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Clement Wragge

February 13, 2011 /
September 26, 2002 /

On 26 September 1902, exactly 100 years ago today, the people of Charleville tried to make rain.

Stationed around the town were six Stiger Vortex guns, their long, funnel-shaped barrels aimed skywards.

At noon the guns were manned, and at the direction of the Mayor, ten shots were fired from each in quick succession’.

Charleville’s assault on the weather was marshalled by Queensland’s energetic, but irascible meteorologist, Clement Wragge.

[Wragge enters reading from paper]

‘Soon after the firing a few drops of rain fell, and at 2 o’clock a slight shower fell. At the time of firing the guns a strong wind was blowing, which doubtless interfered with the force of the vortices’.

Doubtless…

‘Later – A second experiment with the Stiger Vortex guns was made at half-past four this afternoon, but without any visible results. An accident happened to two of the guns, one stationed at Mr Ormiston’s paddock, and the other at Mr Spence’s residence; each of these guns had a large piece of iron blown out of the sides, making them worthless…’

[Slams down paper, takes up pen]

To the editor, Brisbane Courier, dear sir… Read MoreWragge

July 1, 2001 /
the charleville rainmaker

Cloudy skies at last! On 26 September 1902, the drought-wearied residents of Charleville looked to the heavens with new hope. They knew, of course, that clouds offered no certainty of rain; too often before they had watched them drift on, merely taunting with the possibility of relief. But this time the people of Charleville had science on their side. They were going to make it rain.

Stationed around the town were six Stiger Vortex guns, their long, funnel-shaped barrels aimed skywards. At noon the guns were manned, and at the direction of the Mayor, ten shots were ‘fired from each in quick succession’. A few drops of rain fell, but nothing more until two o’clock, when there was a light shower. The drought had not been broken, but it seemed an encouraging start. Perhaps, it was suggested, the prevailing strong winds had ‘interfered with the force of the vortices’.1

Later that afternoon, the experiment was repeated. This time there was no rain. Nothing. Moreover, two of the guns exploded, rendering them unusable. No-one was injured, but the experiment had clearly failed. There would be no more rain. The clouds again moved on, while the would-be rainmakers succumbed to disappointment and recrimination.2 Read MoreThe weather prophets

  1. Brisbane Courier, 27 September 1902, p.5. []
  2. Ibid.; various versions of this story. []