The bags of mulch are stacked on the front porch, ready to keep the weeds down in my flower gardens. The only problem is the not-yet-bloomed flowers are soaked.
Where did all this rain come from? Back in early May, I thought we had it made with early sunshine and nice weather. I should have known better.
Snow in northern New York on May 25? Say it isn’t so, but it has been worse.
“The Year Without a Summer” happened in 1816, the result of an incident in April 1815. According to www.about.com, it would take more than 100 years before scientists understood why.
On the remote island of Sumbawa stood Mount Tambora, a volcano 12,000 feet high. On April 5, 1815, it started to rumble, much to everyone’s surprise.
No cell phones in those days, not even a telegraph on that tiny island — historians have had to rely on eyewitness accounts, in particular Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles, who was serving as governor of Java at the time.
Sir Thomas published a brilliant account of the day, gathered from English traders and military personnel. Accounts state that on April 10, the volcano blew its top, shooting fire into the sky in three columns.
It was thought that a gun battle was ensuing on the ocean. Military troops were dispatched, and ships were sent to help in the fight. Can you imagine their surprise, wandering around on the Indian Ocean looking for a battle and finding none?
Inhabitants on an island 10 miles to the south said the entire mountain looked like it was turning to liquid fire, throwing stones of volcanic matter onto neighboring islands. Reports state that the eruptions were accompanied by violent winds, small earthquakes and tsunamis. Archaeologists have uncovered settlements that were wiped out.
By fall of 1815, London was experiencing some of the eeriest sunsets the city had ever seen. In the following year, dust particles from Mount Tambora were carried by wind currents across the world. Weather in Europe and North America was drastically affected. Spring and summer were cold, crops didn’t grow, and a food shortage ensued.
The North Country was not exempt from these problems. In “Historical Sketches of Franklin County,” Frederick J. Seaver (1918) relates an interview he had with Anslem Lincoln in 1885 when he was 91. Lincoln arrived in Malone in 1815.
Lincoln said Malone had a frost in every month in 1816. (Similar problems across the country caused President James Monroe to mention it in his annual message to Congress.) The State Legislature directed the annuity be paid to the St. Regis Indians early because their corn was devastated.
Seaver quoted Lincoln: “The heaviest frost in Franklin County came in September, blighting such crops as had, in part, escaped destruction in earlier months. Wheat, rye, oats and vegetables were so badly damaged that none was worth harvesting. Potatoes were not larger than hen’s eggs.”
He continued: “In the fall of 1816, supplies of all kinds had run low in Malone until a state of famine prevailed. A boat had been long overdue in Fort Covington with flour, and with the expectation that it must have arrived … the store (Clark & Wead) had filled with people … each having his bag to be filled with flour.
“But the wagons came home empty …. The disappointment was great and bitter. I saw strong hardy men cry like children, sobbing that they could bear hunger themselves but that it was hard to see their children starve.”
He also related that Mr. Moody went to Troy, purchased a quantity of flour and brought it back to Malone. Lincoln paid $16 for one barrel of flour from Moody and “was glad to get it even at that price.”
By now, you are probably thinking, “How distressing.” Lighten up, readers. There haven’t been any volcanic eruptions. In this age of instant messaging, we would know if an ant sneezed and caused a dust devil to rise.
All kidding aside, I’m sick of rain. I’m ready for spring and summer flowers and to get Toby back out there on the lawn mower. Hurry up, sunshine. You’re overdue.
One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.
Email Susan Tobias:firstname.lastname@example.org