In honour of the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, CBC Nova Scotia colourized several photos depicting life in the city immediately after the 1917 disaster.

On the morning of Dec. 6, 1917, two ships — the Norwegian steamship Imo and munitions ship Mont-Blanc — collided, igniting the Mont-Blanc's cargo and resulting in a massive explosion.

The blast shredded homes and sent glass and debris flying through the air; approximately 2,000 people died and another 9,000 were injured — the largest human-made disaster in Canadian history.

The colouring of the following photos are approximations based on research of the time period conducted by CBC Nova Scotia.


The Norwegian steamship Imo was carrying Belgian relief supplies on the day of the collision. The ship, pictured here in 1918, beached on the Dartmouth shore, was eventually repaired and returned to service.

When the Mont-Blanc caught fire that morning, many children were on their way to school. Others were still at home. But the spectacle of the blaze in the harbour brought many onlookers to their windows. One in 50 people suffered significant eye damage as the eventual blast sent glass and debris flying through the air. The number of people blinded would be one the contributors to the creation of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

In the aftermath of the explosion, a dead body is seen loaded on a sled for transportation on this cold, blustery winter day. Although Dec. 6 was cool and clear, a nasty winter system was in the works. The next morning, snow began to fall on the ruins of Halifax, hampering recovery efforts. Blowing and drifting snow led to blizzard-like conditions and, by the end of day, 40 centimetres of snow had fallen over the city.

The Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition was located near Windsor and Almon Streets in Halifax. Though a half-hour walk from the harbour, it didn't escape the force of the explosion. The Halifax Forum, which became a go-to location for sports and recreation, was built on its ruins in 1927.

In the days and weeks that followed the Halifax Explosion, public funerals, like this one, were held for victims. Government officials opened a special ledger book to keep track of the names and details of the victims, often to help family identify their loved ones. When the register closed in December 1918, it contained more than 1,600 entries. The Nova Scotia Archives has published the digitized pages of the ledger on its website.

The corner of Argyle and George Streets is shown here, stacked with pine coffins supplied to Snow & Co. Undertakers. The mortuary — established in 1883 and which exists today as J.A. Snow Funeral Home — says it held 30 to 40 funerals a day for explosion victims.

This picture, which was likely taken off McNabs Island on the morning of Dec. 6, gives scope to the size of the explosion.

With files from Robert Short and David Irish