Collision LogoThe Collision
• How did the Collision occur?
• Part I - The ships, their origins and their destinations.

  The Mont-Blanc

The Mont-Blanc   The Winifred

The Mont-Blanc, (left) was pressed in to service to carry much needed munitions to France.
The Winifred, (right) an American vessel was similar in size and design.
(©2000-06 Maine Maritime Museum)

  The Mont-Blanc was a French general cargo and munitions ship owned by Cie Generale Transatlantique. It was 320 feet long, had a width of 44.8 feet,and a depth of 15.3 feet. The ship had a gross tonnage of 3121 tonnes, a net cargo capacity of 2252 tonnes. The Mont-Blanc was powered by steam and pushed through the water with a single screw. Captain Aime Le Medec was in command of a crew of 41 French sailors.

  On December 1, 1917, at 11:00pm, the Mont-Blanc sailed in darkness from Gravesend Bay, New York. Its only protection - two guns, one 90mm gun on the bow and a 95mm gun mounted on the stern. In the preceding weeks, the cargo holds had been lined with wood held in place with copper nails to prevent sparks. The ship was filled with explosives, on deck and below. In the holds 2366.5 tons of picric acid, both wet and dry, 250 tons of TNT, 62.1 tons of gun cotton. Secured on the deck, 246 tons of benzol in barrels. For the deck guns approximately 300 rounds, some on deck, some stored below. While it was common for ships to carry a significant bulk of explosives it was usually mixed with regular cargo. The war effort in France hung on the availability of munitions. As a safety precaution the explosives were separated by wooden partitions, and the crew were forbidden to smoke, to carry matches or have liquor on board.

  By comparison the Mont-Blanc was a slow ship, under the current load she was unable to keep up with the larger and faster ships due to leave New York. The Mont-Blanc was directed by the British Naval Authority to steam to Halifax to join the next available convoy for Bordeaux.

The Imo

The Runic
The SS Imo served as a supply ship for the Belgian Relief Commission.

  The Imo, formerly named the Runic, originally served as a livestock carrier under the White Star Line. In 1912 it was registered to the South Pacific Whaling Company out of the port of Christiana, Norway, as a supply ship. In 1917 the Imo sailed as a charter for the Belgian Relief Commission, it was neutral and sailed alone. Painted on its side were the words "Belgian Relief" to protect it from German Submarines. The Imo powered by steam with a single screw had a gross tonnage of 5043 gross, a net tonnage of 3161 tonnes. It was 430.7 feet long, 45.2 feet wide, and had a depth of 30.3 feet. The Imo under the command of Captain Haakon From was sailed by a crew of thirty-nine.

  The Imo was powered by a triple expansion steam engine, it was strong and efficient. On its drive shaft was a 20 foot right-hand propeller that made 60 revolutions per minute. The propeller gave the ship a "transverse thrust", while making headway the ship veered to the left, in reverse it swung to the right. While this setup gave the Imo a full ocean speed of 12 knots, it became a disadvantage navigating in tight quarters such as the Halifax Narrows, Due to the combined effect of transverse thrust and the length, and depth of the Imo's hull, and its keel, the Imo was difficult to maneuver. The Mont-Blanc had the same type of engine and propeller setup, with about half the horsepower of the Imo, a smaller slower ship with more maneuverability.

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