The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism
From the publisher: "After steaming out of New York City on December 1, 1917, laden with a staggering three thousand tons of TNT and other explosives, the munitions ship Mont-Blanc fought its way up the Atlantic coast, through waters prowled by enemy U-boats. As it approached the lively port city of Halifax, Mont-Blanc's deadly cargo erupted with the force of 2.9 kilotons of TNT—the most powerful explosion ever visited on a human population, save for HIroshima and Nagasaki. Mont-Blanc was vaporized in one fifteenth of a second; a shockwave leveled the surrounding city. Next came a thirty-five-foot tsunami. Most astounding of all, however, were the incredible tales of survival and heroism that soon emerged from the rubble."
From New York Times best-selling author John U. Bacon, a gripping narrative history of the largest manmade detonation prior to Hiroshima: In 1917, a ship laden with the most explosives ever packed on a vessel sailed out of Brooklyn’s harbor for the battlegrounds of World War I; when it stopped in Halifax, Nova Scotia, an extraordinary disaster awaited….
On Monday, December 3, 1917, the French freighter SS Mont-Blanc set sail from Brooklyn carrying the largest cache of explosives ever loaded onto a ship, including 2,300 tons of picric acid, an unstable, poisonous chemical more powerful than TNT. The US had just recently entered World War I, and the ordnance was bound for the battlefields of France to help the Allies break the grueling stalemate that had protracted the fighting for nearly four demoralizing years. The explosives were so dangerous that Captain Aimé Le Medec took unprecedented safety measures, including banning the crew from smoking, lighting matches, or even touching a drop of liquor.
Sailing north, the Mont-Blanc faced deadly danger, enduring a terrifying snowstorm off the coast of Maine and evading stealthy enemy U-boats hunting the waters of the Atlantic. But it was in Nova Scotia that an extraordinary disaster awaited. As the Mont-Blanc waited to dock in Halifax, it was struck by a Norwegian relief ship, the Imo, charging out of port. A small fire on the freighter’s deck caused by the impact ignited the explosives below, resulting in a horrific blast that, in 1/15 of a second, leveled 325 acres of Halifax – killing more than 1,000 people and wounding 9,000 more.
In this definitive account, Bacon combines research and eyewitness accounts to re-create the tragedy and its aftermath, including the international effort to rebuild the devastated port city. As he brings to light one of the most dramatic incidents of the 20th century, Bacon explores the long shadow this first “weapon of mass destruction” would cast on the future of nuclear warfare – crucial insights and understanding relevant to us today.