On this Day 4th October 1859

An Extraordinary Oscillation of the Sea in Mount's Bay

The Fitzroy barometer at Mousehole (N. Chadwick http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5121185)The weather lately has been champion. 76.3° [24.6° C] yesterday, or so they say – and this in October mind. The sun “most unusually scorching”, for the time of year; for Penzance. But as the day wore on, those folk who take an interest in the measurement and observation of wind and weather – the new science, indeed, of meteorology - fell to tapping their barometers. A closer look; a frown: they did not altogether like what they observed. A sudden fall in pressure, the glass foretelling a storm on the way.

After midnight, before dawn, when all good folk are asleep, the tempest rolled into the Bay from Scilly. Thunder and “very fierce lightning” in the depths of the night. But with daybreak, something yet more strange than the unseasonal heat, the shocking impact of noise and illumination. For today we have had “extraordinary oscillation of the sea” across the Bay and, if rumour be true, throughout the southern part of England. “A sudden motion in the sea, producing a considerable surf and causing the vessels and boats to be afloat one minute and aground the next”.

To be sure the sea is capricious, but today’s sudden rises and ungoverned currents have been the most remarkable for 100 years. An influx could be seen every fifteen minutes, some of the waves reaching to the height of a grown man. At 7.00 am here in Penzance, “a current was observed rushing into the pier, lifting vessels that had been aground, parting a raft of timber from its moorings and casting it out into the open sea. Bathing machines, safely hauled up above high water mark at the western end of the Esplanade, “suddenly floated” and were “nearly washed away”.

Extraordinary indeed. Strange times we do live in.


Cornishman Wednesday 5th October 1859 page 2. This account gives a more credible 64° F [17.78°C] for the maximum temperature – still very pleasing for the time of year

The Lands End District, Richard Edmonds, 1862, page 88

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Penwith Local History Group
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"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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