Daily Archives: March 2, 2011

A drought, a heat wave and high winds

In early February 1823, as in the first week of February in the previous year, Sydney was again in the grip of a drought. In the issue of Thursday 13 February the Sydney Gazette reported that the cattle on the Sydney side of the mountains were ‘deplorably off’, with the grass eaten away. Fortunately there was an abundance of supplies coming from the ‘new country’ on the other side, and there was beef from that region that ‘would no way discredit Old England.’ Rain was needed in Sydney soon or ‘the drought will be severely felt.’ The maize had been affected by lack of rain and it was likely that it would be scarce and dear.

‘Monday last’ (presumably 10 February) ‘was one of our hottest days.’ The temperature was still 80° at 4 in the afternoon. There was a stiff sea-breeze from the south-east and then about a quarter past 5 a gale-force ‘white squall’ sprang up from the south, a ‘hurricane that in a few moments spread for miles around the town of Sydney,’ enveloping the metropolis in ‘astonishing’ clouds of thick dust. It was among the most violent of gales ever experienced. The wind continued ‘with small intermission’ throughout the night. About 7 p.m. there were lightning and distant thunder, then ‘gentle and genial showers.’ The temperature was still 78 at 6 o’clock and 75 at 9 o’clock.

There had been a pattern of high temperatures at night in both January and February:

It has been nothing unusual to discover the thermometer, during the last month, as well as the present, as high as 70° of heat at 11 and 12 at night.

The temperatures mentioned, if accurate, are in the low to mid-twenties on the Celsius scale.

It was so windy on ‘Thursday last’ (this evidently means 6 February) that the Government boat the Antelope overturned as it was coming into Sydney Cove. Four crew had to be rescued and one named Stafford was drowned. The boat was recovered the next day.

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 13/2/1823, p. 2. 80, 75 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit are approximately 27, 24 and 21 degrees Centigrade. Monday 10 February: the wild weather events of ‘Monday last’ are narrated before reference to the windy conditions of ‘Thursday last’, but Monday 3 February would presumably be too far away and would be several days before the preceding issue of the Sydney Gazette. In the Sydney Gazette of 1/8/1818, p. 3, the Antelope is described as ‘a boat of 20 tons, belonging to the Government dock-yard.’ Accounts published in the Sydney Gazette in March and November 1820 and September and November 1821 refer to John Cadman, ‘Cockswain of H. M. Boat Antelope’ (also spelled Coxswain), in that position as far back as 25 December 1817. The Sydney Gazette of 2/1/1823, p. 1, lists ‘J. Cadman’ among recipients of grants of land. Cf. D.I. McDonald, ‘Cadman, John (1772-1848)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, p. 192, and online (no mention of a grant of land; unclear about the origins of the cottage in which Cadman lived; states that he lived there from 1816). According to the City of Sydney website, the building now called Cadman’s Cottage, at 110 George Street North, The Rocks, possibly designed by Francis Greenway, ‘was built in 1815-16 as the ‘Coxswain’s Barracks’ attached to Governor Macquarie’s dockyard and stores’; Cadman lived there for a time from 1827 onwards, when he was Superintendent of Government Craft (this statement omits reference to his having lived there earlier). It is Sydney’s earliest surviving example of a residential building. See also ‘Cadman’s Cottage’, in Dictionary of Sydney; ‘Cadmans Cottage Historic Site’, and ‘Plans of Cadmans Cottage, 1815-16’, on the website of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.