The Great Storm of 1703
7th December 1703

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In our contemporary fashion, we are many of us sucked into 'hype' by rolling news headlines and constant, bleeping contact with the outside world. As such, newsmakers adjectivise even trivial events to try and give them import in the competition for our attention. Thus, every storm or flood is "the worst on record" or "the worst seen in generations." And sometimes this is even true. But such hyperbole detracts from truly historical records and is often driven by attempts to tie current events into overarching narratives such as 'climate change.' No such hyperbole need be attached to the Great Storm of 1703, which killed something of the order of 8-15000 lives in two bitter days.

No records of windspeeds exist for this time, so the only remaining record as such is the low pressure recorded - a barometric low touching a possible low of 950mb. It is thought that under such conditions winds may have touched as high a speed as 120 miles per hour.

What is known is that the resulting winds blew the chimney stacks off over 2000 buildings in London. The lead roof of Westminster Abbey was torn away. The West Country was flooded to such an extent that a ship was discovered some fifteen miles inland when the waters finally receded.

Flooding on the Somerset Levels (which would so preoccupy the press in 2014) claimed hundreds of lives. But it was at sea itself that nature dealt its deadliest blows.

On the Goodwin Sands, HMS Stirling Castle, HMS Northumberland, HMS Mary and HMS Restoration were lost, with no fewer than 1500 seamen perishing. The entire 387 crewmen of HMS Mary died without a single survivor making it to shore.

A 130-strong convoy of ships sheltering at Milford Haven was scattered, and over 30 of those ships were lost.

Daniel Defoe was moved to record details of the disaster for posterity and - like today's climate change activists - saw events through a specific prism:

"But if the Atheist is mistaken, he has brought all the Powers, whose Being he deny'd, upon his Back, has provok'd the Infinite in the highest manner, and must at last sink under the Anger of him whose Nature he has always disown'd."

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 6th January 2015 | © Weird Island 2010-2019
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