Into the Debris Field:

The Halifax Explosion

Into the Debris Field is a multifaceted centenary project that recognizes the profound impact of the Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917, and how the reverberations of that event continue to shape the consciousness of a place and its people.

Drifts

Explore the debris field of the 1917 explosion in the Halifax harbour, encountering ruins, scars, shards and fragments from the disaster. Immerse yourself in an interactive guide of ‘drifts’ (suggested walking routes) that tell stories about the past and present. Share your own images and experiences … and stay safe in the debris field.

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Drifts App Screenshots

Debris Field

This drift in the debris field of the Halifax Explosion introduces you to some key areas of what was known as Richmond, including Fort Needham, the Hydrostone district, and Mulgrave Park. You can see the Narrows (where the Imo and the Mont-Blanc collided) from some vantage points, but not the site of Pier 6 (where the Mont-Blanc exploded). Across the harbour on the Dartmouth side, Tufts Cove, Shannon Park and the site of the Mi’kmaq community of Turtle Grove are visible.

The route is a suggestion, but feel free to wander and explore. You may contribute your own photos, videos and comments along the way.

Stay safe in the debris field.

See Drift

A Natural History

Exploring the debris field as landscape and environment.

A Natural History is a drift through a disaster landscape that is anything but natural. Trees, gardens, drumlins and landscape designs are on the route, as are charcoal, smoke, and a shattered school.

“Rosemary is a symbol of remembrance. Lavender brings a calming effect. Brambles are for remorse”.

The route is a suggestion, but feel free to wander and explore. You may contribute your own photos, videos and comments along the way.

Stay safe in the debris field.

See Drift

Across the Narrows

Catastrophes of colonization and war.

Although the trauma caused by the explosion in Halifax harbour is barely visible today, with few markers or official commemorations within the core of the most devastated areas, it continues to reverberate, shaping our identities and communities, and our future.

Across the Narrows, locations in the North Dartmouth communities of Turtle Grove, Tufts Cove and Shannon Park embody stories of devastation wrought by colonization and war time catastrophe. Although the 1917 population on this side of the harbour was much smaller than Halifax’s, the devastation was just as significant, as was the reconstruction effort.

The route is a suggestion, but feel free to wander and explore. You may contribute your own photos, videos and comments along the way. Stay safe in the debris field.

See Drift

WhistleBlowing

Retracing the ships’ passages from the mouth of the harbour to the Bedford Basin.

This is a waterborne excursion in the debris field. The Imo and the Mont-Blanc collided in the narrows of the Halifax harbour, at a point just west of the French Cable Wharf. What caused the two vessels to be on this collision course? After the collision, as fire engulfed the Mont-Blanc, it drifted for 20 minutes, ending up at Pier 6 where it exploded. Before the blast threw it ashore, the Imo drifted east, towards Dartmouth. The ferry operated without interruption throughout the crisis. Can you imagine this sequence of events from vantage points on the water?

The route is a suggestion, but feel free to drift and explore. You may contribute your own photos, videos and comments along the way. Stay safe in the debris field. Carry a whistle.

See Drift

North End & North Street

In 1917, Halifax was a divided city, shaped by racial segregation, class distinctions, and differences in religious affiliations. 100 years later, how much has changed? In this part of the city, the work of repairing, uniting and building communities continues.

The route is a suggestion, but feel free to wander and explore. You may contribute your own photos, videos and comments along the way.

Stay safe in the debris field.

See Drift

Aftermath

What follows in the days after a disaster.

Aftermath is a drift through the Halifax landscape of the explosion, exploring some of the events that followed immediately after the disaster. Music and sound are featured in several sites along a route that includes ghostly locations such as the Orphanage, the Cotton Mill and the morgue at the Chebucto School.

“Of all the comrades that e'er I had
They are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had
They would wish me one more day to stay.”
-from The Parting Glass, traditional Irish song, 17thC

The route is a suggestion, but feel free to wander and explore. You may contribute your own photos, videos and comments along the way.

Stay safe in the debris field.

See Drift

Markers

Beginning in fall 2017 a series of iconic sculptural markers will be installed in select locations throughout Halifax. Designed by rhad Architects, the markers are pairs of bent, perforated vertical forms in stainless and Corten steel. Intended to reference the landscape of exploded trees that dotted the devastated area in the aftermath of the Explosion, the markers also read as a conversation between the two forms, reflecting past and present, the interplay of two ships in their fateful approach to one another, and the tension of the ‘narrows’ in between. 

The markers will be installed in Fort Needham Memorial Park and beyond, throughout areas of Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford where there are strong connections to the Explosion. Collectively, they will connect back to the interpretive program of the park, and will serve as touchstones to engage with four core themes related to the 100th Anniversary: Context, Event, Resolve and Rebirth.

Into the Debris Field

Marking the 100 Year Legacy of the Halifax Explosion

The debris field identifies the devastated area of the 1917 north end Halifax and Dartmouth, including neighbourhoods and settlements such as Richmond, north Dartmouth and Turtle Grove, seen through the lens of memory. This website builds on the core themes and stories emerging from the Explosion of 1917, showing how they resonate within the here and the now of Halifax 100 years later. The website project documents two complementary expressions of today’s Halifax Explosion: a Commemorative Marker program and Drifts, an interactive mobile app. 

Together, they illustrate the powerful dynamics of historical and personal reflection, and active research and public engagement. Visiting the markers and interacting with the app will allow you to experience how one human-made disaster continues to echo across time and space in extraordinary community-based connections. Here, you can reflect on your own ties to the events and stories of the Explosion, and to this city and its people.

DRIFTS

Narratives in Space + Time Society (NiS+TS) invites you to join us on one of the many ‘drifts’ (walks) we have developed in the debris field of the Halifax Explosion. Created with the help of over 80 collaborators and hundreds of participants, these choreographed interactive walks offer up reflections, images, videos, and other ephemeral traces that we see, hear, smell, taste and feel around us in our urban environment. Many of these urban spaces are overlooked, taken for granted, or disregarded; walking in the debris field makes us more aware of how we shape the urban space around us, and how it shapes us. Drifts demonstrate how the past and present haunt the future. All the routes on the app are simply suggestions, so feel free to wander and explore within a single drift, or from one drift to another. Walk your own path. Stay safe in the debris field.

See Drifts