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August 25, 2011

Medieval storms and changing coastlines
Posted by Teresa at 07:08 AM * 62 comments

I’ve visited Rye in Sussex. It’s a charming little town that used to be one of the Cinque Ports, and overlooks what used to be Romney Marsh. At any rate, that’s what I was told when I was there; and when I climbed up on top of Rye’s church tower, I could see green fields stretching off in all directions. It is therefore a bit unnerving to discover how violently all that happened.

From the Guardian, on the great storms of 1287:

There were two “great storms” in 1287. One was on the east coast: it killed hundreds of people in England and drowned thousands on the other side of the North Sea. This disaster was similar to the 1953 flood, when an extreme low pressure coinciding with a high tide caused a storm surge.

The other storm, on England’s south coast, must have been ferocious, because in a single night it fundamentally changed the geography. The harbour at Hastings was destroyed, the old town of Winchelsea, which was already under attack from the sea, was abandoned, and the coastline realigned.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the damage was that the thriving port of New Romney was turned into a landlocked town. Massive quantities of shingle from Dungeness, along with mud and soil, inundated the town, completely filled the harbour, and left New Romney nearly a mile from the sea.

The river Rother, which ran through the town, was stopped up by the storm and found a new outlet to the sea at Rye, 15 miles away, a course that the river still takes. In New Romney (a Saxon name, so not very new) there is still visible evidence of this extreme event. It is a draw for archaeologists, because the silt and gravel covered and preserved the town.

Visitors to the parish church of St Nicholas, the only surviving building from the period, have to step down into the church. There are still stains on the pillars marking the level of the flood.

From the always-interesting VillageNet Local History site: The Changing Face of Romney Marsh, 10,000 BC - 2000 AD, in eight steps, with maps and diagrams.

A slightly more technical short article on the geology and geography of Romney Marsh.

A map of the medieval harbor of Rye.

A fuller account of the storms that year, also from VillageNet, is 1287: A Terrible Year for Storms:

In Feb 1287, a storm hit the southern coast of England with such ferocity that whole areas of coastline were redrawn - towns that had stood by the sea now found themselves landlocked, while others found themselves in possession of new harbours.

In Hastings, the storm caused the cliff and with it half the Norman castle to fall into the sea, blocking off the harbour and ending the town’s days as a port. The old town took over as the port, but the protected inlet was totally destroyed. The old harbour is where the Shopping Centre in Hastings can be found.

Further along the coast, the port of Old Winchelsea , an island which was where the current Winchelsea Beach can be found was completely destroyed. It was later rebuilt several miles inland, where it became the first example of town planning in England being built on a grid system familiar to our American friends. Despite its new hilltop position Winchelsea still retained its place as a Cinque Port .

The most dramatic change wrought by the great storm was to the towns of Rye and New Romney . Before the storm New Romney was a thriving harbour town with the River Rother flowing through it into the English Channel. The storm silted up the harbour completely and diverted the river away from the town to enter the sea at Rye about 15 miles away. More or less overnight New Romney became landlocked, a mile from the coast.

So much silt was deposited by the flood that the land level in the town rose by 5 inches. If you visit the parish church, which is the only building in the town pre-dating the flood, you will find that the floor of the church is several inches below street level. The pillars in the church provide further evidence of the flood - the level the water reached can still be seen on them. The River Rother that had previously entered the sea at New Romney, changed course and now entered the sea at Rye, creating a brand new harbour. …

14 December 1287, North Sea Countries: A mighty storm sends a high storm surge onto Holland, drowning a reported 50,000. In East Anglia, England, 500 lives are lost.

Hickling, Norfolk: in 1287 a great flood engulfed the village, and 180 people were drowned. The waters rose a foot above the high altar of the Priory Church. Hickling was one of the townships that suffered most severely from the tremendous storm of December, 1287, no fewer than nine score persons being drowned there. In the priory the water rose more than a foot above the high altar, and all the canons fled away except two, who stayed behind and managed to save the horses and other property by bringing them up into the dormitory over the vaulted undercroft.

Once you start reading about catastrophic medieval storms, you’re bound to make the acquaintance of the Grote Mandrenke of 1362. From the Guardian:
Few great weather events in British history were as devastating as the “Grote Mandrenke”, the great drowning of men, which took place in mid January 1362. A huge south-westerly gale originating in the Atlantic Ocean swept across Ireland, Britain, the Low Countries, and northern Germany, causing at least 25,000 deaths.

The first warning of the storm came from Ireland, where homes and buildings in Dublin were devastated by the high winds. Next to experience the brunt of the storm was southern England, where thousands of trees were blown down. Massive damage was caused to the few high buildings, notably churches, and many spires or towers were destroyed. Most famously, the wooden spire of Norwich Cathedral fell through its roof.

Worse was to come. As the storm reached the North Sea, it combined with high tides to produce the phenomenon most feared by coastal communities, a storm surge.

Ports all along the east coast of England, and across the North Sea in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, were destroyed, as the power of the wind and waters changed the shape of the coastline.

“Changed the shape of the coastline” doesn’t begin to cover it. Wikipedia has a good plain account of what happened:
The Grote Mandrenke (Low Saxon for “Great Drowning of Men”) was the name of a massive southwesterly Atlantic gale which swept across England, the Netherlands, Northern Germany, and Schleswig around January 16, 1362, causing at minimum 25,000 deaths. …

An immense storm tide of the North Sea swept far inland from the Netherlands to Denmark, breaking up islands, making parts of the main land into islands, and wiping out entire towns and districts, such as Rungholt on the island of Strand in North Frisia. This storm tide, along with others of like size in the 13th century and 14th century, played a part in the formation of the Zuider Zee, and was characteristic of the unsettled and changeable weather in northern Europe at the beginning of the Little Ice Age.

An interesting article on the Grote Mandrenke’s role in the opening of the Zuider Zee — and thus, indirectly, the rise of Amsterdam as a great trading city.

Generally, though, the chaotic weather at the beginning of the Little Ice Age was catastrophic for low-lying communities. Check out these maps of the coastline of Holland and Frisia in 500 CE and 1555 CE; ditto, two 17th C. maps of Schleswig, “the one on the left showing the coast and lands as they were c.1240, compiled from parish records and reliable local information, the other showing the contemporary view and the outline of the drowned lands.” As it says on the site which reproduces them:

The North Sea incursions were catastrophic on a Hollywood scale: sea surges punched through the dunes (you can see the relics of the old coast in the line of islands off the west coast of Holland, Germany, and Denmark), killed perhaps 100,000 people, and turned vast agricultural districts into reed seas. In 1231, the sea flooded up river channels into the inland lake of Holland and by 1300 it had become a bay. In 1287, thirty villages in the lower Ems basin were drowned and the Dollart formed. In floods in 1240 and January 1362, sixty parishes in the diocese of Schleswig were overwhelmed, amounting to half the agricultural land of the realm, and perhaps 30,000 people died. The 1362 stormflood was the Grote Mandrenke, the “Great Drowning.” The island of Heligoland was 60 kilometers across in C.E. 800; by 1325 it was only 25 kilometers in diameter at the widest, half the loss having come in a single storm in January of that year. Today it is only 1.5 kilometers at the widest. The English ports of Ravenspurn and Dunwich drowned about the same time.
The vanished trading city of Rungholt in Nordfriesland has achieved legendary status. Archaeological remains show it to have been a wealthy and substantial settlement for its time, though it wasn’t the Atlantis of the North Sea some have imagined. It was erased by the storm surge of 1362, along with the land it stood on. Perhaps inevitably, local lore says that if you sail across that stretch of water on a stormy night, you can still hear the bells of Rungholt ringing.
Comments on Medieval storms and changing coastlines:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 07:51 AM:

Knowing how massively the coastline of the Low Countries has changed during the last couple of thousand years means that you're constantly annoyed by maps of Europe inside (or on the jackets of) historical novels with medieval or classical-era settings. Because nine times out of ten they show the Netherlands as it exists today, or at best the outline of the Zuider Zee before its enclosure and transformation into the freshwater IJsselmeer. The differences in coastline are large enough to be clearly visible on even a small outline of Europe. Dutch terraforming is awesome.

#2 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:38 AM:

Trutz, Blanke Hans

Heut bin ich über Rungholt gefahren,
Die Stadt ging unter vor sechshundert Jahren.
Noch schlagen die Wellen da wild und empört,
Wie damals, als sie die Marschen zerstört.
Die Maschine des Dampfers schütterte, stöhnte,
Aus den Wassern rief es unheimlich und höhnte:
Trutz, Blanke Hans.

Von der Nordsee, der Mordsee, vom Festland geschieden,
Liegen die friesischen Inseln im Frieden.
Und Zeugen weltenvernichtender Wut,
Taucht Hallig auf Hallig aus fliehender Flut.
Die Möwe zankt schon auf wachsenden Watten,
Der Seehund sonnt sich auf sandigen Platten.
Trutz, Blanke Hans.

Mitten im Ozean schläft bis zur Stunde
Ein Ungeheuer, tief auf dem Grunde.
Sein Haupt ruht dicht vor Englands Strand,
Die Schwanzflosse spielt bei Brasiliens Sand.
Es zieht, sechs Stunden, den Atem nach innen
Und treibt ihn, sechs Stunden, wieder von hinnen.
Trutz, Blanke Hans.

Doch einmal in jedem Jahrhundert entlassen
Die Kiemen gewaltige Wassermassen.
Dann holt das Untier tief Atem ein,
Und peitscht die Wellen und schläft wieder ein.
Viel tausend Menschen im Nordland ertrinken,
Viel reiche Länder und Städte versinken.
Trutz, Blanke Hans.

Rungholt ist reich und wird immer reicher,
Kein Korn mehr faßt der größeste Speicher.
Wie zur Blütezeit im alten Rom,
Staut hier täglich der Menschenstrom.
Die Sänften tragen Syrer und Mohren,
Mit Goldblech und Flitter in Nasen und Ohren.
Trutz, Blanke Hans.

Auf allen Märkten, auf allen Gassen
Lärmende Leute, betrunkene Massen.
Sie ziehn am Abend hinaus auf den Deich:
Wir trotzen dir, blanker Hans, Nordseeteich!
Und wie sie drohend die Fäuste ballen,
Zieht leis aus dem Schlamm der Krake die Krallen.
Trutz, Blanke Hans.

Die Wasser ebben, die Vögel ruhen,
Der liebe Gott geht auf leisesten Schuhen.
Der Mond zieht am Himmel gelassen die Bahn,
Belächelt der protzigen Rungholter Wahn.
Von Brasilien glänzt bis zu Norwegs Riffen
Das Meer wie schlafender Stahl, der geschliffen.
Trutz, Blanke Hans.

Und überall Friede, im Meer, in den Landen.
Plötzlich wie Ruf eines Raubtiers in Banden:
Das Scheusal wälzte sich, atmete tief,
Und schloß die Augen wieder und schlief.
Und rauschende, schwarze, langmähnige Wogen
Kommen wie rasende Rosse geflogen.
Trutz, Blanke Hans.

Ein einziger Schrei – die Stadt ist versunken,
Und Hunderttausende sind ertrunken.
Wo gestern noch Lärm und lustiger Tisch,
Schwamm andern Tags der stumme Fisch.
Heut bin ich über Rungholt gefahren,
Die Stadt ging unter vor sechshundert Jahren.
Trutz, Blanke Hans?

Detlev von Liliencron (1844 - 1909)

#3 ::: Madeley ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:39 AM:

"Perhaps inevitably, local lore says that if you sail across that stretch of water on a stormy night, you can still hear the bells..."

This reminds me of the Welsh legend of Cantre'r Gwaelod, one of the many (many, many) sunken lands of legend. The Beeb has a version here that's pretty much the one I recall learning about at school. Cantre'r Gwaelod (usually translated, I think, as the Lowland Hundred) is usually placed beneath Cardigan Bay, and has given rise to the usual stories of ghostly submerged lights and bells.

It's interesting to read about the chaotic weather patterns of the 13th Century, because that's at the tail end of the couple of centuries where much of Welsh mythology we're familiar with was first written down. A number of mythological figures ride in and out of the Cantre'r Gwaelod story, and I wonder if the root of the tale can be found in the history of the period.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:43 AM:

Jörg Raddatz, can we get a synopsis?

#5 ::: Tracey ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:58 AM:

I could have done without you posting this right before a hurricane is due to hit in my area, I truly could have.

#6 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:38 AM:

PNH @1 Knowing how massively the coastline of the Low Countries has changed during the last couple of thousand years means that you're constantly annoyed by maps of Europe inside (or on the jackets of) historical novels with medieval or classical-era settings.

For that matter, living in East Kent and knowing that there were no bridges to the Isle of Thanet (and ships sailed the Wantsum channel) until the 15th century I tend to avoid looking at maps of the East coast of England. (As it turns out I've only ever lived on the East Coast, usually within walking distance of salt water).

#7 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:42 AM:

Tracey (5): Me, too. Particularly since I live on a low-lying coastal island. Where I sit right now, on the next island over, I'm a quarter mile from the Atlantic; Irene is currently projected to run right over me.

(Veer out to sea! Veer out to sea!)

#8 ::: Brett Dunbar ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:43 AM:

Rye is still part of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports, it is one of the two Antient Towns (yes it really is spelt like that), Winchelsea is the other. The Confederation of the Cinque Ports now consists of five ports, Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich two Antient Towns Rye and Winchelsea and seven limbs of the Cinque Ports, Lydd (Limb of New Romney), Folkestone (Limb of Dover), Faversham (Limb of Dover), Margate (Limb of Dover), Deal (Limb of Sandwich), Ramsgate (Limb of Sandwich) and Tenterden (Limb of Rye).

#9 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:47 AM:

The author was from Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein, emigrated to America for two years, returned to Germany and became an minor official on one of the North Frisian Islands. There he wrote this poem.

The narrator has traveled over Rungholt that day, which has drowned six centuries ago. The waves are still wild and angry there and the steamship's engine shook and groaned.
He descriebes the North Frisian landscape and then states that a gargantuan monster sleeps on the ground of the ocean, with its head near Britain and its tail near Brazil. It breathes in and out two times a day, thereby causing the tides. And once every century the monster takes a deep breath -

"and whips up the waves and goes to sleep again.
Many thousand people in the Northlands drown
and wealthy lands and cities go down."

Following, the city of Rungholt is decribe as legendary rich, with gold-adorned "Syrians and Moors" carrying sedan chairs. The population is haughty and prone to disrespect the power of the sea.
Then the monster stirs and in a single day ("with a single scream") the city of Rungholt is drowned.

The title refers to "Blanker Hans" - "White John", a personification of the North Sea, and means "We defy you, North Sea" - thus the question marks in the last line.

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:59 AM:

PNH @1: massively the coastline of the Low Countries has changed during the last couple of thousand years...

Even the last century has seen some notable alterations. Apropos of something else, I did a N2S article that goes into the most recent drastic storm that changed the shape of the Netherlands: the Watersnoodramp, the great flood of 1953, which pretty much washed out the Zeeland coastline.

Of course, the Dutch then changed things further in the consequent engineering works to ensure that such a disaster is less likely to happen again.

#11 ::: Dave Keck ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:03 AM:

In Captain Cook's recent bio McLynn gets into the dangers of sailing around the Britain, detailing 100 foot waves in the North Sea, 13th century storms that killed enormous numbers across Holland and Germany (four individual storms each killing over 100,000). An 18th century blow on the Channel that topped 170kph. And 19th century weather that sank whole collier fleets at a stroke (60-100 ships each).

It is no wonder that there are so many seaside cliffs chomping their way inland.

#12 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:29 AM:

I remember in France visiting Montreuil-sur-Mer, which was once a seaport (nearish to Calais). It's now almost 20 miles inland.

One major factor in the changing coastline of northern Europe as I understand it is that as the great forests of Picardy and Flanders were cut for charcoal in the 1500's, the consequent erosion pushed the coastline out. Brugge used to be a port.

#13 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:02 AM:

There's Dunwich as well Reimerswaal, and Saeftinghe, all of them lost to the effects of North Sea storms, although Dunwich's was a sort of slow-motion act, unlike the loss of Rungholt.

Wikipedia attempts to cover the topic of serious floods in the Netherlands, and probably falls short, given the challenges involved in recording them.

More on water in the Netherlands.

#14 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:04 AM:

cf Dunwich, once one of the largest ports in England, now a tiny village with some ruins falling over a cliff.

#15 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:12 AM:

Dunwich is also a treaty port, a meeting place between humanity and the Great Old Ones.

#16 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:38 AM:

For anyone who's never met the term before: the first word of 'Cinque Ports' is pronounced 'Sink'.

One of the eternal distractions of growing up in the North a few decades ago, alongside waiting for Leeds United to be promoted from the Second Division and watching paint dry, was seeing news reports on Calendar and Look North about east-coast erosion. Occasionally something spectacular would happen (apparently not due to the sea in that particular case) but usually it'd just be routine worries about further erosion of Spurn Point.

#17 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:49 AM:

Niall McAuley @ #15:

Ah, I was wondering, as I read through the comment thread, if somebody would bring that up.

(The other thing I was wondering if anybody would bring up, which it looks like nobody has yet, was the career of the Reverend Dr Christopher Syn.)

#18 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 11:58 AM:

It seems that it was the great storm of 1287, rather than the Grote Mandrenke (great name) that made the Almere into the Zuiderzee.

#19 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 12:46 PM:

It's really amazing how large a part catastrophic weather plays in shaping not just the landscape but the history of the period. What's also fascinating is how we don't mention much about catastrophic weather as a historical force in our history texts or classes. It's all about armies and conquerors and explorers and even the explorers are painted as valiant agents of human will, when anyone who has ever been in a boat knows how much you are dependent on the weather not trying to kill you, let alone reshape the coastline.

Even the storm that smashed the Spanish Armada is treated as a sort of miraculous extension of Queen Elizabeth's badassery, rather than as a giant force of nature that altered history without human consent and indifferent to our designs.

So now of course I want to see a documentary about how weather has shaped history. And if you can get Michael Palin to narrate, that'd be awesome too.

#20 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 01:12 PM:

Keith Kisser @19: I take it you don't believe that the witches of England whistled up the wind that destroyed the Armada?

#21 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 01:16 PM:

Tracey #5: as of today's forecasts, we're right in the gunsight too.

#22 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 01:29 PM:

A German webpage, with maps that need no German to grasp at all, including a little animated one. It covers coastal changes in northwestern Germany, western Denmark, and part of the Netherlands since 1000 CE.

Here's another page, in English this time, with a great deal of information about the 1634 flood, known as the Zweite Mandrenke, or the Burchardi flood. This one did for the North Sea coastal island known as the Strand; its remnants are popular summer holiday destinations. One of the interesting things at this site is an eye-witness account from a Dutch hydraulic engineer who'd come to work on a reclamation project on Strand.

#23 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 01:55 PM:

The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire, by Jean Ingelow

It is fake Elizabethan English, and there's no Lincolnshire dialect in it. Also, while Boston was a medieval town, and Mavis Enderby is a few miles from Old Bolingbroke, the idyllic countryside afflicted by the flood was unreclaimed marsh.

Which is all a bit odd, as she was a Boston girl. There was a flood in 1810, the year she was born, and the date given for the events of the poem matches another historical flood, even if the content is pure fiction.

The poem is reputed to have inspired the naming of Enderby, B.C.

Incidentally, Mavis Enderby had rights over part of Wildmore Fen, which is where you can now find the tiny settlement of New York.

#24 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 02:10 PM:

"Ah, Captain, what's our position?"

"We're just coming into harbour at Rye, sir. It's one of the Cinque Ports, you know."

"Really? Why do they call it that?"


*blup blup blup*

It's usually all right as long as nobody asks...

#25 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 02:47 PM:

Paul A.@17: Then there's one of the inspirations for Dr Syn, the real-life Hawkhurst Gang, who seem to have ruled the entire coast from Dorset clear through to Kent, in brutal fashion. One of their escapades: stealing a ton and a half of tea from Poole customs house, under the guns of a customs ship.

(also, the original post is wonderful. I'm from Kent and had no idea of half of this stuff)

#26 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 03:22 PM:

Keith Kisser @19:

So now of course I want to see a documentary about how weather has shaped history. And if you can get Michael Palin to narrate, that'd be awesome too.

If you'd be willing to consider a book, rather than a documentary, Blame it on the Rain: How the weather has changed history is more or less exactly that. I found it a little repetitive, myself, though the sequence of "Gee, it's cold in Russia, Part N" chapters were fairly amusing.

#27 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 06:49 PM:

Lori Coulson@20:

I prefer my meteorology sans hexes. Less chance of toads falling on your head.


I'm always up for a book recommendation! (It's not a pathology for collecting books if you're a librarian. Then it's just good old fashioned professionalism.)

#28 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 07:41 PM:

I thought that hurricanes and the like traveled westward and away from the equator, and consequently only hit the east coasts of continents.

#29 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 08:54 PM:

@28 Sort of but not exactly.

For the North Atlantic basin (of most immediate personal interest to me) the storm systems start over water just east of equatorial Africa, then "blow up" to dangerous strength when they hit the warmer waters - usually over the Caribbean / Gulf of Mexico, but sometimes it happens out in the open ocean.

At some point in a(n Atlantic) storm's track, it usually hits a ridge of air and deviates toward the north. (If it doesn't, it lands in southern Mexico or Central America.) The further north it gets, the greater chance of it being caught in the predominant weather pattern across the 40-50N latitudes, which is west-to-east. The tracks are sort of a great spiral curl, the exact manifestation of which is sensitive to specific conditions.

(A side note for those of us in the northeastern US is that just because a storm makes Gulf landfall doesn't mean we aren't going to get rain and wind from it a week later, after it dissipates over central North American and gets absorbed into a northern-tier system.)

If that northward curl happens far enough east, an Atlantic tropical storm can end up in Europe. This happened in late 2005 - I think it was the 'V' storm that year.

I expect there's parallel patterns that apply to storms in oceans other than the one next to me.

#30 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:08 PM:

Thena (29): A minor nitpick: I think you mean the storms start just west of Africa, not east.

#31 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 09:16 PM:

@30 Indeed. (Shows what I get for trying to look like I know what I'm talking about.)

Although I would be delighted to have someone else do the hard science part of tracking a weather pattern east-to-west across Africa and out into the ocean....

#32 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:20 PM:

Eastern Pacific hurricanes usually hit the west coast of Mexico or Central America; sometimes they'll go up the Sea of Cortez or even up the west coast of Baja as they die.

Also, the occasional Atlantic hurricane has managed to cross to the Pacific and revive.

#33 ::: Emma in Sydney ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2011, 10:41 PM:

@28, that would be news to the citizens of Perth and points north, Western Australia, and Darwin, Northern Territory, which was almost destroyed by Cyclone Tracy in 1974. We get them on all coasts in Australia.

#34 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 01:52 AM:

P J Evans @ #32, Well, mostly that's true. At one point in 2005, though, we in Hawai'i had four hurricanes in a nice progression east of us. None of them got to us, but it was a little terrifying to see them all lined up in a row.

#35 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 01:54 AM:

I can't imagine what Word of Power I used leaving a link about a date when Hawai'i had four hurricanes bearing down on it six years ago, but my comment is being held.

#36 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 01:54 AM:

Okay, two comments held. Dunno why.

#37 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 02:31 AM:

Okay, two comments held. Dunno why.

The spelling of Hawaii is what did it. -- JDM

#38 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 02:44 AM:

Oh. Okay, I'll try to avoid representations of glottal stops in Hawaiian.

Thanks, Jim.

#39 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 04:36 AM:

13: speaking of Saeftinge, which is near where I was born and grew up, In Zeeland, there's currently a huge row between Belgium and Holland about deepening and widening the Westerschelde, the gateway to the harbour of Antwerp. There's a treaty in which the Dutch government has committed itself to making the trade routes to Antwerp more accessible for bigger ships, which would include deliberately flooding some of the polders reclaimed from the sea centuries ago, partially as ecological offset. A great many people in Zeeland are unhappy with that, surprisingly.

The Belgians meanwhile are as always suspicious of the true motivations behind the protests and dilly dallying, because they know their history -- it wasn't that long ago that the Netherlands finally ended the blockade of Antwerp.

#40 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 07:27 AM:

Thena #28 "For the North Atlantic basin (of most immediate personal interest to me) the storm systems start over water just east of equatorial Africa."

Er, that would have Atlantic hurricanes originating in the Indian Ocean.

#41 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 09:02 AM:

@40 Yes, I was thinking 'east Atlantic' - should be eastern Atlantic / off west coast of Africa.

Waiting to see what typo/brain cramp I have missed in this post :-)

#42 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 09:38 AM:

Thena @ #41: Maryland's "Eastern Shore" [of Chesapeake Bay] throws me off, too.

#43 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 09:40 AM:

Because it's the Western shore of the Delmarva Peninsula.

#44 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 09:41 AM:

I've been in Maine for 6 years (I only lived in Oregon for 8) and I'm -still- not used to the ocean being on the wrong side. ;-)

#45 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 10:48 AM:

Teresa, thanks for posting this. We home school and I'll probably use this as today's geography lesson. It will also be good to point my son at some history that's not related to military issues... sigh.

#46 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 07:06 PM:

The whole drowned cities thing fascinates me, possibly because I grew up so far from those powerful and mysterious things called oceans. Here's a link from the past to a newspaper article from 1890 on drowned cities of England.

It's Ravenser Odd that haunts me most of all, though.

#47 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 07:47 PM:

@Jörg Raddatz - Thanks for the poem. (I was just about able to read it, pats self on back.)

#48 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2011, 09:49 PM:

It's a really long way to the beach from there, too.

#49 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 03:10 AM:

Elise @46

When you look along the coast from Kilnsea to Withernsea, you'll find several signs of coastal erosion since 2003, using the historical imagery available. At Kilnsea itself, there are the slowly disintegrating platforms of coastal-defence guns from WW2, now well out on the beach. A pillbox at Easington, SE of the town, was on dry land in 2003, and in the sea in 2007. Another, NW of Hollym, was at the very edge of the cliff in 2007.

And then there is the Easington Gas Terminal, which is starting to look perilously close to the sea.

#50 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 08:51 AM:

Dave Bell, I believe there are New England lighthouses that have been moved two or three times. I remember visiting one and observing that the crumbling seaward edge of the parking lot cut through what used to be the painted lines for a double row of nose-to-nose parking spaces, and the landward edge of the lot had had a new strip of asphalt appended to it.

The Pacific Coast is rising, and the Atlantic Coast is sinking. This is one of the reasons why they get so many landslides in Southern California: the land is steeper than its appropriate angle of repose, especially in places where what's rising is weak, shatter-prone rock.

#51 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 09:44 AM:

Teresa: Or where it isn't really rock yet. The hills behind the Santa Barbara Coast (from Pt. Concepcion to Santa Cruz) are rife with stuff that's not quite sandstone yet.

It gets waterlogged and large pieces of it fall down.

#52 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2011, 10:02 AM:

In east anglia the nightmare is a combination of a storm surge from the south coupled with a high pressure system between Scotland and scandinavia. The high pressure pushes water down the channel, while the storm pushes it up from the south. Now add in a spring tide and life gets messy.

We dodged the bullet a few years ago when the north sea tried to rerun the 1953 flood. Here in Great Yarmouth the sea defences held - just. At one point I walked down to the river Bure as it runs through the town: the sea surge had held back the river, which had stopped and started to pool. At its highest point it was almost exactly at the top of the river flood wall. I squatted down and put my eye at the top of the wall, and looking over I could see that the river had a miniscus, and so, in the center of the river, was actually higher than the wall. Standing on dry ground and looking up at water is a strange experience.

Hickling is about 20 miles north of here, and the thought of the church being flooded is terrifying frankly. Land drainage had caused the land to drop since the middle ages: much of it is below sea level. What protects it is a dune system which stands 30 feet above the fields. If the water ever got in it could erode the back of the dunes in a few hours. With the dunes gone there would be no way of ever getting it back- something like 200 square miles would vanish overnight never to return.

#53 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2011, 11:24 PM:

I used to live in Sea Bright, New Jersey, which is a barrier island that ends with Sandy Hook beach. We knew we were renting the house we lived in; some of our neighbors were under the foolish impression that they actually owned the land they were on. We lived in the high-ground end of town, which was about three feet above sea level and fifty feet from the river on one side and ocean on the other, and the town only stays in one place because the Army Corps of Engineers keeps pouring another $10M of cement onto the sea wall every decade or so. Sandy Hook was an island 200 years ago, and seemed to be trying to become one again. Sand is constantly migrating up and down the coasts there, and the coastline seems to be generally eroding.

Another town I lived in was on the bay rather than the ocean, and had a parking lot by the marina that would flood at monthly high tides. (And it wasn't the fault of the elephants, really. They were only parked there for a couple of days while the circus was passing through.) Eventually they piled a few feet of rock and asphalt on it, so it'll probably last another decade or so before it sinks back down into the mud and floods again.

My mom does civic-association work, and has spent decades having to remind the county government that "flood plain" means "it floods every few years, so you can't just go building that school/shoppingcenter/etc. on it just because it's a nice big piece of open land."

#54 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2011, 01:26 AM:

ObSFRef: "When light from the Lost Land shall return..."

--Dave, what is the shore that fears the sea?

#55 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2011, 06:57 AM:

Horace Beck, in Folklore and the Sea, informs us that the harbors at Orford, Seaton, and Padstowe were all plugged by mermaids who had been insulted in one way or another.

#56 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2011, 11:03 AM:

Thena @29: (A side note for those of us in the northeastern US is that just because a storm makes Gulf landfall doesn't mean we aren't going to get rain and wind from it a week later, after it dissipates over central North American and gets absorbed into a northern-tier system.)

As it happens, a lot of our Colorado "monsoon" is a result of this dynamic. Hurricane in the Gulf (often) means upslope in Boulder a week later.

#57 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2011, 11:38 AM:

On the topic of "That which was vertical becoming horizontal, and the havoc wrought thereby," I'm fond of this example.

#58 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2011, 12:27 PM:

Thena @ 29
A side note for those of us in the northeastern US is that just because a storm makes Gulf landfall doesn't mean we aren't going to get rain and wind from it a week later

Hear hear. Hurricane Camille, anyone?

I have a friend in Tyro who slept through the rain[1], and woke up to find that his neighbor's house 1/4 mile away, along the Tye, was gone down to the foundations.

1) No one really knows how much rain fell. The weather station that survived recorded 27 inches, but it wasn't in the maximum rainfall; estimates run up to 40 inches at Davis Creek.

#59 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2011, 01:47 PM:

Jacque, #56: Quite. When I was at the first North American Discworld Convention in Phoenix, we got heavy rain dumped on us on Saturday morning by the remnants of a Gulf hurricane.

#60 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2011, 01:04 PM:

If you have read A Wizard of Earthsea with the description of Thwill Town on Roke, twisting up backwards on a knoll, and then you visit Rye for the first time a few days later, you might find yourself peering around for wizards.

This may happen even if you are not nine years old.

("It's all real." "I KNEW it!" -- Galaxy Quest.)

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