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The city of Halifax, Nova Scotia sits on a peninsula between the Bedford Basin and the Atlantic Ocean. One hundred years ago, with Canada a vital member of the British Empire, she was a city at war. Every night, submarine nets were stretched along the opening of The Narrows, a thin strip of water that connected the basin to the great ocean and separated the cities of Halifax to the south and Dartmouth to the north. By the end of the day on December 6, 1917, the city would lay in ruins, the result of the largest man-made explosion before the invention of the atomic bomb.
At the heart of this story is two ships, the SS Mont-Blanc and the Norwegian SS Imo, then working for the Belgian Relief Commission. The Mont-Blanc was loaded with war supplies:
- 500,449 lbs. of TNT
- 3,527,396 lbs. of wet Picric Acid
- 1,200 lbs. of dry Picric Acid
- 12,345 lbs. of Nitrocellulose (also known as guncotton)
- 491,630 lbs. of Benzol
Normally, she would never have been allowed anywhere near the basin but she needed to hook up and take her place in the convoy to France.