The Roaring Forties Off Tasmania

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The captains of sailing ships in the 19th century were well aware of them

The captains of sailing ships in the 19th century were well aware of them:

Namely, the westerly winds, which in the northern and also in the southern hemisphere in certain latitudes drove the ships forward with tremendous thrust

In the northern hemisphere they are called Howling or Furious Fifties:

Screaming Sixties is another name

It is well known to seafarers that there is a region of special drift of the westerly winds in the southern hemisphere between 40° and 50° south latitude. “Roaring forties” is what circumnavigators call this phenomenon.

All year round winds from the west blow unchecked, as the winds originating at Cape Horn below the southern tip of Africa , which thus ceases to act as a wind brake ,without hitting land, rush eastwards around the globe. With them come the rains, the high seas and also the storms. There are fortunately few land areas that will be affected by the “Roaring forties”. Unfortunately, this includes Tasmania. So, unfortunately, the weather imp act is not only limited to Bass Strait, but also to Apple Island. And in the past, many sailors on the west coast of Tasmania could sing a song about this.

The Gordon River and also the King River flow into a big basin that is called Macquarie Harbour:

Strahan is also located at this water body

But there is also another version for the naming: the convicts who were imprisoned on Sarah Island under inhumane conditions knew that with the passage of the narrows to Macquarie Harbour, hell would begin for them. Today, because of these winds, there is Kelly’s Channel. This is a three kilometre long stone wall that ends at Hell’s Gate, as they call the narrow entrance. Somewhat in the shallower water beyond the rampart is a small cove, Backagain Point. A waiting place with shelters where two or three rigged masters used to wait for favourable weather conditions to sail. Unfortunately, whales also strand on the ocean beach in this area time and time again.

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For the convicts who were brought to Sarah Island, however, the name “Hells Gate” had a different meaning. Sarah Island, the prison island was arguably the cruelest and worst maximum security prison in the British penal colonies. Once here meant always here!

Dieter Tischendorf publishes his books in the ditido publishing house.


Further information on this topic can be found below

Sailing the Roaring 40s in 30 foot Waves! Sailing SV Delos Ep. 107