16a["The Hurricane in the Nor'-West", The West Australian, Tuesday 05 April 1898, page 5]






Roebourne, April 4.

A terrific storm visited Roebourne and Cossack on Saturday, doing an immense amount of damage to houses and other property. The weather came over very dull on Friday morning, and a strong easterly wind set in later in the day, increasing in force as the day wore on. Rain fell heavily all Friday night, and on Saturday at 4 p.m. it commenced to blow a hurricane. The barometer went down to 28. Preparations were made by householders for a willy-willy, doors and windows being barricaded. About six o'clock the hurricane reached its height. Amidst the roar of the wind and the rain houses were unroofed, others being completely wrecked. Portions of corrugated iron roofs and single sheets of iron were twisted and contorted into all sorts of shapes ane went flying through the air to the danger of those persons who were obliged to leave their habitations for premises which were thought to afford better security for life and limb.

In Roebourne the tramway stables, The Leap Year Inn, the Victoria Hotel, the newly erected stables, the offices of the Northern Public Opinion, the dwelling of the mayor and the blacksmith's shop of F. W. Teesdale were wholly unroofed. The dining room of the Roebourne Hotel, the dwelling of a Cingalese carpenter named Peirce, the kitchen of the old police quarters, Messrs. Gawthorne and Hill's carriage and waggon workshop and paintshop, the stables and carriage shed of the Mayor, the thatched house (the first one erected in Roebourne ) of John Withnell, senr., which had withstood all previous " willy willies," the outhouses and storerooms of See Sing and Co. and Kwong Ying Chong, and thee stables and sale yards at Stanbridge were entirely demolished. The Chinese gardens, house, and outbuildings in Sholl and Co.'s paddock were washed away in a moment. The warehouse of Watson and Co., merchants, the dwellings of P. O. Neil, D. Gawthorne, and A. Thomas, the Victoria Hall, a cottage occupied by the landlord of the Roeburne Hotel, and the dwelling and shop of W. Bergen, bootmaker, were partially unroofed. In the latter case the chimney collapsed, and a long length of store timber, was carried by the wind and landed on the roof, penetrating it, and going through a bed in which the inmates were about to put some little children. A similar thing happened at Gawthorne's residence, but no personal injury resulted.

The hurricane appears to have affected the north end of the town more severely than the southern portion. Fences in all directions were razed to the ground. The residence of Police Inspector Drewry suffered somewhat, the roof being detached from the kitchen and twisted 3ft. off the walls. Almost every building standing was damaged more or less. So searching was the rain that there was no single habitation into which it did not penetrate freely. The river rose to a height unprecedented in the history of the Nor'- west, there being six inches of water in Mr. H. B. Geyer's residence. Watson and Co. sustained considerable damage by water to the goods in their warehouse, as also did Seeping and Co. and Kwong, Yen, Chong, but the North-West Australian Mercantile Company's stock was not much damaged by water.

The town presents a very dilapidated spectacle. In no storm previously experienced has so much damage been wrought. Telegraph communication between Roebourne and Cossack and eastward is entirely cut off. The line between the two former places is down for three or four miles. The tramway embankment across the marsh is washed away, and the rails have parted in places and been lodged 20 yards from the site of the embankment. All the approaches and the bridges, both along the tramway line and on the road, have been completely washed away, the rails standing several feet from the ground. Communication is cut off by road.

Several daring persons walked up to Roebourne through mud and slush up to their knees to communicate the news of the most terrible disaster that has befallen Cossack which appears to have been the very centre of the hurricane. The experiences of some of the residents of Cossack are most heart-rending. Mr and Mrs. Wilson, observing their dwelling collapsing, left it, with the intention of proceeding to Mr. C. W. Paterson's residence, a few hundred yards off. They had a terrible time of it. They were for four hours hanging on to the spinifex in the midst of the storm before they reached their destination. Wilson lost sight of his wife for a whole hour, and then only found her by chance. S. Hemingway and B. Thompson, after their residences had collapsed, got into a four-hundred gallon tank to save their lives, and remained there up to the middle in the water till daylight. The jetty has sunk down many feet and the goodshed is frightfully torn about by the storm. The sea burst in the door facing the creek and swept a quantity of cargo out. Fearful damage has been done to shipping. The s.s. Beagle is piled up on the rocks on the south side of the jetty in front of the Weld Hotel with her stern resting on the fallen wall of the jetty and her bows on the rocks. The schooner Maggie Mollan[sic] is a total wreck on the beach toward Japtown. The dilapidated jetty was fully loaded with general merchandise for Condon. The cargo is now strewn along the strand from one end to the other. The schooner Harriett is high and dry on the beach close to the north side of the jetty, The s.s. Croydon, which was moored near the stock jetty, on the opposite side of the creek, was carried fair on to high land. The cutter Rose has been washed up between the residences of A. Rouse and A. S. Thompson. Smaller crafts, such as passenger boats, etc., were carried greater distances inland. The only boat that remained at her moorings was the police boat. Not a single boat other than this is safe. Tee and Co's. office, H. Wilson's residence and buildings, the Weld and White House hotels and Paxton's boarding house are scattered in all directions. The new Customs-house and the residence of J. Meagher have been unroofed. A great deal of other damage has been done. The buildings of the Nor'-West Mercantile Company were flooded, and the company are heavy losers through the damage done to their merchandise, which is floating about the stores. Japtown is one heap of ruins. The houses which are composed of wood and iron flimsily put together were felled like skittles.

The tramway from the jetty has sunk down 3ft., leaving the station standing far above it. The ss. Albany arrived in the roads yesterday Captain Odman reports a terrible experience. His vessel lost her rudder and was brought into the roads under sail. The captain says that unless the Croydon can be got off to tow the Albany into the creek, the latter will be unable to leave until assistance is sent from the south. The river is falling rapidly, and will be passable to-morrow morning. No less than fourteen inches, and 64 points of rainfall were registered, when the gauge overflowed. It is considered that twenty inches must have fallen.

As far as known a Chinaman named Non Che has been drowned in the Lording [? Harding] River, but fears are entertained for the safety of the Chinamen who owned the gardens in Sholl and Co.'s paddock. A number of horses and cattle on the common were drowned. One horse had its leg broken, whilst another received a gash on the hind quarter in which a man could bury his hand.

The damage and loss cannot be estimated, but it must be very considerable. The residents expect to get news from the country in a few days. A special reporter is leaving for Cossack tomorrow. It is feared that, owing to no lighters being available to bring cargo from the steamers to Cossack, provisions will run short in some directions before lighters can be brought up from the south.

The lighthousekeeper on Jarman Island had an extremely trying time during the hurricane. Water from the sea was dashed over the lighthouse and aided by the wind broke one of the glasses in the lantern. Water poured in putting out the light. At one time there was 4ft. of water on the lighthouse floor, and all the stays' were slackened by the force of the storm. The roof of the quarters was stripped, the chimneys were blown down, portions of the masonry were shifted, the windows and doors were blown in and the quarters were swamped by the water which rushed down the hill. The store-room and boat-shed are gone completely, all the Go- vernment and private stores have been destroyed, the lifeboat has been carrisd out to sea, whilst the tram line to the quarters has been washed away. J.J. Lyons, the lighthouse keeper, says that though he has had 20 years of seamanship in many parts of the world, he has not before experienced such a terrific gale.


On Sunday the Under-Secretary for Mines (Mr. H. C. Prinsep) received the following telegram from Mr. J. Grimish, the Mining Registrar at Roebourne:--"Severe hurricane passed over here yesterday, last night and to-day. Considerable damage to property, stock and Residency. Have not yet ascertained rainfall accurately. Communication cut off between Roebourne and Cossack. No news yet from steamer Albany; people anxious."

The above telegram was supplemented by another one from Mr. Grimish yesterday, as follows:--"Following my telegram yesterday, rainfall during hurricane 15in. Great destruction of property Roebourne and Cossack.

The Acting General Manager of Railways (Mr. J. T. Short) has received the following telegram from the Acting General Manager of the Cossack Roebourne tramway, dated Sunday:--"Severe hurricane and heavy rain yesterday. Considerable damage to line and buildings. Traffic is entirely suspended. Goods shed and manager's office, wharves and stables at Cossack, and stables at Roebourne very much damaged. Embankment across Marsh washed away. Rails and sleepers carried 20 yards. Approaches to all bridges washed out to an average of 20 feet. Shed floors and the whole of the Cossack railway yards sunk about 6ft., leaving the outside wall and wharf without support. Shed roof, also side and end, stove in, damaging goods by rain and sea water. Almost the whole of the line will require to be repaired." Steps were yesterday instituted by the Railway Department to repair the damages above enumerated.

Yesterday evening the Postmaster General (Mr. R. A. Sholl) received a telegram from Mr. H. W. Birch, the Postmaster at Cossack, which was despatched at 4.20 p.m. The message, which is as follows, is confirmatory of the telegram from Roebourne, published in yesterday's WEST AUSTRALIAN:--"A terrific hurricane passed over Cossack on Saturday, lasting from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday. Considerable damage was done to post office. Two steam lighters are ashore. The Beagle is almost wrecked, the schooner Maggie Dollan is a total wreck, and the Harriet is stranded. Nearly all the buildings in Cossack are destroyed. The tramline is a complete wreck. The telegraph line has been washed down for miles, but temporary communication is now restored. The total loss of property is estimated at 15,000. The steamer Albany arrived at noon on Sunday without her rudder and her propeller damaged." ,

The Postmaster-General also received a telegram from Mr. J. O. Topper, Postmaster at Roebourne, as follows :--"The lighthouse keeper informs me that the Albany has arrived under sail with her rudder gone and that she will have to be brought into Cossack Creek for repairs as soon as the Beagle is floated off. We were unable to get the mails through to-day."

The Commissioner of Police yesterday received a telegram from Inspector Drewry, dated Roebourne. April 3, which stated:--"A strong gale last night. Many buildings were damaged. About 15 inches of rain fell north, and the Cossack telegraph lines are down. Johnston's hotel, Basset's hotel, Watson's warehouse and printing office are badly damaged, also a part of the police-quarters, my own house, and many private residences."

16b["Cossack Hurricane", The Inquirer & Commercial News (Perth, WA), Friday 08 April 1898, page 9]




Cossack, April 5.

The destruction caused by the hurricane here is indescribable. The town is bestrewn with the wreckage of boats, cargo, and the ruins of houses. The steamer Beagle is in a very nasty position, with her bow resting on the remaining portion of the concrete wall at the south end of the jetty, and the stern on the boulders forming part of the tram line. For about 30ft. of the vessel a person can walk underneath. Her port bilge is dented a great deal, and a hole is stove in her port bow. The captain. J. Lyons, reports having had a terrible experience. After sticking to the vessel through the storm he was washed overboard and sustained a severe knocking about from the floating wreckage. He succeeded, however, in reaching the land. Strenuous efforts are being made by the master and agents to get the vessel off. The schooner Harriet is jammed between the north end of the jetty wail and the beach. She has sustained slight injuries to her rudder and keel. The ketch Maggie Gollan was sunk alongside the jetty, but afterwards all the lines snapped, and the vessel was washed ashove and smashed up. She had a full cargo aboard for Condon, and her wreckage and merchandise are strewn about. The goods shed, jetty, and tram-line are deplorably damaged. The goods shed is simply a frame, with twisted portions of corrugated iron attached. The concrete floors have sunk several feet, and are lying in small sections. The steamer Croydon is on the opposite side of the creek, but might be floated off with little difficulty. Other smaller craft are washed up near the houses. The stock jetty is greatly damaged, and cannot be used until repaired. The tram-line from the jetty on the Cossack side of the creek is reduced to a lower level than the road, and the rails are separated and carried on to the Strand-road. More than a dozen houses have been partly or completely unroofed. The Customs bonded store and the landing-waiter's quarters had nearly all the iron stripped from the roof, and in places the wall, plates and masonry are loosened. The greatest sufferers from the effects of the water are the North-West Mercantile Company, the roof of whose retail stores, together with the wall plates, was lifted bodily and stripped of the iron. The water poured in on the goods, destroying more than 1,000 worth, though tarpaulins had been put over them in anticipation of the storm playing havoc with the buildings. The hardware and oilmen's warehouse was flattened, as were also the stables. The manager's cottage sustained much damage. Messrs. Galbraith aud Co., merchants, are little better off. The hurricane lifted the south-east corner off their roof, the rain damaging valuable stock, and destroying large quantities of perishable articles. The main building only is left standing. The buggies are terribly mangled, and all that is left of the assembly-room is three walls. Japtown had only the portions of two buildings left when the storm abated, but since then great activity has been shown in the re-erection of this suburb. The whole of the town is bestrewn with ruins. The damage and loss here alone are estimated at 30,000, while the tram-line between here and Roebourne will have to be rebuilt for almost the whole distance. The embankment across the marsh was levelled with the ground for a mile and a half, and the line was washed against the telegraph poles, 15 yards away. The rail approaches to the bridges have disappeared, and the Marsh-road is a thing of the past, having been in many places swept away right down to the mangroves which were put on the marsh when the old road was first formed. The first bridge has disappeared and the second is turned end for end. The new bridges erected over the deep gullies on the road to Roebourne are unapproachable, there being a 6ft. drop to some. One at Two-Mile Gully has been sunk 3ft. in the centre. Communication by telegraph between Cossack and Roebourne was restored yesterday afternoon, though the poles are lying at all angles.