OK, so the trip has commenced. Not much to report on yesterday which was a travel day except you start to understand just how big Canada is. The flight which was direct, took four hours and ten minutes going east which means we had the winds behind us. There is a three hour time difference between the provinces of Alberta and Nova Scotia which is where Halifax is. To fly the full breadth of Canada would take you just under six hours so she is much bigger than the US and Australia. North to South, I am not too sure but it is not inconsiderable.
We got in at 9.00pm and were met by Allan who is a former work colleague from Calgary. Allan, his wife Paige, one year old son Emmett and Coco their Cocapoo moved to Halifax eight weeks ago for work and also to be closer to their families. These hardy souls drove across taking ten days and towing their other car on a trailer – this is no mean feat especially with a ten month old on board. They took a few days off in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Toronto, Ontario for some much needed R&R. Overall their move went rather well moving into their new home and furniture arriving in one piece plus Paige starting back at work after a years maternity leave.
Coco and Toque were the best of mates, so when the guys moved we had to break this very special bond the two of them had. There was the thought of bringing Toque with us as Paige and Allan had succumbed to her charms but it would have been a bit logistically difficult plus Simon our house sitter wanted to get a head start on bonding with her before Joannie arrives on the 2nd April. There appears to be a competition as to who she will bond with best. Toque had also undergone major dental work a week before we left so was in no fit state to travel. She is recovering well and nearly back to her chirpy, mischievous self.
So after a rather late start which we are blaming on jet lag, we took off to the city of Halifax. We are staying on the north side of the harbour from the city in a bedroom suburb called Dartmouth. The population of Halifax is approximately 400,000 and the capital of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia means New Scotland which tells you a number of kilt wearers settled here.
Halifax is a major economic centre in Atlantic Canada with a large concentration of government services and private sector companies. Major employers and economic generators include the Department of National Defence, Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University, the Halifax Shipyard, various levels of government, and the Port of Halifax. Agriculture, fishing, mining, forestry and natural gas extraction are major resource industries found in the rural areas of the municipality.
We had great plans today to do the Maritime Museum and walk down to Pier 21 where the Immigration Museum is. As they say, “All good plans of mice and men” went very astray with the delayed commencement hour and after catching a bite to eat and then the rather cute ferry across the harbour we only made it as far as the Maritime Museum. Good reason for getting no further was that we found it extremely interesting and that is coming from Museum luddites.
Halifax has a huge connection with the North Atlantic as you can imagine and fishing here use to provide the economic backbone but unfortunately the Grand Banks were fished out of the cod and now there is a moratorium on fishing. That’s not to say that fishing still doesn’t occur but not on the commercial scale that there use to be.
Between the period of 1912 to 1917 Halifax experienced two very major events. The first we all know about but not how it related to the city.The first of these events was the sinking of the Titanic off the coast of Nova Scotia. Actually, it was about 400 miles off the coast and took quite the time to get to the site by the cable laying ships based in Halifax. Of its 2,228 passengers and crew, 1,518 lost their lives. Of the 209 bodies brought to Halifax, 150 were laid to rest in three cemeteries in Halifax. The display of Titanic memorabilia was impressive and well worth the visit.
The second event was in December 1917 which saw one of the greatest disasters in Canadian history, when the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship carrying munitions, collided with the Belgian Relief vessel SS Imo in “The Narrows” between upper Halifax Harbour and Bedford Basin. The resulting explosion, the Halifax Explosion, devastated the Richmond District of Halifax, killing approximately 2,000 people and injuring nearly 9,000 others. The blast was the largest artificial explosion before the development of nuclear weapons.Significant aid came from Boston, strengthening the bond between the two coastal cities. As a thank you and to this day the citizens of Halifax send down the Christmas Tree to the city of Boston.
This exhibit in the museum was excellent and gave us a true understanding of the scale of the devastation. It is said to be the largest mass blinding due to all the glass fragments as many people stood at their windows to see the initial burning of the Mont Blanc which of course then exploded.
We also saw the very famous Blue Nose II schooner which happened to be in the harbour. There is a fairly lengthy history on the Blue Nose but to condense it into a few words, the Canadians beat the Americans. I will go more into it later as we will see it again in a few days.
I would be remiss though in not mentioning that to this day the Blue Nose still appears on the dime (10 cent piece for the antipodeans).
So you can see why we did not get very far on our first day. We did make it though a little further down the road to the Alexander Keith brewery where we went for a tour and the odd pint or two.
Paige, Allan and Emmett then picked us up in the city by which time our feet were sore and took us for an orientation drive around the major areas of interest. Eastern Canada is so different from Western Canada as there is a real depth of history here. So that is enough for our blog today – hope it wasn’t too intense.