Titanic - Halifax Connection
Titanic Artifacts at the Museum
TitanicLinks and Resources
Why is Halifax connected to Titanic?
When Titanic sank, Halifax was the closest major seaport with rail connections. It was the base for ships searching and recovering bodies of Titanic victims. Three ships were dispatched from Halifax, Mackay-Bennett, Minia and Montmagny (along with Algerine from Saint John's, Newfoundland) found almost all of the Titanic victims. Other passing steamships in the North Atlantic found a handful of other bodies, which were immediately buried at sea. This role left Halifax with a legacy of grim memories, recovered wreckage, funerals and gravesites.
If Halifax was so close, why didn't the survivors come there instead of just the victims?
Captain Rostron of the liner Carpathia, who rescued Titanic's survivors, radioed New York that he was considering taking them to Halifax, which would be a logical destination for his overloaded little liner. However, although Halifax was considerably closer, there was still considerable ice between Halifax and his location, so he turned south to New York.
Do you have Passenger and Crew List?
You can view the Passenger and Crew List
How many bodies did they find?
The three ships dispatched from Halifax found 328 bodies:
- Mackay-Bennett found 306
- Minia found 17
- Montmagny found 4
- Algerine found 1
Carpathia, the rescue ship, found 4 bodies and buried them at sea.
Other passing steamers found another five bodies which were all buried at sea:
- Oceanic found 3
- Ilford found 1
- Ottawa found 1
Why so few?
In all only 337 bodies of the over 1500 Titanic victims were found, only one in five. Some bodies sank with Titanic. Winds and currents quickly scattered the remainder. While Mackay-Bennett, the first Halifax ship to arrive on site, recovered a large number of bodies, the ships that followed found bodies and wreckage thinly scattered over many hundreds of miles. The minister aboard Montmagny, the last search ship, also observed in June that the life jackets supporting the bodies seemed to be giving way and releasing bodies to sink.
How many are buried in Halifax?
150 Titanic victims are buried in Halifax. Of the 337 bodies recovered, 119 were buried at sea. 209 were brought back to Halifax. 59 were claimed by relatives and shipped to their home communities. The remaining 150 victims are buried in three cemeteries: Fairview Lawn, Mount Olivet and Baron de Hirsch.
Do you a have a list of Titanic victims buried in Halifax?
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic adapted Bob Knuckle list and posted to this website with his permission. Download and view the of list Titanic Victims Buried in Halifax This list includes all victims buried in Halifax -150 Titanic victims buried in Halifax, the largest number anywhere in the world., arranged by name, with unknown victims listed at the end by number. Another 119 bodies of Titanic victims were recovered but buried at sea and 59 more were shipped home to relatives.
Why were so many buried at sea?
Over a third of the recovered bodies, 119, were buried at sea. Bodies that were damaged or decomposed beyond preservation were buried at sea. In addition, the first Halifax ship to recover bodies, Mackay-Bennett, found so many that her crew ran out of embalming supplies and had to bury many victims at sea as regulations only allowed embalmed bodies to be brought ashore. Not surprisingly, given the class attitudes of the period, it was the bodies of third class and crewmembers who were chosen to be buried at sea.
I have an ancestor who I think sailed in Titanic and may be buried in Halifax. Can you verify this and provide any additional information?
We have placed a list of Titanic Victims as well as a Passenger and Crew List on our website. For further details on victims buried in Halifax, you might want to contact Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management where to original coroner's records are held.
We only have fragments that floated to the surface when Titanic sank in 1912. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, along with most marine museums in the world, belong to the International Congress of Maritime Museums which is opposed to commercial salvage of Titanic. They consider Titanic to be a memorial and archeological site requiring minimal intervention, systematic mapping and sharing of research for scrutiny by archeologists and scientists. Simply retrieving objects destroys much of their value and sets a bad example for other historic shipwrecks, including the ten thousand recorded ship wrecks in Nova Scotia waters.
Where did the museum's Titanic artifacts come from?
Most were donated, and some have been loaned, by descendants of Nova Scotians who were involved in recovering Titanic bodies.
Why did people keep pieces of Titanic wreckage?
The crew of the Halifax ships followed a very old tradition called "wreckwood" of keeping fragments of notable shipwrecks as reminders or commemorative objects. Often anonymous piece of wrecked woodwork were carved into picture frames, paperweights or crib-boards. Some very large pieces of elaborately carved wood and a deckchair were also recovered and kept. These items were not sold commercially but kept by the family of mariners who recovered bodies as reminders of their family role. Today they make up the heart of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic's Titanic exhibit.
Was the museum involved in the making of the James Cameron movie?
No, not directly, although some of the movie was filmed in Halifax. James Cameron visited the artifacts at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic during the production of his movie. He also drew on the knowledge of Ken Marschall, an American Titanic expert, who has studied the museum's Titanic collection and assisted with research. Among other things this permitted accurate replicas of the deckchairs to be constructed and most notably, a replica of a large piece of carved oak panelling to be built. It was used in the climactic death scene in the film where the character Rose clings to floating wreckage.
I want to build a replica Titanic deckchair. Do you have any plans of yours?
We do not have any plans for our Titanic deckchair. You may wish to consult plans which were published in the magazine Popular Woodworking (Issue No. 109) July 1999. While not an exact match for our chair, these plans are a good overall approximation, except for the seat, which should be wickerwork and the decorative star, which should be carved.
I have a book about Titanic that was written in 1912. Is it rare or valuable?
Certainly not rare. Tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of books like these were sold in 1912 and they are still many of them around. There is nothing rare or unique about them, but they have become collectible, given the great interest in Titanic. They may have a very high personal value to families who purchased them back in 1912 and who have cherished them since. The best way to preserve that value is to document its origin and record the family association.
Were they really published in 1912?
Yes. In fact five different book were published within months of the sinking, part of a tradition in the publishing industry of instant books about disasters.
How much are they worth?
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic does not do appraisals. You can find appraisers under "A" in the yellow pages or try a good rare or Second hand bookstore.
Are these books reliable?
Absolutely not. They are basically rewritten newspaper stories, full of wrong numbers, misspelled names, invented and exaggerated episodes. They are valuable as an example of social attitudes and popular culture, but should not be relied upon for any facts.
There are hundreds and hundreds of Titanic websites. These are a selection that the museum has found useful, with an emphasis on those that have information on Halifax and Titanic victims.