103 Years Later: Remembering the Halifax Explosion

At 9:05* am 103 years ago, the shoreline of Halifax Harbour changed forever. The lives lost and destroyed that day left a deep scare in those who lived in the communities along its shores. This included Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Tufts Cove, Woodside and several other small communities.

The Coldest December, a short story collection published in 2017 to mark the one hundred year anniversary, contains 11 original stories by Nova Scotia authors. Stories either take place during the explosion or shortly afterwards. One takes place in 1944 when the second Halifax Explosion, a much smaller explosion, took place.

Here’s a snippet from Lawren Snodgrass’ “Harbour in Time”, the story that takes place in 1944 with survivors from 1917.

Harboured in Time

Lawren Snodgrass

Once again, the past invaded his senses, and the burnt oil licked at his lips. The flames engulfing the homes lining the Halifax street threatened to snatch him from the ground and hurl him into the ocean. He glanced up and saw a dark figure hanging from the electric lines. His heart beat faster, and he feared it would leap from his chest and race off without him. A feral dog ran past him, throwing off his balance. He stumbled, but the girl he had rescued from the rubble held him securely, and he regained his step.

Tuft’s Cove School

“This way,” she cried, pulling him onto an unfamiliar street.

Unsure of her advice, he searched the area desperately, hunting for the way out of the war-torn downtown. He bulked and his feet grew heavy, eventually slowing to a stop. The heat lashed out at his face, and he feared any movement would make it unleash its fury.

“Come on! We have to go!”

The muffled sound of yelling reached his ears, but he hesitated to find the source. The fire watched him and if he moved, it would capture him. Its flame wrapped around his arm and tried to pull him closer, but he braced himself and stood firm.

“Run or we’ll die!”

The fire screamed, but he knew not to move. A scorching slap to his cheek shot pain to his head, and he looked down at the girl with the green eyes.

“We have to go this way.” She pulled his arm and beckoned him forward.

He allowed her to lead him through the thick clouds and onto the street that took them past the inferno. Minutes later, they emerged from the thickest of smoke, and he looked up to see the outline of the town clock in the distance. They struggled on, and dark figures turned to human form, all moving towards the Citadel. The weight of the girl from the rubble grew, and he watched her struggle to keep moving up hill. He gathered his strength and with a surge of energy, he scooped her into his arms and carried her. She clung to him, sobbing quietly against his neck. They reached the far side of the hill where exhaustion brought him to his knees. They stumbled to a rock wall and flopped onto the cold, hard ground.

… to continue reading, pick up a copy of The Coldest December.

Recovering whatever they can from the rubble.

Book Sale: The Coldest December

Pick up a copy today at the following online outlets.

eBook: 99 cents


(prices stated in either CAD – Canadian Dollars or USD – US Dollars)

To learn more about this book, including the authors who contributed, visit The Coldest December’s page at Quarter Castle Publishing.

*Some reports say 9:04 am and 9:05 am, but the majority found state 9:06 am. Regardless of the time and the clocks that stopped on the second it happened, it was a crisp, late fall Thursday in December 1917.

A Common Headline from the Past: Lost at Sea

Genealogy research had uncovered my grandmother’s grandparents: Martha and William McDonald. They had at least one child: my great-grandfather William Aaron McDonald.

Little is known about this family, just a few names and dates. The further in time one travels, the less information surfaces about individuals and the more questions arise, such as what was Martha’s maiden name and what happened to William Sr.?

A few years ago, a genealogist from a far-flung branch of the McDonald family tree, who researched William Sr., wrote to say William had been ‘lost at sea’. To be exact, William had drowned 160 years ago today on October 7, 1860, when the fishing schooner he’d been aboard floundered.

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Anniversary of the Saxby Gale

Maritimers are always talking about the weather. I think it’s because if we wait five minutes, it’ll change. We have the winds from the west bringing heat waves, winds from the north delivering cold fronts, the Gulf Steam transporting warm, humid air and the Atlantic Ocean that tries to maintain a constant weather day except for when it’s stirring up a storm.

All this activity makes for a lot of material to discuss. It also makes for a lot of data to analyse to predict the weather for the day. Forecasting the weather for an entire week is difficult at best. Predicting the weather for more than ten months into the future is impossible (though I realise almanacs can be somewhat correct at times). However that’s just what Lieutenant Stephen Martin Saxby (1804-1883) of the British Royal Navy did when he warned the public of a devastating storm that would strike the Maritimes in 1869.

Saxby was an amateur astronomer. He used his knowledge of the moon and Earth to predict the weather according to celestial events. It was known as meteorological astrology. In 1864, he published The Saxby Weather System in which he outlined his theories, explaining his method of predicting the weather.

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Call for Submissions: “The Sea, Our Home” Short Story Collection

Quarter Castle Publishing is making a Call for Submissions for a short story collection to honour those who lived and died by the sea.

Atlantic CanadaThe goal is to tell the stories of life by the sea. It’s a unique existence, one in which the tides and winds set the pace. There are many joys, hardships and tragedies from living by the constantly changing waters gracing our shores in Atlantic Canada. For families who have spent generations breathing in the intoxicating saltwater-laced breeze, the sea is in our blood; it is our home. We will live here and die here.

The collection is entitled The Sea, Our Home – Honouring the resilient men and women who forged a living along the rugged coastline of Atlantic Canada throughout the centuries.

The contest is open to all residents of Atlantic Canada, and those who once lived here and still love and miss the sea. First-time authors and seasoned veterans are welcome to submit their short stories.

The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2021.

To learn more about this call for submissions, visit The Sea, Our Home Short Story Collection page.

Fall Sale: The Coldest December

From September 17th until December 31st, The Coldest December eBook will be on sale for 99 cents, and the paperback copy will be drastically reduced.

The Coldest December

a Short Story Collection to Remember the Halifax Explosion

The Coldest DecemberOn December 6, 2017, Nova Scotia commemorated the one hundredth anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. More than two thousand people were killed and another nine thousand were injured from the largest man-made explosion of its time.

To pay tribute to the many victims, survivors and heroes who emerged from the disaster, Quarter Castle Publishing gathered a collection of fictional short stories connected to the Explosion. Stories are set immediately before it, during it or in its aftermath.

Pick up a copy today at the following online outlets.

eBook: 99 cents


(prices stated in either CAD – Canadian Dollars or USD – US Dollars)

To learn more about this book, including the authors who contributed, visit The Coldest December’s page at Quarter Castle Publishing.


The Coldest December: Big Ramblin’ Mike by Annemarie Hartnett

One of the stories in The Coldest December short story collection was written by Annemarie Hartnett. Here is the biography that accompanied her submission.

First published in 2006, Annemarie Hartnett has written stories under various pseudonyms in just about every genre. Her young adult historical romance set during the Halifax Explosion can currently be read at Watttpad. A Mount Saint Vincent University graduate, she grew up in Halifax, where she still lives, and works in the non-profit sector.

Find more about her writing and what she’s working on next by visiting her website Annemarie Hartnett.

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Halifax Explosion Remembrance Book

On December 6, 2019, the twin cities of Halifax and Dartmouth will mark a devastating event in their histories. On that morning in 1917, a cataclysmic event occurred, leaving large sections of the two cities in ruins. It would go down in history as the largest man-made explosion of its time and would remain there until the atomic bomb in 1945.

The SS Imo, a Norwegian vessel chartered to transport relief supplies overseas, struck the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship en route from New York to France. Loaded with wartime explosives, the Mont-Blanc caught fire. It raged out of control and ignited the cargo.

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The Coldest December – Halifax Explosion Short Story Collection

The short story collection to mark the 100th anniversary (December 6, 2017) of the Halifax Explosion will be called The Coldest December.

Here is a mock-up of the cover. (subject to change)

Quarter Castle Publishing will release The Coldest December in November 2017. It will contain short stories written by Nova Scotia authors. The book will also include information and photographs to help explain the tragic events that changed the lives of thousands of people and decimated the shorelines of the twin cities, Halifax and Dartmouth.