Chapter 7
From a correspondent.
One of the greatest and suddenest storms on record has just been experienced
here, with results both strange and unique. The weather had been somewhat
sultry, but not to any degree uncommon in the month of August. Saturday
evening was as fine as was ever known, and the great body of holiday-makers
laid out yesterday for visits to Mulgrave Woods, Robin Hood's Bay, Rig Mill,
Runswick, Staithes, and the various trips in the neighborhood of Whitby. The
steamers Emma and Scarborough made trips up and down the coast, and there
was an unusual amount of `tripping' both to and from Whitby. The day was
unusually fine till the afternoon, when some of the gossips who frequent the East
Cliff churchyard, and from the commanding eminence watch the wide sweep of
sea visible to the north and east, called attention to a sudden show of `mares
tails' high in the sky to the northwest. The wind was then blowing from the south-
west in the mild degree which in barometrical language is ranked `No. 2, light
The coastguard on duty at once made report, and one old fisherman, who for
more than half a century has kept watch on weather signs from the East Cliff,
foretold in an emphatic manner the coming of a sudden storm. The approach of
sunset was so very beautiful, so grand in its masses of splendidly coloured
clouds, that there was quite an assemblage on the walk along the cliff in the old
churchyard to enjoy the beauty. Before the sun dipped below the black mass of
Kettleness, standing boldly athwart the western sky, its downward was was
marked by myriad clouds of every sunset colour, flame, purple, pink, green,
violet, and all the tints of gold, with here and there masses not large, but of
seemingly absolute blackness, in all sorts of shapes, as well outlined as colossal
silhouettes. The experience was not lost on the painters, and doubtless some of
the sketches of the `Prelude to the Great Storm' will grace the R. A and R. I.
walls in May next.
More than one captain made up his mind then and there that his `cobble' or his
`mule', as they term the different classes of boats, would remain in the harbour till
the storm had passed. The wind fell away entirely during the evening, and at
midnight there was a dead calm, a sultry heat, and that prevailing intensity which,
on the approach of thunder, affects persons of a sensitive nature.
There were but few lights in sight at sea, for even the coasting steamers, which
usually hug the shore so closely, kept well to seaward,and but few fishing boats
were in sight. The only sail noticeable was a foreign schooner with all sails set,
which was seemingly going westwards. The foolhardiness or ignorance of her
officers was a prolific theme for comment whilst she remained in sight, and
efforts were made to signal her to reduce sail in the face of her danger. Before
the night shut down she was seen with sails idly flapping as she gently rolled on
the undulating swell of the sea.