Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

2024, Canada, International

Within walking distance of Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Pier 21 and our ship, we visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. It was an opportunity to learn things we never knew about the maritime history of Halifax and to expand our understanding in other areas. We were delighted to talk with an exceedingly well informed docent whose particular area of expertise was the Second World War Battle of the Atlantic. Personally we’d been aware of the convoys of merchant ships making transatlantic passage with Allied naval escorts to moderate the risk of German u-boat attack. He referred to the group of merchant vessels as a herd of sheep, the military escorts as sheep dogs to keep the convoy orderly, and the u-boats hunting in a group as a wolf pack. Halifax harbour was the starting point for countless shipments of supplies and war matériel destined for Britain that were absolutely critical to the war effort. Then we moved upstairs because like many of the museum’s visitors, we were drawn to the Titanic exhibit. Halifax was central to the recovery efforts in the wake of Titanic’s sinking in April 1912 and many of the victims were interred in local cemeteries. We also learned about the Mi’kmaq, the first peoples of the area, and Samuel Cunard who was born in Halifax and founded one of the greatest shipping firms in maritime history during the Age of Steam. We got an introduction to the children’s television show, Theodore Tugboat and the Big Harbour and to the history of the founding of the Canadian Navy, the 1792 voyage of Black Loyalists to Sierra Leone, and the 1917 Halifax Harbour Disaster when the French steamship Mont-Blanc laden with wartime explosives burst into flames in The Narrows, the Norwegian ship Imo unsuccessfully attempted to push her out of the harbour into the open sea. At 9:05 AM on 6 December 1917 the Mont-Blanc and all the munitions onboard exploded creating absolute havoc and destruction. Again the docent was a wealth of information. With all this knowledge swirling around in our heads, we made our way along the seaside boardwalk back to our ship on this gorgeous March day.

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