White squall

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A white squall on 25 October 2009 in the Strait of Magellan

A white squall is a sudden and violent windstorm at sea which is not accompanied by the black clouds generally characteristic of a squall. It manifests as a sudden increase in wind velocity in tropical and sub-tropical waters, and may be a microburst.[1] The name refers to the white-capped waves and broken water, its meager warning to any unlucky seaman caught in its path. A white squall was allegedly behind the sinking of the brigantine Albatross on May 2, 1961 although, in fact, there were a number of traditional line squalls all around and a microburst was very unlikely.[citation needed] White squalls are rare at sea, but common on the Great Lakes of North America.

Historical incidents[edit]

White squalls are the culprits of many sea stories and have been blamed for a few tragedies. A white squall was the reported cause of the loss of the schooner Paul Pry off Cape Schanck, Australia, on September 3, 1841.[2] In May 1986, the Pride of Baltimore, a modern 137-foot (42 m) schooner, was reportedly struck by a white squall. The 121-ton vessel sank about 240 miles (390 km) north of Puerto Rico, casting the surviving crew members adrift for five days. The Toro, a Norwegian freighter, picked them up at 2:30 a.m. May 19, 1986. An eyewitness account described it as follows:

"A tremendous whistling sound suddenly roared through the rigging and a wall of wind hit us in the back. The Pride heeled over in a matter of seconds. The 70-knot (130 km/h) wind pushed a 20-foot (6.1 m) high wall of water into the starboard side. She sank in minutes."[1]

In literature and the arts[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ USA Today: "Answers: Oceans, waves, tides." Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  2. ^ "SHIP NEWS". Colonial Times. September 14, 1841. p. 2 – via Trove.