Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous memorabilia item, from the largest man-made explosion before the atomic bomb of World War II. It occurred in 1917, in the harbour, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Belaying pins have been used in ships since time immemorial. They were stuck in holes on the rails to provide a pin around which it was possible to tie a rope for fastening or raising a sail. In sailing ship days they were made of wood and were extremely handy in fights. This one, being made of metal, is extremely heavy, which is why it was blown two miles from the explosion site.

Belaying Pin, SS Imo, Relic of the Great Halifax Explosion, 1917
Orig. iron belaying pin - Size - 9"l, wt. 1.5 kg
Found - Milton, ON
The Largest Explosion in the World: On December, 1917, during the First World War, the SS Imo, a ship carrying relief supplies for Belgium, through a mix-up in communications, collided, in the narrows inside Halifax harbour, with a French ship, the Mont Blanc, loaded full of ammunition and fuel, for the war effort on the Western Front. The friction of the collision created a shower of sparks which started a fire on the Mont Blanc. As the flames sent a huge funnel of smoke into the air, the entire population of Halifax gathered to gaze through windows of the houses on the hillsides around the harbour, at the conflagration on the water front.

Then, without warning, the Mont Blanc exploded, sending a blast a mile high into the air and across Halifax. Until the atomic explosion at Hiroshima in 1945, the blast was the largest man-made explosion in history.

The ammunition ship Mont Blanc disappeared.

The Imo was blown bodily across the harbour on to the north shore.

The explosion completely leveled northern Halifax and killed almost 2,000 people outright. 200 men, women, and children were blinded from the shards of window glass that blew in on them and hundreds of others were maimed or burned. Thousands of houses were flattened or destroyed by fire.

The 1 1/2 kg, 9" long, metal belaying pin, from the SS Imo, was found two miles from the wreck. On the pin is written "Belaying Pin"; on the handle, "FROM THE SHIP, SS IMO BELGIAN RELIEF, SOUVENIR, OF HALIFAX DISASTER, DEC. 6, 1917.
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005

The Great Halifax Explosion, Dec. 6, 1917


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