Chaos in Halifax historical info

On December 6th, 1917, just after 9 o’clock in the morning, the largest manmade explosion prior to the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II rocked the harbour and north end of Halifax. This explosion was caused by the collision of the Mont Blanc, a French steamship carrying 2400 tons of explosives, and the Imo, a Belgian steamer, slated to carry blankets and supplies to war victims. On the morning of December 6th, the Mont Blanc entered the harbour while the Imo left the harbour. As the two boats approached the narrowest part of the hour-glass shaped harbour, their pilots shifted the ships out of their lanes to avoid other vessels in the area. Although each of the pilots saw the other, neither could avoid a collision and the Imo rammed into the Mont Blanc. Barrels of benzol housed on the deck of the Mont Blanc spilled and the gasoline, ignited by a spark, turned the Mont Blanc into a blazing inferno. However, because the Mont Blanc had not raised her red flag when she entered the harbour to indicate that she had explosives onboard, only the crew of the Mont Blanc and the Harbour Master knew that the boat was a floating time bomb. The crew of the Mont Blanc abandoned the ship, which then drifted for approximately twenty minutes, ending up just off the end of the pier. By the time the ship exploded, hundreds of Haligonians had assembled at the dock. Two thousand people were killed and another nine thousand injured in Canada’s worst disaster in history.

Cathy has also written a teachers’ guide for Chaos in Halifax, which is available from Ronsdale Press. Aside from including historical information about the disaster itself, it also includes background information about the city of Halifax and Canada’s role in World War I. In addition, the guide consists of an overview of the novel and its characters, detailed chapter questions that can be used as a jeopardy game, and differentiated post-reading activities.

Additional information about the Halifax explosion can be found at:

Shadows of Disaster historical info

On April 29, 1903 at 4:10 a.m., an enormous mass of limestone broke loose from the front face of Turtle Mountain and hurled itself into the valley below where the town of Frank lay sleeping. It slid down the mountain breaking into pieces that ranged from tiny shards of rock to enormous boulders the size of a small house. The exact cause of the slide is still unknown, but scientists believe that weather, the formation of the mountain, and possibly mining activity contributed to the slide. The slide buried only a portion of the town of Frank, and despite the fact that ninety million tons of rock fell in just ninety seconds, some of the people in the path of the slide survived. This was primarily due to the fact that the houses were on the edge of the slide, and were hit by rock and mud picked up as the slide crossed the river. Not all of the buildings were entirely buried. Most of the the approximately 100 people in the path of the slide were killed. Frank Slide is Canada’s deadliest rockslide.

Cathy has also written a teacher’s guide for Shadows of Disaster, which is available from Ronsdale Press. It consists of an overview of the novel and its principal characters, chapter questions that can be used as a jeopardy game, and diverse post-reading activities. It also includes background information about the Frank Slide, the Crowsnest Pass, and the early coal mining industry.

Additional information about Frank Slide can be found at:

Stormstruck historical info

The Great Storm of November 7-10th in 1913 was a combination of storm systems that collided above Lake Huron on Sunday November 9th.Snow began falling, eventually dumping more than 30 cm in areas surrounding Lake Huron. Winds increased throughout the day, whipping the seas into massive waves in blizzard-like conditions. The storm produced hurricane-force 145 km/h (90 mph) winds, 11 metre high waves (35 feet) and whiteout snow squalls. Ship captains had to decide whether to try to run their vessels in front of the wind or try to anchor and ride out the storm. Both options were dangerous, the former necessitating turning against the wind as the vessels neared the shore, and the latter made more dangerous by extremely poor visibility.

When the storm was finally over, 244 sailors were dead, 19 ships had been sunk with all hands aboard, and 19 ships had been left stranded. Many of the sailors’ bodies washed ashore along the shore of Lake Huron between Goderich and Sarnia the next morning. This blizzard, which raged for three days, resulted in a financial loss in vessels alone of nearly $5 million American, or about $100 million in present-day adjusted dollars. The large loss of cargo included coal, iron ore, and grain. The Great Storm of 1913 is generally considered to be the worst storm to ever strike the Great Lakes, with Lake Huron experiencing the most destruction and death.

Cathy has also written a teachers’ guide for Stormstruck, which is available from Ronsdale Press. It consists of background information about the Great Storm, the shipping industry in the early 1900s, the region of Goderich, and the suffragette movement, as well as an overview of the novel and its principal characters, detailed chapter questions that may be used in a traditional manner or as a jeopardy game, differentiated post-reading activities, and additional resource information.

Additional information about the Great Storm of 1913 can be found at: