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The CBC Halifax Explosion Site


Web Quest: The Halifax Explosion: Who Was Responsible?

Grades 11-12
Duration: 3 to 4 lessons

Students will use a variety of Web-based resources to investigate and conclude who or what was most responsible for the tragedy of the Halifax Explosion.

To perform Internet research in support of an opinion

Social Studies, History, Political Science

On December 6, 1917, the wartime port of Halifax was shattered by the most powerful man-made explosion before the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945. Much of the city was razed. Casualties were tragically high with 9000 wounded and nearly 2000 dead. Over 1600 homes were destroyed, leaving 6000 homeless. At first people thought the explosion was an act of German sabotage. Later it was revealed that two Allied ships had collided in the busy harbour. One ship was loaded with munitions. Inquiries did not agree as to the cause of this awful tragedy and for some historians the issue is still unresolved.

The Task
Students will research the causes of the Halifax Explosion and decide what they believe is the most important cause of the explosion. Students will brainstorm some of the possible causes or personalities involved in the tragedy and then perform in-depth research to support what they think is the leading cause. After their research is complete, students will prepare a brief written report that both identifies and supports the leading cause of the tragedy. Students should be prepared to present an oral summary of their findings.

The Process
Students should begin their research on the CBC Halifax Explosion Web site, including the Links available on the site. Students can then expand their research to support their report, beginning with but not limited to the Resources listed below. Students should keep careful notes that are dated and sourced.

When the reports are complete, organize a scholarly meeting to identify and debate the findings. Ask: Why is it often difficult to find the causes of major disasters? Is it worth still trying to find the truth for a tragedy that occurred over 80 years ago? How might this tragedy have been averted?


Archives Canada

Halifax Regional Municipality: The Halifax Explosion

Historica Canadian History Education Foundation

Nova Scotia Museum

Nova Scotia Virtual Archives

The Halifax Explosion and The Royal Canadian Navy, John Griffith Armstrong (2002)

The Town That Cried, Michael J. Bird (1962)

Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and The Road to Recovery, Janet F. Kitz (1987)

Disasters Canada, Janet Looker (2000)

Shattered City (Drama) CBC 2003

The Halifax Explosion (Documentary) CBC 2003

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