Follow the story of the explosion that started 100 years of friendship between Halifax and Boston

The Narrows from Halifax after the explosion and blizzard. The Imo can be seen in the background on the shore of the Dartmouth side of the harbor. —Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management

One hundred years ago Wednesday, two ships collided in Halifax Harbour and triggered what became the deadliest non-natural disaster in Canadian history.

The explosion on the morning of Dec. 6, 1917, killed 1,500 people immediately and destroyed everything within more than a mile and a half radius.

As news of the explosion spread, Boston Mayor James Michael Curley organized a rapid aid response. A train from North Station departed 12 hours after the explosion, bearing 100 Boston medical personnel and hospital supplies.

Nova Scotia sent Boston a Christmas tree as thanks a year later.

Since 1971, the tree has become an annual tradition, making the trip with a police escort and town crier from Nova Scotia.


“It’s a nice way to continue the natural link that has always existed between Nova Scotia and, as they call it up there, the ‘Boston States,’” town crier James Stewart told The Boston Globe before this year’s tree ceremony.

“The people of Halifax have never forgotten how Boston responded during our moment of need,’’ Zach Churchill, a former Nova Scotia minister of Natural Resources, told in 2015.

On this year’s centennial, the Nova Scotia Archives is remembering the historic tragedy by “live-tweeting” the story. Here are a few of the updates.

You can follow along on the Nova Scotia Archives Twitter account or with the hashtag #HalifaxExplosion.