Monday, February 28, 2011

1902 Great Gale Memorial

I took some time at the 1902 Great Gale Memorial in the South End Cemetery last week and tried to imagine myself what that day must have been like.  On Sunday, 31 August 1902 there were 38 ships at anchor along the then North End Beach.  Rain and a south-easterly wind started to lash the bay and by midnight the storm turned into a hurricane.  By the end of the storm on 2 September 1902, 18 of the ships had been stranded on the beach, while the rest all had major damage.  The dead were buried in the South End Cemetery and thousands lined the route to the cemetery as the funeral processions went by with surviving ship-mates carrying the coffins of those that died during the storm.

During the storm four men from the town tried to take a rope out to a ship to try and help the sailors ashore.  More tragedy striked when their line broke and all four drowned.  Their names are also inscribed on the monument.

For more information and a account of the Great Gale, visit the Christiania Seilskuteklubben website and scroll to about halfway down the page. 

"Never before in its history has this port suffered under such overwhelming disaster as we record today. On Sunday morning some 38 craft rode at anchor under the leaden sky. Heavy rains had fallen and the wind gradually rose until, as the shadows of evening hid the shipping from view, a fresh gale was blowing in from the south-east, which, as the midnight hour was reached, had developed in to a hurricane. As the turmoil of wind and wave continued, so the toll of ships mounted, until 18 vessels were aground, with a raging sea adding a high toll of human lives.” - The Eastern Province Herald, 2 September 1902


  1. Very interesting this blog. I spent some time in a cemetary in Cradock and saw Harry Potter's grave, and some other interesting war epitaphs.

    The great gale, the history and the shipwrecks that lie on the north eastern side of the the harbour wall are of great interest to me. There was another earlier great gale - 1887 I think will check my records.

    The quality and content of your posts - well researched and informative. Love the Drakensberg series - Piet Retief.

    You may wish to seek out an expensive reference work "Frontiers" for Anglo/Boer War/ Xhosa War information.

  2. And we can't really blame climate change for that can we? Unless it all started 109 years ago! Interesting post. Must have been terrifying. When we were in Wellington, New Zealand we went to the Maritime Museum there and they had an interesting and moving short movie of a disaster when a ferry, the Waihin, was caught and wrecked in a similar situation with lots of lives lost.