The Great Halifax Explosion: Archduke Ferdinand to the Boston Christmas Tree

7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Main Library
McCarthy Meeting Room (whole room)

Event Details

At  9:05 AM on December 6, 1917, 6,000,000 pounds of munitions and aviation fuel on the SS Mont Blanc destined for the WW I battlefields of France detonated when the SS Imo and the SS Mont Blanc collided in Halifax Harbor. The explosion leveled 325 acres of the city, killed 2100 people, and left 25,000 of the 60,000 residents homeless. 

At 11:00 PM on the same day, a relief train carrying doctors, nurses, relief workers, and supplies left Boston to aid the people of Halifax. Other trains and ships loaded with relief supplies left for Halifax over the next weeks. This outpouring of help from Boston continued for months. As a way of showing their gratitude for Boston’s enormous help, the people of Halifax sent a giant Nova Scotia Christmas tree to Boston the following Christmas.

Against the backdrop of WW I and U-boat attacks on Allied shipping, the talk will examine the many seemingly unrelated events that lead up to the collision and explosion and show that if even a single one of the events had not occurred, Halifax would have been spared this tragedy. The talk will also describe the tremendous aid provided by Boston citizens.


Dr. Poirier holds BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Physics. He has taught electrical engineering and physics at UMASS Lowell and Tufts University. Until his retirement, he was Chief of the Applied Electromagnetics Division of The Rome Air Development Center. He has published over 60 papers and reports and holds 15 patents in radar and related topics. He is a Fellow of RADC and a Life Member of the Minute Man Sail and Power Squadron where teaches piloting and celestial navigation.

Event Type(s): Lecture Series, Library Programs
Age Group(s): Adult, Teen