Black Thursday, February 6th. 1851, as depicted by William Strutt in 1864
[click on picture to enlarge]
If we are to believe the sensational narrative of the mainstream media & The Greens (but I repeat myself), the bushfires being currently fought around Australia are unprecedented and the worst we’ve ever faced.
This is very convenient for the media machine that makes more money from sensation than history repeating itself, the Green political machine that needs humanity to be on the brink of ecological apocalypse to be at all relevant, the fire-fighting administrators who need to justify more government funding and the environmental NGOs who always want both some relevance and more government funding.
Before you swallow their force-fed diet of dire doomsday descriptions, take a moment to chew on the objective facts about a fire no one alive today heard about in the benighted news.
In what came to be infamously known as the Black Thursday Bushfires, a series of devastating fires consumed a quarter of what is now Victoria – about 5 million hectares – in 1851, the height of which happened on Thursday, 6 February.
According to Forest Fire Management of Victoria, 12 human lives were lost, along with a million sheep and thousands of cattle.
Reading Thomas McCombie’s record of that fateful day you could be forgiven for thinking he was describing the drought and climate we’re experiencing 168 years later.
“For two months preceding, the country had been under the desiccating winds, which appeared to be highly charged with electricity. The herbage was parched up, and everything that the eye could rest upon was dry, dusty, and disagreeable. The 6th of February dawned much as very hot days generally do; the roseate tints of the horizon were rather brighter and more lurid than usual – the glassed glare over the sky more vividly perceptible. The north wind set strongly in early in the morning, and by eleven o’clock in the fore-noon it had increased to almost a hurricane.
In the streets of Melbourne the heat was intense, and the atmosphere densely oppressive. Clouds of smoke and dust hung over the city. The fires which blazed in the surrounding country no doubt increased the suffocating sensation which was generally experienced. It was hardly possible to go abroad; the streets were nearly deserted; and a few of the persons who were compelled to make the effort to traverse them stalked along with their faces closely enveloped in cloth; no man, however bold, appeared able to face the furiously-suffocating blast, which seemed to wither up their physical energies. By noon, the inhabitants, generally, had shut themselves up in their various dwellings, too happy to have got out of the reach of the overpowering blast. They continued to sit until night listening in terror to the howl of this real sirocco. Had any portion of Melbourne ignited the whole of the city must have been reduced to ashes, as no effort of the inhabitants could have prevented the conflagration from extending and becoming general. The citizens were providentially preserved from so terrible a disaster.“
The temperature that day was 47°C in the shade, 117°F in the old scale. For a year prior, the nation had suffered an intense drought. The whole continent suffered from climate which had been extremely hot and dry, a trend which continued into 1851.
According to research published by the CSIRO in 2009, although the blaze started with some careless bullock drivers leaving their fire unattended near some long, dry grass, the main reason for the catastrophic bushfires was the colonialists’ poor understanding of how Aboriginal people had traditionally managed these areas. They used fire-stick farming to reduce the ground fuel load and maintain large patches of land which could be easily hunted on and walked through.
There have been dozens of “unprecedented” bushfires in Australia over the last few centuries since records have been kept, many of them burning well over a million hectares.
It may suit the vested interests to exaggerate these fires, but they are certainly not unprecedented, and neither is reducing carbon dioxide the most glaringly neglected, effective strategy to minimise loss of life and property if we are to learn anything from history.
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