Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Except on that twisty turning super little stretch of coast road!

They say that all good things must come to an end. Whoever “They” are!
In this full time RV life things just move on. We're moving on, heading slowly South back towards the US Border and Maine.

The year is winding down, it's mid September. When we were in the higher areas of Cape Breton Island last week we noticed the very first yellowing of leaves. The beginning of fall, autumn to our European friends.

Where has the last year gone? Looking back in the blog I see we were around Yellowstone and Durango this time last year.

Those memories seem so faded.

Time to make new ones!

A stop I have wanted to make is Halifax NS. My youth was spent on the shores of the River Mersey. I remember in the 50's and 60's sailing on a ship called the “Royal Iris” which did cruises down the Mersey Estuary. There were masts of wrecked ships sticking up out of the water. I was told the ships had sunk there as a result of the terrible convoy battles in World War 2.

Liverpool was the headquarters for North Atlantic Command. The actual control center is still intact and open to the public.

We knew many families who had relatives in the Merchant Navy during the conflict, Merseyside back then was a major port. When I was an apprentice in the shipyard stories would be told about Atlantic and Arctic Convoys, torpedoed ships and the tragic fate of the crews.

The other end of the convoy system was Halifax NS, the ships would gather there then sail with their naval escorts across the Atlantic to face U Boats and storms.

Admiralty House and Canadian Navy Museum
By chance we had visited Sydney NS which was the gathering point for slow convoys. Halifax was for fast convoys with ships capable of maintaining more than 7 knots. The statue dedicated to the many sailors who lost there lives sailing from Sydney was very moving. The convoys didn't stop for survivors, that would make them a bigger target, the men on rafts and in lifeboats were left behind. If they were lucky a small corvette might pick them up. If not they perished.
This dining room held over 100 ships Captains for convoy briefings
Halifax has several major stories connected with it The city was founded to provide a jumping off point to drive the French from Canada. It became the main British naval base in North America. The Canadian navy was founded here. World War 1 and 2 saw convoys leaving from here. Many immigrants came to start new lives thru Halifax.

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Museum is housed in Admiralty House in the Naval Dockyard. Currently the building is in some disarray due to renovations and a ton of documentation they have received lately. It's still a fascinating place that shows how the RCN grew immensely between the start of WW1 and the end of WW2 then shrank back down again. 

The ships plaques fascinated me and the bells too. Haunting to think about all those ships and their crews now faded into history.

The Atlantic Maritime Museum is across the city from the Navy Museum and is also well worth a visit.

Models of Steam Ships

Sailing Ships

Ships figureheads in the Atlantic Maritime Museum

A couple of major events are of note.

The Halifax Explosion 1917

In December 1917 a ship called the Mont Blanc caught fire after a collision in the harbor. The crew fled and left the ship to drift upriver with the tide. The ship was loaded with ammunition and it drifted into the north end of the city then exploded. The explosion was the biggest explosive event prior to the atomic bomb.
The ships ½ ton anchor was blown 2 miles from the explosion and huge chunks of the ship fell all over the area.
These pieces of the Mont Blanc flew over 2 miles.
The town was torn apart, fires started, 1950 people were killed. That night a blizzard hit the area. People buried under debris froze to death, survivors had nowhere to shelter.

More people died in this one event than in the Great Fire of Chicago and the Great Earthquake in San Francisco COMBINED. Many times more people.

The Titanic Disaster

Everyone has probably heard of the Titanic and is familiar with the tragedy. What isn't generally know is that although the survivors were taken to New York the dead were brought to Halifax.,_Halifax,_Nova_Scotia

The reason for that is that Halifax was the closest port to the disaster site and there were 3 cable laying ships in port ready to go when the news broke. They sailed almost immediately but it took 3 days before they arrived at the scene.

They retrieved bodies, of which only 1 was floating without a life vest. It was a baby boy about 2 years old. The seamen who had the terrible job of retrieving the bodies were apparently deeply disturbed by the body of the child.
The child's shoes preserved in the Atlantic Maritime Museum
Not all the bodies were brought back to shore, because of lack of room some unidentified bodies were buried at sea. 333 bodies were retrieved, some are buried in other cemeteries. 121 lie in Fairview Cemetery.

White Star paid for headstones. The ones with just a number and date were never identified. The ones with a name on the top were identified from personal effects at the time. The ones with a name on the front were identified later. The bigger headstones were paid for by relatives and have more information.


A headstone paid for by Bruce Ismay.

And the baby? He was buried as number 4 with a special headstone but no name, but in 2007 using DNA evidence he was final identified as Sidney Leslie Goodwin. None of his family survived the sinking. They were never found.
Finally identified after 95 years

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