Ships of the Halifax Harbour Explosion

The Two Ships in Collision

Halifax Harbour was crowded with wartime shipping on December 6, 1917. Vessels were loading cargo, awaiting convoys, or under repair. This list includes the major vessels involved or affected in the explosion. There were many other vessels in harbour which are not listed as they were not heavily damaged or directly involved with the explosion. Selected vessels have links to images and more information.



Stern of Mont-Blanc before the explosion during a prewar visit to Halifax, Aug. 15, 1900.
Photo: Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, MP18.196.11, N-4,395

Name: Mont-Blanc
Official Number: 173945
Signal Letters: KHTN
Tonnage: 3121 Gross, 2252 Net, 2691 underdeck
Dimensions: 320' long, 44.8' breadth, 15.3' deep Forecastle 35', Bridge 76' Poop 30'
Built: Middlesboro, Britain
Builder: Sir Raylton Dixon & Co. Ltd.
Year: 1899
Registered Port: St. Nazaire, France
Owners: Cie Generale Transatlantique
Engines: Steam, Triple expansion, Single screw
Horsepower: 247 NHP
Crew: Captain Aime Le Medec; Halifax Pilot: Francis Mackey
Career: Inbound to Bedford Basin from New York with munitions cargo to join convoy for Bordeaux. Rammed by SS Imo on starboard stem at 8:45 am. Captain and crew abandoned ship and all but one survived. Ship blew up and totally destroyed at 9:05 am.
Sources: Lloyd's Register 1916-17; Halifax Explosion Inquiry; Ruffman, Alan Argonauta, Vol. XX, No. 3, July 2003, 9-15; No. 4, October 2003, 12-15; Vol. XXI, No. 1, January, 2004, 3.



Imo, driven ashore in Dartmouth after the explosion.
Photo: Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, MP207.1.184/270, MP207.1.184/270a,M90.61.15

Name: Imo
Official Number: 93837
Signal Letters: MJGB
Name ChangesRunic (I) 1889; Tampican 1895; Guvernoren 1920
Tonnage: 5043 Gross, 3405 under deck, 3161 Net
Dimensions: 430.7' long, 45.2' breadth, 30.3' deep Forecastle 48', Bridge 30', Poop 41'
Built: Belfast
Builder: Harland & Wolff
Year: 1889
Registered Port: Christiania, Norway
Owners: South Pacific Whaling Co.
Engines: Steam, triple expansion, single screw
Horsepower: 424 NHP
Crew: Captain Haakon From, Halifax Pilot William Hayes
Career: Built as the White Star cargo liner/livestock carrier Runic (I), later renamed Tampican. Sold and renamed Imo in 1912 as supply ship for whaling operation. Under charter to carry Belgian Relief supplies in 1917. Outbound from Halifax in ballast (empty) to load relief supplies in New York. Collided with munitions ship Mont Blanc. Heavily damaged by blast and driven ashore in Dartmouth. Six men were killed of the crew of 39 aboard. Rebuilt and renamed Guvernuren to serve as whale oil tanker. On November 30, 1921 abandoned off Falkland Islands after running onto the rocks.
Sources: Lloyd's Register 1889, 1893, 1916; North Atlantic Seaway, N.R.P. Bonsor, II, 758; White Star, Ray Anderson, 74, 91, 202, 1900; Proceedings of Drysdale Inquiry, p. 253; and additiomnal research by Alan Ruffman

Name Flag Type Location Fate
Mont-Blanc France General Cargo, Munitions At Narrows inbound to Bedford Basin Obliterated by blast, crew escaped
IMO Norway General Cargo, charter for Belgian Relief At Narrows outbound from Bedford Basin Severely damaged, driven aground, bridge & deck crew killed

Other Ships Involved

HMCS Acadia Canada Auxiliary Patrol Ship acting as Bedford Basin Guard ship East side, Bedford Basin entrance Minor damage. (Now part of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic & the last surviving vessel from the explosion).
Acadian Canada General Cargo Inbound, 15 miles from Halifax Undamaged,felt concussion, saw blast cloud
Baleine (RCN) Canada Minesweeping trawler Sweeping Harbour approaches for mines Felt explosion, undamaged, continued sweeps
Booton Canada Tug   Towed Old Colony to No. 4 Dockyard Pier for emergency hospital duty
CC 1 & CC 2 Canada Submarines At Dockyard Pier 1 under refit Broke moorings, minor injuries
CD-73 Canada Coastal Drifter acting as Duty Boat To Niobe for Supplies Badly damaged, crew injured
Calonne Britain General Cargo Loading horses at Pier 9 Severely damaged, hove over, 36 crew killed
HMCS Canada Canada Auxiliary Patrol Ship Dockyard Anchorage by Jetty 2 Minor damage, 1 serious injury, crew sent ashore to assist
HMCS Cartier Canada Auxiliary Patrol Ship At Dockyard Jetty 3 following coaling Minor damage
HMS Changuinola Britain Armed Merchant Cruiser (Escort Ship) At Dockyard anchorage Minor Damage. Crew assists in rescue
Clara United States General Cargo "Tramp Steamer" Arriving Bedford Basin from Narrows Proceeded Mont Blanc through Narrows, complicating Imo and Mont Blanc manoeuvres.
Curaca Britain General Cargo Loading horses at Pier 8 Blown across harbour, sank at Tufts Cove, 45 crew killed, refloated in 1918
Dartmouth Canada Harbour Ferry   Damaged but continued running
Douglas H. Thomas Canada Tug At Dry Dock wharf Severe damage, 3 deaths, towed to safety in Dartmouth
F.W. Roebling Canada Schooner   Severe damage, 1 death
HMCS Grilse Canada Torpedo Boat Destroyer (Armed Yacht) Dockyard Jetty 2 on stand by for Harbour Defence Minor damage & injuries
CGS Gulnare Canada Bedford Basin Guard Vessel, anchored off Africville West Side Bedford Basin entrance Minimal damage
Halifax (II) Canada Harbour Ferry Mid Harbour approaching Halifax Serious damage but continued running. Many minor glass injuries
HMS Highflyer Britain Light Cruiser At Dockyard Anchorage Damaged, 3 killed 50 injuries, crew assists with rescue
Hilford Canada Tug, RN Charter, Port Convoy Office Returning from basin convoy liason, at Pier 9 to raise alarm Severe damage, blown out of water onto Pier 9. Only 2 survived.
HMCS Hochelaga Canada Auxiliary Patrol Ship At anchor in harbour awaiting Pier 4 berth Minor damage & injuries
Hovland Norway General Cargo In Dry Dock for repairs Upper works seriously damaged, Five crew members killed
J.A. McKee Canada Coal Carrier At Dry Dock Wharf for repairs Heavily damaged, no deaths
HMS Knight Templar Britain Commissioned Escort Ship At Dockyard Anchorage  
HMCS Lady Evelyn Canada Auxiliary Patrol Ship On patrol Harbour Approaches Felt explosion, undamaged, went to action stations to face possible attack
Lola R. Canada Schooner From Herring Cove to inner harbour "Blown to pieces"
Maggie Canada Tug, RN Charter, Port Convoy Office Downtown Halifax piers Carried relief parties & surgeons ashore from RN ships
HMCS Margaret Canada Auxiliary Patrol Ship At Dockyard Jetty 2 Broke moorings, minor damage, two crew members killed ashore
Middleham Castle Britain General Cargo Preparing to leave Dry Dock wharf for sea Heavily damaged, lost funnel
USS Morrill USA US Coast Guard patrol vessel At anchor, Dartmouth Cove awaiting supplies Damaged
Musquash Canada RCN Minesweeping Trawler At Dry Dock Wharf Set afire and adrift
Nereid Canada RCN Armed Tug (Examination Service) At anchor off Dockyard Pier 4, near Niobe Moderate damage
HMCS Niobe Canada Cruiser, Depot Ship Hospital Wharf, north end of Dockyard Serious Damage. Several crew, including entire pinnace crew, killed. Surviving crew assisted ashore.
USS Old Colony USA Ex passenger ship bound for Britain for naval conversion At dry dock wharf awaiting boiler repair Manned as temporary hospital by naval surgeons
PV-V (RCN) Canada Minesweeping trawler Dockyard Jetty 3 for refit Moderate damage
PV-VII (RCN) Canada Minesweeping trawler Sweeping Harbour approaches for mines Felt explosion, undamaged, continued sweeps
Picton Britain General Cargo, including munitions At Sugar Refinery Wharf Badly damaged & set ablaze by explosion
Ragus Canada Sugar Refinery Tug At sugar refinery wharf Heavily damaged, most crew killed
Sambro Canada Shipyard Tug Graving Dock Wharf Sunk. Raised in 1920s & renamed Erg
St. Bernard Demerara, British Guiana Schooner Unloading Lumber, Pier 6 Completely destroyed. Crew of 3 killed
Stella Maris Canada Tug under RCN charter, ex RN gunboat At Pier 6 attempting to tow Mont Blanc Severely damaged, 19 crew killed, 5 survive
USS Tacoma USA Third Class Cruiser 50 miles at sea off Halifax Felt blast, came into port to assist with rescue
Togo Canada Tug Naval Dockyard Took wounded from rescue parties to USS Old Colony
USS Von Steuben USA Armed Troop Transport At sea off Halifax Felt blast, came into port to assist with rescue
W.H. Lee Canada Naval Motor Boat At Dockyard Coaling Wharf Fought fires on damaged vessels