AT irregular periods, mercifully with a lapse of several years between them, storms of wide extent and hurricane force visit our coasts. The violence of these great gales and the enormous area affected by them is out of all proportion to the ordinary "whole gale" of 'which, our coasts have so frequent examples, and which do quite sufficient damage and cause enough hardship and misery to the seafaring population without the necessity of these "Goliaths" among storms coming to show how insignificant are the efforts of the ordinary gale in comparison with that of the hurricane.
The great gale which visited the British Isles on the 17th November, and practically lasted until the 21st, will long be remem- bered by the ROYAL NATIONAL LIFE-BOAT INSTITUTION, for it was one of the worst of these exceptional storms ever experienced, and there was no part of the coast of Great Britain that did not feel the effect of it. North, east, south, and west, the Life-boats were called out to the assist- ance of vessels in distress, and to give some idea of the range of this storm, we may mention that'on the 18th November the following Life-boats were out:—St. Ives (in Cornwall), Broughty Ferry (mouth of the Tay), Holyhead, Scarborough, Strom- ness (in the Orkneys), and North Deal (in Kent). Many other Life-boats were also engaged in their work of rescue, but we select the above six on account of their geographical position to emphasize what we say about the gigantic area affected.
The wreck service return gives the follow- ing direction of the wind and state of the sea at these places, viz.:— St. Ives. . . K.W., strong gale, heavy sea.
Broughty Ferry N.E., hurricane, heavy sea.
Holyhead . . N.N.W., hurricane, very heavy sea.
Scarborough . N.N.B., hurricane, heavy sea.
gtromness . . N.E., gale.
Deal . . . N., whole gale, very heavy sea.
From which it appears the general direction of the wind was between N.W.
and N.E., and although the south coast of England first got the gale from the S.W. on the 17th, it speedily shifted to the northward, and from that quarter it blew until its force was exhausted on the 20th November.
A glance at the interesting and in- structive weather charts, issued by the Meteorological Office, will show the peculiar features of this destructive storm. On the 16th November, at 6 P.M., a deep depression was rapidly approach- ing the south coast of Ireland from'the S.W.; this was the first indication of " the approach of the enemy." By 8 A.M. on the 17th the centre of the storm was over the west of Scotland, the barometer registering 28'6, the rate of progression of the centre having been about 24 miles an hour since its appearance off the south of Ireland. That is to say, the storm was travelling on its path then at the rate of 576 miles a day; the force of the wind in that storm attaining the un- precedented (in the British Isles) velocity of 115 miles per hour in the squalls, and in several places keeping up the terrific rate of 95 miles an hour for several consecutive hoiiis. Now when one comes to think that the velocity of the wind in an ordinary whole gale is 40 to 50 miles an hour, and what difficulty is experienced in walking along an exposed coast under these con- ditions, or still more, of launching a Life- boat from an open beach and pulling out through half-a-mile or more of broken water in the teeth of such a gale, one can then form some sort of comparison in one's mind as to what was experienced by numbers of the Life-boat crews who were actually out on service, with the wind blowing at the velocity of over 90 miles an hour! To continue the course of the storm from where we left its centre on the 17th at 8 A.M., we find, by reference again to those invaluable meteorological charts, that by 6 P.M. on that day the centre had travelled on in a N.E. direction until it FBBBUABY, 1894.] THE LIFE-BOAT.
547 was off the N.B. coast of Scotland, not far from Wick. And now occurs a very remarkable and disastrous change in its course; for, as if dissatisfied with the amount of wreck and havoc left in its wake, the course of the centre of the storm suddenly deflects, and from 6 P.M.
on the 17th to 8 A.M. on the 18th it travelled in a S.S.E. direction until arriving off the Yorkshire coast, when it again changed course to the eastward, moving over to the Continent; and we find, by 8 A.M. on the 19th, the centre had arrived in Northern Germany, from whence it passed on into Central Europe on the 20th, and so on to Eussia. This deflection was very unusual, and we look forward with much interest to what the Meteorological Office will have to tell us about it. In the meantime we must be content with our own imperfect theories on the subject, which are not founded on sufficiently scientific grounds to advance them in print. It is, we believe, not alto- gether uncustomary for the path of the cyclones which visit the Indian Ocean to take this peculiar tarn when off Mauritius, and it is said that many ships, on this account, have sailed right into the centre of the storm, after having skilfully avoided it on its first course by correct observance of the well-known rules, but were caught by this peculiar action of the cyclone in doubling back on its track.
The effect on our weather Toy this countermarch performed by the storm was to prolong its disastrous conditions for another two days; for, had the centre taken its usual course and travelled on in a N.E. direction across the North Sea, there is no doubt that by noon on the 18th the force of the storm would have been over, as far as it concerns our islands, and many a ship which had weathered its first fury, but through the prolongation of the gale ultimately was lost, would have escaped. Many a human being would have been saved from drowning, or spared the hours of suffer- ing and agony endured whilst clinging to their ship in the bitter north wind that was blowing on the night of the 18th and the morning of the 19th of November; and, although the annals of Life-boat •work have been much enriched by the many gallant rescues made on those days, it must not be forgotten that these are not effected without much hardship and physical pain being endured by the Life- boats' crews. A night spent in a Life- boat—which, we must remember, is an open boat—on an outlying sand, waiting for an opportunity to take the crew off a vessel over which the sea is making a clean breach, is not easily forgotten; or a repeated succession of launches from a flat beach into broken water, and the tussle which invariably follows the launch to pull out to a stranded vessel, each breaker getting heavier and heavier the further you get from the shore, is not perhaps quite what would be described as pleasure, after the first half-hour of the novelty of the thing has worn off! In such a manner were a large proportion of the crews that man the Life-boats of the rOTAL NATIONAL LIFE-BOAT INSTI- TUTION engaged between the 17th and 21st of November last. Eighty - two launches were made, resulting in 208 lives being rescued and 6 vessels saved, a result, we believe, which surpasses any previous record of Life-boat work done within a period of four days.
Every one—especially those connected with the sea—will join us in hoping that the next of these great storms will put off its visit for an indefinite period, the longer the better! Not only has the loss of life and the damage done to ship- ping been appalling, but among the depre- dations of this unwelcome visitor are to be counted thousands and thousands of the finest trees in Scotland laid low, and plantations to fill up the gaps made by the celebrated " Tay Bridge gale" have been completely levelled to the ground! By the kind permission of the Daily Graphic we reproduce a track-chart of the storm, showing its path from the Bahamas to Great Britain, which, it will be seen, it accomplished in ten days that is to say, travelling about 400 miles a day or 17 knots an hour, about the speed of the ordinary fast Transatlantic steamers.
We also quote the Daily Graphic account of an extremely interesting paper read by Mr. Charles Harding at the meeting of the Royal Meteorological Society on the 20th December, the statistics given in this paper being of absorbing interest to all whose attention has been arrested by the character of this great gale, some of the proceedings of which we have attempted to point out:— like the shot of a gun, and the -wind afterwards attained the very high rate of 90 miles and upwards in the hour for five consecutive hours. At Holyhead the storm was terrific. The anemometer recorded a wind velocity of 89 miles in the hour, and it was 80 miles or above for eleven hours, while many of the gusts were at the rate of 115 miles an hour; and at Fleetwood a squall occurred with the wind at the rate of 120 miles in the hour. The gale was blowing constantly over the British Islands for four and a half days, and at Holyhead the full force 60 ' 50 4O _30 SO WEST IO LONG.
(The figures indicate the position ol the centre of the storm at noon of each day.) THE TRACK OF THE CHEAT STORM OF NOVEMBER LAST.
" Last night Mr. Charles Harding read a paper at the meeting of the Royal Meteorological Society on the great storm of the 16th to 20th November. He said the storm was unquestionably the most violent of recent years, and, so far as anemometrical records were concerned, the wind attained a greater velocity than had previously been recorded in the British Islands, but the record could only be con- sidered to satisfactorily represent the country during the last quarter of a century.
" The velocity of the wind was 96 miles in the hour from 8.30 to 9.30 P.M. in the Orkneys, where the hurricane burst with such suddenness that it was described as of a gale (45 miles an hour) was main- tained for seventy-six hours, while the force of a whole gale (65 miles an hour and upwards) was maintained for thirty- one hours, and for the four and a half days the mean hourly velocity was 54 miles. The storm was felt over the entire area of the United Kingdom, and the wreck returns showed that disasters had occurred with almost equal frequency on all coasts. Four weeks after the storm the official records courteously furnished by the Board of Trade gave the total loss of life on our coasts as 335, while there were 140 vessels which had been abandoned, or had foundered, stranded, or met with other severe casualty, involving either loss of life or saving of life by some extraneous assistance. There were 600 lives saved on our coasts by aid of the Life-boat Institution and other means.
The gale was most severe on the 18th November, when upwards of 170 lives were lost and 330 lives were saved, while 71 vessels either foundered or met with serious casualty involving loss or saving of life. There were still about 21 vessels, many of which were large steamers, posted on the overdue list. The storm had been tracked from the neighbour- hood of the Bahamas on the 7th November, across the Atlantic and over the British Islands to Central Europe on November 20th. The Cunard steam- ship Lucania was under the influence of the storm during the whole of her passage from New York to Liverpool, having travelled eastward with the storm system.".