Dennis Wheeler – Geography Department, University of Sunderland – The storm attracted much attention at the time, not only for its severity but also for its effect on shipping around the southern coasts, where the loss of life was measured in thousands and of vessels in hundreds. Yet this, one of the most noted aspects of the storm, cannot be wholly ascribed to its severity. The storm was not an isolated event, but marked the conclusion of two weeks of increasingly stormy conditions. This was an age of sail, and the winds, having been westerly throughout this period, allowed vessels from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean to negotiate a passage to anchorages such as the Downs (a popular anchorage off the Kent coast and close to the infamous Goodwin Sands, which were thought to offer a degree of protection in normal conditions), Spithead and Plymouth, but forbade passage in the opposite direction.
The War of the Spanish Succession was well underway, and naval fleets augmented the usual convoys of merchantmen, colliers and Indiamen. Incoming vessels jostled with those waiting to depart down-Channel, both groups gathering in great numbers off the southcoast. It was these vessels and their crews that were to suffer most horribly in the events of 26 and 27 November 1703. The often stormy nature of this period is recalled in Defoe’s observations a few days before the arrival of the Great Storm.
Further information review Wiley Online Library http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1256/wea.83.03/pdf
Weather – Volume 58, Issue 11, Version of Record online: 29 DEC 2006