Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25, 2012

After yesterday's torrential downpours, I decided to stay in Halifax all day today to take in the sights.  The city is really interesting, with a long history and lots of things to see and do along the waterfront.  I took a ferry over to the Halifax side of the harbour this morning and the first stop was the citadel, which overlooks the city to the west.  The Citadel was one of several fortifications erected by the British in the 18th and 19th centuries to protect the harbor and their rather tenuous hold on Nova Scotia.  Sitting on the hillside in front of the Citadel is the Old Town Clock, erected in 1802:

The citadel is a large fortification that sits on top of the hill behind the clock tower, with gun batteries facing in all directions.  This would give you some idea of the extend of the facility:

The citadel was completed in 1856 and was actively occupied through World War II.  Here are some of the displays I found most interesting:

Above are soldier's quarters.  Pretty cozy, actually.

There was a lot of marchin' goin' on, including this chap playing the bag pipes.

As you would expect, there were many displays of uniforms and weapons.

Canada, of course, sent troops to fight in World War I and World War II.  I found the poster in the background to be revealing.  During WWI, Canada lost just under 60,000 men killed, out of a population of less than 8 million.

This was one of many guns still in place on the ramparts surrounding the fort.  I wonder if the folks in the apartment building have ever looked out their window?

After visiting the Citadel, I walked down to harbor side and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.  This, too, was very well done and very interesting.  Nova Scotia (and Canada in general) has a long maritime history and the museum presented it very well.  Samuel Cunard, who found Cunard Lines, was a native of Halifax and started his steamship business there.  Here is one of his early ships, the Franconia:

When the Titanic sank in 1912, ships were dispatched from Halifax to aid in rescue and recovery operations. Many of the recovered dead were returned to Halifax, where they are buried in one of the city's cemeteries. 

On December 6, 1915, the munitions ship SS Mont Blanc, loaded and waiting to join a convoy to Europe, exploded in Halifax Harbor in what has been described as the largest man-made explosion in history prior to Hiroshima.  Much of the city was leveled in the ensuing blast and fires, and some 2,000 people were killed.  The area below (in red) was destroyed as a result of the explosion and the lighter-colored area received substantial damage:

On a brighter note, the Museum contained some really interesting examples of locally-made boats:

I left the Maritime Museum and went over to the harbor area to view the SS Acadia and the HMCS Sackville.  The Acadia was build in 1912 in England and was used for some 60 years as a vessel to survey the waters surrounding Canada (which, reportedly, has the longest coastline of any country). 

Here's a picture of the Acadia:

The HMCS Sackville was a Corvette built in St. John, NB and launched in 1941.  She served during WWII and was reactivated in 1952 and converted into a research vessel for the Canadian Department of Marine and Fisheries.  In her present state, she is preserved in her original WWII role.  You can see the Sackville in the background of this next picture, but I just realized I didn't get a good shot of her:

After leaving the harbor area, I hiked across town about 20 miles to the Maritime Command Museum at Admiralty House.  Here, during WWII, plans were made and executed for the convoy system that ferried men and supplies from America to Europe.  Many of the ships in the convoys moved up the coast and gathered in Halifax, where they were matched up, supplied with escort vessels, and dispatched across the North Atlantic. 

One of the interesting themes of the displays in the Museum has to do with Canada's unwillingness to maintain any really significant military presence except to guard its own coastline.  They have contributed troops and suffered casualties in every conflict from Korea to Afghanistan, but there has been a steady deterioration of their military capability.  This struck me when I took this picture:

This picture is just part of a room full of ships bells from decommissioned Canadian warships.  I'm not sure how many they have left, but it can't be many.

As I left the museum, I walked across the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge, one of two bridges spanning Halifax Harbour:

And here is one last view of Halifax Harbour from the middle of the bridge span:

That's it from Halifax. This is really an interesting city with very friendly people.  Tomorrow, it's down the coast to the west to Yarmouth, on the western coast of Nova Scotia.