THE TEMPERATURE. 28 Jan 1896. “On one day of twenty-four hours in 1892, when the thermometers ranged between 99 and 102 degrees, there were 223 deaths recorded, and in three days at that time 600 people died in New York alone.” Obviously bad temperature readings are the cause of these deaths.
Mercury (NSW : 1894 – 1939), p. 2. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/123923125?#
Although there has been a break in the heated season which in so many places in New South Wales has been a season of wholesale death as well as of pain and discomfort, we cannot say that there may not, before summer is over, be a return of the late phenomenal high temperatures.
Many people are doubtless looking already to the future, and asking themselves whether the summers of coming years are likely to be as trying as the present season is. The answer we fancy, is that there is no reason why they should not, except that the experience of men in Aus-
tralia leads happily to a different conclusion.
Hot summers are the rule in New South Wales, and in every summer there are probably days as hot or hotter than any experienced this month.
But a prolonged time of very great heat without any cessation or relief, is not the rule or, since, we are dealing with the past, and know not what the coming seasons may have in store, has
not been the rule.
Hence, arguing from the past, to the future we may hope that this season will prove as ex-
ceptional as it has proved severe. Anyhow, bad as this summer’s heat has been, there are other parts of the world where the heat is more oppressive. There is for instance a record that at the Cape of Good Hope the thermometer marked 159 degrees and in India a heat of 133 degrees in the shade has frequently been known.
Then again, deadly as has proved the fervency of heat in some of the inland parts of New
South Wales during the past three weeks, New York can show a grimmer record as the
result of heat which we should not call excessive.
On one day of twenty-four hours in 1892, when the thermometers ranged between 99 and 102 degrees, there were 223 deaths recorded, and in three days at that time 600 people died in New York alone.
We have never understood why in New York the temperature which though high is not extreme should be so deadly.
The city is built on a long narrow island ; and, possibly, 100 degrees of heat is accompanied by a humidity which produces heat apoplexy more readily than a greater dry heat.
One result of the visitation which we deplore will surely be to induce people in this country to adapt, their habits to the climate.
Only this may be said, the adaptation must be wise, or the effects may be as lamentable as the work of the phenomenal heat has been.
Much is said for example just now about clothing. Doubtless some articles of clothing which are adhered to out of regard for convention might be dispensed with in hot weather — more especially head-coverings; but everyone knows that the New South Wales climate as variable as
the feminine temper.
Safe dress therefore of necessity a compromise between the demands of high and those of low temperatures — folk must be prepared for sudden alternations within the twenty-four hours
of every day. Habits of eating and drinking may more confidently and safely be cultivated or altered.
What we must call a calamity in that it has been marked by death on an extended scale should lessen the consumption of fresh food in summer, and send people to the fruits of the earth for sustenance.
Water, the doctor’s tell us, is the best summer beverage, but in the matter of thirst quenching drinks the land is generous, since here also resort can be had to the produce of the orchard and the vineyard.
A stern lesson of the heat-wave condemnation of indulgence in strong liquors but that condemnation does not extend to the lighter natural wines. These, used as beverages, are wholesome and cooling, and ought to be within popular reach. As with clothing, so with buildings.
Granting the prudence of making ample provision for ventilation and shade, we cannot safely design houses for tropical conditions only. The plan must include precautions against sudden
variations of temperature, and thus we must put up with habitations which to some extent
are unsuitable for the visitation of a heat wave, because presently there may come a spell of weather indicating almost the need for artificial warmth.
Fortunately, if bodily health lie reasonably conserved by regard being had for suitable foods and beverages, the clothing we wear, and the houses we inhabit may be safely the subject of a compromise between two differing aspects of climatic condition.