Thursday, December 5, 2013

Remembering the Halifax Explosion

The infamous Halifax Explosion still resonates widely among Haligonians, as evident by the continuing popularity of the many related titles found in the Halifax Public Libraries collection. Here for your reading consideration are a few new or recently revised Halifax Explosion related titles.

~Please note that Scapegoat author Joel Zemel (see description below) will be reading at the Halifax North Branch Library this evening. All are welcome.~

Miracles and Mysteries: the Halifax explosion December 6, 1917 (M) by Mary Ann Monnon"Mary Ann Monnon's father was one of the lucky survivors of the Halifax Explosion, the great World War One disaster that devastated Halifax and killed over two thouasand people. His personal story, along with the stories of other survivors, are woven into this captivating account of the events leading up to and following the explosion of the munitions ship Mont Blanc in Halifax Harbour. Monnon begins the story in the days just prior to the explosion, providing news items, ads, and public notices that give readers fresh insight into life in the city at that time. Monnon's interviewees provide candid recollections of where they were and their initial responses to the disaster. What emerge are unusually personal stories of confusion, injury, loss, and the eventual resurgence of hope-raw remembrances that bring back into sharp focus those first days on the ground. Miracles and Mysteries is a reminder of the tragedy of war, and how ordinary people respond to overwhelming and inexplicable events." - publisher

The Town That Died: a chronicle of the Halifax Explosion (M) by Michael J. Bird"The Town That Died is a moving and detailed account of the greatest human-made explosion before Hiroshima, the terrible disaster known as the Halifax Explosion. It is the first documentary account, told from the personal experiences of survivors, to accurately chronicle the tragic events that led to the ill-fated collision between the Imo and the munitions-laden Mont Blanc in the harbour narrows and the dreadful consequences. Michael J. Bird's passion for truth, supported by his engaging literary style, makes The Town That Died a classic in the annals of human courage and suffering." - publisher

Scapegoat: the extraordinary legal proceedings following the 1917 Halifax Explosion
(M) by Joel Zemel"On the morning of 6 December 1917, a French munitions ship, SS Mont Blanc, carrying a full cargo of highly volatile explosives, and a Belgian Relief vessel under Norwegian registry, SS Imo, collided in Halifax Harbour. Twenty minutes later, a catastrophic explosion destroyed the district of Richmond in the North End of the city, causing the loss of over 2,000 lives, countless injuries and millions of dollars in property damage. At first, German spies and saboteurs were assumed to have been the culprits. However, within a few days, Captain Aime Le Medec and Pilot Francis Mackey of Mont Blanc were under intense scrutiny in the court of public opinion.

The federal government launched an immediate inquiry to investigate the causes of the accident which led to the disaster. However, Ottawa's underlying goal was to assume control over the port and its pilotage system. During the latter part of the proceedings, fingers pointed towards the Royal Canadian Navy for alleged mismanagement of the port. By that time, the drive to find those responsible for the unthinkable had reached a fever pitch. As a result of the inquiry decision, the captain and pilot, along with RCN chief examining officer, Commander F. Evan Wyatt, were singled out for blame. They were arrested and subsequently charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence.

Within the framework of the inquiry transcripts and through the incorporation of additional legal records, official naval documentation, photographs and archived resources, this volume details the circumstances leading up to the day of the collision, fire and explosion. The courtroom then becomes the setting for a close examination of the inquiry itself and the numerous legal proceedings which followed. Ultimately, the evolution of the concerted efforts to indict a scapegoat in the wake of this unprecedented marine and civil disaster is revealed." - publisher


  1. And don't forget the novel, Black Snow, by Jon Tattrie