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A foggy day in Halifax

© By Mike Keenan
  Halifax was celebrated in the news lately as the venue of international teams vying for hockey's World Cup, our Canadian squad composed of volunteer athletes not otherwise involved in pursuing Lord Stanley's vaunted trophy. I discovered that winter is not the best time to enjoy Halifax. Attending a conference in January, the coldest month, produced painful clues as to why Nova Scotians are referred to as Bluenosers. (It was freezing!) Others, more romantic in their inventions, claim that the term derives from sailor's mittens, coloured blue, so that when the salts rubbed their frosty noses to see if they were still there, the blue dye was cast. In any event, the famous racing schooner was indeed called the Bluenose.
     With only three percent of Canada's population residing in Nova Scotia, there's lots of room compared to denser places such as congested Tokyo (13,416 people per square km) and crowded NYC (10,194.2) Here, you may walk a square km and meet only 17.8 people. Presumably the .8 is a dwarf.
     Space may be a contributing factor. Some say it's the salt air; others the genetic pool. But the important fact for fellow retirees is that Nova Scotia enjoys a population of people over the age of 100 that is seven times the world average, so many Haligonians enjoy a good shot at joining the century club.


     Despite the free space, Halifax is known for its explosive character. In wartime, the protected, ice-free harbour hosted a multitude of naval vessels, cargo ships and ferries. In 1917, the Mount Blanc, a loaded munitions ship, collided with a Belgian vessel named the Imo. A fire ensued, and you may guess the rest. At 9.04 a.m., the largest man-made blast in history spewed red-hot iron and steel on top of the unsuspecting city with a nasty tsunami to follow that obliterated everything within 2 km of the blast. Fifteen hundred people were killed outright; hundreds more succumbed later, with an additional 9,000 injured. 1,630 buildings disappeared; 12,000 were damaged. It was an accident that Haligonians will never forget.
     I visited Fairview Cemetery to observe the results of yet another tragedy associated with Halifax, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Here, I observed 121 headstones in the shape of a ship's hull, the final resting spot for Titanic's many victims. James Cameron, the Canadian movie director and writer, sought out this quiet spot for inspiration before filming the 1997 movie featuring the doomed relationship of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet that won him and his actors 11 Oscars.
     One headstone is entitled, "Erected to the memory of an unknown child whose remains were recovered after the disaster to the 'Titanic,' April 15, 1912." At the base of the monument, rest six stuffed toy animals and flowers wrapped in a plastic bag. Apparently, it's customary for visitors to leave myriad items at these graves.
     Titanic, a passenger liner owned by the White Star Line, was the largest steamship in the world. During her maiden voyage, she struck an iceberg and sank two hours and forty minutes later, resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people, ranking it as one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history. A key item to remember for those who get too big for their boots, is that Titanic was fitted with the most advanced technology available at the time and believed to be "unsinkable" in any weather.
     Nova Scotia is almost an island with no point in the province farther than 60 km from water. That's both good and bad, because the near island is also subject to a battle between the two major ocean currents - the Labrador (cold) and the Gulf Stream (warm) with winds whipping east from the interior to help stir the brew. Fog is a fact of life here. Yarmouth set the record with 85 days in the summer of 1967. So, if you are a retired boxer or football player, the weather here may suit your mental state. Just joking!

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.


Photo Credits
Mike Keenan

If you go
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Regional Municipality of Halifax http://www.halifaxinfo.com/
Destination Halifax: http://www.halifaxinfo.com/
Nova Scotia Department of Tourism & Culture: http://www.halifaxinfo.com/
Wikipedia: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halifax,_Nova_Scotia
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Halifax_(Nova_Scotia)

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