240th Anniversary of the Great Newfoundland Hurricane

Ship caught in a storm at sea

Ship caught in a storm at sea

On September 9, 1775, a violent hurricane swept over the British colony of Newfoundland.  It sank many fishing boats and two British naval vessels to become the deadliest hurricane to strike Canada (and one of the top ten deadliest Atlantic hurricanes).  It was also the first one in Canada’s recorded history.

The week before, a hurricane ravaged the Outer Banks of North Carolina and eastern Virginia.  It is not known if this was the same storm that struck Newfoundland or if there were two storms hitting in close succession.  The NC/VA hurricane damaged crops, killed over 100 people, and drove a British naval vessel (HMS Otter) ashore, where it was captured and destroyed by Virginia rebels.  The Newfoundland storm was responsible for over 4000 deaths, mostly sailors at sea.  There were also reports of storm surge on land reaching anywhere from 20 to 30 feet (6.5-10 m).

David Ludlum, in his book “Early American Hurricanes” dubbed the first storm the “Independence Hurricane” as it occurred during the opening months of America’s War of Independence.  Stormy weather was noted by rebels holding the Bunker Hill heights on Sept. 3rd and 4th as the storm swept northward over Boston.

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