The Samoa Hurricane of 1889

Samoa Hurricane

Upolu, Samoa. Location of the 1889 Samoa Hurricane.

This map of the island of Upolu is a scan from a National Geographic map from c.1885 in Scaramouche's collection.

Click on Apia town (circled yellow) for an enlarged map of the bay c. 1885, showing the range of depths and the extent of the reef, and just how dangerous the port really was for large warships. A more detailed map of Apia Harbour is shown on the Apia Hurricane page, including the positions of the ships when the storm struck.

The map of Apia Bay obtained by clicking on the yellow circle in the map above is based on Captain Kane's map for the coast and reef outline, and for the approximate depths of water in the harbour I have used the Chart printed in the book "The Universal Geography" by Elisée Reclus (1830-1905), edited by A.H. Keane, published in 24 volumes by J.S. Virtue & Co., London. It is figure 215 in the 14th Volume: "Australasia" on page 484.

Apia Bay

This part of my web site is dedicated to the events in Samoa, March 1889, when a terrific hurricane battered the tiny bay named Apia Harbour, on the island of Upolu, and its various occupants. Four great men-of-war, two each German and American, were destroyed along with many other merchant ships. 147 men lost their lives, and only one fighting ship from each nation was eventually refloated and repaired.

In particular, the site also commemorates the British Man-Of-War HMS Calliope and her crew, and especially, my great-grandfather, Petty Officer (Captain of the Fore-Top) William Isaac Thorndale, who with his ship and crewmates, survived the disaster. Calliope was the only vessel able to steam out of the harbour directly into the wind and waves to weather the catastrophic hurricane in the open Pacific Ocean.

Click on the sub-links which have opened up in the navigation panel on the left hand side of the window to read about the Samoa Hurricane of 1889. If you take them in order, they will lead you through the events of that fateful time.

Anyone reaching this site as a result of an interest in Samoa history in general, is advised that a wonderful book about the Islands in the 1880s is available, both on-line and as a modern facsimile reprint. It is entitled "The Story of Laulii, A Daughter of Samoa". Scaramouche so enjoyed the on-line version, that he bought a facsimile from Amazon. The web-site as a book-reader is here: Internet Archive: Note: It opens in a new window. Click each page to turn it over. It doesn't contain any data about the storm, since the author and her husband left Samoa in 1886, but the word pictures about Samoa and its people are great. It does refer to it on the very last page, added just before publication, in sadness at the death of so many people.

If any visitor to this site would like to contact me about it, or any of the subjects on it, please do so. I would appreciate any feedback you have, good or bad. I know I can always improve the site, and any help in doing so would be gratefully received. Even the mildest of comments is good to get.
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