Additional Information Related to the 1917 Halifax Explosion

A rare Gauvin and Gentzel photograph of the Richmond waterfront showing Pier 6, 7, 8 and 9 circa 1898. To the left can be seen a small building that reportedly, was the railway dispatch office from which Vince Coleman sent his famous last messages 19 years later.

Photo courtesy PANS/N-1760.

Below is segment from a map showing this area.
Photo courtesy PANS

One immediate result of the Halifax Explosion was a tsunami; its devastation is fairly well documented. However, until I spoke with Mi'kmaw historian, Don Awalt, regarding casualties from the wave in Nevin's Cove, I was unaware of the dynamics of a tsunami; how a wave could seemingly reverse itself to enter a cove or inlet. I learned that a tsunami is not one wave, but is comprised of a series of waves. Land masses do not impede the motion or strength of the waves which will continue at full force and travel around any obstructions in their path. Pierre Richard, who experienced a tsunami in Martinique, explained how the waves expand outward in the form of an arc. He also said that the waves were so long, one could be out on the water and not even feel it - perhaps a slight rocking, if anything. The action of a tsunami can be visualized by simply dropping a small pebble into a pan of water.

Map showing location of Nevin's Cove

A Quicktime animation by Dr. Steven Ward at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the University of California - Santa Cruz, demonstrates the progress of the powerful Sumatra tsunami of 2004. Note what happens after its leading edge strikes Sri Lanka. In the case of Nevin's Cove, when the wave approached the shoals it would have slowed down. The water would then have been drawn away from the shore thus causing the initial wave to rise up and hit with destructive power.

The tsunami in Halifax Harbour would also have also headed Southeast toward McNab's Island. This may explain the disappearance of two Mi'kmaw men near the South End of Halifax who were paddling a canoe up the harbour towards the Narrows. It is possible they could have been caught by a sudden wave if they were too close to the shoreline.

Read an article on the MMA website: Atlantic Tsunamis by Alan Ruffman.

The photograph above shows a record of the east-west component of the Mainka bifilar horizontal seismograph that was housed in the Dalhousie Science Building on December 6, 1917 at 09:04:35 AST. (Photo from an article by Mike Parker, Halifax Daily News, December 5, 1987)

The first page of a typed report dated December 7, 1917 by the Senior Naval Officer of the British vessel, H.M.S. Highflyer, detailing the events connected to the collision of the Imo and Mont Blanc and the resulting explosion on 6 December, 1917. Canada War Museum website.

Telegram to Naval Headquarters in Ottawa - sent December 6, 1917.

Highflyer suffered three dead and 50 wounded. Many of the surviving sailors assisted in the reconstruction of Halifax in the explosion's aftermath. Read a pdf article detailing the awarding of the Albert Medal for bravery to Acting Commander T. K. Triggs, R.N. (below left), of H.M.S. Highflyer, who gave his life to save the lives of others. Source: The London Gazette 26 March 1918 (from the Admiralty, 23rd March, 1918)


Read a pdf article printed in the Berwick Register February 6, 1918
recounting the life of the S. S. Stella Maris captain, Horatio H. Brannen (above right).

Related New York Times articles:
December 8, 1917 (a)
December 8, 1917 (b)
Dec. 10, 1917
December 11, 1917
December 12, 1917
Dec. 14, 1917
Dec. 16, 1917
Feb. 5, 1918

Click for a composite of aerial photographs from a 1921 flight over Halifax.

Ground Zero can be seen lower right at the foot of Richmond Street.
Department of Natural Resources
(individual photographs no longer posted).
1921 Flyover Mosaic 2009 Joel Zemel

Please Note: In the June 2014 issue of the Griffin, there is an article about the 1921 Halifax Flyover that includes
a similar mosaic of the available photographs. Although my mosaic and website are mentioned in the acknowledgments, the author neglected to include the copyright date that would have clearly shown my work predated the Griffin article by five years.

This high resolution photograph (below left), is from The Library of Congress website (Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection) and was taken by Wallace R. MacAskill from a location on George's Island. The previous lighthouse had burned down in 1916. The concrete lighthouse in this photograph was completed in 1919. The image of Halifax Harbour was taken when the trees were in full foliage. It shows a wonderful, detailed view of the city skyline and harbour from the lighthouse across to Citadel Hill and all the way to the old domed Customs Office in the distance. It also shows two tugboats in the foreground. The one towing the barge is the tug, Collector.

The photograph on the right, dated 1927, was apparently taken several moments later, and is a low resolution image from the MacAskill Collection on the PANS/NSARM website. It is indeed unfortunate that the delicate original glass plate negative housed at PANS is in two segments, the result of a diagonal break (not visible in the on-line source photo). As well, a segment was broken off and lost - note the black area, lower left side of the image. Luckily, the high resolution photograph from the Library of Congress has only two relatively minor scratches thus allowing an unobstructed view of the scene plus a look at what was contained in the lost section of the PANS image.



The images below were forwarded to me by Ian Stubbs, Assistant Curator Middlesbrough Museums and Galleries Service at the Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough, England. It shows a half-hull model of SS Raylton Dixon, the namesake of one of the owners of the company that built Mont Blanc, Sir Raylton Dixon & Co. Ltd. Although a smaller vessel, the design of SS Raylton Dixon is very similar to that of Mont Blanc.

Sir Raylton Dixon, Mayor of Middlesbrough in 1889 (inset).
Images Courtesy Dorman Museum - Copyright Middlesbrough Council

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Faces of the Halifax Explosion  Debunking the 13 Mile Myth

The majority of the photographs on this website were obtained from the Internet
or created by Pierre Richard or Joel Zemel. Exceptions are listed on Page 5.

If anyone sees an image on this website that is incorrectly credited
or where due credit is omitted, or believes there is an existing copyright issue,
please contact me through the "Contact SVP" link.

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