SS Mont-Blanc

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Career (France) Civil and naval ensign of France
Name: SS Mont-Blanc
Namesake: Mont-Blanc, famous French mountain
Owner: Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (French Line)
Port of registry: Saint-Nazaire, France
Builder: Sir Raylton Dixon & Co., Middlesbrough, Great Britain
Launched: 1899
Identification: Code Letters KHTN
Fate: Destroyed by explosion of ammunition cargo
General characteristics
Type: General Cargo
Tonnage: 3121 gross tons
Length: 320 ft (98 m)
Beam: 44.8 ft (13.7 m)
Depth: 15.3 ft (4.7 m)
Installed power: Steam, coal fired
Propulsion: Triple Expansion Steam Engine, single screw 247 ihp (184 kW)
Armament: Two defensive cannons

The SS Mont-Blanc was a French freighter which exploded while carrying ammunition in Halifax Harbour on December 6, 1917 causing the Halifax Explosion which killed 2000 people. The explosion was caused by a collision with the Norwegian ship SS Imo. Mont-Blanc was built in Middlesbrough, England in 1899, ordered from an English shipyard by French shipping investors. A classic three-island style, general cargo steamship, Mont-Blanc was a tramp steamer, carrying diverse types of cargos around the world. The ship changed owners several times and was registered at first in Rouen, then Marseille and finally Saint-Nazaire, France. In World War One, Mont-Blanc was purchased by the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (The French Line), the French state owned corporation put in charge of much of France's wartime shipping. She was chartered to carry a complete cargo of miscellaneous types of military explosives from New York to France in November 1917. Mont-Blanc was not an especially old vessel but was a relatively slow, common, three island type tramp steamer, typical of many wartime freighters.[1] She left New York December 1 to join a convoy in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Entering Halifax Harbour on the morning of December 6, she struck the outbound SS Imo in the Halifax Narrows. A fire caused by the collision detonated her cargo twenty minutes later. (See the Halifax Explosion article for details of the collision and effects of the explosion.)

Mont-Blanc's crew abandoned ship before the explosion and all survived, except for one man killed by falling debris. Mont-Blanc's captain, Aime Le Medec, and pilot, Francis Mackey, were blamed for the explosion by a Judicial Inquiry and charged with manslaughter but acquitted at trial. A subsequent appeal determined that Mont-Blanc and Imo were both equally to blame for errors that led to the collision.

Mont-Blanc was completely destroyed and scattered by the explosion. Steel fragments of her hull and fittings landed all over Halifax and Dartmouth, some traveling over four kilometres. Today several large fragments, such as one of Mont-Blanc's cannons and her anchor shank, are mounted where they landed as monuments to the explosion.[2] Others are on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax which has a large collection of Mont-Blanc fragments, many recovered from the homes of survivors.

See also


  1. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic "Ships of the Halifax Explosion" web page indicates that Mont-Blanc was not even close to the oldest ship assembled in the harbour.
  2. Halifax Regional Municipality "Mont-Blanc Mounument"

External links

fi:SS Mont Blanc