A city destroyed: The Halifax Explosion, 100 years later in 360-degrees

A city destroyed: The Halifax Explosion, 100 years later in 360-degrees


That December morning is cool and clear. You know those sorts of mornings. Halifax is buzzing with life: people heading out to factories and shops, kids walking to school. It’s a pretty busy city. The First World War still rages and Halifax is an important hub, and far from danger. At least, that’s what everyone thought. Just moments after sunrise, out there in the shipping channel, the SS Mont-Blanc is arriving. The plan is for it to join a convoy of ships bound for France. On board are explosives meant for the allies. At the same time, the SS Imo is preparing to make its way to the harbour from a bay where it had anchored overnight. It, too, is on an urgent mission: Carry grain to Belgium. The war there had left people literally starving to death. Across the hull, right there, a big “Belgian Relief” sign. That’s supposed to act as a signal to the German submarines not to attack. But the Imo would never even make it to the open ocean. Out of the blue, a steamship cuts across the Imo’s path. In a hurry, the pilots agree to pass each other on the right side, to avoid a collision. That probably seemed sensible, but they were breaking the rules of navigation, and the Imo is now in the path of oncoming traffic. Remember that cargo ship the Mont-Blanc? It is gingerly moving its way between two packed ferries in these busy waters. There’s no way the passengers could know the nearby ship is full of explosives. You see, typically a ship like this would carry a flag warning of its dangerous cargo. But it’s wartime. A warning flag would only invite a torpedo attack, so there isn’t one. The Imo, still in the wrong shipping lane, is suddenly facing a tugboat towing two long coal barges. The quick-thinking tug captain turns back toward Halifax, but it’s too late. The Imo is a bit trapped – it can’t correct its course. Which means the worst. It is now right in the path of that explosives-laden Mont-Blanc. Did the captains see the danger right away? You see, by law this is the moment when both should reverse their engines, but they don’t. The Mont-Blanc signals that it has the right of way and is staying the course. The Imo signals that it won’t yield. Likely very scared, the two captains cut their engines but the momentum keeps the ships moving forward. So imagine this: Mont-Blanc can’t steer to the right. If it does, it might run aground. The whole ship might explode. Instead, the captain makes the only decision he has left – steer the Mont-Blanc towards Halifax right in front of the Imo. And listen to this. That is the sound of Imo’s engines suddenly being thrown into reverse. Too late, though. The ship ends up pivoting in place and rips into the side of the Mont-Blanc. The gash is three metres long. That opens up several barrels of flammable benzol that spill all over the deck and off the side. Metal grinds against metal. That creates sparks, and the fires start right away, crawling along the deck of the explosives-heavy Mont-Blanc. The captain knows how bad this could be and orders his crew to abandon ship. As they flee, rowing furiously towards the Dartmouth shore, those crew members are waving and shouting at nearby ships, just trying to warn everyone to get away. No one seems to understand their warnings. Maybe it’s the wind and the distance and the panic. Maybe it’s because they’re yelling in French. Pretty dramatic scene, a ship on fire. Crowds start to gather, to run to the port to look. Firefighters show up. They have no idea what the Mont-Blanc is carrying below deck. One compartment holds gun cotton. Two others contain TNT. And stored throughout is something called picric acid. That’s an extremely dangerous chemical used in the warheads of artillery shells. It’s even more powerful than TNT. Basically, the Mont-Blanc is a massive bomb waiting to explode. 9:04 a.m. – it happens. In an instant, all buildings within 800 metres are destroyed. Sixteen hundred people are killed right away. Nine thousand are injured. The acrid smell of smoke and explosives chokes the city. All these years later, the Halifax Explosion remains one of the worst disasters in Canadian history. All that loss from small moves, tiny decisions, on a clear December day.

100 Comments

  1. toby007cassy says:

    the sound is very poor in this video!!

  2. Roger Hazen says:

    Amazing use of 360 tech. People, you can use your mouse and look around in this video. It is impressive.

  3. Philoso Raptor says:

    cbc must be dirt poor to use graphics like this

  4. SCOTTISH GUY says:

    It’s a 360 video u can move the screen

  5. Baggie Shorts says:

    Very nice presentation. Well done. An arial view would enhance this video. Actual cause of this accident was that the two ships were running parallel to each other in opposite directions. But they were too close. The water rushing between the ships caused a suction whereby the smaller ship was pulled into the larger ship. The rest is history

  6. Tyler Wolff says:

    mouh blou

  7. Eric Taylor says:

    You would think that accuracy would be something a reporter would consider very important, but they don't.
    I can sort of understand occasional errors (not nearly as many that actually happen) when a reporter is rushing to get the fact out before their dead line. There just isn't time to make a through check of the facts, but this is an event that happened 100 years ago. There is no excuse for this report to be so filled with errors.

  8. Silvano Belmonte says:

    boo boo

  9. Valkyrie Fleischmann says:

    i honestly never knew an interactive youtube video was a thing…..

  10. James Sigrist says:

    Audio could really use a turn up

  11. Swigidi _ says:

    Why a ship full of bombs was doing in a canadian port was not the war in europe?

  12. Platform Sunshine says:

    SS EMO was a suicidal ship full of razor blades

  13. Spokane Valley Freeway says:

    I honestly didn't know it was an interactive 360 video until like halfway through.

  14. 777BENEDICT YARAHMDI says:

    ISENT Y TODAY Y ARE FACEIN SOON DEDLY ATTACK BY IBRING Y EFTER ATTACK OF SPACE UNDER NEWS BY RUSSIA ARMED FORCE INVESGT6ION TO Y intrent tecn fr space IF USA HELP Y IN THS CASE USA DED COUNTRY BECU GOD NOT LAW TO OTHER COUNTRY HEPL AND PORTECT Y BECU END OF Y COUNTRY BEGIN BY THS EXPLO AS WAS PLAN OF GOD IN FORD MACC TO DO BRING Y IN WORLD NEWS BUT TIME IS NOW Y COUNTRY BE UNDR DEDLY INVESGTION TO bring 2 dep under news DEDLY INVESGTION EFTER ATTACK BY RUSSIA ARMED FORE INVESGTION TO Y INTRENT FR SPACE TO U CITY ottawa BE UNDER EVACUTION ORDER MY INVESGTION BE TO rcmp csis and muslem insd csis IN y city ottawa tronto BE UNDER WORLD NEWS TO BRING THS 2 DEP AS HAPPEN BEF HALFX EXPLO BY MANY FALL BUT EFTER TH ATTACK OF SPACE GOD WAN BRING THS 2 DEP UNDER DEDLY INVESGTION y country IS DED COUNTRY 2018

  15. 777BENEDICT YARAHMDI says:

    THS WILL HAPPEN 2 MORE TIME BUT FIRST ONE Y BE UNDER INVESTAGTION BY RUSSIA ARMED FORCE BECU MANY FALL Y INTRENT TECN BE TAKIN DOWN BY RUSSIA INVESGTION TO Y gov BECU TH BRING EVDINCE Y ARE DANGER gov for PEOPLE IN canada BY BRING MY INFO IN NEWS IDID SENT FEW TIME GOD WAN ATTACK Y COUNTRY BY BRING y csis rcmp UNDER DEDLY INVESGTION in y country all will recive TH INFO IN NEWS THS EXPLO HAPPEN BECU OF y rcmp csis BUT Y DEP BE UNDER DEDLY INVESGTION EFTER BY SHUT DOWN Y DEP BE VFORCE TO Y COUNTRY BY 4 COUNTRY TO THE TAKE OVER RUSSIA USA BEF SECUND EXPLO GOD HIT IAM GOING TAKE BEGIN OF TH ACTION BY TAKIN STEP TO Y securty border for FIGHT WAR BE RAISE FR TH EFTER ME IN SPACE ATTACK

  16. Sylvie Firebird says:

    THIS IS CREEPY HOW

  17. JK Adventures 209 the 4th Grader says:

    I have a friend named Anderson who lives in Halifax when I am in the USA

  18. freakyflow says:

    You can still find pieces of metal in the older trees around Halifax today

  19. Aaron Jones says:

    is it bad it took me a till the end to figure out this was a 3d video lol

  20. Anthony Agnelneri says:

    Cool 3d drag across screen

  21. John Doe says:

    Its VR

  22. Ben Quinney says:

    There’s nothing else to do

  23. MrKfq269 says:

    I thought the video sucked until i started playing with it. Badass.

  24. Crid Games says:

    Well done on this video. Really engaging. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  25. Gamerafighter76 says:

    Love the 3D viewer here.

  26. Veer Chasm says:

    Blame Canada 🇨🇦

  27. Georg Gross says:

    That looks far worse than the MOAB…

  28. Vincent Pasceri says:

    Wrong voice and cadence for this.

  29. malignor says:

    If you want to see how big the explosion should have been portrayed, look up the Tianjin explosions of 2015.
    The Halifax explosion was 10x the explosive yield of these.
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Tianjin+explosion+2015

  30. Tyrone Taylor says:

    3 kilotons.

  31. Hari s says:

    Wow 360 degree video is good

  32. Eletronic Music & PC Games says:

    Awesome!!!

  33. Claude Mallegol says:

    without the narration you couldnt understand anything by the video which is as sad as the event itself

  34. Joseph Greeley says:

    Nicely done

  35. josuke higashikata says:

    Holy hell you can move the video

  36. Alexandru Popescu says:

    The soulless voice of the narrator frightened me more than the disaster itself.

  37. Glen Ramiro says:

    If you swipe everywhere in the video IT CAN MOVE.

  38. Who let The Dogs out? says:

    animation?

  39. JVC7400 says:

    I found out that you can rotate and zoom out on this video after the explosion.

  40. CreeperDude372 Gaming says:

    like the 360 turning! P.S. use WASD to move the camera 😉

  41. guystudios says:

    This is a harrowing lesson from the past that reminds us today that actions and decisions can have serious consequences, and to make the best choices we can all the time.

  42. Dickweed Johnson says:

    Smoke effect is beautiful

  43. Noah Salgadinho says:

    Lol, Canadians

  44. hebneh says:

    After reading about this disaster a number of times over the years, this finally has made it clear to me where things were and why so much of the city was damaged or destroyed.

  45. 777BENEDICT YARAHMDI says:

    SPACE COMING FOR FINAL DISGIN IN canada FINAL SPACE ATTACK BY BRING CRMIAL DEP UNDER NEWS WORLD GOD PLAN TO ATTACK BY BRING WORLD NEWS WAT GOD DID in canada 2018 GOD IS GOING TO HIT BY INVESGTION FR SPACE TO canada CRMIAL dep WHO WAS BEHND MY CASE BE WORLD NEWS

  46. Second Chance says:

    All because of two captains with over inflated ego's, pretty much sums up the military mindset of officers during the First World War… how very sad.

  47. Kev says:

    Seems like an enemy hi-jacked the ship knowing there were explosives, went into the wrong shipping lane, then forced an accident to sabotage a lil.

  48. HIGHTOWER says:

    Mistakes happen every day and they happen its just sh*t happens

  49. Ben Small says:

    imagine if this occured today in a major city such as lower manhatten

  50. Titanic Big boat says:

    One minute Halifax is super busy the next minute it’s a complete catastrophe was the tsunami and also everything looking like the atomic bombs dropped on her Oshima or Nagasaki were dropped on Halifax

  51. Gauthier Daviault Mathieu says:

    Why did not they raise the flag? There were no German submarines in this area.

  52. Timothy Wilson says:

    Not to make a joke of it but I think I would like to listen to a rock band from Halifax

  53. Timothy Wilson says:

    April Wine I like to rock

  54. Kerry Aarnoutse says:

    To add, the Imo was going about 6 knots, which was above the harbour speed limit.

  55. Ian Sallee says:

    There is this one guy in Super Troopers 2 named “The Halifax Explosion”

  56. Coadie Moores says:

    where we landing boys?

  57. Ron Berquist says:

    Women are so over emotional when narrating this kind of story

  58. A Anneke says:

    Thank you for this video . Makes it much more real . Reading is fine but imagine the terror on the shore . If anyone not familiar with our area – we have parts of the ship embedded in the Dartmouth side ! It flew goodness knows how far from the harbour .

  59. Matthew Brady says:

    Oh Imo watch out, the Mont Blanc is coming at y….

    OH NO HE CAN'T HEAR US, HE HAS AIRPODS IN!

  60. Trash Compactor says:

    Who opened up ArmA 2 to make this LOL

  61. Big Boy 4014 says:

    I like these type of videos because you can move them

  62. Townie Russell says:

    Everyone is crispy chicken now. Oh yes I would like a bite, if you wouldn't mind. MHhh, tastes li

  63. Big Boy 4014 says:

    Hi

  64. MrPibbTrRnT says:

    You had the whole ocean to sail in and you get stubborn. I have the right away. Lol

  65. 0megacron says:

    For those who aren't familiar with 360-degree videos, you can face different directions by using the arrows in the upper left corner of the video. It works like Google Street View. I didn't catch that it was a 360 video, despite the title, and kept wondering why they were just showing empty sea at parts.

  66. PerodotTheCat says:

    At 11:11 my teatcher dropped her waterbottle and we flipped out

  67. Chad Fasching says:

    I move my phone makes the video look like rough seas

  68. Chad Fasching says:

    Playing chicken

  69. James Idoni says:

    WOW love the 3d vr

  70. Rocket Launcher America says:

    I really only came here to see the explosion, sorry, but great video.

  71. Moogy Banna Hilstopaflingon says:

    That’s nothing. My wife farted after a meal of chilli crab in Cuba last year and the sound of the explosion was heard on mainland China. It destroyed millions of people and buildings. The devastation was so extensive it hasn’t been reported because there’s nobody left. That’s why you haven’t heard about it until now. I just made it out of the crater…

  72. Jayden Joseph says:

    4:23 Quebec expansionism has joined the server

  73. Curlieq55 says:

    To learn a lot more, including the very human aspect of this tragedy, I highly recommend John U Bacon’s “The Great Halifax Explosion”.

  74. MrHandss says:

    "halifax is buzzing with life"
    shows less than 5 people on the streets

  75. curbmassa says:

    As horrific as the explosion was, things got much worse. The explosion virtually emptied the narrow harbor of water causing a tsunami. It was breakfast time so every house had a stove (coal or wood) going so fires broke out all over the city. Many people were blinded by shattered windows a mile away. The area was then hit by a blizzard preventing any assistance reaching the city by railroad. This was an amazing event in history. It was the largest man-made explosion until nuclear weapons were developed.

  76. Saiko Kujo says:

    Sooo… It's OK to crash into other boats as long as they aren't carrying explosives? Is that what she was trying to say about the FLAGS? Hmm.

  77. Alan Heath says:

    Captain and crew Cowards they should of threw engines in full and steared Ship to open sea.

  78. Gabriel Gage Orisha says:

    Africville was right by the harbour.. they even found pieces of the ships anchor miles away in Dartmouth .

  79. Ultra_axe781 says:

    1:30 Port side*

  80. RuththeRuth Less says:

    I can't imagine what that must have been like. Everything over in a split second.

  81. Benjamin Levy says:

    the mo blo

  82. del trotts says:

    Just go to 5.00 and start there !

  83. Gord Desm says:

    Absolutely terrible disaster.

  84. Shadow Blade says:

    time for a fliping crusade

  85. Real Thailand says:

    Easy to be wise after the event, but, but … wouldn't any properly run harbour authority make special arrangements to get a ship loaded with explosives clear of all other ships & safely out into the sea?

  86. Holy Ravioli says:

    So basically, two morons play chicken with large ships and high explosives?

  87. B0XZS. says:

    People view omg from the dock be like flung and killed like lol not funny though sad

  88. Lorax Dave Walters says:

    This is an amazing video! Except that I didn't know it was a 360 video, so I watched again and was more amazed! The animation, editing, and script all come together to present a bite sized piece of history. Please make more of these, and give them their own YouTube channel. Youtube marketing and Patreon can turn work like this into a revenue stream.

  89. Aija Liberte says:

    ok this lllllllllllllllloooooooooooooooooooooool video

  90. moosesnWoop123 says:

    LOLWUT

  91. moosesnWoop123 says:

    I got sea sick

  92. Stuart Aaron says:

    Some facts not mentioned:
    1. This was the largest artificial explosion until the Trinity atomic bomb test in July 1945;
    2. besides those killed by the explosion many others were blinded because they were looking out of their windows at the fire when the shock wave from explosion shattered glass right into their eyes;
    3. the explosion was so powerful that it created a tsunami in the harbor;
    4. the city of Boston Massachusetts sent a relief train full of medical personnel, rescue workers, and emergency supplies to aid the victims. In gratitude every the city of Halifax sends Boston a Christmas tree.

  93. Sami 2K5 says:

    Who else thought they were gonna roll the spongebob intro 😂😂🤦🏿‍♀️🤦🏿‍♀️

  94. Maruchan Nuudle says:

    Im glad the camera man was not hurt in the blast radius

  95. Fred Bissnette says:

    Man we need a titanic one like this

  96. Dick lafregnia says:

    WtF is with this video???

  97. ajcook7777 says:

    Man she sounds pretty frazzled, having a hard time reading the script….

  98. Green Kid says:

    This was infuriating to try and watxh

  99. Músico de Mierda says:

    5:14 I heard that sentence on the voice of Bruce Dickinson and then woooooo ooo ooo uuu ooo ooo ooo uuuooooooooo!!

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