“From Kent we have many strange Accounts of the Violence of the Storm, besides what relate to the Sea Affairs.At Whitstable, a small Village on the Mouth of the East Swale of the River Medway, we are inform'd a Boat belonging to a Hoy was taken up by the Violence of the Wind, clear off from the Water, and being bourn up in the Air, blew turning continually over and over in its progressive Motion, till it lodg'd against a rising Ground, above 50 Rod from the Water; in the passage it struck a Man, who was in the way, and broke his Knee to pieces.We content our selves with relating only the Fact, and giving Assurances of the Truth of what we Relate, we leave the needful Remarks on such Things to another place.At a Town near Chartham, the Lead of the Church rolled up together, and blown off from the Church above 20 Rod distance, and being taken up afterwards, and weigh'd it, appear'd to weigh above 2600 weight.At Brenchly in the Western Parts of Kent, the Spire of the Steeple which was of an extraordinary hight was overturn'd; the particulars whereof you have in the following Letter, from the Minister of the place.“ (Daniel Defoe, “The Storm”)
|J.M.W. Turner’s “Dutch Boats in a Gale” from 1801|
Journalism was still in its infancy when the catastrophe descended upon the North Sea region, however, the leading English newspapers reacted quite like their successors would generations later. They asked their readers for personal accounts. The 44-years old merchant and pamphleteer Daniel Defoe, dismissed only just from Newgate Prison where he was incarcerated for seditious libel, collected them and wrote his first book, not quite a bestseller but the stepping stone to a world-class literary career for one of the founders of the English novel. And, of course, besides noting odd details, like what became later known as the Bernoulli effect, in this case smaller house getting untiled in the backyard of more massive buildings, Defoe would not hide his own views. The Great Storm had reduced the Royal Navy by one fifth at one go without enemy contact, more 1,500 officers and crew drowned and the author thought the total loss of 9 ships-of-the-line and smaller vessels as God’s punishment for their poor performance in the first year of the War of the Spanish Succession.
|A contemporary imagination of the Great Storm|
And more about the Great Storm of 1703 on: