by Natura Naturans
Great Storm of 1703, UK.
While we soak in storm footage this week, imagine this storm!
Back when CO2 levels were ideal, the UK was hit by a monster nine-day storm: at least 8,000 dead, maybe as many as 15,000 people. Some 2,000 chimney stacks were blown down and 4,000 oak trees were lost in the New Forest alone. About 400 windmills were destroyed, with “the wind driving their wooden gears so fast that some burst into flames”. The worst toll was probably on ships — with some 6,000 sailors thought to be lost. As many as 700 ships were heaped together in the Pool of London, one ship was found 15 miles (24 km) inland. A ship torn from its moorings in the Helford River in Cornwall was blown for 200 miles (320 km) before grounding eight hours later on the Isle of Wight.
The storm uprooted thousands of trees; blew tiles from rooftops, which smashed windows in their paths; and flung ships from their moorings in the River Thames. A boat in Whitstable, Kent was blown 250m inland from the water’s edge.
As Britain slept, the wind lifted and dropped chimney stacks, killing people in their beds. It blew fish out of the ponds and onto the banks in London’s St James’s Park, beat birds to the ground and swept farm animals away to their deaths. Oaks collapsed and pieces of timber, iron and lead blasted through the streets. The gales blew a man into the air and over a hedge. A cow was blown into the high branches of a tree. Lightning kindled fires in Whitehall and Greenwich. From the hours of five in the morning until half past six, the storm roared at its strongest. It is thought between 8,000 and 15,000 people in total were killed.
At the time, the country was in the so-called Little Ice Age.
“It’s quite possible that the chilliness may well have contributed to the storm, but like all these things they are multi-causal,” says Wheeler. “Certainly as far as the British Isles were concerned, the 1680s and 1690s were arguably the coldest two decades since the ice retreated about 12,000 years ago.”
Nearly one third of the British Navy drowned
Close to a third of the entire British Navy were drowned during the storm, as ships were driven as much as 15 miles inland. Many ships disappeared forever. Others washed up on the shores of Denmark and Norway.