilization should not be forgotten.
[Sources: This summary and the CBC photos below were obtained from a link of the Nova Scotia Museum that is no longer active. Additional information about the tragedy can be found on the museum’s website and here.]