Llandudno Pier, Wales
On the 25th October 1859 the first of a series of powerful gales struck the coast of Cornwall. They travelled across the mainland to the North Sea, Scotland and then on to Norway. They were the most severe storms to hit the Irish Sea in the 19th Century, with winds reaching over a hundred miles an hour. By the 9th November there had been 325 wrecks and approximately 748 lives lost, although the exact number is impossible to know.
The Royal Charter Storm was named after the Steam Clipper Royal Charter, one of the casualties wrecked off Llandudno. This was a famous Victorian ship, large and fast, with an ironclad hull that had sails, as well as steam. The ship was nearing the end of its journey to Liverpool, having started in Australia two months previously, sailing around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Atlantic. It was carrying passengers, crew and a large quantity of gold.
On the evening of the 25th, despite conditions deteriorating, the captain decided to carry on for Liverpool, rather than take shelter. By late evening the weather was so bad that the Liverpool Pilot was unable to reach the ship, anchors were dropped, but snapped. The masts were cut to reduce the drag of the wind on the ship, but it was all too late.
The ship was driven inshore, her engines unable to make headway against the gale. She struck the rocks and quickly broke up. The precise number of dead cannot be known, as the complete passenger list was lost in the wreck, however, it is thought that as many as 460 lives were lost including all of the women and children aboard. There were only 40 survivors, and to this day it remains the highest death toll of any shipwreck on the Welsh coast.
As a result of the disaster and subsequent enquiry, plans were made to create an official co-ordinated weather forecasting system.