HALIFAX -- Almost a century ago, church bells tolled to herald the sombre arrival of cable ships carrying Titanic victims in Halifax harbour.
This morning they will ring again, nearly 100 years to the hour that the great ship vanished from sight, swallowed up by the dark waters of the North Atlantic on a moonless night.
Since the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, Halifax has become a pilgrimage site for history buffs, romantics and those whose ancestors died on the ship. The city is the final resting place for 150 of the Titanic's victims.
Organizers of commemorative events have been working for months to attract visitors to Halifax while maintaining the solemnity of the occasion.
"Keeping the events respectful and meaningful has been our No. 1 priority all along," says Kyla Friel, a spokeswoman for Nova Scotia's Communities, Culture and Heritage Department.
The department has been working closely with the Titanic 100 Society, a non-profit community group, to plan events including public seminars, film festivals and musical performances to mark the centennial.
Some 1,500 passengers and crew members died when the Titanic, the largest ocean liner of its time, collided with an iceberg and went down south of the Grand Banks. There were just over 700 survivors.
"We believe we've struck that balance between commemorating Halifax's connection and along with that, making it a public, free event so that Nova Scotians and visitors can come to Halifax and participate in history," says Friel.
On Saturday evening, a candlelight procession will begin on the city's harbourfront boardwalk outside the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
The museum, which boasts the largest display of wooden Titanic artifacts in the world, launched a new exhibit on cable ships Thursday. The ships were dispatched from Halifax in the days after the sinking to pull bodies from the icy waters.
The procession will wind through downtown Halifax and into Grand Parade, a public square in front of city hall. Some 20 performers, including a barbershop quartet and Symphony Nova Scotia, will play music from the era.
Actor Gordon Pinsent will also tell the story of the Titanic and Halifax's connection to the tragedy, followed by a moment of silence and ringing of church bells at 12:30 a.m.
The timing of the bells is deliberate: the last wireless message to be received from the Titanic at Cape Race, N.L., was recorded at 12:27 a.m.
-- The Canadian Press