Monday, October 21, 2013

Halifax, part two

We headed out to Mahone Bay and Lunenburg after leaving the Swiss Air memorial site.
Mahone Bay is a very lovely little town sitting at the end of the bay.  There is a famous wooden ship/schooner there called the Bluenose II,  which won many races in the region.

 Lunenburg is an historic town located on the Fairhaven Peninsula at the western side of Mahone Bay.  It was established in 1753 and is a terrific example of a planned British colonial settlement.  In 1995 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

The planned town layout had geometrically regular streets, 7 blocks of north-south streets, intersected at right angles by 9 east-west streets, which then created blocks with 14 lots each.  Only one section was not divided into lots, and this served as a public parade ground. Each settler was given a town lot and also a "garden" lot outside the town limits.  

The setting and layout of Lunenburg has changed only minimally since 1753, giving the town a very high authenticity. The city was and remains today, a successful center for ship building and fish processing. 

Given the distance from Halifax, as well as some of our other stops on this tour, we did not have time to stop and walk around.  Our guide did drive us through most of the grid streets of the town, and we got a good feel for its layout and cohesive architecture. We also had a great opportunity to take some pictures of the town from across the narrow part of Mahone Bay.  

We headed back to Halifax and our last stop before getting back onboard the ship was the Fairhaven Cemetary, the site of the Titanic graves of 150 mostly unclaimed bodies plucked from the icy waters by two ships dispatched from Halifax, the morning after the sinking of the "unsinkable" Titanic.

For me, this was the highlight of the day.  Like many, I've always been fascinated by the story of the Titanic, and it's also one reason I'm so in love with cruising as a means of travel. 

Our guide showed us how the rows of numbered and named grave stones are laid out in the form of a ship's bow on its side, and that there is a grave stone with the name J. Dawson (word has it James Cameron said the name he chose for one of his main characters in the movie is simply a coincidence, but our guide doesn't believe that for a second).  We also learned that most of the bodies recovered in the waters were first and second class passengers, as most 3rd class passengers were locked or stuck below decks during the sinking of the ship.  The few bodies that were found floating and identified as 3rd class passengers were, initially, thrown back into the water, until the rescue ship's captain put a stop to that.  

Even in rescue operations, class distinctions and protocols were followed.  First class passenger bodies were placed into wooden coffins, second class were placed into body bags, and until they stopped it, the third class passengers were plucked from the water, heavy sacks of sand were tied around their ankles, and then they were thrown back into the ocean and the bodies sunk.

Over 200 bodies were recovered. The recovery workers used a new technology, an improved type of photography, to photograph the bodies.  Pictures were shown to families trying to find their loved ones, and 50 bodies were claimed in this manner, and removed for burial elsewhere, by their families.  

Many of the graves remain unmarked with a only the number identifying in what order they were retrieved from that icy cold ocean,  on a bright, sunshine-filled day, April 16, 1912.  May they all rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You really saw a lot in + around Hallifax.

    Your description of the cemetary and the class system which determined how the bodies were handled was very poignant.

    May all the dead from both the Titanic and the airplane crash and their families be at peace.