What is a Disaster? – Part 2

Making decisions about what songs to include or exclude in this project has certainly illuminated how challenging it can be to draw firm lines around a definition. We have to decide whether to include or exclude songs about disasters affecting civilians but that may have been (or were) caused by war. For example, the Newfoundland-Nova Scotia ferry, The Caribou, was torpedoed in 1942. Obviously, this is a war-related event, something we have stated explicitly that we would exclude from our project. However, the victims were civilians. The event also inspired several songs, which interests us.

Another example is a song about the Mina Swim, a fishing vessel that simply disappeared during WWI and was presumed to have been sunk by an enemy submarine. But this cannot be confirmed. So we have the suspicion of a war act, but no confirmation.

Another event which inspired a significant number of songs is the 1917 Halifax explosion. A munitions ship in Halifax harbour exploded, killing more than 1,000 civilians and seriously injuring 9,000 more. Not only was this another event affecting more civilians than military personnel, but the explosion was accidental, not an intentional attack of war.

Do we include these events and songs?

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