The only ship still afloat that survived the Halifax Explosion is rusting away – Nova Scotia

The “Grand Old Lady” of Halifax harbour is running out of time. 

Corrosion, marine growth on the hull and leaky decks are eroding away the 104-year-old CSS Acadia bit by bit. 

“I just think it’s shameful,” said heritage consultant David Flemming.

He’s a member of the group trying to save the Acadia and worked for years as curator of collections and director at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the ship’s caretaker.

“I won’t even go aboard her now. I haven’t been on board the ship for five years. It’s just too depressing.”

Flemming is part the Oceans Association, a group run out of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, N.S., that is pressing the provincial government to fix the Acadia, which is recognized as a national historic monument.

The Acadia is the only ship still afloat to have survived the Halifax Explosion a century ago. (Cassie Williams/CBC)

The Acadia is unique. Designed to map coastal areas, the vessel is thought to be the only Canadian ship still afloat today to have served in both the First World War, when it guarded Halifax harbour, and the Second World War.

It’s also the only ship still afloat to have survived the Halifax Explosion a century ago. On that morning of Dec. 6, 1917, the Acadia was in the southeast corner of the Bedford Basin, between what’s now the MacKay Bridge and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

Frank Baker was a sailor on board when the blast happened. In his diary he wrote about a “shower of shrapnel” that shattered the glass in the ship’s engine and chart rooms.

“It was the greatest miracle in the world that we were not all killed,” wrote Baker. 

Frank Baker’s diary entry. He served on the Acadia at the time of the Halifax Explosion. (Courtesy of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum)

2013 assessment outlines serious problems

After the explosion, the Acadia continued its hydrographic work, charting Atlantic Canada and the Eastern Arctic for another half century.

“Acadia, from my perspective, is probably one of the gems of historical artifacts in Nova Scotia, if not the country,” said Flemming.

These days, the Acadia is a floating museum at the Halifax waterfront. Visitors can tour the main deck, but lower decks are now off limits due to mould.

The ship’s last condition assessment was done in 2013 for the Department of Transportation. It found the Acadia in decent shape for its age, but there were serious problems that needed to be fixed in order to keep it…

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