Black Thursday (1851)
|Date(s)||6 February 1851|
|Ignition source||Heat wave, careless burning|
The Black Thursday bushfires were a devastating series of fires that swept the state of Victoria, Australia on 6 February 1851. They are considered the largest Australian bushfires in a populous region in recorded history, with approximately 5 million hectares, or a quarter of Victoria, being burnt. Twelve lives were lost, along with one million sheep and thousands of cattle.
"The temperature became torrid, and on the morning of the 6th of February 1851, the air which blew down from the north resembled the breath of a furnace. A fierce wind arose, gathering strength and velocity from hour to hour, until about noon it blew with the violence of a tornado. By some inexplicable means it wrapped the whole country in a sheet of flame — fierce, awful, and irresistible."
The year preceding the fires was exceptionally hot and dry and this trend continued into the summer of 1851. On Black Thursday, a northerly wind set in early and the temperature in Melbourne was reported to have peaked at 47.2 degrees C (117 degrees F) at 11:00am. This would have been the hottest temperature ever recorded in the city—although it has never been an official record, as there is no evidence the temperature was actually measured in full shade and the Stevenson screen had not yet been used in Australia so it was a non standard measurement. Further to that the measurement is based on anecdotal evidence and therefore may never have been measured at all, i.e. could have been an exaggeration or made up completely. The north wind was so strong that thick black smoke reached northern Tasmania, creating a murky mist, resembling a combination of smoke and fog. A ship 20 miles (32 km) out to sea came under burning ember attack and was covered in cinders and dust.
In the evening, a southerly change brought with it cooler conditions and light rain.
Portland, Plenty Ranges, Westernport, The Wimmera, Dandenong Ranges
- Picturesque Atlas of Australasia published in 1886
- Kiddle, Margaret (1980). Men of yesterday: A Social History of the Western District of Victoria, 1834-1890 (Reprinted with corrections. ed.). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. p. 181. ISBN 0522842089.
- "The Late Bush Fires". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848 - 1957) (Melbourne, Vic.). 10 February 1851. p. 2. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- Maitland Mercury, and Hunter River General Advertiser (Tasmania), Saturday 22 February 1851
- "Black Thursday". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) (Melbourne, Vic.). 28 June 1924. p. 6. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- "State Library of Victoria's Bushfires in Victoria Research Guide". Guide to locating books, government reports, websites, statistics, newspaper reports and images about the Black Thursday fires. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
- "Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, Fire and Other Emergencies". Major Bushfires in Victoria. Retrieved 2009-02-20.[dead link]
- "Craigieburn Historical Interest Group". Bushfires of Black Thursday, 1851. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "Romsey Weather Database". Melbourne "Argus" Newspaper 8 February 1851. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- "State Library of Victoria". Painting entitled "Black Thursday, 1851" by William Strutt, 1864. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
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