175th Anniversary of the Coringa cyclone

Illustration from Piddington's "Conversations about Hurricanes"

Illustration from Piddington’s “Conversations about Hurricanes”

On November 25, 1839 a violent tropical cyclone struck the busy Indian port city of Coringa in Andhra Pradesh province on the Bay of Bengal.  There are no measurements of the maximum wind speed but the storm surge was estimated at 40 feet (12 meters).  This destroyed the harbor city and wrecked 20,000 vessels.  An estimated 300,000 people died in the storm making it one of the deadliest storms in history.  The city of Coringa had been hit by another cyclone 50 years earlier that killed 20,000 people, but the port had managed to rebound from that disaster.  However, this time, Coringa was unable to recover economically and remains a very small village today.

This storm prompted Henry Piddington (President of the Marine Courts of Inquiry at Kolkata) to present the results of his studies of similar storms (especially the 1789 Coringa storm) to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1840.  It was during this presentation that he coined the term ‘cyclone’ to describe the coiling circulation of the winds.

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