Collision LogoThe Collision
Part III - The sequence of events leading to the collision?

On December 6, at 7:39, the sun rose in a clear sky over the eastern hills of Dartmouth, cut through the smoke from morning fires and warmed the Halifax shore. Mothers woke their children for breakfast, waved them off to school; and their husbands off to work. Businessmen strolled past shops, offices, and factories where labourers were already hard at work. At the garrisons soldiers had been assigned their duties. In the harbour, sailors readied their ships for the day. At North Street Station passengers awaited the morning trains.

Mont-Blanc leaves McNabs

At 7:30, the Mont-Blanc, under the direction of Francis Mackey and Captain Aime Le Medec, left her anchorage at McNab's Island and headed up the harbour at a speed of six knots. Leading through the submarine nets was an American tramp steamer that had arrived that morning. The steamer was piloted by Edward Renner.

Imo leaves Basin

In Bedford Basin the crew of the Imo had raised the anchor. The Imo was steaming toward the Narrows, Pilot William Hayes was aboard. As the Imo entered the Narrows, she was met by the American tramp steamer just coming around Pier 9 on the Halifax shore, headed for the western edge of the Basin. The protocol for navigation in the harbour required ships to pass starboard to starboard. Pilot Renner had ignored the protocol.

Two blasts came from the Imo to request the steamer change its course to allow the Imo to enter the Narrows in the correct channel. Pilot Renner returned two blasts signaling no change of course. As a result the Imo began its turn into the Narrows, in the Dartmouth channel. Before the steamer entered the basin, Pilot Renner, using a megaphone, cautioned William Hayes that there was another ship coming up the harbour.

Imo avoids the Stella Maris

The Imo cleared the steamer. In short order she was met by the Stella Maris, a tug, pulling two ash scows from the Dockyard along the Halifax shore. Captain Brannen edged the Stella Maris closer to the shore to make way for the Imo. The 400 foot length of the tug with its ash scows caused the Imo to overshoot the turn into the Narrows. The Imo was in danger of grounding.

Captain From ordered the Helmsman, John Johansen, to reverse the engine. The bow of the Imo swung around to the right, making a course adjustment, the Imo remained in the Dartmouth channel.

Mont-Blanc spots Imo

The Imo was at a distance of about three quarters of a mile when Francis Mackey first spotted her. From the wheelhouse of the Mont-Blanc, Mackey saw that the Imo was on a southeast course, that would cut across the bow of the Mont-Blanc. Mackey was disturbed by how quickly the Imo was advancing. He sent a blast of the steam whistle to indicate the Mont-Blanc had the Dartmouth channel.

The Imo responded with two blasts, indicating Captain From meant to hold the Imo on its present course.

A second insistent blast was sent from the Mont-Blanc, now steering at dead slow, tight along the Dartmouth shore.....the Imo responded with two blasts, there would be no change of course.

The Mont-Blanc goes to port

On two blasts from the wheelhouse the Mont-Blanc turned to port crossing the bow of the Imo.

On the Imo, Captain From ordered the "Full Reverse".

The Imo hits the Mont-Blanc

The Imo sliced into the hull of the Mont-Blanc at the number one hold. While the damage to the Mont-Blanc was not severe it toppled barrels that broke open and flooded the deck with benzol.

>>Next • Part IV - Sparks, benzol, fire!