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NAUTICAL MONOGRAPHS, No. 5



GREAT STORM



OFF THE



ATLANTIC COAST OF THE UNITED STATES

MARCH 11-14, 1888




LIBRARY



i V



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.

GIF"T OF




Received

Accessions -/Vb.c^^^j^ Shelf No.



-8$



(? < ilili/niii'irj.) Of



t. &.



o



a



a




G. L. DYER. LIEUTENANT, U. S. N.,

Hydrographer to the Bureau of Navigation.



THE GREAT STORM



OFF THE



ATLANTIC COAST OF THE UNITED STATES



11-14, 1888.



BY



EVEEETT HAYDEN,

IN CHARGE OF THE DIVISION OF MARINE METEOROLOGY.




WASHINGTON:
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.

1888.



3540 si






A-



PREFACE.



The accompanying monograph gives a brief but concise account of one of the most notable
storms of this century. In its preparation the primary object has been to preserve the principal
facts in a clear and intelligible form for such deductions as can be drawn from them hereafter.
The work was commenced under the supervision of Commander J. R. Bartlett, U. S. Navy, who
saw the importance of publishing, whenever possible, all data relative to marine meteorology in
order to make them accessible to meteorologists for study and to contributing navigators, who
naturally look for some return for their observations and reports. With this object in view, efforts
have been made to put the Division of Marine Meteorology upon a footing commensurate with the
importance of the subject, and at the same time to insure a certain amount of continuity in the
services of its personnel, without which the successful prosecution of the study of the subject is
impossible. The support of Commodore John G. Walker, U. S. Navy, chief of Bureau of Navi-
gation, who has cordially approved of every effort to increase the efficiency and usefulness of the
Hydrographic Office, both to the naval service and to the merchant marine, has rendered it pos-
sible to carry these plans into effect, although the field covered is so vast that long continued and
persistent effort will be necessary to secure a really effective organization. It will, therefore, be
understood that this account has been prepared under certain difficulties which have delayed its
publication, but which, it is hoped, will not diminish its value. Mr. Everett Hayden, U. S. Navy,
the author of this monograph, as chief of the Division of Marine Meteorology, is the editor of the
Pilot Chart of the North Atlanic Ocean. In addition to the regular four years' course of study
at the U. S. Naval Academy and three years' experience at sea, he has had a tour of duty at the
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and has served with the U. S. Geological Survey and at the
observatory of Harvard University. His assistants have been Ensign Ernest Wilkinson, U. S.
Navy, and Messrs. O'Leary, Lerch, and Duttou, all graduates of the Naval Academy.

GEORGE L. DYER,
Lieutenant, U. S. -.Vary, Hydrographer.

3



WEATHER CHART. MARCH 11.



Meteorological conditions at noon, Greenwich mean time 7 A. M. r 75th meridian time).




/ I / / /

' 232 30lC ,' Jf2 y%



<



A?.' 1




Barometer. Isobars in full black lines for each tenth of an inch, reduced pressure. The trough of low barometer is shown by a line of dashes.
Temperature. Isotherms in dotted black lines for each ten degrees Fahr. Temperatures below freezing (32 F.) in shades of blue, and above freezing in red.
Wind. The small black arrows flv with the wind at the ]>osition where each is plotted. The force of wind is indicated in a general wav bv the number of feathers
on the arrows, according to the scale given in the following table:



PLOTTED OH
CHABT.


FORCE. BY SCALES IN PRACTICAL USE.


POUNDS PKR
SQUARE FOOT.


MILES PER ROCR.


KlLOXETERS PER
HOUR.


METERS PER

SECOND.


013


010


8


7


6


Calm.





li











0.


0.


0.


0.


. 1


1 8


1 - 3


1


1 2


1


0. .40


0. .


0. 14.4


0. - 4.


> i


34


34


1


3 4


8


0.41 2.53


9.1 28. 5


14.5 - .


4.1 10.1


>* 3


57


56


3 4


5


3


2.54 8.90


22. 40.9


36.3 K.I


10.8 18.1


4


8 10


78


5 - 6


6


45


8.21 MO)


40.6 67.5


65.3 10*1,7


18.3 80.1


> 5


11 ri


9 - 10


7 8


7


6


2S. 81 and over.


67.6 and over.


106.8 and O'er.


30.2 and over.



It will l>e noticed that the Beaufort scale (0-12), in general use at sea, has been converted into the international scale (0-10) for the sake of clearness in plotting data
on the chart. The absence of arrows over large areas indicates absence of simultaneous data; at sea, however, this has been partly compensated for in the construction
of the chart l>y mforrnation obtained from journals and special storm reports of vessels in the vicinity.



WEATHER CHART. MARCH 12.



Meteorological conditions at noon, Greenwich mean time (7 A. M., 75th meridian time).



Y /+ / X.. - //7
'

I /




Barometer. Isobars in full black lines for each tenth of an inch, reduced pressure. The trough of low barometer is shown by a line of dashes.
Temperature. Isotherms in dotted black lines for each ten degrees Fahr. Temperatures below freezing (32 F.) in shades of blue, and above freezing in red.
Wind. The small black arrows fly with the wind at the position where each is plotted. The force of wind is indicated in a general way by the number of feathers
on the arrows, according to the scale given in the following table :



PLOTTED ON
CHABT.




FORCE. BT


SCALES IN PRACTICAL CSE.


POUNDS PEE
SQUARE FOOT.


MILKS PER HOI-R.


KILOMETERS PEE

HOUR.


KERBS PER

SECOND.


012


010


0-8


7 6


O Calm.


I


o








o


0.


0. 0.


J 2


34


i a

34


1

2


1 2 1
3 4 2


0. .40
0.41 2. 58


0. _ ..
S.I 2S.5


n. 14.4
14.5 .


0. 4.
4.1 10.1


> " 3


-"> 7


56


3 4


5 8


2.54 8.30


2. 40.5


36.3 65.2


10.2 18.1


4


810


78


5 6


6 4 5


8.M 2B.W 40.6 7.5


5.3 108.7


18.2 80.1


X i


11 12


910


7 8


- 6

1


2S.D1 and over.


67.6 and over.


108.8 mnd orer.


30.2 and over.



It will be noticed that the Beaufort scale (0-12), in general use at sea, has been converted into the international scale (010) for the sake of clearness in plotting data
on the chart. The absence of arrows over large areas indicates absence of simultaneous data; at sea, however, this has been partly compensated for in the construction
of the chart by information obtained from journals and ?pecial storm reports of vessels in the vicinity.



WEATHER CHART. MARCH 13.

Meteorological conditions at noon, Greenwich mean time (7 A. H., 75th meridian time).



i fV

\ I I V / / /




Barometer. Isobars in full black lines for each tenth of an inch, reduced pressure. Tb trough of low barometer is shown by a line of dashes.
Temperature. Isotherms in dotted black lines for each ten degrees Fahr. Temperatures below freezing (32 F.) in shades of blue, and above freezing in red.
Wind. The small black arrows fly with the wind at the position where each is plotted. The force of wind is indicated in a general way by the number of feathers
on the arrows, according to the scale given in the following table :



PLOTTED ON
CHAKT.


FORCE. BY SULKS is PEACTICIL csa.


POUNDS PEE
SOCABI TOOT.


MILES PEE HOC*


KILOMETERS PEE

HOUR.

:


Kims PEE

SECOND.


.-,,.


-10


8 7


(


O Calm
. 1



12 12



1 12



1


0.
0. .40


0.
0. 9.



0. 14.4




0. - 4.


' i


34 S 4 2 J 4


t


0.41 8.58


9.1 22.5


14.5 M.2


4.1 10.1


8 3 -


56 3 4 5 (


2.54 8.80


K.t 40.5


M.S 692


10.2 18.1


4 810


78


5 6 t 4 5


8.S1 88.90


40. 7 .5


65. 1 108.7


18.2 SO.l


* > 11 12


9-10


7 8 7


t


22.91 and over. 97.6 and over.


108.8 and ow


80 . 2 and over.



It will he noticed that the Beaufort scale (0-12), in general use at sea, has been converted into the international scale (0-10) for the sake of clearness in plotting data
on the chart. The absence of arrows over large areas indicates absence of .simultaneous data; at sea. however, this has been partly compensated for in the construction
of the chart I iy information obtained from journals and special storm reports of vessels in the vicinity



WEATHER CHART. - MARCH 14.

Meteorological conditions at noon, Greenwich mean time 7 A. M., 75th meridian time).




Barometer. Isobars in full black lines for each tenth of an inch, reduced pressure. The trough of low barometer is shown by a line of dashes.
Temperature. Isotherms in dotted black lines for each ten degrees Fahr. Temperatures below freezing (32 F.) in shades of blue, and above freezing in red.
Wind. The small black arrows fly with the wind at the position where each is plotted. The force of wind is indicated in a general way by the number of feathers
on the arrows, according to the scale given in the following table:



PLOTTED OK
CHART.


FORCE, BY


SCALES IK PRACTICAL me.


Poems rat

SQUARE FOOT.


MILES pxa HOCK.


KILOMETERS PER

HOUR.


METERS PER

SECOHD.


012 u 10


8 07





O Calm.


a

1-2 12
34 34



1 18
2 3 4



1
2


0.
0. .40
0.41 Z.5S


0.
0. t.
t.l 5.5


0.
0. 14.4
14.5 M.i


0.
0. 4.

4.1 10.1


3


.-, - 7 3-6


3 4 5 t


8.54 8.SO


22. 40.5


M.I 65.!


10. 18.1


" 4


8 10 78


5


4 5


8.S1 M.0


40. 7.5


85.3 108.7


18.9 90.1


* * 5


11 - 910


7-6 7

1


6


29.91 and over.


67.t and over.


108.8 and over.


30. 2 and over.



It will be noticed that the Beaufort scale (0-12), in general use at sea, has been converted into the international scale (0-10) for the sake of clearness in plotting data
on the chart. The absence of arrows over large areas indicates absence of simultaneous data ; at sea, however, this has been partly compensated for in the construction
of the chart by information obtained from journals and special storm reports of vessels in the vicinity.



TRACK CHART.

Positions of the trough of low barometer and tracks of Tel, March 11-14, 1888.



C~~" TOCNDLAWD

\.-M~~J<~-~-JV-



5??^S




Positions at 7 A. M. Greenwich noon) are indicated on the chart by a point; at noon, ship's time, by a small circle.

Black. The line of dashes indicates the position of the trough of low barometer, or the line of sudden change from easterly to westerly winds, with brief intervals
of calm, shifts of wind in heavy squalls of rain or snow, colder, and, finally, clearing weather.

Red. Positions and names of land stations and names and tracks of vessels plotted in red are those whose barometer curves are shown in the accompanying
Barometer Diagram.

Bine. The tracts of certain other vessels from which storm reports have been received are plotted in blue. In addition tit these, however, storm reports have been
received from the following vessels, omitted from the chart in order to avoid confusion :

TraneaUantif fieam*hipt, ttttgrtran? bound: Glendevon, Lydian Monarch, St. Ronans, Werra.

Goatling tleamthipe, bound touth: El Monte. Morgan City, New Orleans. Bound north: Newport.

Sailing rttttis of the toad from Montaut point to cape Canaveral: Spartan, Charles H. Marshall, Caprice, Coryphene, Phebe, Isaac Orbeton, John H. Krantz,
Arcot, Iroquois, Welaka, Serene, Warren B. Potter, Normandy, Lottie Stewart, Melissa Trask, Wilhelm Birkedal, Johanna, James S. Stone, Anita.



BAROMETER DIAGRAM.



Illustrating the fluctuations of the barometer from noon, March 11, to noon, March 14 (75th meridian time).




Barometer Curves. As it is only practicable to illustrate graphically the barometer record* of a few vessels and land stations, the following have been selected
being of special interest; the small circles mark the points of observation :



SIGNAL STATIONS.



Norfolk.
Hatteras
Atlantic City.
New York.
Block Island.
Nantucket.
Yarmouth, N. S.



VESSELS.

British steamship Andes.
American schooner Kensett.
British steamship Lord Clive.
American schooner Lida Fowler.
American schooner George Walker.
British steamship Serapis.
British ship Glenburn.



Barometer Normal. The barometer normal for the 5-square from latitude 35 to 40 N., longitude 65 to 70 W., assumed for the present purpose as the
normal for the entire area, is 29.98, and is indicated by the blue line on the diagram.

The positions of the above-mentioned signal-stations and the tracks of these seven vessels are all indicated in red on the accompanying Track Chart. This diagram
should therefore be studied in connection with the chart, in order to form a clear idea of the general eastward movement of the trough of low barometer, and the accom-
panying rapid deepening of the depression upon reaching the coast.



TABLE OF CONTENTS.



Pmge.

Preface 3

Plates :

Four weather charts, March 11, 12, 13, and 14 4

One track chart 4

One barometer diagram 4

Chapter I. Introduction 7

II. March 11, 7 a. m 9

III. Meteorological conditions off the coast 10

IV. The night of March 11-12 13

V. March 12 18

VI. March 13 and 14 20

VII. The use of oil to prevent heavy seas from breaking 24

VIII. Conclusion 28

Appendix :

Miscellaneous meteorological data..... 33

Wreckage along tlie coast 37

Detailed storm reports 40

Greenwich noon observations 56

Index to names of vessels - 64



CHAPTER I.



INTRODUCTION.

The history of a great ocean storm can not be written with any completeness until a long inter-
val of time has elapsed, when the meteorological observations taken on board hundreds of vessels
of every nationality, scattered over the broad expanse of ocean, and bound, many of them, for
far distant ports, can be gathered together, compared, and, where observations seem discordant,
rigidly analyzed and the best data selected. It is only wh n based upon such a foundation that
the story can fully deserve the title of history, and not romance fact, and not hypothesis. At
best there must be wide areas where the absence of vessels will forever leave some blank pages
in this history, while elsewhere, along the great highways of ocean traffic, the data are absolutely
complete. Last August a tropical hurricane of tenific violence swept in toward onr coast from
between Bermuda and the Bahamas, curved to the northward off Hatteras, and continued its de-
structive course past the Grand Banks toward Northern Europe. Hundreds of reports from mas-
ters of vessels enabled us accurately to plot its track, a great parobolic curve tangent to St.
Thomas. Hatteras, Cape Race, and the northern coast of Norway. Six months later a report for-
warded by the British meteorological office, from a vessel homeward bound from the equator,
indicated that it originated far to the eastward, off the coast of Africa; and only the other day the
log of the British ship Glenburn, Captain Johansen, at New York, March 30, from Calcutta,
supplied data by means of which the storm track can be traced still more accurately westward of
the Cape Verde islands. Not only that, but this same vessel on the llth of March was about 500
miles to the eastward of Bermuda, and while the great storm was raging between Hatteras and
bandy Hook was traversing a region to the northeastward of Bermuda, from which our records
are as yet very incomplete. It will thus be clearly understood that while the most earnest efforts
have been made not only to collect and utilize all available information but to be careful and cau-
tious in generalizing from the data at hand, yet this study must be considered as only preliminary
to an exhaustive treatise based on more complete data than it is now possible to obtain.

Four charts have been prepared to illustrate the m< teorological conditions within the area from
i'."P to ."HP north latitude, 50 to 85 west longitude, at 7 a. in., seventy-filth meridian time, March
11, 12, 13, and 14, respectively. Data for laud stations have been taken from the daily weather
maps published by the U. S. Signal Service, and the set of tri daily maps covering the period of
the great storm has been invaluable for reference throughout this discussion. Marine data are
from reports of marine meteorology made to this office by masters of vessels, and not only from
vessels within the area charted, but from many others just beyond its limits. The refined and ac-
curate observations taken with standard instruments at the same moment of absolute time all over
the United States by the skilled observers of the Signal Service, together with those contributed
to the H\ drographic Office by the voluntary co-operation of masters of vessels of every nationality,
and taken with instruments compared with standards at the branch hydrograpLic offices imme-
diately upon arrival in port, make it safe to say that never have the data been so complete and
reliable for such a discussion at such an early date.

It will not be out of place briefly to refer here to certain principles of meteorology that are
essential to a clear understanding of what follows. The general atmospheric movement in these



T7IHVERSIT7




8 * tfHE GREAT STORM OFF THE ATLANTIC COAST.

latitudes is from west to east, aiid by far the greater proportion of all the areas of low barometer,
or centers of more or less perfectly developed wind systems, that traverse the United States move
along paths which cross the Great Lakes, and thence reach out over the Gulf of St. Lawrence
across the Atlantic toward Iceland and northern Europe. Another very characteristic storm path
may also be referred to in this connection, the curved track along which West Indian hurricanes
travel up the coast. The atmospheric movement in the tropics is, generally speaking, westward, but
a hurricane starting on a westward track soon curves off to the northwest and north, and then,
getting into the general eastward trend of the temperate zone, falls into line and moves off to the
northeast, circling about the area of high barometer which so persistently overhangs the Azores
and a great elliptical area to the southwestward. The circulation of the wind about these areas
of low barometer and the corresponding changes of temperature are indicated graphically on the
daily weather map; the isobars, or lines of equal barometric pressure, are, as a rule, somewhat
circular in form, and the winds blow about and away from an area of "high" in a direction with
the hands of a watch (in nautical parlance, "with the sun"), toward and about "low," with an op-
posite rotary motion, or against the hands of a watch ; in front of a " low" there will therefore be,
in general, warm southeasterly winds, and behind it cold northwesterly winds, the resulting
changes of temperature being shown by the isotherms, or lines of equal temperature. Moreover,
in a cyclonic system of this kind the westerly winds are generally far stronger than the easterly
winds, the motion of the whole system from west to east increasing the apparent force of the
former and decreasing that of the latter. Upon reaching the coast such areas of low barometer,
or storm systems, almost invariably develop a great increase of energy, largely due to the moisture
in the atmosphere overhanging the ocean, which, when the air is chilled by contact with the cold,
dry air rushing in from the " high," is precipitated and becomes visible in the form of clouds, with
rain or snow. The latent heat liberated by the condensation of this aqueous vapor plays a most
important part in the continuance of the storm's energy, and indeed in its increase of energy;
the warm, li ht air, flowing in toward the central area of the storm, rises rapidly into regions
where the pressure is less, that is, where the thickness and consequently the weight of the super-
incumbent atmosphere is less; it therefore rapidly expands, and such expansion would result
in a much more rapid cooling and a corresponding decrease in its tendency to rise still higher,
were it not for the Intent heat liberated by the condensation of the moisture which it contains.
Thus the forces that are conspiring to increase the energy of the storm are powerfully assisted by
the presence and condensation of aqueous vapor, and the increasing up-draught and rarefaction
are at once marked by the decreasing barometric pressure at the center. For example, a storm
was central over the Great Lakes on January 25, with lowest barometer 29.7 ; the following day it
was central off Nantucket, barometer 29.2 ; and on the 27th and 28th over the Gulf of St. Law-
rence, with barometer below 28.6. But such instances are so common as to make it the rule aud
not the exception. As stated above, the isobars about an area of low barometer are somewhat cir-
cular in form; more strictly speaking, they are somewhat oval or elliptical in shape, and the more
elongated the north aud south axis of this ellipse the greater the resulting changes of tempera-
ture, because as it moves along its broad path toward the Atlantic the iii-draught, or suction, is
felt in front far down toward the tropics, and in rear far to the northward, beyond the territorial
limits of the United States.

Similarly with regard to the general movement of areas of high barometer, certain laws of
motion have been clearly established by means of studies of the daily international charts; instead of
a motion toward east-northeast, these areas, when north of the fortieth parallel, have in general a
motion towards east-southeast, aud as a rule move more rapidly and with greater momentum than
"lows," so that they may be said to have the right of way when the tracks of two such systems
converge or intersect. These laws, or at least that relating to the Great Lake storm track, as it
may be called, soon become evident to anyone who watches the weather map from day to day, upon
which are charted the systems of low and high barometer as they follow one another across the
continent, bringing each its characteristic weather.



CHAPTER II.



MARCH n, 7 A. M.

The first of the accompanying weather charts indicates graphically the meteorological condi-
tions over the wide area charted, comprising about 3,000,000 square miles, of which one-third is
laud aud two-thirds water. Over the land there is a long line or trough of low barometer, ex-
tending from the west coast of Florida up past the eastern shore of Lake Huron and far northward
toward the southern limits of Hudson Bay. In front of this advancing line the prevailing winds
are southeasterly, and the warm moist air drawn upirom southern latitudes spreads a warm wave
along (he coast, with generally cloudy weather and heavy rains, especially south of Hatteras; the
Signal Service observer at Peusacola, for example, reports the heavy fall of 4.0 > inches on the 10th.
About midway of this trough of low barometer there is a long, narrow region of light, variable
winds; of rapid changes in meteorological conditions; calms, shifts of wind, intervals of clearing
weather ; then overcast again,' with cooler weather, and fresh northwesterly winds, increasing to a
gale. The front line of this advancing battalion of cold northwesterly winds is more than a thou-
sand miles in length, and covers the whole breadth of the United States; its right flank is on the
Gulf, its left rests on the Great Lakes, or even farther north ; the temperature falls rapidly at its
approach, with frost far south into Louisiana and Mississippi, and heavy snow in central Kentucky
and eastern Tennessee. The long swaying line is advancing toward the coast at the rate of about
600 miles a day, followed by a ridge of high barometer reaching from Texas to Dakota and Mani-
toba. At points along the trough the barometer ranges from 29.70, a hundred miles north of To-
ronto, to 29.86 at Pittsburgh, 29.88 at Augusta, and 29.94 at Cedar Keys. Along the ridge the
barometer is very high; 307 to the northward about Lake Winnipeg, 30.6 in Wyoming, 30.7 in
Indian Territory, and 30.5 south of the Rio Grande. The difference of pressure from trough to
ridge is thus measured by about an inch of mercury in the barometer. Moreover, the chart shows
that there is another ridge of high barometer in advance, curving down off the coast from northern
Newfoundland, where the pressure is 30.6, toward Santo Domingo, where it is about 30.3, and
passing midway between Hatteras and Bermuda. Farther to the eastward the concentric isobars
show the presence of a storm which originated about Bermuda on the 9th, and is moving off toward
Europe, where, iu a few days, it may cause northwesterly gales with snow to the northward of its
track, and southeasterly gales with rain to the southward. Storm reports from the steam-ships
Erl King and Glenderon, the ships Glenburn and Anna, and the brig Olire Branch show that this
storm was of hurricane violence, with heavy squalls and high seas; but it need not be referred to


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryEdward Everett HaydenThe great storm off the Atlantic coast of the United States March 11-14, 1888 → online text (page 1 of 10)