Thursday, September 8, 2016

Halifax Maritime Museum

Back again--to the wharf at Halifax...

It is hard to resist such convenient parking where I can stay overnight.

But the fishermen said, 'nothing is biting.'

Time to make a visit to the Maritime Museum and
the Museum Mascot. 

This lens is from the Sambro Lighthouse, the oldest surviving lighthouse in North and South America--built in 1758.  

Good grief did this turn out to be a depressing visit.... 

    Seal harvesting grew into an international industry as markets for seal oil, pelts and meat developed in Europe and North America.  In the second half of the 19th century, sealers working from steam-powered ships harvested million of seals off the Coasts of Newfoundland, Labrador and Nova Scotia.

Around 1890 Halifax was an important center of the seabird-egg trade.  Eggs were widely used as a foodstuff with gull, guillemot and duck eggs being most marketable. 

Great Auks were hunted for millennia for their meat, eggs and down.  Intensive exploitation led to their complete extinction worldwide by about 1850.
 During the 18th Century, fishers exploited seabird colonies for eggs and meat.  Halifax became internationally known as a market for seabird eggs.
Eggers made circuits in coastal areas, visiting islands and breaking every egg they found.  Returning days later, they would gather freshly laid eggs and pack them in straw in ships' holds. 
The ships would arrive in Halifax reeking of rotting eggs and were detectable by their smell from miles away.
Baleen, or whalebone was a tough, flexible material used by some whales to filter their food.  It was also widely used to strengthen umbrellas, corsets and collars.  By the late 1800s, demand for baleen for these products put great pressure on whale stocks.   

In the 21st Century, climate change is altering ways of life adapted to northern landscapes over thousands of years.  Cruise ships are now carry growing numbers of tourists deep into the Arctic regions.  What effect will that have on the life there?

I was feeling pretty down about here so I ventured upstairs to find something more uplifting...

 Wow, there really is 'a deck chair from the Titanic.'
This deck chair was recovered by crew of the ship Minia 

Halifax was the nearest major port to the sinking.  At first the word was that a damaged ship would be towed into the harbor, and special trains were already on the way to prepare for the unexpected arrivals.  Then the news broke that Titanic was gone forever.  Any survivors would be taken to New York, and only the dead would come to Halifax.

Of the 2200 people aboard only 705 survived.   
Three Halifax cemeteries became the burial site for 150 bodies.


Strict class barriers were maintained, even in death.  First Class passengers were removed from the recovery ships in coffins.  Second and third class passengers were taken off in canvas bags.  Members of the crew were taken off in open stretchers.

The Mackay-Bennett arrived to the tolling of church bells.  She was the first Halifax ship to return carrying 306 bodies, so many that embalming fluid ran out and many had to be buried at sea

Just as I decided it was time to go find a cute baby or a cuddly puppy to lift my spirits, I saw a sign that said:

The Halifax Explosion was the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons.

This was something I did not know about.  

It was in the midst of the First World War.
The French war ship, Mont Blanc, had been loaded in New York with high explosives and barrels of benzoyl--a type of gasoline. She then moved to Halifax and waited to join a convoy headed to Europe.

The Norwegian ship, Imo, a neutral ship requiring no convoy, was bound for New York to pick up relief supplies for Belgium.  She was in Halifax refueling.

 Early on the foggy morning of Dec. 6, 1917, Mont Blanc was proceeding up the harbor to join the convoy and Imo was heading out to sea.  Imo's bow struck Mont Blanc and tore her hull.  Fire broke out and quickly spread through the ship.  The crew took to the lifeboats and frantically headed toward the shore.  The smoke and flames attracted crowds of spectators all along the waterfront.  Slowly the burning ship drifted back towards the Halifax harbor and came to rest at Pier 6.  (very close to where I was parked.) At 9:05, Mont Blanc blew up.

 The blast was felt 300 miles away.  One gun barrel landed 3 miles away. The harbor floor was exposed where the water under the ship had vaporized.   Fires quickly broke out around the town as furnaces and stoves overturned in the wooden buildings.   
Over 1,600 people were killed instantly and 9,000 were injured, more than 300 of whom later died.[23] Every building within a mile and  half radius, over 12,000 in total, was destroyed or badly damaged. 

The fog lifted to reveal scenes of terrible devastation.  The part of Halifax that was known at that time as Richmond had been reduced to rubble.  

Looking at the date again I realized this happened in December, in Nova Scotia!  Winter had already arrived and 6000 surviving people were homeless.  This time the world was rescuing them.

This rugged country and the disasters that have occurred around here have produced some amazing people and stories.

But time to find something happy---and here he is!

Theodore Tugboat began in 1989 as a children's television series inspired by the Halifax waterfront.  The stories tell the adventures of Theodore and his many floating friends in the Big Harbor, where all the boats have their own personality and roll in the harbor community.  These models are the originals from the television production.

This made me smile, but it was only a television program...

...until I stepped outside, and there was Theodore Too.

There are actually several more in the harbor but they were out working. 

Those items in Italics are from the literature and signs in the Museum..
Information  on the birds of the area:  from "The Birds of America" by John James Audubon

More information on the Halifax Explosion can be found at:


  1. Is that a real iceberg? We were in Glacier Bay on a cruise boat, and saw a lot of pieces dropping off the icebergs, what they call calving. The blue of the ice is an incredible shade. It was worth it in my little life to see that, but now I wonder if we should be going on cruises at all.
    I do like that Tubby tugboat!

    1. I do not know if that iceberg is real. It was a photograph that looked pretty old but did not explain when, where or if real.

  2. This is a great account on the Halifax harbour and history.

  3. Peter and Beatrix: Thanks for the comment and the lovely stay at your place.

  4. That tug is enough to list anyone's spirits.