Monday, December 6, 2010

A Date No Nova Scotian Will Ever Forget

Imagine this: it’s war time in Halifax; it’s the biggest war that the world has ever seen.

Halifax had become the most important link between North America and Europe, overflowing with anxiety and uncertainty as the city boomed with war prosperity and many had already become accustomed to the new sights and sounds. The harbour was filled with boats and ships from all nationalities of our allies, entering and leaving, with many carrying supplies and soldiers off to fight in the Great War. German submarines lurked along the coast of Nova Scotia blocking off the harbour’s mouth with nets and forcing military personnel to closely monitor each ship's every move. It had already been three years since the start of WWI and many people had already fallen into new routines. This was the scene on the morning of Dec 6th, 1917. A date no Nova Scotian will ever forget.

On that particular morning, the French ship, The SS Mont Blanc, loaded with 2,300 tons of wet and dry picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 35 tons of benzol and 10 tons of gun cotton, was anchored just outside the mouth of the harbour. She had arrived too late the night before and the submarine netting had already been pulled shut, leaving the ship, loaded with ammo, to spend the night outside the protected harbour. Because she was carrying explosives she was required to fly a red flag, but had taken the flag down the night prior to reduce the risk posed by German u-boats and had failed to put the flag back up when she entered the harbour.

Photo of the Mont Blanc

At around the same time, the Norwegian ship SS IMO, left the Bedford Basin loaded with supplies headed to Belgium to support the war efforts and started off through the “Narrows”. Nautical regulations state that ships in the harbour must pass each other on their port side, steering starboard, which means that each ship passes to the left of each other steering to their right. However, on that particular morning, the IMO meet an American ship which was docking on the Halifax side of the harbour and both captains agreed to pass on their starboard sides. The IMO remained in the port channel as it passed a tug boat at around 8:15AM.

Picture of Halifax Harbour and the “Narrows”

The IMO then noticed the Mont Blanc entering the harbour in the starboard channel, i.e. the Dartmouth side. The IMO, the larger of the ships, signaled to the Mont Blanc to change its course, unaware of the cargo she was carrying. The Mont Blanc counter signals to IMO to change its course since the Mont Blanc was technically in the right of way and carrying a delicate cargo. In the last minutes, both ships change it’s course and collided in the middle of the harbour causing the IMO’s bow to strike the starboard (right side) of the Mont Blanc, sparking the highly flammable picric acid and benzene almost instantly. Attempting to dislodge it’s prow, the IMO pulled back and created more sparks. The Mont Blanc’s crew, unable to reach the fire extinguishing equipment and aware the fire was rapidly spreading throughout, abandon ship. The French-speaking crew was unable to communicate just what cargo the Mont Blanc was carrying to others who came to the rescue. The crew rowed to the Dartmouth shore and watched helplessly as the TNT loaded ship drifted towards the shores of Halifax.

The Mont Blanc burned for twenty minutes towards the busy industrial Pier 6 in the working class section of Halifax’s North end. Many onlookers gathered near the shore to watch the burning ship, completely unaware of the danger. At around 9:05AM the Mont Blanc exploded.
Photo of the mushroom cloud taken from outside the harbour.
A giant mushroom cloud of fire rose almost 2 km in the air and could be seen from miles away. The displaced waters surrounding the ship caused a Tsunami-like wave to rise up to 18km high, engulfing the crew and captain of the IMO who were standing on deck.
Photo of the IMO aground after the explosion

Shards of hot metal and ash rained down upon Halifax and Dartmouth for 10 minutes following the blast. The explosion instantly demolished entire buildings, severely damaged houses, snapped trees in half and bent iron rails within a 1.6km radius. Pieces of the Mont Blanc were hurled as far away as the Northwest arm and Dartmouth.
Decimated buildings looking out towards Pier 8
North End of Halifax residential area after the blast

From here on, it gets much worst before it gets better. The explosion killed 1,600 people instantly, injured approximately 9,000 others, many of them severely, and left many people blinded by shards of glass that burst out of windows. Approximately 6,000 people were left completely homeless and 25,000 without adequate housing. It is rumoured that not a pane of glass was left intact across Halifax and Dartmouth. Fires broke out across the city due to the lit furnaces and stoves in the demolished and damaged buildings. By nightfall the city’s the North End was almost completely up in flames and by morning it was in ashes.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Bucket List

I got the idea to create a bucket list from the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson with the same title. I saw it one Sunday afternoon on TV while I was trying to get rid of my writers block. Here is a list of the Top 30 things I want to do in Nova Scotia before I get old and hopefully be able to blog about my adventures. There are a few things that not everyone would enjoy doing but some are not so outrageous; it’s just that I have never done them before, or have and been too young to remember.  

So here’s a list of 30 things I wish to do in the next two years. If you have any advice, please let me know in the comment section. 
  1. Handgliding 
  2. Ziplining
  3. Portage in Kiji
  4. Whale Watch on a Zodiac
  5. Subbie River Rafting
  6. Drive the Cabot Trail in a convertible with top down.
  7. Kayak Cape Chignecto
  8. Learn to surf
  9. Wine tour
  10. Red Shoe Pub
  11. Ghost walk in Annapolis Royal
  12. Do all the Brewery tours in Halifax in one day
  13. Take a picture of all the lighthouses on the Lighthouse Route
  14. Go to Sugar Moon Farm
  15. Hike Crystal Falls, Nova Scotia
  16. Free Wheel Adventures Bike tour of South Shore
  17. Attend Evolve Festival
  18. Attend the Wharf Rat Rally
  19. Go scuba diving
  20. Go to Bear River
  21. Fish for Atlantic Salmon and catch one
  22. Stay at Fox Harb’r
  23. Stay at the Train Caboose
  24. Attend Harness Racing in Truro
  25. Ski at Wentworth
  26. Attend the Wild Blueberry festival
  27. Attend the Lavender Festival at Lavender Farms near Tatamagouch
  28. Take a Cruise on Silva Q104 Party boat
  29. Sherbrooke Village
  30. Kayak in the Minas Basin and then walk the ocean floor in the exact same place I kayaked just a few hours before
WARNING: List is subject to change at any moment, particularly in length.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remembrance Day

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month commemorates the date of the end of the First World War so in all Commonwealth countries like our own, a day of remembrance is observed in memory of those who were lost to us while “fighting the good fight”.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m am a Canadian and I strongly believe in peacekeeping rather than policing or invading Countries without concrete reasons but I do believe that Remembrance Day is important since it does play a big role in reminding us that there is always a human cost to war. 

Nowhere in North American (with the exception of maybe Hawaii) knows more about this than those who lived in the Navy port city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Since we are the closest port to the European allies with a deep harbour that does not freeze, we played a significant role in supply routes across the Atlantic Ocean.  War time was not a fun time in Nova Scotia. In fact, Halifax Harbour is the site of the Halifax Explosion which happened when two ships collided, one carrying a full load of ammunition en route for Europe during WWI and is still the largest man-made non-nuclear explosion to date and is responsible for killing approximately 1,800 civilians almost instantly and levelling most of the downtown area..

Picture of the Devastation caused in Downtown Halifax a few days after the Halifax Explosion

WWII was no walk in the park for Nova Scotia either. Germany U-Boats swarmed our coastlines looking to pick off any ship that could possibly be carrying any supplies to the allies in Europe.  Blackouts were mandatory to keep the U-Boats from detecting the city, and an influx of sailors caused shortage of infrastructure and housing spaces. The constant anxiety of another collision and the devastation that follows, permeated the province. So on November 11th, Nova Scotia honours all those who have sacrificed both big and small and also remembers the lessons learned in WWI and II, to resolve issues and conflicts before it’s too late and give peace a fighting chance.
An aerial view of the merchant ship awaiting Naval Escort in Bedford Basin at the mouth of Halifax Harbour

Here is a video from the Nova Scotian artists, The Trews, called Highway of Heroes which marks the journey that our fallen soldiers make when they return to Canada before being laid to rest.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Formally Known as the Spread Eagle....

Nova Scotia’s capital city, Halifax is home to the most drinking establishments per capita than any other city is North America, so I guess that it’s only fitting that we begin our first ever social commentary on the oldest drinking establishment in Halifax, the Split Crow. Splity’s is probably the most well known pub in the whole city. It’s a popular spot for both the young and old, and everyone in between. My own mother has been to the Split Crow. It’s a must patronize spot for everyone who lives here and anyone who passes through the city.

According to the Splity’s website ( the Split Crow opened its doors on the corner of Salter and Water St. in 1749 under the name of The Spread Eagle. The tavern took its name from the German coat of arms. Now, I have no idea why a man, whose last name is Shippey, would name the first tavern in the newly established British colony of New Scotland after the German coat of Arms, he either must have liked the Double Eagle symbol or he had a really great sense of humour. But anywho, I searched the Nova Scotia Archives for the first liquor license issued for Mr. Shippey and all I could find was a liquor license issued to John Shippey in 1755 so I’m not sure where they are finding their information but either way, it’s a really old Pub. The Sign on the door does say that it’s established in 1979 but I believe that is when the tavern was rebranded the Split Crow.

Splity’s has served Halifax through the good times and the bad, through times of tall sail ships and steam ships, explosions and World Wars. Halifax without the Split Crow just would not be the same. For many Haligonians, it’s just a vital part of the Halifax’s culture as the Citadel Fortress from which the city was founded. It features nightly live entertainment with matinees on Saturdays. The most popular days are usually Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons /early evenings. It offers an outdoor patio during the summer months but if you plan to go on a nice hot Saturday afternoon you might want to get there early since you might not find a spot on the patio and you will probably have to wait in line to get in.  

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Welcome to This is our first post! Yay! We are very excited about this new blog endeavor and want to thank you for checking us out. We hope to have a couple of new posts up and running very soon. Please come back as often as you can, subscribe to our RRS feed, follow us on twitter or join our facebook group to help you stay updated when the new posts arrive.

I guess this is the part where we tell you what we are all about. First I’ll start by saying that the idea for this blog has been circling around our heads for many months. Working in the tourism industry for a few years, we seem to encounter the same burning question many times over “What is there to do in Nova Scotia?” and many times we’ve had to bite our tongues to prevent from spiting out “What isn’t there to do in Nova Scotia?”. Even people who have lived in Nova Scotia their entire lives do not seem to have any clue what adventures lay in their backyard.

The goal of this blog is to provide a social commentary on all things Nova Scotia has to offer. We are not affiliated with any company, industry or government department. We are not trying to sell you any specific products or push any type of commercial services. We intend to provide an alternative source of people who want to go beyond the commercialized portrayals of lighthouses and fiddle music. We believe that there is more to this great province then those simplified and pimped out stereotypes.

So here’s the disclaimer; we are a group of four 20-something no bull shit type women who are willing to give it to you straight up and have the ability to, at times, swear like sailors. This blog is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. We intend to go balls out on this with a no holds bars type of attitude. We are truly sorry if this type of bluntness offends you but we are who we are, nothing more or nothing less.

We are new to this so we would appreciate any comments or feedback you, the reader, can give us. Please feel free to leave a comment or email us directly at With that being said, we hope that you remain respectful and considerate of others in your comments. Please refrain from using racist, sexist and derogatory comments pertaining to anyone’s sexual orientation, preference, religion or ethnicity. Our mission is to spread the love! We will monitor our comments and reserve the rights to eliminate the ones we deem inappropriate.

Hope you enjoy our blog and come back frequently as possible. If you have any suggestions about what you would like to see in up-coming post or have a favorite place in Nova Scotia you would like to share with us, please email us and let us know. Again, don’t for get to check us out on twitter and facebook. Thanks for stopping by!