Mock’s database shows 11 major hurricanes affecting South Carolina: 1713, 1728, 1752, 1804, 1813, 1822, 1893 (2), 1954, 1959 and 1989.
One discovery of particular interest to Mock was one from a U.S. log about a hurricane that hit Oct. 31 – Nov. 1, 1861.
“The U.S. fleet was headed to Beaufort to take over,” he says. “The storm went from the Gulf across Florida, up the Carolinas to New England. It is the only storm that I know of to do that.”
He also has about 150 logbook records detailing the weather conditions that led in part to the sinking of the Hunley submarine.
While the 19th century offers compelling hurricane accounts, it is the early ship logs that hold the most value for Mock.
“The oldest written accounts show fewer storms because there was limited information,” he says. “Changing just one to three hurricanes a year using ship-log data makes a difference.” We average nine to 10 hurricanes in the Atlantic basin each year. A change of three storms can swing a hurricane season from low to high easily. That is important when you are looking at trends over the span of hundreds of years.”
What trend can climate experts deduce from Mock’s now more complete database?
“The level of hurricane activity is just as active today as it was in parts of the 17th and 18th centuries, even though there was different weather, such as wind shear, during the period of the little ice age (1500 – 1850),” he says.
Encouraged by the wealth of weather information in maritime records, Mock has begun to look at England’s East India Company and British Royal Navy ship logs to determine the typhoon history of Hong Kong. He says there has been very little work done to reconstruct the typhoon and severe weather history in the Western Pacific and almost nothing done before World War II.