Saturday, December 09, 2006

Historical Tidbits

Munitions Ship Explodes

On December 6th, 1917, at 9:05 a.m., in the harbor of Halifax in
the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the most devastating
man-made explosion in the pre-atomic age occurred when the Mont
Blanc, a French munitions ship, exploded 20 minutes after
colliding with another vessel.

As World War I raged in Europe, the port city of Halifax bustled
with ships carrying troops, relief supplies and munitions across
the Atlantic Ocean. On the morning of December 6, the Norwegian
vessel Imo left its mooring in Halifax harbor for New York City.
At the same time, the French freighter Mont Blanc, its cargo
hold packed with highly explosive munitions--2,300 tons of
picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 35 tons of high-octane gasoline,
and 10 tons of gun cotton--was forging through the harbor's
narrows to join a military convoy that would escort it across
the Atlantic.

At approximately 8:45 a.m., the two ships collided, setting the
picric acid ablaze. The Mont Blanc was propelled toward the
shore by its collision with the Imo, and the crew rapidly
abandoned the ship, attempting without success to alert the
harbor of the peril. Spectators gathered along the waterfront to
witness the spectacle of the blazing ship, and minutes later it
brushed by a harbor pier, setting it ablaze. The Halifax fire
department responded quickly and was positioning its engine next
to the nearest hydrant when the Mont Blanc exploded at 9:05 a.m.
in a blinding white flash.

The massive explosion killed more than 1,600 people, injured
another 9,000--including blinding 200--and destroyed almost the
entire north end of the city of Halifax, including more than
1,600 homes. The resulting shock wave shattered windows 50 miles
away and the sound of the explosion could be heard for hundreds
of miles.

More can be found on Wikipedia