Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 9, 1888 --- King Fog

At nightfall, a dense fog rolls in off the Atlantic, blanketing the entire British Isles for five days.  An anti-cyclonic wind pattern gets the blame for the calamitous conditions.  Traffic is snarled throughout London; in the City, the street lights burned ineffectually all day.  Shipping all but comes to a complete halt; it took thirty hours to make the crossing from Folkestone to Boulogne. 

The fog led to numerous deaths.  Near Glasgow, two railway workers were run down by a train and killed.  The brother of one of the victims, going to the scene, was also fatally injured.  In Torquay, the local Coast Guard commander, took a deadly misstep, plunging eight feet off a cliff at Babbacombe.  In Clapton, a postman fell into a canal and drowned.  In Birmingham, the arrival of the fog coincided with local rumors that the "end of time" was at hand.  The local paper noted that this "led to more than the usual concern among the susceptible."  As always, the fog brought good fortune to some; 11 Liverpool boys made their escape from a reformatory ship docked in the Mersey. 

It took several days for the fog to lift.  The Channel coast was the last to see the sun, the "incessant shrieking" of the fog horns having about driven the locals quite batty.  The ever-ready doggerel team at Punch acknowledged a new sovereign:
King Fog laughed long and loud, and his courtiers, a black crowd, gathered round their misty Monarch as he cried:
Oh, my henchmen, this is grand. Our strong hand is on the land.  We rule this country, far and wide.

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