A Hurricane in Jamaica

This is from The Life of Silas Told, his first job on a sailing ship as cabin boy:

“As we were riding at anchor in Kingston harbour, the capital of Jamaica, waiting for a freight to England, a very great noise was heard in the atmosphere, similar to that of splitting wood, and the elements were much disturbed. Our chief Mate was of an opinion, that we should be visited by a hurricane that evening; which began abut 8 o’clock the same night, and held without intermission, till 6 o’clock the following evening. all language fails me to set forth the violence of this tempest, as nothing could stand before it. There were in the harbour of Kingston 76 sail of ships, many of which were very large; but all riding with 3 anchors a-head; and notwithstanding ours was a new ship, with 3 new cables and anchors, yet, about 4 o’clock in the morning, we parted all 3 cables at once, and turning broadside to the wind, over-set and sunk to the ground. In that condition we were driven, with our gunnel to the bottom, down to the extremity of the harbour, which is about 12 miles. Though we were the 1st ship that drove from her anchors, yet all our masts stood; but this was not the situation of any vessel beside, for the whole fleet lost all their masts, yards, and bowsprits, and every vessel, large or small, was driven, with astonishing rapidity, high on the land.

The same hurricane drove a large snow, of 220 tons, above half a mile into the country, which broke and tore the cocoa-nut trees up by the roots; likewise a very heavy brigantine was cast upon the wharfs in the town, and a large sloop, of about 120 tons, lay with her keep across the brig’s deck. In short, that part of the town nearest the water side was barricaded with the wrecks of ships and vessels; and as there were no tides to ebb and flood, consequently there was no possibility of getting them off; nor were there any save one fine stately ship, which rode out that tempest: so that 75 sail of ships of war and merchantmen were inevitably destroyed in the tremendous overthrow.”

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