Halifax Explosion

Eleven thousand dead and injured. Twenty-five thousand homeless. A Canadian city wrecked. On Dec. 6, 1917, the munitions vessel SS Mont Blanc collided with the SS Imo in Halifax harbour, creating one of the biggest human-made explosions the world had yet seen. Here is a look at some of the key locations involved in the Halifax Explosion as the city plans commemorations for Dec. 6, the 100th anniversary of the blast. Scroll down to begin.

Graphic by: Megan Leach, Aly Thomson, Lucas Timmons & Sean Vokey

Explosion site

SPEAKER: Barbara Lounder, researcher at the Narratives in Space and Time Society

Area of devastation

The area of devastation is marked in red on the map. The Hydrostone area is in black. The red dot is the explosion location.

SPEAKER: Barbara Lounder, researcher at the Narratives in Space and Time Society

Hydrostone

The area of devastation is marked in red on the map. The Hydrostone area is in black. The red dot is the explosion location.

SPEAKER: Barbara Lounder, researcher at the Narratives in Space and Time Society

Mont Blanc anchor slab

Speaker: Jim MacLean, member of the Calvin Presbyterian Church, Halifax 

Mont Blanc cannon

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The SS Mont Blanc's cannon flew roughly three kilometres — it was found sticking out of dirty snow roughly where it sits today as part of a monument at the corner of Albro Lake Road and Pinecrest Drive in Dartmouth. The one-metre cannon was later placed in front of nearby Greenvale School, then made its way to another local museum before winding up at its current home in the 1990s, according to Shannon Baxter of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum. Frantic Mont Blanc crew members had evacuated the ship and made their way to the Dartmouth shore before the blast, screaming in French for bystanders to take cover. Only one Mont Blanc crew member died.

Mont Blanc anchor shaft

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The anchor shaft of the SS Mont Blanc — which weighs 1,140 pounds — was hurled more than three kilometres after the explosion, over the entire Halifax peninsula. The shaft has been moved several times, but is now mounted in a rock cairn close to where it originally landed near the Northwest Arm, in a small park nestled among a late 1980s residential development. After the explosion the same area, known as the Edmonds Grounds, was used to house people who had lost their homes to the disaster.

Turtle Grove

Turtle Grove was a Mi'kmaq settlement nestled at the narrowest part of Halifax harbour, across from where the SS Mont Blanc collided with the SS Imo. Black-and-white photos taken at the turn of the last century show a collection of wigwams close to the shoreline, but the blast and resulting tsunami razed Turtle Grove, killing at least nine of its residents. The experience of the roughly six families who were living there has been historically underrepresented, in part because historical documentation simply was not preserved because it was not deemed important at the time. To this day, a tree-lined section of what was once Turtle Grove, near the present-day Tufts Cove Generating Station, remains empty and overgrown. Some of the descendants of those who lived there, members of the Millbrook First Nation, plan to rebuild on the site.

Richmond Train Station

Speaker: Roger Marsters, curator of marine history at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

Admiralty House

SPEAKER: Richard Sanderson, director of the Naval Museum of Halifax, CFB Stadacona 

Africville

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Africville was a black community near the Halifax north end neighbourhood of Richmond — the area hit hardest by the blast. Irvine Carvery, past president of the Africville Genealogy Society, said there was extensive damage to homes in Africville, and some residents on their way to work were killed. The blast caused a tsunami that flooded the community's lower reaches. Carvery said Africville residents flocked to church after the explosion because they thought Armageddon had come. When relief trains arrived to help residents of the city, none of that relief came to Africville. Africville's disaster experience has been historically underrepresented, in part because historical documentation simply was not preserved. Africville itself was razed by the city in the late 1960s

Ghost window

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

It's said that during the explosion, a window at St. Paul's Church — the city's oldest building and the country's oldest existing Protestant church — shattered in the shape of a man's profile. The church says many stories are told about the window — which faces Argyle Street in downtown Halifax, miles away from the blast — but the most well-known is that a man was sitting next to it when the blast occurred, blowing him through the window and leaving behind his profile. Another story is that it resembles the silhouette of a past curate of the 268-year-old church, Rev. Jean-Baptiste Moreau. Legend has it that no matter how many times the glass is cleaned, the profile always reappears. The church also holds another explosion relic — a piece of window frame lodged in the narthex wall.