Tropical systems that reach Hurricane strength in a region near Australia are known as Cyclones. Cyclones that impact the northern and east coast of Australia are fairly common, but the strongest systems usually steer north of the Island Continent. But on March 5, 1899 one of the most powerful Tropical Cyclones ever to strike the region caused unimaginable damage. Cyclone Mahina was the deadliest cyclone in recorded Australian history, and also likely the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. A pearling fleet, based at Thursday Island, Queensland, anchored in the bay before the storm. Within an hour, the storm drove much of the fleet ashore or onto the Great Barrier Reef. An eyewitness reported that a 48-foot storm surge swept over their camp at Barrow Point atop a 40-foot high ridge and reached 3 miles inland, the largest storm surge ever recorded. The exact number of those that died is unknown – but was probably close to 500.
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