|This week has emphasized the power of nature and the power of humans. national blindness dictates that events considered to be universally known, are unknown elsewhere. (The lesson anne learns on a visit to her sister mary in the jane Austen book persuasion).The 1917 explosion in Halifax harbor is such an event. We know about the great Chicago fire and the earthquake and fire in San Francisco, but we had never heard of the explosion in Halifax.
On December 6, 1917, the French ship Mont Blanc entered Halifax harbor in order to join a military convoy for safe transport to Europe. She was loaded with 6,000,000 pounds of explosives. Smoking was prohibited on board as even a spark could be dangerous. As the ship entered the harbor, the Norwegian ship IMO, running behind schedule, was leaving the harbor headed to NY to pick up Belgian relief supplies. The two ships played chicken and crashed causing a cascade of sparks as the two ships disengaged. Very few knew what the Mont Blanc carried. The town stopped to watch the fire. When the ship's fires heated the vessel the ship became a giant grenade 300 feet long, 40 feet wide and 30 feet high. There was no man made explosion to come close to this until Hiroshima. The devastation within seconds of the explosion was hard to comprehend. 2,000 dead and 9,000 injured, most with very serious injuries. Entire industries and communities flattened. After we viewed the museum exhibit I purchased a book called too many to mourn. The author's family made up of 66 people in 4 generations lost 56 family members in seconds. The one note of cheer was that many people from Nova Scotia had moved to boston for work opportunities and as soon as word got out about the explosion, ships and medical support were rushed to Halifax. In gratititude a really fabulous Christmas tree from Nova Scotia is sent to boston annually in thanks.
nature's power was clearly glimpsed on a day trip to Peggy's cove. We had extra drama as a result of the passing of the Atlantic hurricane off the coast which stirred the sea up. The preserve is the south edge of the granite bedrock formed about 380 million years ago. Glaciers, 3,280 feet thick covered the granite about 20,000 years ago sculpting and moving these giant granite boulders and formations. There are three ecosystems in the preserve, barrens, bogs and rocky shoreline. The lighthouse wasn't that exciting, but we had a dandy time climbing the granite and admiring the rocky shore. Only 35 people live in Peggy's cove year round, and it is a challenge to live there. Living on a granite slab means no fresh water and no sewers. They use cisterns and composting toilets and carry in most of their drinking water. We had a warming breakfast at the restaurant near the lighthouse. It was quite chilly and windy and rainy, but it was a glorious outing.
So, what else did we do in Halifax?
We attended a public concert of big band music in the gorgeous Halifax public gardens. Advertised to be one of the finest surviving Victorian gardens in North America. The band was pleasant and the gardens superb.
We walked the waterfront walkway on the Dartmouth shore and the Halifax shore. There are ferries that run back and forth across the harbor every 15 minutes. So, we walked the Dartmouth walkway to woodside, took the ferry to Halifax, used our transfer to take the ferry back to Dartmouth and enjoyed it all.
On our walk along the Halifax walkway ( quite the tourist walk of attractions) our favorite stop was at the mary black gallery for a show titled 'presence of absence' by Catherine beck and Jeffrey cowling. Ms beck made jewelry that incorporated the Victorian use of human hair as a way to keep the memory of a loved one close. Mr cowling created amazing funeral urns and reliquary boxes based on architectural drawings he has made traveling the world. Beautiful work.
We missed the free Shakespeare in the park productions at point pleasant park but we enjoyed a walk there on a perfect fall day with the relaxed viewing of the harbor without the commercial distractions. We also had several walks in shubie park and on the local portion of the trans canada trail. On one of these walks we encountered a man who had birds and chipmunks eating out of his hand when he called them. He offered me some sunflower seeds and it was a huge thrill to have the chickadees fly down and perch on my hand to eat and the chipmunk dash over and sit on my hand to stuff his cheeks. The guy was a bit unusual, but I never had a chipmunk eating out of my hand before and I was happy to hear his views on the chipmunk assuming a prayerful stance before swallowing in exchange for having the chipmunk hang with me.
Yes, we did tour the citadel, the fourth construction built over a 28 year period and finished in 1856 did it's job of deterring an overland assault on the city and dockyard. The key here is the importance of this perfect deep water harbor to the British empire, so important that even after Canadian confederation in 1867, British troops remained until 1906. The costumed interpreters were dressed as 78th highlanders would have in the 1850's dressed for musket fighting. Thus they wore bright clothes and big hats so that after the ineffective muskets were fired they would look terrifying in a bayonet charge. Once rifled cannon and rifles came into practice the bright colors and x marks the spot white leather proved to be disadvantage. It took years for the military to change tactics.
We spent a day on boring paperwork. It still happens, even on the road. It proved to be quite challenging to find a way to print a document we needed to mail. We got it done and rewarded ourselves with dinner at Micmac bar and grill, a very popular local dining spot. We sat at the bar to avoid the hour wait for a table. Actually we had dinner here twice at the bar. The bartender was witty in the finest tradition of bartenders.
There are several really good farm markets, one at the Dartmouth ferry building and one at the seaport. We found some new cheeses at the seaport and bought veggies at the ferry terminal. When we are at a farm market I wish my refrigerator was just a little bigger.
We took a grayline bus tour of Halifax. We thought it would be on the hot pink double decker buses we saw in town, so we were disappointed when a regular bus was our lot. It was an interesting hour, the tidbit I most remember goes back to a G7 meeting during Clinton's term as president. The meeting was in Halifax and local security forgot to tell the international security forces that a cannon was shot off every day at noon from the citadel. Well, the G7 dignitaries were standing on the sidewalk at noon when the cannon was fired and security had the dignitaries flat on the sidewalk and snipers had appeared on the building tops. Fortunately no one was hurt and a good laugh was had.
The maritime museum of the Atlantic was fascinating. The job of titanic body recovery and burial was handled by ships based in Halifax. A huge task. The museum tells the story of the harbor's importance, shipwreck archeology, steam ships, Cunard ships (the Cunard line is on the waterfront) the war of 1812. This is another interesting view of history. There are four participants in the war of 1812. The USA felt it was a second war of independence, which was accomplished. Canada felt they won because their territories were not taken by the US. Britain really didn't want to be bothered when they were tied up with Napoleon and were glad to move ahead. The First Nation people were the big losers especially with the loss of Tecumseh.
Our next door neighbor at the campground is traveling in kind of a caravan and has been on the road for four months. They had been staying at Rockwood park in St. John when we were there and she recognized our camper. We enjoyed her company and hung out a few evenings. Sure hope we meet up on the road again.
We moved today to smith's cove, just outside digby for our final week in Nova Scotia, this trip. We really need to return here, it is just so beautiful.
Bisous for the week, thanks for reading. Feedback is always welcome.