Tom Lynskey is fascinated by stories of Nova Scotia’s past and is helping bring them to life for millions of viewers on his Part-time Explorer YouTube channel.
Lynskey, an American based in New Jersey, says his obsession with maritime history led him to have a personal connection to the province.
He first visited Nova Scotia in 2017 when he was invited to Halifax by the Titanic Society of Atlantic Canada to give a speech. That’s when he met his future wife, Emma, while walking through the Public Gardens.
“What was going to just be like a one-week trip ended up becoming a regular occurrence for several months until we married,” Lynskey said.
“There’s so many maritime stories up there that I just love to tell. And I kind of fell in love with the story of the SS Atlantic … the day after I met my wife. So, it kind of became personal to me in that regard.”
His production company is called HFX Studios, which stands for historical films and experiences, but he freely admits it is also a play on the popular short form name for Halifax.
Started with the Titanic
Lynskey said his interest in maritime history started, as it did for many other people, with the Titanic.
He said when he was three or four, his father had a plastic model of the ship and let him play with it.
He fell in love with the story after seeing the 1958 film A Night to Remember. He said James Cameron’s film Titanic came out on his birthday when he was in kindergarten in 1997 and that “kind of sealed the deal.”
His videos focus mainly on in-depth looks at maritime history and ghost towns with an occasional foray into other subjects like an unknown man who died in Nevada in 1908 from eating library paste.
He has done multiple videos on the SS Atlantic, which ran aground off Prospect, N.S., in 1873, killing more than 550 people, mainly women and children. His most recent video on that disaster garnered 1.5 million views as of September.
His other Nova Scotia maritime stories include the Mary Celeste, the Dartmouth ferry and the wreck of the sailboat Schwalbe in Feltzen South.
In September, he uploaded “Uncovering the Lost Town of Shulie, Nova Scotia: Nothing Left but Memories,” which features connections to his wife’s family.
Other videos on the White Star Line and the Titanic also have connections to the province.
His videos feature extensive research and interviews with historians and locals.
Many also include computer animations that give viewers a ringside view of events that bring the stories to life.
Emma Lynskey says she has learned more about her home province from her American husband than she did going to school in Dartmouth.
“I think when you live somewhere a lot of people don’t go to the same tourist things that people visiting do,” she said.
“I think a lot of Nova Scotians don’t know [about] everything there.”
She said she had never heard about the SS Atlantic tragedy, which happened near Halifax, before meeting her husband.
Tom Lynskey has a degree in maritime archeology from the University of Southampton, located on England’s southern coast, but doesn’t think it’s his academic background that really connects him with the stories he chooses to cover.
He said he’s interested in the human stories that create an emotional connection to history.
“I see photos of the people, I see everyone who went to school there, who worked there, who died, who fell in love … and I feel like these people deserve for their stories to be remembered,” he said.
“And it becomes special to me that I want to be thorough and accurate and do them justice. I’m there to tell the story. I have fun along the way and, hopefully, my viewers do, too.”
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