03 December 2009

From this land to yours...thanks for helpin out

this entry doesnt involve me, but its about halifax and a favorite place of ours...boston. ;)

so, the story actually starts on december 6, 1917. this was the day of the colossal disaster in halifax harbor that killed about 2,000 people. it was WWI and halifax was a majorly important artery in the shipping system. on this particular day, an empty (thus, riding light and high) norwegian ship, called the imo, was trying to get back out to sea while a heavily loaded french ship, called the s.s. mont-blanc, was trying to come in and deposit its highly dangerous load of explosives. you guessed it...they collided. the imo turned hard after impact and landed on the shores of dartmouth while the mont-blanc sustained damage, that then started a fire, that then spread, and finally caused every last ounce of munitions to explode.

the halifax explosion is a serious tragedy. i even rented a book about it called "Curse of the Narrows" by Laura M Macdonald from the library here. it was during that time when i couldnt find the ability to finish books that i started though. :( it did have time to leave some lasting impressions on me and it caused me to write down some of the amazing facts. while i dont want to make sport out of what happened to the victims, the facts are just so freaking jaw dropping it kinda helps to keep their memory alive knowing the craziness they went through.

1. there were 5.85 million pounds of powder on the ship that exploded.
2. the initial fireball was 9000+ degrees F, which quickly evaporated a 24 foot radius of water around the ship. this massive void sucked water inward to fill the space. this caused a huge tsunami with 20 foot waves.
3. the 6.9 million pounds of iron that comprised the ships hull was blown to bits, most of it was vaporized.
4. the force of the blast threw the ships 1,100 pound anchor 2.35 miles away and a cannon from the ship was found 3 miles away.
5. the explosion noise initially traveled at a speed of 13,320 miles per hour, but slowed to 756 mph before reaching land. at this speed, it still caused instant death to most nearby. it crushed their organs, exploded their lungs, and windows imploded to decapitate people.
6. the vacuum of the air blast caused local tornadoes that damaged 12,000 buildings in a 16 mile radius.
7. final tallies: almost 2,000 killed, 6,000 injured, 9,000 homeless (in a population of 60,000). the damage is estimated to have been $240 million, by todays dollar.

crazy! as noted above, the date was december 6. unfortunately for rescue crews, the area also received a blizzard the next day that dumped 16 inches of snow on the battered survivors, and decreased survivability of anyone who may have still been stuck in the rubble.

(the ship [the imo] that crashed into the mont-blanc. here it is washed ashore in dartmouth after the collision and explosion; numerous pictures of the blast damage from a government website about the explosion)

the shining light of the story though...is boston. they were the first major city to respond. due to the fishing industry, they had always had a relationship with halifax. when they heard of the devastation, they assembled supplies and medical personnel and put them on the first train out of town (10p on the same day of the blast). it arrived in the early hours of december 8.

(the boston relief team; pine coffins set up in an undamaged part of town to deal with all the dead)

now, to officially give thanks, nova scotia (the land of christmas trees) chooses one prize tree each year (since 1971), cuts it down, and ships it to boston. the tree arrives in late november, by train, and is set up and decorated. the tree lighting was in boston common this year. today.

i know it starts out sad and morbid, but i really like the end result and the wonderful and thoughtful tradition these two cities have carried on to make happy memories from a tragic time.

1 comment:

Trav said...

Love the story... or the happy ending, at least. I love finding out that traditions are meaningful rather than automatic.