Explosion FAQ


I was told that my great aunt was killed in the Halifax Explosion of 1917—can you confirm this?

A comprehensive list of Halifax Explosion victims was compiled by the Halifax Foundation and is now online at the Nova Scotia Archives and Record Management which has the largest collection of documents relating to Explosion victims.

How many people were killed in the Halifax Explosion?

The most recent estimate, compiled by the Halifax Foundation in September 2002, indicate that 1,951 identified people died in the Halifax Explosion. These names are listed in the Halifax Explosion Remembrance Book displayed at the Museum.

There were about 250 unidentified bodies buried after the explosion. Many of these bodies are believed to have belonged to 1,951 known victims from the Halifax Foundation List but the bodies were not recognizable. The overall death toll has grown over the years as new research has amalgamated different lists. Record keeping was difficult in wartime because of the massive movement of troops, sailors and transient workers through the port.

What was the population of Halifax at the time of the Halifax Explosion?

About 60,000. The 1911 census showed 46,619 people and the next census in 1921 showed 58,372 people. The addition of large number of troops and war workers would put the wartime population at about 60,000. This makes the casualties almost 2000 dead and over 4000 injured, a very significant poportion of the city's population.

Was it the largest man-made explosion prior to the Atomic bomb?

Yes. A comparison to other ammunition and industrial explosions shows that an overall measure (by deaths, explosive force, and radius of destruction) Halifax was the largest. A few explosions were larger in one category, but none exceeded the Halifax blast in all dimensions. See the book Ground Zero (1994) edited by Colin Howell & Alan Ruffman for more information.

What ships were involved in the Halifax Explosion?

See the Ships of the Halifax Explosion page.

Were German spies involved in the Halifax Explosion?

There is no evidence of Germans spies or saboteurs in Halifax in World War One during or before the explosion. Military records from both Allied and German records show no spy network operated in Halifax. There were lots of public rumours about German spies in World War One and Two but these were based on ethnic stereotypes and wartime paranoia. A recent television mini-series Shattered City has unfortunately revived these false rumours with an imaginary depiction of German spies trying ot blow up Mont-Blanc.