Discover your inside story. Save 20% on Ancestry DNA April 21-26

August 7, 2017

Newly Discovered Diary Describes Halifax Explosion

Dec. 6, 1917. Royal Navy sailor Frank Baker wrote in his diary

"We...had just drawn soap and powder and the necessary utensils for cleaning paint work,” he wrote, “when the most awful explosion I ever heard or want to hear again occurred.”

What Baker heard was the largest explosion since before the Atomic Bomb. Sailors 150 miles out to sea heard the blast. On land, people felt the jolt 300 miles away. The shock wave demolished almost everything within a half-mile.

An outbound Belgian ship, the Imo, collided with an inbound French freighter, the Mont-Blanc. The freighter carried 2,925 tons of high explosives, including 246 tons of benzol, a highly flammable motor fuel, in drums lashed to its deck.

Passersby stopped to watch the fire but when the explosion occurred the town of Halifax was devastated. There were 2000 known fatalities and over 9000 people were injured.

Baker's diary is now in an exhibit in the Dartmouth Heritage Musuem. Read the entire diary on the Smithsonian 


Nancy Cutway said...

Actually, it was the largest explosion BEFORE the atomic bomb, which was dropped August 6, 1945 -- the Halifax explosion was in 1917.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Typo on my part - left off the word "before"