It would take less than 3 hours! The Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable! An iceberg in the North Atlantic changed this on April 14, 1912! The ship was 700 nautical miles east of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
April 14, 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of this tragic event. Did you know that this was the world’s worst ocean disaster?
Books have been written and movies have been made BUT if you visit Halifax you will come closer to the disaster then any movie or book.
There were 2228 people on her maiden voyage. 1518 souls would be lost. 150 would be laid to rest in Halifax.
Halifax has a connection to this disaster like no other!
Once the ship owners in New York were made aware that she had hit an iceberg they believed that the damaged vessel would make its way to Halifax.
Sadly, this would not happen!
When they realized the extent of the accident cable ships were dispatched from Halifax on a search and rescue mission.
It actually became a recovery mission and the crews of the cable ships proved invaluable. The crews of the Mackay-Bennett, Minia and Montmagny were well-trained on the high seas. They laid and repaired transatlantic cables far beneath the surface. Recovering bodies from the Titanic would prove far more difficult.
of the Titanic
...one of the cable ships...
The first ship to leave carried coffins, 100 tons of ice, an undertaker and a chaplain. Embalming fluid was also on board and was used until it ran out. Bodies had to buried at sea once this happened.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has a permanent display devoted to the Titanic. The museum has one of the world’s greatest collections of artifacts. Many of collection items come from the crews of the cable ships that played such a large part in the recovery of bodies.
At that time an acceptable maritime tradition called ‘wreckwood’ allowed for mariners to keep fragments of shipwrecks as momentos. This was generally done by those folks who would have participated in any search and rescue or recovery operations.
This disaster was no different.
Many of these momentos were kept in families for many years and then eventually found their way to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
This deckchair was one of the pieces of wreckage recovered and was indeed donated to the museum.
Oral history from the families of the crew aboard the cable ships became invaluable in telling the tragic story of the recovery.
The cable ships recovered over 300 bodies and brought them to Halifax. 150 would be buried there in 3 cemeteries.
1200 bodies would never be found. The city would be forever connected to this tragic piece of history!
The scenes in the city were sad. As the cable ships entered the harbour people would gather. Next of kin began to arrive and took their loved ones home. Church services would begin for those destined to remain in Halifax.
Places of Interest
There are many places of interest in Halifax regarding the sinking of this famous ship.
I have created a special page for the cemeteries. Visiting these cemeteries is heartbreaking but not to be missed when you are in Halifax.
Church memorial services were held at St. Mary’s Basilica, Brunswick Street United and All Saints’ Cathedral. The church service for the 'unknown child' was held at St. George's Round Church. A service was also held by the Baron de Hirsch Hebrew Congregation.
The Five Fishermen restaurant located at 1740 Argyle Street, was once the JA Snow Funeral Home. It served as a morgue for several victims. Apparently, there are lots of ghost stories to be heard when visiting the restaurant.
The Mayflower Curling Rink once located at 2660 Agricola Street also served as a morgue. The building was destroyed 5 years in the Halifax Explosion. The site is now an Army Navy Store.
Nova Scotia Archives has a large selection of materials and archives. I visited their website and saw that a lot of their material has been digitalized.
I am sure that the amateur historians among you will love their site.
The Bedford Institute of Oceanography has been very connected to the exploration of the site on the ocean floor. Visitors can see a display that includes a model of how the wreckage looks today.
They are also images from the 1991 expedition.
There is a particular story about a survivor of the disaster who was a resident of Halifax. Her name was Hilda Slayter and she was born in 1882 in Halifax. When she was 20 years old she found herself in England and engaged to a British citizen who was moving to British Columbia.
In preparation for her wedding and her move to British Columbia Hilda made her way back to Halifax on the Titanic. She was one of the fortunate ones and was one of the last off the ship. The story says that she actually witnessed the ship sinking.
Hilda would marry the British gentleman and move to British Columbia. She died in 1965 and was laid to rest in Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax in the family plot. There is also a well-known story from Hilda that the band aboard the ship did continue to play until the ship sank.
I think that visiting the titanic graves really brought the gravity of the disaster to me. Before that visit, it was just a story, just a piece of history. But when I saw the headstones, the names and the ages it became real!
What is the most shocking is that the ship had numerous warnings of icebergs in the area but forged full steam ahead regardless!
If you are in Halifax
take the time to visit the gravesites.
The movies and books make the Titanic a story but the Titanic cemeteries make it real!