October 2, 2017
Today was an enjoyable day, especially because we got to choose exactly what we wanted to do. We had signed up for the “Hop On Hop Off (HOHO)with admission to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic” and it also included admission to the Citadel.
The double decker buses painted various colors (like blue, pink, and white) were made in England and used in London until they were “retired” and sold to the city of Halifax. We were told that some London visitors recognize the buses by their numbers and can tell you what route they were on in London! The driver sits on the right side of the vehicle as people do in the UK, but Canadians drive on the right.
The Maritime Museum was Stop #3 and we spent quite a bit of time there. Significant exhibits were dedicated to the 1917 Halifax Explosion and the Titanic disaster. Halifax’s connection to the Titanic is that most of the bodies were retrieved off the coast of Newfoundland and brought to this port, where White Star Line had a headquarters, and about 150 of them are buried in Halifax cemeteries.
The Halifax Explosion occurred on Dec. 6, 1917 (and the city will commemorate its 100th anniversary this year), when two ships collided in the “Narrows,” a less than one-kilometer wide passageway between the bay and the sea. There is a lot of maritime traffic in that spot. The explosion didn’t actually happen when the ships collided, but rather when they pulled apart. One of the ships was a French warship loaded with explosives. The explosion caused a major fire which destroyed more of the city that had not been blown up in the explosion.
Nearly 2,000 people died and about 9,000 were injured, while others were lifted into the air and set down some distance away unharmed or with only minor scratches. About 500 people suffered damage to their eyes, rendering them blind. That is why the display of the memorial quilt is surrounded by panels with the victims’ names stitched in Braille with beads.
The Titanic exhibit showed comparisons between the Titanic and other passenger vessels. White Star Line was known for their luxury liners, but Cunard (which still exists today) had a better safety record.
The Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland and about 300 bodies were recovered and brought to Halifax. The bodies were numbered chronologically according to when they were recovered. This was a meticulous process to insure accuracy in identification. About 150 are buried mostly in Fairview Lawn Cemetery (another stop on the Hop On Hop Off route), 12 were buried in a Catholic cemetery and 10 in a Jewish cemetery. Each body had a mortuary bag with its corresponding number, which contained any personal effects that were found that belonged to that person. Some of the bodies were returned to families, but those buried in Halifax were either from families who could not afford to have the body shipped home or were unidentified. Some of the mortuary bags are catalogued and stored at the museum. One item on display was a pair of shoes allegedly belonging to the “unknown child” buried in a special grave at Fairview Lawn. (That child was identified in recent years due to the advances in DNA identification techniques.)
There was information about the separation of first, second and third classes. A lot fewer women and children from third class were saved than those in first class! There were also different menu items for each class.
Even what they got to eat was different! (L-R: 3rd class menu, 2nd class menu, 1st class menu)
The museum had profiles of some of the victims. One was a man who had kidnapped his
two children and boarded the Titanic under an assumed name. He got his two children onto the last lifeboat, and they were eventually reunited with their mother. The father died and was buried in the Jewish cemetery under the assumed name, even though by then his real name was known.
Another story was of a mother who lost her life along with four of her children. They had not booked passage on the Titanic; they were supposed to sail on another ship, but the coal from that and other vessels was diverted to the Titanic for its high profile maiden voyage. As a result, these other ships were unable to sail as scheduled and some passengers were transferred to the Titanic, including the mother and her four children. The mother was buried with whichever of her children were recovered and identified. Although most of the children’s bodies were never found, all her children’s names were engraved on the tombstone, including those who had not been with her, because the survivors also requested to be buried with their mother when they died.
When we went outside to see a replica of a ship called the Acadia, the wind was blowing strong and cold. One can tour the entire boat, but I only spent a couple of minutes out there before telling Dale I was very cold and was going to wait for him inside.
When I came out of the bathroom, he was waiting for me, having visited a couple of the souvenir shops. (I wish it had occurred to me then to purchase a hoodie in one of those shops; I would have been more comfortable a lot sooner!)