Galveston Hurricane and Its Influence on Americans’ Confidence in Conquering Nature in 1800s and 1900s

The confrontation between nature and science has always been the main cornerstone for humanity as soon as people start gaining knowledge in various fields. Throughout the history, people have been struggling with natural powers to prove their superiority over it. However, their confidence in the possibility to conquer the nature did not help them much when they encounter Galveston hurricane.

Indeed, Isaac Cline was an honorable meteorological community; he had strong confidence in scientific knowledge that allowed him to predict storms by cloud motions and behavior. Therefore, the idea that a hurricane could destroy the entire city of Galveston was not even considered.

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Nevertheless, in 1900, the American society felt stronger than it did before and, therefore, nothing in nature could prevent the prosperous development of Galveston. However, blind confidence had become the reason for the most horrible disaster in the American history.

At the threshold of the 20th century, the city of Galveston was considered a prosperous city with the population of about 37.000 residents. Due to its beneficial geographic location, Galveston had also become the biggest commercial city in Texas, which made the citizens become more proud of it.

The rapid development of trade relations had also contributed to technological advancement and, therefore, Galveston community believed that their progressive technologies could overcome the natural forces. In the book, Larson introduces his own research findings by stating, “…if things continued as there were Galveston soon would achieve the stature of New Orleans, Baltimore, or San Francisco” (12).

Hence, all scientists, businesspeople, and investors were more concerned with commercial and economic growth of the city rather than with meteorological situation. Gaining a reputation of a future cosmopolitan, people were, indeed, proud of the achievements and potential of the community development.

Galveston citizens had been reassured that no hurricane could destroy Galveston because of accurate temperature and meteorologist forecast. In the book, Larson refers to the characters as well-educated, confident citizens, who strongly believed that technological progress and scientific knowledge were reliable protection mechanisms.

In particular, the author writes, “Isaac was aware of himself and how he moved through the day, and saw himself as something bigger than a mere recorder of rainfall and temperature” (Larson 4). The scientist was able to explain even the strangest phenomena that ever happened.

In addition, Isaac had a clear view of the Gulf to make possible calculations and predictions concerning any threats to the city. He also knew about the peculiarities of the climatic conditions. However, the author emphasized this fact to prove the possibility of eliminating the tragedy if Mr. Cline admitted the probability of hurricane approaching the Gulf.

Cline’s extreme confidence in his knowledge of storm phenomenon was the major reason for ignoring the message from the Cuban meteorologists who identified the incoming storm on September 5. However, this weather information was not taken seriously by Galveston weather bureau, since they believed that their Cuban colleagues had failed to accurately forecast.

In particular, the meteorologist believed that “the Cuban…seemed to care more about drama and passion than science” (Larson 112). As a result of stereotypic judgment and false assumptions, the scientists had explicitly ignored the possibility of any hazards to the city.

Moreover, the government considered that telegraph messages sent by the Cuban meteorological status sought to conspire against their weather bureau. In fact, Larson introduced a number of facts proving that the Cubans could forecast weather with much higher accuracy than the U.S. weather station (113).

The history and evidence shows that there was indeed a storm in Cuba. So, should meteorologists believed their Cuban colleagues and consider the information, they could conclude that all tropical systems would turn north. The scientists, including Isaac Cline, did not even admit that the Gulf could be destroyed by the hurricane.

Rather, the national weather bureau had issued the news for the citizens, assuring that “The storm will probably continue slowly northward and its effects will be felt as far as the lower portion of the middle Atlantic cost by Friday night” (Larson 113). However, their predictions were mistaken and were largely affected by their extreme reliance on scientific knowledge. Negligence of the information sent by neighboring meteorological stations had led to irreversible consequences.

Even when Isaac Cline admitted the fact of the approaching hurricane, the government never granted the permission to release information about hurricane warning because it would mean the admittance of the mistake. Moreover, the bureau refused to use the term hurricane in order to avert panic and preserve their reputation. Informed about storm, but not dangerous hurricane, citizens remained confident that there was no any danger.

Although the signs of the approaching storm were evident, the meteorologist firmly believed that no natural disaster could do tangible damage to the city. Mr. Cline was also sure that the town was not vulnerable to serious destructions because of the beneficial geographic location.

People’s reluctance to accept the superiority of natural forces had led to horrible consequences. The compelling story about the impact of stereotypes and increased confidence proves that the American society had failed to oppose the disaster, regardless of its advanced technological and scientific development.

After the hurricane, Galveston lost its reputation of a commercially prosperous seaport. Instead, it had become the symbol of the national tragedy, as well as a memorial for more than 8 thousand people. After the event, Galveston community fully realized their mistakes and constructed a seventeen-foot high wall to protect the city from hurricanes in future.

The fact that the citizens had totally reconsidered the protection systems in the city signified to the loss of confidence in their exceptional experience and knowledge, as well as their superiority over nature. Hence, Larson manages to portray the Weather Bureau in the light of insufficient experience and inaccurate previous forecasts predicting the hurricane. Cline should have listened to his intuition and knowledge rather than to his pride and complacency.

In conclusion, Galveston hurricane exemplifies the most horrible episode in the American history and presents an account on the meteorologists’ negligence that had become the reason for numerous deaths. Extreme willingness to gain power over nature was a priority for the Weather Bureau that strived to maintain its high reputation. Galveston community was also overwhelmed with confidence due to the prosperity and rapid development of the city.

Being one of the biggest commercial centers, the government failed to listen to the Cuban broadcast. Following false stereotyped did not allow the citizens to admit the possibility of threat. Even Isaac Cline, who was recognized as an expert meteorologist failed to predict the disaster. Hence, the blind confidence prevented them from protecting themselves. After the disaster, American confidence was entirely lost.

Works Cited

Larson, Erik. Isaac’s Storm. Vintage, USA. Print.