struck Bathurst Bay
and the surrounding region on 10 March 1899
, killing over 400 people. It was the deadliest natural disaster in Australian history
Mahina hit on 4 March 1899
. Mahina was a Category 5 cyclone, the most powerful of the tropical cyclone severity categories
Within an hour, the pearling fleet (at anchor) was either driven onto the shore or onto the Great Barrier Reef. Only 4 sailors
survived and over 307 were killed. Just before the eye of the cyclone passed overland to the north a tidal wave
(caused by storm surge
), variously reported as either 13 metres or 48 feet (14.6 meters) high, swept inland for about 5 kilometers, destroying anything that was left of the Bathurst Bay pearling fleet along with the settlement.
Eyewitness Constable J. M. Kenny reported that a 48 ft (14.6 m) storm surge swept over their camp at Barrow Point atop a 40 ft (12 m) high ridge and reached 3 miles (5 km) inland, the largest storm surge ever recorded.
Over 100 Indigenous Australians died, including some who were caught by the back surge and swept into the sea while trying to help shipwrecked men. Thousands of fish and some sharks and dolphins were found 15 m above sea level up to several kilometers inland and rocks were embedded in trees. On Flinders Island (Queensland) dolphins were found 15.2 meters up on the cliffs.
A memorial stone to 'The Pearlers' who were lost to the hurricane was erected on Cape Melville. The disaster is also commemorated in the Anglican church on Thursday Island.
- Whittingham, H. E., (1958), The Bathurst Bay Hurricane and associated storm surge. Australian Meteorological Magazine 23 14-36.