The Hurricane at Madras: Wrecks on the Beach Source: the 1850 Illustrated London News. “Our Engraving is from a sketch by Mr. R. S. Chisholm.” [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Article accompanying the engraving in The Illustrated London News

The text below, which appeared on the page beneath the engraving, was created using ABBYY FineReader to render the Hathi Digital Library images into text. — George P. Landow

The terrific storm, which visited Madras ou the night of the 2nd ult., and by which nine English ships and many other vessels were wrecked, has been mentioned among the news from India. It seems to have been a cyclone, of the kind that has frequently been experienced in the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean, but it is sixty years since Madras felt the effects of such a violent and sudden tempest. It was preceded by heavy rain during the whole day and the day before, with strong blasts of wind from the north-east. The ordinary state of the weather at Madras in April and May is perfectly calm. About thirty vessels, English and native, were lying in the roadstead. Only three could hold on to their moorings. The scene at daybreak on the 3rd was frightful. Along the beach, from the railway station to the Presidency College, the foaming surf was lined with piles of wreck. Five or six large ships lay grinding to pieces in the surf, and others were drifting into it, and shared the same fate. The officers and soldiers from Fort St. George, with the aid of many of the townsmen, exerted themselves to save the poor creatures who clustered on the stern of each vessel. The greatest loss of life occurred with the Ardbeg and the Hotspur. The former struck a groin of the pier, and went to pieces almost immediately; only six of her crew were saved. The Hotspur, long a favourite passenger-ship between India and England, settled down about the middle surf, where the sea at once made a clean breach over her. As she drifted stern on, there was great difficult in getting a line on board; and, after this was accomplished, the wrecks nearer shore interfered with the arrangements for landing those in the wreck. Several persons were drowned in their attempts to reach the shore, and when night fell twelve men were still clinging to the wreck. The wind, however, died away about sunset, and they were all taken off alive next morning. The Hotspur was a fine ship of 1200 tons, owned by Mr. T. W. Smith, of London. One of the ships which went on shore, the Sir Robert Seppings, contained 300 Madras coolies for the Mauritius. Fortunately she drove high up, and all were rescued without much difficulty. The Burlington, the John Scott, the Armenian, the Inverness, the Missi, and the Kingdom of Belgium were also destroyed. Our Engraving is from a sketch by Mr. R. S. Chisholm, consulting architect to the Madras Government. It represents the beach opposite Messrs. Parry and Co.’s office when the wind was blowing its hardest. In the foreground lie the remains of the Ardbeg, the John Scott, and the Armenian, with smaller craft. The Hot-Spur is just drifting into the surf, the stern rising to a huge breaker which broke completely over her. On the left is the last vessel which broke away from her moorings, coming helplessly in. At this time the drift rendered it impossible to see anything, exoept from a sheltered nook. Mats and pieces of wood, with spray and rain were driven in en masse in horizontal lines with the most terrific fury. The pier was cut in two by a native ship drifting against it, making a gap of ibout fifty yards. During the storm the lowest barometrical ending was at half-past eight am., 29.288 ; the rainfall, the velocity of wind, fifty-three miles per hour.

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Bibliography

“The Hurricane at Madras.” Illustrated London News (7 December 1850): 436. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 10 December 2015.


Last modified 12 December 2015