Hope amid the ruins
It’s a scene that likely played out daily — a group of women walking from their home in Africville, Nova Scotia, towards Halifax. But this photo, taken in December 1917, is unique, in that it also depicts the aftermath of one of Canada’s worst disasters. All around the women, the wreckage of the Halifax explosion is evident. The explosion occurred on December 6, 1917, after a collision in Halifax Harbour between the Norwegian steamship SS Imo and the French ship Mont Blanc, which was at the time loaded with munitions destined for the First World War’s Western Front. The blast was the largest human-caused explosion prior to the invention of the atomic bomb. Nearly two thousand people died, and nine thousand more were injured. Many suffered eye injuries from shattered glass. At least twelve thousand homes and buildings were damaged. As for Africville, it was sheltered from the blast due to its location on Bedford Basin. However, decades later, Africville would be razed by the Halifax municipality and its citizens forced to relocate elsewhere in the city.