The Importance of the Halifax Explosion

One of the frustrating aspects of researching the 1917 Halifax Explosion following the disaster was a realization of the ever-present apathy of those that have the power to give this event its proper due. The onus essentially falls on the political and business leaders of the city, province and country to put some effort into the prioritization of this event. There was no such dawdling with regard to the hoopla surrounding the sinking of RMS Titanic in 1912 which, by comparison, had a minimal effect of the populace of Halifax or the rest of Canada.

The reasons for this lack of interest is fairly obvious: There were little or no affectations of celebrity or wealth to pique the curiosity of those less imaginative and the fact the event was superseded by World War I. The blast was the result of a minor accident with no enemy sabotage involved. The disaster was localized and mostly affected those within the city itself. Although there is a proven interest on a grassroots level, there is no public pressure to act. As well, the many books written on the explosion over the years have not been enough to make a meaningful difference getting movers and shapers to alter their perceptions. Although this may change to some minor extent as the 2017 centenary approaches, it is doubtful any long-lasting changes will ensue.

The misstep of selling the Halifax Explosion short is endemic in our society and continues on many levels. The tourism aspect has almost completely been ignored for decades. The existing memorial venues are scattered about Halifax/Dartmouth with little cohesiveness to make them parts of a whole rather than separate entities unto themselves. Although the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic's exhibit is generally adequate, it lacks comprehensiveness. The explosion was a major catastrophe that has affected thousands of lives for almost ten decades and the ramifications linger on.

Recently, the area known as Ground Zero has been destroyed by waterfront development, joining most of the city's landmarks which were indicative of the explosion. In the long run and within the larger scheme of things, the disaster appears destined to be a mere historical footnote instead of being viewed as the major Canadian event it actually was. Fortunately, this situation has not deterred researchers, historians, authors and the many individuals that understand the true significance of the Halifax Explosion. To these people, and to the benefit of all others, this landmark event will always be a source of interest and endless literary material that will inform and fascinate for generations to come.