web site hit counter The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism

Availability: Ready to download

From the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author, a gripping narrative-nonfiction account of the world’s largest manmade explosion before the atomic bomb. In December 1917, a freighter carrying 3,000 tons of explosives sailed from Brooklyn bound for the trenches of World War I—en route, a cataclysmic disaster awaited . . . Entering World War I’s fourth demoralizing year From the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author, a gripping narrative-nonfiction account of the world’s largest manmade explosion before the atomic bomb. In December 1917, a freighter carrying 3,000 tons of explosives sailed from Brooklyn bound for the trenches of World War I—en route, a cataclysmic disaster awaited . . . Entering World War I’s fourth demoralizing year, the Allies hoped to break the grueling stalemate by sending thousands of fresh American troops and more munitions than ever to the trenches of France. Before the French freighter Mont-Blanc set sail from Brooklyn on December 1, 1917, with a staggering 3,000 tons of explosives, the captain banned his crew from lighting a single match, and secured the volatile cargo with copper nails because they don’t spark when struck. For four harrowing days, the floating powder keg bobbed up the Eastern seaboard, plowing through a wicked snowstorm and waters infested with German U-Boats, which had already torpedoed a thousand Allied ships that year alone. On December 6, the exhausted crew finally slipped into Halifax Harbour—just as the relief ship Imo was rushing to leave. At 8:45 a.m., the Imo struck the Mont-Blanc’s bow, knocking over barrels of airplane fuel. Fire swept across the decks, sending the Mont-Blanc’s crew scurrying to their lifeboats, while Halifax longshoremen, office workers, and schoolchildren walked down to watch it burn. At 9:04:35 a.m., the Mont-Blanc erupted, leveling 2.5 square miles of Halifax, killing 2,000 people, and wounding 9,000 more—all in one-fifteenth of a second. In this definitive account, bestselling author John U. Bacon recreates the recklessness that caused the tragedy, the selfless rescue efforts that saved thousands, and the inspiring resilience that rebuilt the town. Just hours after the explosion, Boston alone sent 100 doctors, 300 nurses, and a million dollars. The explosion would revolutionize ophthalmology and pediatrics; transform Canada and the U.S. from adversaries to allies; and show J. Robert Oppenheimer, who studied Halifax closely, how much destruction an atomic bomb could inflict on a city. Bacon brings to light one of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century, exploring the long shadow the world’s first “weapon of mass destruction” still casts on our world today. The Great Halifax Explosion includes 25 black-and-white photos.


Compare

From the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author, a gripping narrative-nonfiction account of the world’s largest manmade explosion before the atomic bomb. In December 1917, a freighter carrying 3,000 tons of explosives sailed from Brooklyn bound for the trenches of World War I—en route, a cataclysmic disaster awaited . . . Entering World War I’s fourth demoralizing year From the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author, a gripping narrative-nonfiction account of the world’s largest manmade explosion before the atomic bomb. In December 1917, a freighter carrying 3,000 tons of explosives sailed from Brooklyn bound for the trenches of World War I—en route, a cataclysmic disaster awaited . . . Entering World War I’s fourth demoralizing year, the Allies hoped to break the grueling stalemate by sending thousands of fresh American troops and more munitions than ever to the trenches of France. Before the French freighter Mont-Blanc set sail from Brooklyn on December 1, 1917, with a staggering 3,000 tons of explosives, the captain banned his crew from lighting a single match, and secured the volatile cargo with copper nails because they don’t spark when struck. For four harrowing days, the floating powder keg bobbed up the Eastern seaboard, plowing through a wicked snowstorm and waters infested with German U-Boats, which had already torpedoed a thousand Allied ships that year alone. On December 6, the exhausted crew finally slipped into Halifax Harbour—just as the relief ship Imo was rushing to leave. At 8:45 a.m., the Imo struck the Mont-Blanc’s bow, knocking over barrels of airplane fuel. Fire swept across the decks, sending the Mont-Blanc’s crew scurrying to their lifeboats, while Halifax longshoremen, office workers, and schoolchildren walked down to watch it burn. At 9:04:35 a.m., the Mont-Blanc erupted, leveling 2.5 square miles of Halifax, killing 2,000 people, and wounding 9,000 more—all in one-fifteenth of a second. In this definitive account, bestselling author John U. Bacon recreates the recklessness that caused the tragedy, the selfless rescue efforts that saved thousands, and the inspiring resilience that rebuilt the town. Just hours after the explosion, Boston alone sent 100 doctors, 300 nurses, and a million dollars. The explosion would revolutionize ophthalmology and pediatrics; transform Canada and the U.S. from adversaries to allies; and show J. Robert Oppenheimer, who studied Halifax closely, how much destruction an atomic bomb could inflict on a city. Bacon brings to light one of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century, exploring the long shadow the world’s first “weapon of mass destruction” still casts on our world today. The Great Halifax Explosion includes 25 black-and-white photos.

30 review for The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    This non-fiction is an account of a tragedy which occurred in Halifax, Canada, at the end of the fourth year of the Great War. I had never heard of this man-made explosion before, so after reading several wonderful reviews by my GR Friends, I decided I wanted to learn what actually happened in 1917 in Halifax. The Author did amazing research into the disaster, describes all the minute details, but I feel his main aim is to make modern readers aware of the tragic fate of thousands of ordinary Hal This non-fiction is an account of a tragedy which occurred in Halifax, Canada, at the end of the fourth year of the Great War. I had never heard of this man-made explosion before, so after reading several wonderful reviews by my GR Friends, I decided I wanted to learn what actually happened in 1917 in Halifax. The Author did amazing research into the disaster, describes all the minute details, but I feel his main aim is to make modern readers aware of the tragic fate of thousands of ordinary Halifax inhabitants who lost their lives during the explosion or suffered in its wake, and of the incredible effort on the part of the city that was totally unprepared for such a disaster and thousands of people who engaged in bringing assistance in any form possible. This is a splendid book and I highly recommend it, especially to readers outside Canada and the United States who, like myself, have never heard of the Halifax explosion before.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    “The detonation..took one-fifteenth of a second, five times faster than the blink of an eye. The epicenter of the explosion instantaneously shot up to 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, about six times hotter than molten lava…The explosion started in the gigantic steel casement of the cargo hold, which had been packed tight and was far too small to contain such an exponential expansion. The blast shot outward in all directions at 3,400 miles per hour, or four times the speed of sound. It tore through the “The detonation..took one-fifteenth of a second, five times faster than the blink of an eye. The epicenter of the explosion instantaneously shot up to 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, about six times hotter than molten lava…The explosion started in the gigantic steel casement of the cargo hold, which had been packed tight and was far too small to contain such an exponential expansion. The blast shot outward in all directions at 3,400 miles per hour, or four times the speed of sound. It tore through the ship’s steel hull like wet tissue paper, converting the vessel into a monstrous hand grenade. The heat vaporized the water surrounding the ship and the people trying to tie her up and put out the fire. The remains of these victims were never found because there were no remains to find…” - John U. Bacon, The Great Halifax Explosion One hundred years ago, in the midst of one of the bloodiest and calamitous wars in human history, some 2,000 people in Halifax, Nova Scotia, were obliterated by one of the largest manmade explosions ever created. On December 6, 1917, a cargo ship called the Mont Blanc collided with a second ship, the Imo, in the Narrows of Halifax Harbor. The Mont Blanc was packed to the gills with explosive material: 62 tons of gun cotton, similar to dynamite; 246 tons of a new and particularly combustible airplane fuel called benzol, packed in 494 thin steel drums and stacked three and four barrels high; 250 tons of TNT; and 2,366 tons of picric acid, a notoriously unstable and poisonous chemical more powerful than its cousin, TNT, which was used to make shells, the Great War’s principle weapon. When the Mont Blanc went off, it leveled a hugh swath of town. Along with the fatalities, around 9,000 people were injured. The mushroom cloud that rose over Halifax would be recognizable in a later day as something akin to a nuclear blast. The Halifax Explosion was a massive disaster, striking in terms of loss of life, injuries, property damage, and human error. Yet, today, it is mostly forgotten, or at least unknown, possibly a result of it occurring at a time when millions had been killed in the trenches, and millions more were about to be killed by the flu. John Bacon’s The Great Halifax Explosion sets out to memorialize the event in authoritative fashion, giving you just about everything you need to know (and some things you don’t) about what was then – and should be again – an unforgettable day. For the most part, Bacon does a very good job with this material. The central portions of The Great Halifax Explosion, which details the collision course, the explosion itself, and the immediate aftermath, are handled extremely well. By utilizing a wide array of voices, by giving us the names and lives of everyday Haligonians (that is, a people from Halifax), Bacon is able to give scale to an unimaginably enormous (and fast) detonation. The lead-up to the crash is especially good. Bacon creates a tense, minute-by-minute account of how the Mont Blanc and the Imo managed to collide on calm waters on a clear day. He pieces together the likely strains of thought of all the important participants, even though many did not survive the consequences of their actions. The Great Halifax Explosion has all the makings of an intense, real-life thriller, a ticking time-bomb scenario in which the bomb actually goes off. That, however, is not the book that Bacon wrote. At 374 pages, this is not a super long read. Still, it is a lot of pages for a climatic moment that lasted one-fifteenth of a second. In order to give some context – or padding, if you prefer – Bacon provides a lot of extraneous information. He starts things off right, with a crackerjack chapter that sets both ships in motion on their rendezvous with an atomized destiny. Just before the two ships hit, though, Bacon pulls away in classic tease fashion. He then ladles on chapter after chapter of minutiae. Now, don’t give me wrong. I’m a minutiae lover. And some of the stuff Bacon covers is interesting, if only tangentially related to his main focus. For instance, he provides a brief history of Halifax starting in 1497 and going all the way up to 1917. Included in this overview is a detailed description of Halifax’s role in recovering the bodies from the wreck of the Titanic. As a card-carrying Titanic buff, this was neat. But it has only the barest of connection (related to the tagging of bodies) to the blast five years later. Similarly, Bacon provides an exhaustive biography of Joseph Ernest Barss, a young Haligonian who went off to serve in World War I and later helped in recovery operations in the explosion’s aftermath. We are treated to a rather thorough recounting of Barss’ wartime experiences as filtered through his surviving letters. This is not uninteresting, but it doesn’t really belong here. I think it’s a matter of an author finding a subject he really likes, and writing about it, even though it is not strictly relevant. (It’s worth nothing that Bacon has written extensively about the University of Michigan, and that Barss later started the U of M’s celebrated hockey program). Your mileage on this filler (I don’t think there’s a better word) may vary. You may love it all, and gobble it up. I did not. At times, it tested my patience, as the fast pace that Bacon promises in the early going gives way to stalling. My issue with The Great Halifax Explosion is not simply that it had too much info poured into it, but that other important aspects of the tale are diminished or neglected entirely. For example, the inquiries following the disaster are only hastily related. I wanted much more details about the investigations and the laying of blame. (I recognize, of course, that this is a popular history, and that my burning desire to be inundated with trial transcripts is not generally shared). When it comes to the fate of the Mont Blanc’s crew – who escaped before it blew up – Bacon is almost completely silent. Bacon informs us that Captain Le Médec was charged with manslaughter for abandoning his vessel without warning anyone it was going to blow up in a major way. The outcome of this charge (which was ultimately dismissed) is never really explained. I think more focus here, rather than on Joseph Barss’ time in combat overseas, is warranted. Ultimately, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The high points were really high, even if you have to wade through some superfluity to get there. I appreciated the scope of Bacon’s ambition in scope and sweep. This stands as a full story, if not the full story, of a tragic day in which people proved to be both the cause of, and solution to, a terrible accident.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Truman32

    This past November, a 53-foot-tall white spruce Christmas tree was chopped down in Nova Scotia by burly Canadian lumberjacks, their beards thick, curly and smelling vaguely of maple syrup, and then shipped down to Boston for their annual holiday lighting ceremony on Boston Common. This gifting of a coniferous evergreen has occurred every year since 1971. Why? Surely Boston should be able to afford their own Christmas trees. And if the expense is too great, shouldn’t the smarty-pants at Harvard, This past November, a 53-foot-tall white spruce Christmas tree was chopped down in Nova Scotia by burly Canadian lumberjacks, their beards thick, curly and smelling vaguely of maple syrup, and then shipped down to Boston for their annual holiday lighting ceremony on Boston Common. This gifting of a coniferous evergreen has occurred every year since 1971. Why? Surely Boston should be able to afford their own Christmas trees. And if the expense is too great, shouldn’t the smarty-pants at Harvard, MIT or Tufts be able to genetically create a super New England Spruce? John U. Bacon’s historical telling, The Great Halifax Explosion, shines a light on this explaining that this needle-covered gift is a thanks for the Boston response to one of the most awful and damaging man-made disasters ever. In 1917 World War 1 was in full swing, and the freighter Mont-Blanc loaded down with six million pounds of American-made high explosives was slowly pulling into the harbor town of Halifax, Nova Scotia. They would meet up with a convoy of other ships and then head off to the bloodstained trenches of Europe to drop off these much-needed munitions. Unfortunately while in the harbor, the Mont-Blanc smashed into another ship. The crew had moments to decide what to do: turning their flaming float-bomb around back out to sea, effectively sacrificing their lives to save the thousands of Halifax civilians (many women and children), or jump into their escape boats and row like they were in the Olympics going for the gold in the quad sculls event. They choose the lifeboats and as a result this burning and quickly deserted freighter floated gently into the Halifax docks where it eventually exploded. The force from this detonation was unlike anything ever experienced—second only to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in World War Two. Needless to say, Halifax was demolished. The devastation was on the level of thousands of inebriated Philadelphia Eagles football fans celebrating a Super bowl win. But in Halifax not only were there charred ruins of smoldering Wawa convenience stores, but almost all houses and buildings were leveled. Over 2,000 were killed. 9,000 injured. 25,000 homeless. A mushroom cloud hung over the city before dropping black oil and pieces of glass, metal and other shrapnel on the survivors. A 35-foot tsunami flooded in. But Bacon’s The Great Halifax Explosion is not so much about the grisly and heartbreaking results from this catastrophe—though with many facial and eye injuries from flying glass it is plenty gruesome, but the generosity and valor of the survivors and the people across Canada and the United States that stepped up and offered compassionate assistance. Almost without fail, folks—including the New Englanders in Boston nobly jumped to help. Bacon writes a moving and inspiring book. He gets us to invest in and care about a cast of Halifax citizens before the explosion. We already know what is going to happen and we wonder who is going to make it. At one moment I had to moan to my wife, “oh no, there’s an orphanage right by the dock! Run young orphans, for the love of all that is holy run! RUN!!” After the explosion Bacon let’s us know the ordeals and the heroism of the folks who escape with their lives. It all reads like a fictional adventure tale. And despite some extraneous facts (Bacon wants to really shove it all in. He even spends time talking about Babe Ruth and Yankee stadium for some unknown reason) and a little trouble keeping his rather large cast straight, this was an excellent read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    An amazing book about a horrific incident that is practically forgotten in the 21st century......one of the largest man-made disasters in history that never should have happened. The setting is Halifax, Nova Scotia, one of the world's greatest natural harbors. The time is WWI and the traffic in the harbor is crowded with ships moving from North America to Europe, carrying men, relief supplies, and explosives. All ships carrying explosives into the sheltered harbor are to fly a red flag which war An amazing book about a horrific incident that is practically forgotten in the 21st century......one of the largest man-made disasters in history that never should have happened. The setting is Halifax, Nova Scotia, one of the world's greatest natural harbors. The time is WWI and the traffic in the harbor is crowded with ships moving from North America to Europe, carrying men, relief supplies, and explosives. All ships carrying explosives into the sheltered harbor are to fly a red flag which warns others to give way and follow very specific protocols. And this is where it all went wrong. The French ship Mont-Blanc entering the harbor on December 6, 1917, was crammed with TNT, Picric acid, and Benzole fuel and was a floating time bomb. The slightest spark or jolt had to be avoided and the seamen wore cloth wrappings on their shoes, matches were forbidden, and the vessel had traveled close to the shore on its way up the east coast of the US to dodge the higher waves of the open ocean. The captain of the Mont-Blanc decided, for whatever reason, not to hoist the red warning flag and the Norwegian ship Imo which was headed out of the channel mouth on its way to Europe, suddenly loomed into sight on the wrong side of the water traffic. The captains of both ships reacted as quickly as they could but the ships collided ever so slightly. But it was enough to cause the unimaginable to happen. The results were almost beyond belief......1,600 people killed instantly, 900 more within a few minutes, a heat/fire blast that destroyed the buildings for five miles and a tsunami 60 feet above the high water mark. The final death toll has never been officially determined as humans were vaporized or thrown miles away by the blast. It was practically a nuclear explosion before there were nuclear weapons. The author separates the book into sections describing the history of beautiful Nova Scotia and some of the inhabitants, the explosion, and the rescue efforts and aftermath. It is a page turner which builds the suspense of the disaster that the reader knows is coming. I highly recommend this book which tells a tale that should not forgotten.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    On December 6th, 1917, the SS Mont-Blanc slowly made its way into Halifax Harbor to wait to join a convoy to Europe. It was filled full with TNT, picric acid, gun cotton and aircraft fuel and destined for the French Army. Unfortunately, the SS Imo, was on its way out of the harbor and on the wrong side of the channel. The two ships softly collided—some fuel dislodged and started to spill into the hold below. As the two ships scraped by each other, sparks hit the deck and lit the fuse for the res On December 6th, 1917, the SS Mont-Blanc slowly made its way into Halifax Harbor to wait to join a convoy to Europe. It was filled full with TNT, picric acid, gun cotton and aircraft fuel and destined for the French Army. Unfortunately, the SS Imo, was on its way out of the harbor and on the wrong side of the channel. The two ships softly collided—some fuel dislodged and started to spill into the hold below. As the two ships scraped by each other, sparks hit the deck and lit the fuse for the resultant explosion. But, not right away. Gawkers were drawn closer to view the burning ship, so they were front-and-center when the 3,000 tons of high explosives blew. A large section of the city was destroyed instantly—2,000 were killed, 9,000 wounded, and 25,000 made homeless. And if that was not enough to deal with, Halifax was hit with a blizzard the following day, blanketing the area with 16 inches of new snow. Bacon researched a plethora of old letters and newspaper accounts to provide a human face on the tragedy. Their personal stories break your heart. Help poured in from neighboring communities and even the United States. Boston provided a significant contribution, and as a result, the Canadians send an enormous Christmas tree to Boston, where it decorates the Boston Common every year. Recommend.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Candie

    I really, really enjoyed this book. I learned so much and found it very interesting. It's not just about the explosion but it also gives a little history on Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, the US, WWI and even a bit of world history. There was just the right mix of facts and personal stories to make this extremely readable. It is however, a very descriptive and heartbreaking story. The horrors that people had to live through during this are just incomprehensible. Reading some parts of it were very I really, really enjoyed this book. I learned so much and found it very interesting. It's not just about the explosion but it also gives a little history on Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, the US, WWI and even a bit of world history. There was just the right mix of facts and personal stories to make this extremely readable. It is however, a very descriptive and heartbreaking story. The horrors that people had to live through during this are just incomprehensible. Reading some parts of it were very intense. I cried and cried listening to the people's stories. It's hard to comprehend any of that even being real. I knew what was going to happen but I was still on the edge of my seat hoping the ship might make it. The author did a very good job of writing with a strong sense of compassion and humanity. He really showed how hard it would be for the victims and their families and how hard it would be to be making split second decisions during such tragic situations. He showed all the pros and cons of the decisions made so that it was understandable how they were made. Nobody knows what they would do or what their bodies and minds would even be capable of doing in a situation like this, until they have actually lived through it. It's so easy to look back and say all of the different things that could have been done to avoid it or save more lives once it was clear it was going to happen, but it's hard to say what anybody would do in such a life threatening situation. It was probably so terrifying. It was also an amazing portrayal of how tragedy can really bring out the caring and compassion between people from all over. There were many people who risked their lives to help or save others, or dropped what they were doing to race to Halifax and help, or work for days with no sleep or food to try and alleviate just a fraction of the pain suffered. A really great display of the kindness that exists in this world. I definitely recommend this book. I listened to it on audiobook and really enjoyed it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Judith E

    This account of the horrific explosion of 6 million pounds of high explosives in Halifax, Canada’s harbor is only one of the stories in this book. It’s also about the shaky American-Canadian relationships from the time of the French and Indian war to the end of WWI. It explains Canada’s important role in supplying the Allies in WWI and the importance of their very deep marina. It reminds us of Halifax’s role in recovering and burying bodies from the sinking of the Titanic. But the sheer magnitud This account of the horrific explosion of 6 million pounds of high explosives in Halifax, Canada’s harbor is only one of the stories in this book. It’s also about the shaky American-Canadian relationships from the time of the French and Indian war to the end of WWI. It explains Canada’s important role in supplying the Allies in WWI and the importance of their very deep marina. It reminds us of Halifax’s role in recovering and burying bodies from the sinking of the Titanic. But the sheer magnitude of the devastation from the explosion will surely bring tears to your eyes. So many dead, so many children lost or orphaned, so many people maimed or homeless and so many drowned from the resulting tidal wave. A lot is made of Boston’s assistance, and to their credit, the city of Boston contributed millions of dollars in aid and sent a force of medical personnel within three days of the explosion. But, I was glad the author clarified that the local and surrounding Halifax medical responders (doctors, surgeons, ophthalmologists, nurses, first aiders, ambulance drivers, morticians, veterinarians) responded immediately and went many days without much sleep and stopping only for nourishment. It’s a miracle anyone survived and was able to go on in the midst of such tragedy. Rounded up from 3.5 stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joy D

    Outstanding non-fiction about a disastrous explosion in Halifax in 1917. On December 6, 1917, the freighter Mont-Blanc arrived in Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia, laden with six million pounds of explosives destined for the trenches of the Great War in France. The Mont-Blanc collided with the Imo, resulting in a fire, which eventually caused the explosives to detonate, devastating the surrounding area. It was, at the time, the most powerful blast ever unleashed, until eclipsed by the atomic bomb at Outstanding non-fiction about a disastrous explosion in Halifax in 1917. On December 6, 1917, the freighter Mont-Blanc arrived in Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia, laden with six million pounds of explosives destined for the trenches of the Great War in France. The Mont-Blanc collided with the Imo, resulting in a fire, which eventually caused the explosives to detonate, devastating the surrounding area. It was, at the time, the most powerful blast ever unleashed, until eclipsed by the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. John U. Bacon tells the story of how this disaster occurred and what happened in its aftermath. It is a story of almost unbelievable heroism and people rising to the occasion by altruistically helping each other through the tragedy. The author employs several techniques which bring the story to life. First, he follows the lives of several people who were impacted by the event. I cared about these people and hoped they made it through the blast. Second, he tells the history of United States-Canadian relations, which have not always been as cordial as they are now. Third, he outlines an almost a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the circumstances leading to the explosion. Taken together, they make for riveting reading. Once he lays the foundation for the events that would cause the explosion, Bacon turns to a mini-biography of Joseph Barrs, who volunteered for the Canadian army in World War I. He was injured severely in battle and spent six months in a body cast, returning to the Halifax area struggling to walk and suffering from what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder. He feels he has lost his direction in life, and the way in which he rediscovers a sense of purpose is directly related to the actions taken in response to the Halifax explosion. I found this a very powerful way to tell the story of how the explosion connects to what was happening with the Great War overseas and felt invested in his plight. The author paints a vivid picture of what was occurring in the city at the time, a seemingly ordinary day, with men working, children on their way to school, families eating breakfast. People were curious about the burning ship and were coming down to the pier to watch, unaware of its dangerous cargo. The author tells many individual stories of what happened to the people and how the community responded, eventually receiving assistance from many places, including Boston, where they had an emergency preparedness plan already established. Just when you think circumstances can’t get much worse for the people of Halifax, they do. In the wake of the explosion, a massive tsunami is generated. The next day, as people were attempting to recover survivors, the city is hit with the worst blizzard in a decade. This story deserves to be more well-known than it is, and I very much enjoyed learning about it. My only quibbles with the book, and they are minor, is that the author sometimes includes superfluous or repetitive information and I would have liked to hear more about what the captain and crew faced afterward. Overall, I found this book fascinating and highly recommend it to anyone interested in World War I, the history of man-made disasters, or stories of tragic events that bring out the best of human nature.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Grumpus

    I first learned of this disaster in 2014 while stopping at the port as part of a cruise and it has interested me ever since. I finally came across this book and spent some time on my library’s waiting list. I’d say 99% of what was in the book was new to me—just how I like it. I want to learn new things and this was ideal for my reading objectives. It starts out with a history of the relationship between Canada and America with a chapter entitled, “Why Aren’t We Americans?”. It was interesting to I first learned of this disaster in 2014 while stopping at the port as part of a cruise and it has interested me ever since. I finally came across this book and spent some time on my library’s waiting list. I’d say 99% of what was in the book was new to me—just how I like it. I want to learn new things and this was ideal for my reading objectives. It starts out with a history of the relationship between Canada and America with a chapter entitled, “Why Aren’t We Americans?”. It was interesting to learn about the distrust Canadians, or more specifically Haligonians felt toward Americans. I never really thought about it, but I can now understand their point of view during the early 1900’s. Then to see the friendship build between these two friends in the face of disaster. This was toward the end of WWI. German U-boats were sinking ships in the Atlantic at an alarming rate. The US was neutral at the time, but was sending munitions to France to them in the trench wars. A ship called the Mont-Blanc was loaded with munitions in NY and then heading up to Halifax to be part of a convoy to France. And when I say loaded, I mean loaded. The ship was stuffed with TNT, benzine, and picric acid--there was literally no space left in the cargo hold. Crew members were not allowed to bring matches on board for obvious reasons and were very uneasy about any spark or static that might ignite the entire thing. December 6, 1917 was the day of the explosion. When this ship collided with another in Halifax harbor, you would have thought instant KABOOM, but no. The crew of the ship did what they could before jumping overboard and swimming to shore expecting the ship to detonate at any moment. Because they abandon ship with that expectation, they did not have the ability to notify everyone else what their cargo was. As a result, as the ship burned and drifted toward the pier, other ships came to the rescue along with the fire department. School children came from their homes to the docks to watch these heroic efforts unaware of the imminent danger. Where was the crew of the ship? They swam to the other side of the harbor and were still unable to warn any one. The detonation itself took one-fifteenth of a second, five times faster than the blink of an eye. The epicenter of the explosion instantaneously shot up to 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, about six times hotter than molten lava.” All those people looking on. . . This was the largest man-made explosion in human history up to that point in time—sending a mushroom cloud into the air, raining down blistering hot coal, oil, tar, and cargo across the city. The human toll was horrifying with 1,600 people killed instantly and 400-800 dying afterward, 9,000 were wounded and 25,000 left homeless. That’s four times more San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and eight times more than the Chicago fire of 1871. To top it all off, that night temperatures plunged and the city received 16 inches of snow. During the search for survivors over the following days, bodies did not decompose and were found frozen solid. There are details of the families trying to find each other and the heroic efforts of the doctors. The people of Boston played a significant role in providing rescue teams, medical personnel, and supplies as did the neighboring small communities in the area. The book wraps up with recovery of the city, the outcome of the lives of those who survived, and identification of those who died as well as court trials to determine fault. There are so many more details that I could mention, but these are the things that stuck out as I was reading. I wanted to give you a flavor of the story and recommend that you read it for yourself. It’s always a shame that it takes a disaster to bring humans together.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    John U. Bacon’s thoughtful and detailed approach in his new book THE GREAT HALIFAX EXPLOSION: A WORLD WAR I STORY OF TREACHERY, TRAGEDY, AND EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM results in one of the best “disaster” monographs in recent memory. The author’s approach is based on empathy and what appears to be a personal commitment to write a clear, concise narrative that is meaningful as it covers all aspects of the catastrophe. Bacon begins by laying out the crisis that came at 9:04 am on December 6, 1917, the John U. Bacon’s thoughtful and detailed approach in his new book THE GREAT HALIFAX EXPLOSION: A WORLD WAR I STORY OF TREACHERY, TRAGEDY, AND EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM results in one of the best “disaster” monographs in recent memory. The author’s approach is based on empathy and what appears to be a personal commitment to write a clear, concise narrative that is meaningful as it covers all aspects of the catastrophe. Bacon begins by laying out the crisis that came at 9:04 am on December 6, 1917, then retreats and provides a history of Halifax. Once you acquire a sense of the city and its geography, Bacon describes how two ships, the Mont Blanc, and the Imo seemed to come together to play a dangerous “game of chicken” in the Bedford Basin outside Halifax Harbor, a game that resulted in the deadliest man made explosion up until the bombing of Hiroshima. The explosion must be seen in the context of World War I. By the time of the collision the war had been ongoing for three years but it had reached a stalemate in the trenches. Once Russia left the war, the Germans would turn their attention to the western front which created an increasing need for explosives to prevent any breakthrough. The Mont Blanc was captained by Aime Joseph Marie Medec who had little time to familiarize himself with his vessel which would carry the largest cache of explosives ever loaded on to a ship – 62 tons of gun cotton, 246 tons of benzol, packed in 494 thin steel drums and stacked three and four barrels high, 250 tons of TNT, and 2366 tons of picric acid, a very unstable and poisonous chemical. The cargo weighed almost 3000 tons, or 6 million pounds. The plan was for the ship to be loaded in Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn, NY and travel up the east coast to Halifax where it would meet a convey for the voyage across the Atlantic. This plan was chosen to offset the threat of German U-boats as convoys of allied ships was deemed the safest way to reach Europe. Bacon presents an accurate portrayal of events leading up to the war in Europe and how the war was fought. Further, he describes the importance of Halifax Harbor to the overall war effort and the contributions made by Canadian soldiers from Halifax who fought in overseas. Bacon choses a number of Haligonians (Halifax residents) who volunteered for the military and fought in the trenches. Through the eyes of Ernest Barrs who fought and was wounded in Belgium at the battles of Ypres the reader gets a true portrait of what life was like for soldiers. Barrs story is an amazing one in that after surviving for two years he is severely wounded. The day of the explosion found him rehabbing outside of Halifax and because of his own medical issues and familiarization with medical techniques he joined a Dr. Elliott to help administer to Haligonian survivors in December, 1917. Bacon introduces the reader to other families whose stories are traced from before the explosion, what happened during the explosion, and after. You become familiar with the Orr, Driscoll, and Pattison families who lived in the Richmond neighborhood in the North End of the city which would be almost destroyed on December 6th. Bacon describes family life, occupations, schooling and the interests of the children to the point where one feels that they know them personally. The tragedy that took place was completely avoidable. Bacon explores the leadership and strategies employed by the captains and harbor pilots for both ships and concludes it was the fault of Captain Haakon From of the Imo. The most fascinating chapter is called “A Game of Chicken” where Bacon describes the path of both ships, the Mont Blanc heading north to meet a convoy in Halifax, and the Imo traveling south toward New York to load supplies for a return to Europe. The Imo was supposed to stay on western side of the Narrows and the Mont Blanc on the east. The Imo would move to the center and refused to accommodate the Mont Blanc which was following the correct navigational protocol. The Imo finally decided, too late, to move to the side it was assigned as Capt. Medec moved to the east to avoid a collision, but it hit the Imo. With the cargo on the Mont Blanc, devastation could only result. Bacon provides a blow by blow account up until 8:46 am when the Mont Blanc’s cargo ruptured. The result was the total destruction of the north end of the city, the death of almost 2000 people, 9000 wounded, and the loss of almost half the homes in Halifax. Bacon takes the reader through the mobilization of resources, the bravery of first responders, and the generosity and selflessness of the survivors who tried to help the victims and each other. At the outset many believed it was a German attack. However, soon reality would set in allowing Bacon to compare the experience of trench warfare and the catastrophe that befell Halifax. The shock and emotions today would be called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but at that time people did not know what they were dealing with. The “instant refugees” wandered looking for parents, children, and other family members, for many to no avail. Bacon returns to the families that he introduced earlier in the book and explains what they went through. Bacon goes on to describe the tsunami that resulted from the blast as well as the blizzard that arrived the next day in Halifax, furthering the suffering and hindering rescue and recovery attempts in a city that had 900 hospital beds remaining, with 9000 injured needing medical treatment. A major theme of the narrative involves the historical relationship between Canada and the United States. For 141 years it seemed the United States worked to annex Canada provoking anger and fear on the part of our northern neighbors. The Halifax explosion altered feelings between the two countries due to American support and generosity. Many Haligonians were stunned by the massive relief effort that arrived from the United States, particularly the large number of doctors and nurses that resulted in setting up their own hospital to treat the victims. A major result of this crisis was the cementing of Canadian-American relations, and an alliance that has stood the test of time up to the present. Bacon’s account is extremely thorough based on letters, diaries, oral histories, and other archival material he consulted. He describes how word of the disaster spread and how surrounding towns and communities provided doctors, nurses, soldiers, first responders, businessmen and others to assist as much as they could. The people behaved in an amazing fashion, so much so that looting was not a problem. Boston is singled out for their aid and assistance in a wonderful chapter describing the work of Massachusetts Governor Samuel W. McCall and Abraham C. Ratshesky (known as A.C.) who led Boston’s substantial relief effort. The author follows the aftermath of the explosion taking the reader through the investigation and the long drawn out court proceeding over a period of years. He concludes the narrative by bringing up to date information about the survivors and their families. The book is a heart rendering account that is hard to put down, and highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    I wrote the review below before investigating other books on the explosion. I now give this book no stars at all, but I'm told it is advisable to show one because of the way people filter reviews. It is all taken from the work of others, apart from the fulsome reporting on Bacon's personal hero, Joseph Barss, who spent all of about three days helping as a first aider after the explosion. If you want to read a good book about the explosion, get "Shattered City" by Janet Kitz. All the interesting I wrote the review below before investigating other books on the explosion. I now give this book no stars at all, but I'm told it is advisable to show one because of the way people filter reviews. It is all taken from the work of others, apart from the fulsome reporting on Bacon's personal hero, Joseph Barss, who spent all of about three days helping as a first aider after the explosion. If you want to read a good book about the explosion, get "Shattered City" by Janet Kitz. All the interesting parts concerning the people of Halifax and the explosion in Bacon's book were taken from that by Kitz, who did all the research and interviews with survivors, and deserves the kudos. If you want tabloid journalism and a cut-and-paste job done for the centenary of the tragedy, by all means read the Bacon. ----------------------------------------------- Until this book was nominated for my Book Club, I had never heard of the Halifax Explosion, a catastrophic event in 1917. The scale of the event with its tragic outcome for so many civilians was matched only by the instant and open-hearted response by large numbers of Canadians and Americans who sent medical teams, workmen, equipment, food, and money raised to help the survivors. My main criticism of the book is that the author has found it necessary to cram in every single fact he possibly could, and many of these seem to be only marginal in their link to the main story. One particularly irrelevant aside concerned one of the early helpers, Joseph Barss. Some time after the event, he went to the University of Michigan to study medicine: "He also sang in the First Congregational Church under the leadership of Lloyd C Douglas, who would go on to write "The Robe", which sold 2 million copies and became a movie starring Richard Burton." Did we really need to know that? Another irritation was his lapses into into jokey asides which for me jarred given the nature of the horror to which he was leading up. For example, in writing about one large family: "With 14 kids, the milking cow in the backyard wasn't for show-and-tell." Don't publishers employ editors any more to get rid of this sort of nonsense? And finally, the sub-title: where was the treachery in this story? There were mistakes and short-cuts piled on top of each other, which all added up to the making of a major disaster, but I don't think the word treachery is appropriate. There was no deliberate betrayal of trust or deceitful action. I assume the term refers to the pilot, captain and crew of the Mont-Blanc abandoning ship because they expected it to explode at any moment. It wasn't heroic, but it was hardly treacherous. It smacks of tabloid journalism. A riveting story, but a book marred by the author's inability to remain focussed at all times on the central tragedy which was his subject. Edited to add: Rating changed down to two stars as more inaccuracies come to light. This is cut-and-paste tabloid journalism it seems to me, and the second star is for the gripping nature of the event and its aftermath. I hope there is a better book about this tragic event out there somewhere.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bibliovoracious

    Nearly perfect; an excellent study of the Hfax explosion, with emphasis on the way it changed international relations between the US and Canada. The countries might not have become the allies they are now if it weren't for that largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima, happening in the middle of the Great War, but in a Canadian port so distant from the European war. Endlessly fascinating stories of the physical effects of the explosion (vaporizing {vaporizing!!!} the nearest people), loads Nearly perfect; an excellent study of the Hfax explosion, with emphasis on the way it changed international relations between the US and Canada. The countries might not have become the allies they are now if it weren't for that largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima, happening in the middle of the Great War, but in a Canadian port so distant from the European war. Endlessly fascinating stories of the physical effects of the explosion (vaporizing {vaporizing!!!} the nearest people), loads of anecdotes about the survivors, and of course the awful, absurd human errors that caused the disaster.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Huge swaths of this were copied with minor changes in language from Janet Kitz's "Shattered City," which is sufficient to condemn it. But I'll add significant errors in fact (a factory manufacturing helmets in Halifax, Yorkshire is not an indication of increased industrialization in Halifax, Nova Scotia) and a bizarre focus on an entirely irrelevant person who just happened to be the subject of Bacon's first book. This book is disgraceful. Huge swaths of this were copied with minor changes in language from Janet Kitz's "Shattered City," which is sufficient to condemn it. But I'll add significant errors in fact (a factory manufacturing helmets in Halifax, Yorkshire is not an indication of increased industrialization in Halifax, Nova Scotia) and a bizarre focus on an entirely irrelevant person who just happened to be the subject of Bacon's first book. This book is disgraceful.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Arnis

    https://poseidons99.wordpress.com/201... https://poseidons99.wordpress.com/201...

  15. 4 out of 5

    ALLEN

    The Halifax Harbor explosion of 1917 was an important event that has been largely forgotten. An old freighter, operating under wartime restrictions and stuffed to the gills with high explosives, blew up and leveled not only the immediate harbor area, but much of Halifax, Nova Scotia's largest city. It was the biggest man-made blast the world had ever known until the invention of the atomic bomb in the 1940's. John U. Bacon has done the complex job of fitting the pieces together -- the people, th The Halifax Harbor explosion of 1917 was an important event that has been largely forgotten. An old freighter, operating under wartime restrictions and stuffed to the gills with high explosives, blew up and leveled not only the immediate harbor area, but much of Halifax, Nova Scotia's largest city. It was the biggest man-made blast the world had ever known until the invention of the atomic bomb in the 1940's. John U. Bacon has done the complex job of fitting the pieces together -- the people, the environment, wartime stress and less than perfect attention to safety rules -- perhaps too good of one. Generally I enjoy this type of narrative, which combines conventional "top-down" military and political history with social history, even to the individual lives of some Haligonians who witnessed or were lost in the blast and its repercussion. In this case, though, I thought there was too much peripheral information, especially early in the book, that did not add to the significance of the tragedy in a meaningful way. I'm not sure why we needed to learn that the old working-class area of the city was undergoing gentrification -- or what subjects an important figure's children studied in school -- let alone exact quotations from remote U.S. newspapers advocating annexation of Canada. Ironically, Bacon starts out the book on a positive note, highlighting the commercial and historical ties between then-small Halifax and powerhouse Boston (Massachusetts), but the impact of that gets lost in biography, all those individual social histories. It reads well, but it is too much. A nonfiction book can be utterly gripping by following its characters, but too much background isn't necessary (consider John Hersey's taut HIROSHIMA, for example). THE GREAT HALIFAX EXPLOSION is still excellent documentation, but in my opinion the book would have worked better if it had been about twenty percent shorter.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I was affected by this book, and I realized upon finishing it a few days ago that I was having difficulty composing a review for it. I guess it was in part because the story is about a horrible, life-altering situation - and we have plenty of those to go around these days - but I'd like to believe folks, especially in North America, will still rise to the occasion. Non-fiction 'novels' are a favorite genre of mine, usually those related to true crime (In Cold Blood) or disasters (Isaac's Storm). I was affected by this book, and I realized upon finishing it a few days ago that I was having difficulty composing a review for it. I guess it was in part because the story is about a horrible, life-altering situation - and we have plenty of those to go around these days - but I'd like to believe folks, especially in North America, will still rise to the occasion. Non-fiction 'novels' are a favorite genre of mine, usually those related to true crime (In Cold Blood) or disasters (Isaac's Storm). A good author can set the scene, describe the personalities involved, and with any luck the reader will feel like they're right in the middle of the whatever drama unfolds - a visceral reaction. While The Great Halifax Explosion incident in 1917 was a tragedy - approximately 2,000 people killed in a Canadian harbor town from a shock-wave / tsunami caused by a damaged munitions freighter - it was the good-natured, well-meaning average guy/girl heroism that brought tears to my eyes. (The last time I choked up reading a book was Doug Stanton's excellent In Harm's Way, about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the eventual rescue of its surviving crew, back in 2015.) There was just something very reassuring and touching about the many types of concerned people who responded to provide assistance in the town's darkest hours.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carla Johnson-Hicks

    Being a Canadian, I have always wanted to read a book about this tragedy. Finding it available in audiobook from my library made it a great time to listen to it and I am very glad I did. It will not be for everyone, but a must read/listen for any Canadian. The book opens with an amazing Christmas Tree being gifted to the people of Boston. It is done every year since the explosion, a simple thank you for everything they did to assist Haligonians in this terrible time. This book tells what is happe Being a Canadian, I have always wanted to read a book about this tragedy. Finding it available in audiobook from my library made it a great time to listen to it and I am very glad I did. It will not be for everyone, but a must read/listen for any Canadian. The book opens with an amazing Christmas Tree being gifted to the people of Boston. It is done every year since the explosion, a simple thank you for everything they did to assist Haligonians in this terrible time. This book tells what is happening in the world at the time and how it relates to what happened, or how it was directly involved in the happenings. Some of this is a bit dry, but it is the courageous, heroic, and morally astounding stories and selfless acts of goodwill and generosity that happened after this catastrophic event that make this book. Hearing the stories leading up to the explosion, during the event and afterwards were heart breaking. So many lives lost or crippled forever. So many families wiped out. But, human nature tells us to rise up, band together and help one another and that is what happened, not only from Boston, but all over the world. This is that story.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Bacon tells the true story of the greatest manmade explosion in history--before the explosion of the atomic bomb in New Mexico. It happened in Canada, in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on December 6, 1917. The munitions ship Mont- Blanc was entering the harbor of Halifax and was struck by the ship Imo, hurrying to leave the harbor. What would otherwise have been a minor accident resulted in a devastating disaster. The Mont-Blanc was laden with 3000 tons of TNT and other high explosives. As f Bacon tells the true story of the greatest manmade explosion in history--before the explosion of the atomic bomb in New Mexico. It happened in Canada, in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on December 6, 1917. The munitions ship Mont- Blanc was entering the harbor of Halifax and was struck by the ship Imo, hurrying to leave the harbor. What would otherwise have been a minor accident resulted in a devastating disaster. The Mont-Blanc was laden with 3000 tons of TNT and other high explosives. As fires started on the Mont-Blanc, the captain and crew escaped from the ship. The ship continued on, colliding into a pier, and exploded- and was vaporized. The shockwave leveled the nearby city. It is estimated that 1600 people died instantly, with the final accounting of the dead perhaps as high as 3000. Yet, it is a major disaster that is largely forgotten outside of Halifax and Canada. In telling this story, Bacon builds up slowly to the fatal collision of the two ships, giving us background on Halifax and its role in World War I. As we get to the final voyage of the Mont-Blanc, the suspense builds as the ship makes its way into the harbor--and another ship seems determined to "play chicken" with it! It was definitely an accident that could have been avoided. Bacon goes on to relate the stories of those who survived and did the heroic rescue work that saved thousands. The city of Boston astonishingly enough responded within hours after the blast, sending trains and ships filled with doctors, nurses, medicine, and other supplies, a selfless act done efficiently on a great scale which the people of Halifax have never forgotten.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This is a very well researched and authoritative account of the deadly and destructive Halifax explosion, the worst man made explosion prior to Hiroshima. I thought the first part of the book read too much like a textbook account of historic events. It covered not only the history of Halifax, but history of American/Canadian relations and Canadian history as these connected to Halifax. There was much about Canadians’ involvement in WW1 and descriptions of Halifax during wartime with sailors leav This is a very well researched and authoritative account of the deadly and destructive Halifax explosion, the worst man made explosion prior to Hiroshima. I thought the first part of the book read too much like a textbook account of historic events. It covered not only the history of Halifax, but history of American/Canadian relations and Canadian history as these connected to Halifax. There was much about Canadians’ involvement in WW1 and descriptions of Halifax during wartime with sailors leaving there for Europe, and also the supply ships and convoys in the harbor. There was also a history of development of explosives which were to be used in wartime. Then we get the details leading up to the massive explosion, but the ships do not collide until about page 140 in the book. From that point on we get vivid descriptions of a city in ruins, the horrible loss of life and terrible injuries. An entire section of Halifax was destroyed:homes, churches, schools, businesses collapsed. Immediately following the explosion a 35 foot tsunami swept away some who were still alive. Those who survived, many with injuries including blindness, burns, loss of limbs had no idea if any family members were still alive or their whereabouts. To add to the misery, the next day there was a blizzard which made the homeless survivors in danger of freezing and hindered rescue efforts. We get a lot of human interest stories and how this unprecedented disaster brought out the best in people. Relief efforts were quickly on the way. Boston immediately sent in 100 doctors, 300 nurses bearing medical supplies and immediately set up new hospitals in vacant buildings before anyone knew the extent of the destruction. Help also rushed in from all over Canada, and some of the people were moved to other Nova Scotian towns. Clothing, stoves, building supplies,along with workers to rebuild the shattered homes managed to get through to Halifax despite the snowstorm. The army helped to keep order and surprisingly there was no looting. Volunteers worked tirelessly in hospitals helping the injured and looking for living and the dead in the collapsed buildings. This is one of several books just published to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the disaster on December 6th. Over 2000 people were killed immediately and 9000 wounded. 6000 buildings were completely destroyed leaving 25,000 homeless (almost half the population of Halifax) and exposed to the snow storms which followed. There would have been much more loss of life if it weren’t for the effort of so many outside medical professionals, volunteers, builders and charities which helped in the recovery and the kindness of people in Halifax and nearby towns towards the victims. The book contains a collection of photos of the damage and some of the people.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Resident of Halifax for 7 years during the 1950's while attending school, heard much about the 'Great Explosion' as well as still seeing some evidence of the damage done. Didn't understand much about the history and the scope, was simply 'aware'. This book very well researched, very well written; both informative and entertaining. Captured both my wishes to be informed, learn new things, while still enjoying. Interesting to see how nature works, we're all vulnerable to comedies of errors - exactly Resident of Halifax for 7 years during the 1950's while attending school, heard much about the 'Great Explosion' as well as still seeing some evidence of the damage done. Didn't understand much about the history and the scope, was simply 'aware'. This book very well researched, very well written; both informative and entertaining. Captured both my wishes to be informed, learn new things, while still enjoying. Interesting to see how nature works, we're all vulnerable to comedies of errors - exactly what happened in this case. Too many mistakes made by too many to assess any blame where it rightly belonged. Instead the crew members of the ship that blew up were easy to blame, as they made the assessment (being aware of their cargo) that there was nothing they could do, and they abandoned ship. They didn't even have the capability to sound the alarm because of lack of communications equipment from their ship.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I found several erroneous statements in the book - frank contradictions. This may be accounted for by poor editing. Unfortunately, I have found this to be the case with other Bacon books which is concerning. I was interested in the story of the Halifax explosion and this was the first book I found. I do wonder to what extent the author the author took the liberty to fictionalize some content since there are "statements" made by people who did not survive the blast and for whom no one would have I found several erroneous statements in the book - frank contradictions. This may be accounted for by poor editing. Unfortunately, I have found this to be the case with other Bacon books which is concerning. I was interested in the story of the Halifax explosion and this was the first book I found. I do wonder to what extent the author the author took the liberty to fictionalize some content since there are "statements" made by people who did not survive the blast and for whom no one would have known what they were thinking. Lastly, the title is totally misleading. At no point did "treachery" enter the picture. I will likely read another account of the Halifax explosion to get a more objective telling of the history.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leah K

    A fascinating book on a part of history largely forgotten. Since I randomly picked this book up at the library, I had no expectations going into it. But, wow, what a great book. Well written and well researched. He writes about the people so vividly you feel they could be your family, your tragedy. Except for a few typos and some minor repetition, this book comes out as a favorite of the year for me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kristy Miller

    I first heard of the Halifax explosion some time during my first Christmas in Boston, 2013. There was a short blurb on the news regarding the arrival of the Boston Common Christmas Tree from Nova Scotia, and that it was a gift from Canada in thanks for help after an explosion in Halifax. That was the extent of the report. I moved to Denver this year, but still follow the Boston news sites, and was surprised that there wasn't more of a fanfare this year for the 100th anniversary. On December 6, 1 I first heard of the Halifax explosion some time during my first Christmas in Boston, 2013. There was a short blurb on the news regarding the arrival of the Boston Common Christmas Tree from Nova Scotia, and that it was a gift from Canada in thanks for help after an explosion in Halifax. That was the extent of the report. I moved to Denver this year, but still follow the Boston news sites, and was surprised that there wasn't more of a fanfare this year for the 100th anniversary. On December 6, 1917 a French ship named the Mont-Blanc was entering Halifax harbor, hoping to join a convoy across the Atlantic to France. As the Mont-Blanc was entering the Imo was leaving in a rush, as it was a day behind. The ships collided, causing a fire on the Mont-Blanc. What few in the harbor knew was that the Mont-Blanc was loaded with three thousand tons of high explosives and airplane fuel. Twenty minutes letter, in a quarter of the time it takes to blink your eye, the Mont-Blanc exploded. The explosion was the largest man made explosion until 1945, and the Manhattan Project scientists would study the Halifax explosion while building the atomic bomb. Mr. Bacon goes in depth in to the events that led to this fateful explosion, as well as dipping in to the history of Halifax and Canadian-American relations at the time. He also follows many individual stories around the explosion, including survivors and their families, and Ernest Barrs, a Canadian who fought in the trenches and helped with the relief effort. I quite enjoyed the personal stories, and felt that they gave personal impact to such a massive tragedy. What was lacking though was a more in depth discussion of the consequences and legal ramifications for the owners of the Imo and Mont-Blanc and the surviving crew. The inquiry, trials, and appeals would make plenty of material for a book on their own. Also the title is not right. There is no treachery in this story. There is stupidity and stubbornness, a touch of cowardice, and animosity towards the French, but no treachery. Overall this is a fascinating read, and one that I recommend for those interested in history, WWI, Canada, and disaster relief.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christina DeVane

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was an amazing, well-written book of a forgotten story! Like any historical book it can take a bit to set the stage with characters and the time period. But as I got into the story I could hardly stop listening! The most amazing things I learned were how this event bridged relations between Canada and the States in an amazing way as Boston was the first the send help and relief aid as they were prepared for city disasters. The devastation was massive (greater than Chicago fire or San Franci This was an amazing, well-written book of a forgotten story! Like any historical book it can take a bit to set the stage with characters and the time period. But as I got into the story I could hardly stop listening! The most amazing things I learned were how this event bridged relations between Canada and the States in an amazing way as Boston was the first the send help and relief aid as they were prepared for city disasters. The devastation was massive (greater than Chicago fire or San Francisco earthquake) with over 2,000 killed, 9,000 wounded, and over 25,000 homeless in a matter of a few split seconds. Also the people of Halifax thought for sure it was the Germans attacking them, but sadly 2 ships not being wise collided in their own harbor.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura Frey (Reading in Bed)

    I like what this book set out to do - frame the story of this disaster in the lives of several ordinary people, and show a big picture of the relations between the US and Canada - but it was only somewhat successful. sometimes the details were too much or too repetitive. It worked more often than not, though. I learned a lot about a subject I only knew from one of those heritage minutes.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Very comprehensive about the explosion in Halifax near the end of WW1. It gave me chills too with the survivors stories and so many children's whole families were wiped out in 1 day. Very comprehensive about the explosion in Halifax near the end of WW1. It gave me chills too with the survivors stories and so many children's whole families were wiped out in 1 day.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mark Wigert

    Best book I've read this year. Excellent retelling of this tragic, human-caused disaster. John U. Bacon gives us a history of Halifax as a great port city, highlights the lives of the residents in the areas that were wiped out instantaniosly (following certain individuals who survived throughout the book), and details the events leading up to and after two steamships had collided in Halifax harbor, one heavily over-loaded with explosives. Halifax was the greatest most powerful explosion on earth Best book I've read this year. Excellent retelling of this tragic, human-caused disaster. John U. Bacon gives us a history of Halifax as a great port city, highlights the lives of the residents in the areas that were wiped out instantaniosly (following certain individuals who survived throughout the book), and details the events leading up to and after two steamships had collided in Halifax harbor, one heavily over-loaded with explosives. Halifax was the greatest most powerful explosion on earth before Hiroshima--Oppenheimer studied Halifax while designing the bomb. In the end _The Great Halifax Explosion_ is about the resilience of the people of Halifax to comeback from the tragedy and the help they received from around the world, particularly from the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who set aside national antipathies to bring our nations together during WWI and restore the lives and community of Halifax. If you're a doctor, nurse, soldier, sailor, first responder, or casual observer of life events, this book is testament to how human beings come together, decide together, and work together to restore and carry on.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Over the years I've come across references to this but I never knew the details. This book provides them. Bacon has done extensive research and includes material from eye-witness accounts to compile this account, rich in detail as well as human interest with profiles of Haligonians. The first part moves more slowly as it recounts Canada's involvement in WWI with profiles of soldiers and the history and importance of Halifax harbor. The actual explosion is then minutely and grippingly described. Over the years I've come across references to this but I never knew the details. This book provides them. Bacon has done extensive research and includes material from eye-witness accounts to compile this account, rich in detail as well as human interest with profiles of Haligonians. The first part moves more slowly as it recounts Canada's involvement in WWI with profiles of soldiers and the history and importance of Halifax harbor. The actual explosion is then minutely and grippingly described. The aftermath--with 2.5 sq. miles of Halifax destroyed, 2000 killed, and 9000 injured--includes personal stories of Haligonians as well as details of the outpouring of aid, particularly from Boston. A compelling, compassionate, earnest chapter in WWI history. The advantage of the WWI centennial is the wealth of books, fiction and nonfiction, that tell and retell events famous, infamous, and obscure.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Northover

    Second to second account of the worst man-made explosion before the Atomic bomb. Step by step account of the errors made by the captains of the two ships. Detailed observations from survivors families and the outpouring of supplies and medical staff sent the next day from neighbouring East coast cities, particularly Boston,Mass. Perfect book to use for research into this momentous event in Canadian history. Tragic but poignant.

  30. 4 out of 5

    LibraryCin

    On Dec. 5, 1917, two ships collided in the Halifax Harbour. One of them was loaded down with explosives, meant to head to Europe for the war effort. Instead, with the collision, a good chunk of Halifax and neighbouring Richmond were wiped out in an instant, along with a couple thousand (likely a low estimate) people, and more thousands injured. This was very well researched. It does include some discussion of the war, and a soldier from Nova Scotia who ended up helping out after the disaster, as On Dec. 5, 1917, two ships collided in the Halifax Harbour. One of them was loaded down with explosives, meant to head to Europe for the war effort. Instead, with the collision, a good chunk of Halifax and neighbouring Richmond were wiped out in an instant, along with a couple thousand (likely a low estimate) people, and more thousands injured. This was very well researched. It does include some discussion of the war, and a soldier from Nova Scotia who ended up helping out after the disaster, as he was back home after being severely injured. Also includes a detailed account of the ships and crew involved in the collision, as well as tidbits of time of some of the civilians on shore who were affected (lost family members, lost homes, injuries...).

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.