FitzRoy – a story of the weather

The black clouds had returned. They swirled around Robert Fitzroy, battering him. He struggled to breathe, assailed by rage and confusion.

Somewhere, crystals were forming, delicate, feathery, in the storm glass that bore his name.

The reports which would enable his office to produce the forecast would be ready by now, sitting on his desk. Today, they were meaningless. The fishing fleet owners had won. Interest in parliament had seen to it. Interest. That rarified substance that he had enjoyed so little of.

His office’s forecasts were to cease. The storm cones would rest on their stops, a mute warning. The fishing fleets would sail, into the teeth of uncertainty. Men would die, ships would founder, as they always had.

Through the black clouds, FitzRoy saw his own face, indistinct, swimming. He remembered where he was. Hand shaking, he adjusted the mirror. The clouds cleared slightly.

Off Cape Finisterre, The End of the Earth, a cold wind swirled…

He shivered at it, and realised the government had never truly accepted his meteorological office. Most of my funds are gone into it too, he reflected. Today there was nothing left.

Nothing but the storms, the fog, the murderous tides. The clouds were gathering about him again. He fancied through the murk he saw a ship… the Royal Charter, sails blown to rags, on her beam ends. The rocks battered at her bulwarks. Wrecked for lack of a warning.

He could no longer fight the weather, or the politicians. The warning died in his throat. The clouds cleared and the sun flashed off a nearby object. Ah yes, his razor, lying just by the sink.

Somewhere a telegraph buzzed. Information flowing in from the 15 coastal areas. For the first time in a year, the ports would not receive the hard-won data.

FitzRoy picked up his razor, drew it swiftly across his throat, and the storm claimed its first casualty.

One hundred and thirty-seven years later, FitzRoy’s name was given to the end of the earth, and today it settles protectively over a corner of the Atlantic.

© M. Willis 2013

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