Sailing the British Empire : The Voyages of The Clarence, 1858-73Main MenuSailing the British Empire: The Voyages of the Clarence, 1858-73IntroductionThe Crew / AcknowledgmentsThe Provenance of Watson's LogAdditional Sources: Logs, Crew Lists, DiariesInside Lloyd's Register"Green's Celebrated Service"Details on owner of the ship at the time of our voyage, Richard Green.The Master Builder: William PileThe Master: Joseph Watson's BiographyA Mate's ProgressThe Career of Henry Berridge, First Mate of the ClarenceThe Crew of the Clarence in 1864An annotated crew listThe 18th HussarsThe Clarence and the Cyclone of 1864Origins of Indian Emigrants Aboard The ClarenceThe Surgeon-SuperintendantWages of indentured labourers in Demerara (1870-1900)The Clarence Sails to AustraliaMutiny! Violence and Resistance Aboard "Coolie Ships"Cholera: The Killer from CalcuttaSTSC 077, Fall 2015 First Year Seminar, University of Pennsylvaniab33a025deaa7595ed0079bfc9b77ea3cb14b8d08STSC 077, The University of Pennsylvania, fall 2015
1media/019WDZ000004244U00000000[SVC1].jpgmedia/Cyclone ILN 11_26_1864 top.jpg2015-11-24T03:11:05-08:00Destruction on Land59image_header2015-12-15T12:39:34-08:00Perhaps the greatest destruction of this terrible storm came on land, specifically Calcutta and its neighboring districts. The storm, with a width of 100 miles and a speed of 10 miles per hour, swept the Calcutta area with great ferocity, leading to great losses of life and property alike.
While this storm is undoubtedly one of the most destructive in history, this occurrence is not due to its strength or speed of wind, at least on land. Instead, the most devastating aspect of the storm for the people not at sea was the storm wave and consequential flooding that it produced. It is reported that this wave of water reached heights of 15 feet above the land level. Below is a map that shows just how far the destruction of this storm wave reached (click the page to zoom in). This massive force of water swept through the city, leveled anything in its path, and ultimately caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people. This chart here shows a rough estimation of the officially reported deaths of the various districts surrounding Calcutta.
However, as if this number did not seem high enough, it is widely believed that the death toll does not stop there. Not only do these figures only represent the reported deaths, but they also only take into account the deaths that occurred as a direct result of the cyclone. After the cyclone hit, however, there was a large period of time during the aftermath in which famine and disease, namely cholera and smallpox, ran rampant throughout the city and various districts. Taking these aspects into account, it is believed that the lowest estimate for the death toll is at about 70-80,000 people.
Unfortunately, the destruction of this storm did not stop there. With the killing of several thousands of people came the inevitable destruction of homes, buildings, trees, and virtually every aspect of a city or town. To begin with, the cyclone had a devastating effect on the economy of Calcutta and these neighboring towns. Agriculture and shipping, two crucial sectors of the economy, were critically crippled as a result of the storm.
Cattle deaths amounting to nearly 3 or 4 times the amount of human losses
Loss of anywhere from 20-50% of crops in many areas
195 vessels in port before the cyclone:
39 damaged slightly
97 damaged severely
36 completely lost
British Guiana depot completely destroyed
Trinidad depot lost its sheds
Bourbon depot lost its sheds
There is no reliable estimate for the value of how much was lost, both with cargo and the actual ships themselves, although some believe the value to be within 1 to 2 million sterling. Below is a list of the ships that were actually or constructively wrecked as a result of the storm.
While the crippled economy is certainly very unfortunate, perhaps the most devastating aspect of the cyclone regarding property damage is the complete destruction of people's homes and lifestyle as a whole. Hundreds of thousands of native huts were either blown down or easily swept away by the flooding waters, and multiple, though not as many, European pucka (or brick) houses were destroyed as well. For example, in Calcutta alone, 102 pucka houses were destroyed, with 563 severely damaged. On top of that, 40,698 native huts were completely leveled.
Also, using the log of the Clarence, we can get an idea of what the towns and streets of Calcutta looked like after the destruction. According to an article from the Calcutta Englishmen that was copied down in the log, "wherever there were trees, they were either uprooted and fell, carrying with them in many cases walls, railings and buildings, or their branches were snapped off like reeds and buried away with the wind." In addition, it notes the considerable damage on several buildings, including the St. James Theatre and Free Church of Scotland, and the interruption of the telegraph lines in every direction. Below is a photograph of an image published in the Illustrated London News following the cyclone.
1. Gastrell, J. E., and Henry F. Blanford. Report on the Calcutta Cyclone of the 5th October 1864. Calcutta: O.T. Cutter Military Orphan, 1866.
2. A Brief History of the Cyclone at Calcutta and Vicinity, 5th October 1864. Calcutta: Military Orphan, 1865.