Canada Post has issued a stamp commemorating the devastating explosion that rocked Halifax on the morning of December 6, 1917, when two ships – one loaded with explosives – collided in the narrows leading to its harbor. Released a month before the 100th anniversary of that fateful day, the issue also salutes the resilience of the Haligonians who rebuilt their city from the ashes.
Halifax was a bustling port supplying Canada’s efforts in the First World War in 1917. The blast occurred when a fire detonated munitions on board the French ship SS Mont-Blanc after it was struck by the Imo, a Norwegian cargo ship. It was the largest human-made explosion in history, prior to the detonation of the first atomic bomb. It claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 people, injured 9,000 more, and damaged property worth millions of dollars.
The stamp captures the moments before and after the disaster through elements from the past and present. Since few photos exist of the doomed ships just before the accident, local illustrator Mike Little recreated the scene based on historic accounts and materials. An image of the front page of The Halifax Herald the day after the explosion shows the heartbreaking aftermath. The stamp was designed by Larry Burke and Anna Stredulinsky of Burke & Burke in Halifax.
“The post-disaster front page portrayed the enormity, the devastation, the human tragedy of the day,” says Burke. “Little’s illustration of the moment just before the explosion completes the story of a disaster that instantly shattered our city.”
“My street was completely demolished in the explosion, and one person – whom I was surprised to discover shared my last name – perished in a nearby home,” explains Little. “Those discoveries made this stamp issue deeply personal.”
With this stamp, Canada Post remembers those whose lives were lost or forever changed in this terrible incident, says Deepak Chopra, President and CEO of Canada Post. “We also pay tribute to the residents of Halifax, other Canadians and people from around the world who helped those affected and contributed to the recovery effort.”