"If you can't say something, you can't think it."

Welcome to HalifaxExplosion.net / SVP Productions

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HalifaxExplosion.net (click or scroll down this page):

features Scapegoat, the extraordinary legal proceedings following the 1917 Halifax Explosion, a book by Joel Zemel; contains images and reading material related to the 1917 disaster, including early history of the Royal Canadian Navy, the RNCC and HMC Dockyard, articles by H. B. Jefferson, Rear-Admiral Bertram Chambers, Michael Dupuis, Janet Maybee, Garry Shutlak of the Nova Scotia Archives, commentary on several re-discovered photographs of the explosion by Lt. Victor Montague Magnus.

Several pages entitled "The Anatomy Of A Disaster" - the evolution of a year's research into numerous archival photographs associated with the disaster, and to debunk the myths and correct numerous misconceptions surrounding images of the Halifax Explosion blast cloud.

SVP Productions (svpproductions.com):

an active website since 1999, features information on documentaries by Joel Zemel, Nell Shipman (filmmaker), James Barry (fiddle player), Elizabeth Styring Nutt (artist), and Jazz Guitar information and Resources. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of "Walter Borden Reads Sonnets by William Shakespeare," SVP Productions is offering a download of the original CD in mp3 format free of charge. See the link below.

Joel Zemel is the historical and design consultant for Canada Post Corporation's Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Stamp. The OFDC will be released to the general public in November of 2017. Mr. Zemel's name is also listed on HRM Archives' List of Professional Researchers.

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SCAPEGOAT (second ed.) by Joel Zemel has won the prestigious international John Lyman Book Award in the category "Canadian Naval and Maritime History" for books published in 2016. The John Lyman Book Awards are given annually by the North American Society for Oceanic History to recognize excellence in published books making a major contribution to the study and understanding of maritime and naval history. They are named after Professor John Lyman of the University of North Carolina and are presented in six categories:

Canadian naval and maritime history
U.S. naval history
U.S. maritime history
History of maritime science and technology
Maritime biography and autobiography
Maritime reference works and published primary sources

Announcements of winners of the various awards will be published in the following publications: the Society for Military History, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the Canadian Nautical Research Society. The awards are given out annually by the North American Society for Oceanic History.

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New book by Joel Zemel (click image for details).


Official First Day Cover of Canada Post Corporation's
100th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion Commemorative Stamp


Leon Matthys, His Honour, Lieutenant Governor Arthur J. LeBlanc, and Joel Zemel
at stamp unveiling, Government House, 6 November 2017

Leon Matthys, Joel Zemel, and His Honour, Lieutenant Governor Arthur J. LeBlanc

Illustrator, Mike Little (l) and Joel Zemel (r)

New information on Halifax Explosion photographs. Recently discovered by Leon Matthys, they were first presented
by Alan Ruffman at the Canadian Nautical Research Society (CNRS) Conference on 11 August 2017.

A short commentary of the circumstances leading up to the explosion.

Janet Kitz and Joel Zemel, December 2015
(courtesy of the MMA)

Scapegoat Probes Explosion Fallout

Read a review in the Chronicle Herald (30/11/15) by John Boileau.

Read an article in Halifax Magazine regarding a new book by Michael Dupuis about journalists
who covered the Halifax Explosion, Bearing Witness (Fernwood Publishing).
The book is scheduled for release in 2017.

Read an article by Peter Mallett in CFB Esquimalt's Lookout magazine
concerning Michael's newly published book Bearing Witness.

"The Importance of the 1917 Halifax Explosion."

Kjetil Saugestad and Per Hunstok.

An open letter to the people of Halifax regarding the destruction of our Heritage Properties by developers. Listen to the interview with Rick Howe 20/10/16 (click here)

A letter to Waye Mason, Mayor Savage and Premier McNeil regarding the overly bright and glaring and obsolete LED lighting system pervading the city.

Thirty sonnets by William Shakespeare set to fourteen guitar etudes by Fernando Sor performed by actor Walter Borden and classical guitarist Paul Martell. Originally recorded in 1998. Copyright Joel Zemel. Producer: Joel Zemel; Studio: SVP Productions; Cover painting by Kathy Seaboyer. Click on the CD cover image for link to the mp3 file.



SCAPEGOAT - the extraordinary legal proceedings following the 1917 Halifax Explosion is a self published monograph by Joel Zemel. Books can be purchased directly from the author. The book is housed at the Law Library at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, the Nova Scotia Archives, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and several libraries in Canada. Copies for borrowing and reference can be found at Halifax Public Libraries throughout HRM. Bibliography: a list of reference material used during research for the book. See "Scapegoat Summary" at the bottom of the page.

Joel Zemel's name is included on the List of Professional Researchers at the HRM Municipal Archives website. (top of page)


The Anatomy Of A Disaster - the evolution of a year's research by Joel Zemel and Pierre Richard that aimed to debunk the myths and correct numerous misconceptions surrounding photographs depicting the Halifax Explosion blast cloud. (top of page)


A 1958 article from the Atlantic Advocate, "Day of Disaster" by H. B. Jefferson. Surprisingly enough, the premise of this article was based on a typing error in the Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry transcripts. Commander Wyatt's crucial third letter to Captain Superintendent Edward H. Martin was written on 15 September 1917, not 1915. Notwithstanding, the piece is well-written, informative and reads like a summary of The Town That Died; Michael J. Bird's groundbreaking book released just four years later. A biography of H. B. Jefferson from the Public Archives of Nova Scotia (PANS) website. (top of page)


A visual methodology by Joel Zemel regarding a Photoshop experiment to enhance a photograph of Captain Haakon From found by Norwegian journalist, Kjetil Saugestad, in a 1917 edition of Sandefjord Blad. (top of page)


"Anonymous" article entitled "Halifax Explosion" by Rear Admiral Bertram Mordaunt Chambers, the Royal Navy's port convoy officer, in which he vividly describes his experiences and the condition of Halifax Harbour on the morning and afternoon of 6 December 1917. From the Naval Review (1920) Vol. VIII, No. 3, pp. 445-457. Retrieved from The Naval Review website. (top of page)


SS Mont Blanc crew manifest, 9 November 1917. The officers and men listed here were the exact same that left for Halifax on 1 December. SS Imo crew manifest, 2 August 1917. Both manifests were retrieved from the Ellis Island Datadase website. (top of page)


An article in the National Post on the deconstruction of Halifax's Ground Zero and the blighting of the view from Needham Park. (top of page)


"The Persecution of Pilot Mackey" by Janet Maybee - an article first published in the Northern Mariner / le marin du nord; Apr., 2010, Vol. XX Issue 2, p. 149-173. Janet Maybee (used with permission). Segment of an interview (RT - 6:45) with 86 year-old Francis Mackey conducted by Bob Cadman. Originally aired in 1958 on CBC Radio. (top of page)


The decision delivered by Justice Drysdale at the Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry, 4 February 1918. In the Exchequer Court of Canada, Nova Scotia Admiralty District, "Claim vs. Imo" and "Counter-claim vs. the Mont Blanc, decision of Mr. Justice Drysdale (1918), (Appeals Book: Imo vs. Mont Blanc, Vol. 1). (top of page)


Justice Benjamin Russell's reflections on the cases which were brought before him in 1918; from his autobiography, The Autobiography of Benjamin Russell (Halifax, N.S., Royal Print & Litho, 1932)). (top of page)


"Mont Blanc vs. Imo" - Reasons for Judgment and the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada (19 May 1919), (Appeals Book: Imo vs. Mont Blanc, Vol. 1) (Photograph: Chief Justice Sir Louis Davies). (top of page)


"Imo vs. Mont Blanc" - Reasons for Judgment and the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (22 March 1920), can be found online at the British and Irish Legal Information Institute website (Photograph: Lord John Atkinson). (top of page)


Walter G. MacLaughlan - A brief biography of the photographer and filmmaker whose work remains a definitive study of the devastation following the Halifax Explosion. (top of page)


The Revised Statutes of Canada, 1906, proclaimed and published under the authority of the act 3 Edward VII., chap. 61 (1903) (1906). Volumes 1-4 can be found online at the Archive.org website. (top of page)


A catalogue of photographs, showing the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion. The images, housed at the State Library of Massachusetts, are by Halifax photographers, Walter G. MacLaughlin, Gauvin & Gentzel and others.

Follow this link to large thumbnails and photos on the State Library's Flickr photostream. (top of page)


"A Vision of Regeneration: Reconstruction after the Explosion, 1917-1921" by Garry D. Shutlak, Senior Archivist, PANS - an article featured in Ground Zero, A Reassessment of the 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbour (Ruffman A. & Howell, C., Ed., first published by Nimbus [ Copyright 1994, Gorsebrook Research Institute]) pp. 421-426. Garry D. Shutlak (used with permission). (top of page)


"Thematic Guides / Halifax Explosion" - An important catalogue of archival references from Library and Archives Canada. (top of page)


The Faces of the Halifax Explosion page asks the public for photograph submissions of naval and civilian personnel as well as assistance with the identification of Royal Naval College of Canada (RNCC) cadets and other members of classes from the First Term, 1911 to 1913. (top of page)


Additional Information Related to the 1917 Halifax Explosion. This page contains photographs, maps of general interest as well as archived New York Times articles. (top of page)


Debunking the 13 Mile Myth. This article discusses the myth's origins and endeavours to separate fact and fiction surrounding the location of the person who photographed one the most iconic images associated with the disaster. (top of page)


Descriptions of the blast cloud in its various forms as well as photographs of numerous ships that were in the harbour on the day of the disaster. Many of these vessels can be cross-referenced with descriptions on the MMA website page, "Ships of the Halifax Explosion". (top of page)


Interesting information about the Halifax Explosion is available from the Public Archives of Nova Scotia within their "Online Resources" section. (top of page)


Halifax Explosion - The Manitoba Story - an article by author/historian, Michael Dupuis, on the residual effects of the disaster as news of the event initially filtered into Winnipeg and then to other parts of the province. (top of page)


Photographs from the HMCS Niobe Collection. Several images from a series of postcards housed at Library and Archives Canada of the Diadem Class cruiser ca. 1914-1915 depicting daily navy life. (top of page)


"Historical Distortions and Errors in the Film Shattered City" - In 2003, the then curator of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Dan Conlin, wrote a small piece on his website as a response to the gross historical inaccuracies contained within this two-part television presentation. Although admittedly, the look, sets and acting were quite good in this film, the utter disregard of the facts by an irresponsible screenwriter were inexcusable. The resultant fabrication was, in and of itself, a disaster of epic proportions and a completely botched opportunity to present a Canadian event of national and international importance in a dignified, truthful manner.

The list of historical inaccuracies is virtually unending. However, Dan Conlin touches on four of the most egregious ones. With the approach of the centenary of the Halifax Explosion, people interested in history and especially impressionable school children are reminded stay as far away as possible from this turkey of a film.

And we thought John Wayne as Genghis Khan was as far as one could go when stretching the fabric of believability. (top of page)


"The Prinz Adalbert Iceberg: the iceberg that did not sink the Titanic" - An article by Brian Hill, Alan Ruffman and Rolf-Werner Baak that convincingly debunks the notion that the iceberg spotted on 16 April 1912, and purportedly photographed by the chief steward, M. Linoenewald, of the German steamship, SS Prinz Adalbert, was the same iceberg that sank RMS Titanic. The photograph was accompanied by a statement signed by chief steward, the cook and two other stewards. Although the research was successful, the written statement by the chief steward was unknown to the authors at the time the article was published.

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of the Journal of the British Titanic Society, Atlantic Daily Bulletin, pp. 24-32. (top of page)


Quality colour plates of the City Atlas of Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1878 can be accessed at Library and Archives Canada website. (top of page)


The place of collision between Mont Blanc and Imo is marked by the letter "H" within a circle on the chart, Exhibit MBR/3. This position was noted by Captain Aime le Medec in his testimony on the first day of the inquiry. The location is approximately in mid-channel and slightly above Pier 6. (top of page)


A collection of aerial photographs from the first government flyover of Halifax in 1921. View a collage of all of the photos here (top of page)


A 1957 redevelopment study compiled for the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia authored by Gordon Stephenson. (top of page)


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