All that remains of a Halifax cathedral following the explosion. (Getty Images)

Three Canadian books mark the centennial of the tragic devastating explosion at Halifax Harbour, which claimed more than 2,000 lives.

On Dec. 6, 1917 a French freighter packed with explosives collided with a Norwegian ship in Halifax Harbour, igniting a man-made blast that wasn't equalled in size until the advent of the atomic bomb, destroying a swath of the city, killing 2,000 and injuring thousands more – including some thrown blocks from where they'd stood seconds earlier.

Two new books mark the centennial of the tragedy, The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon, offering a perspective of international scope and the blast's implications for the future of warfare, and The Halifax Explosion: Canada's Worst Disaster by Ken Cuthbertson, who attempts to get to the bottom of the cause of the collision while recounting the heartbreaking and heroic aftermath. And award-winning Nova Scotia journalist John Demont takes a wider look at the province's history and people through his own life and experiences in The Long Way Home: A Personal History of Nova Scotia.

A version of this article appeared in the November 2017 issue with the headline, "A Century Since," p. 17.

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