You may not have noticed, but it’s bloody hot outside. The thermometer has reached the mid-30s and it’s not even 8.30 a.m. No one in the Dodgy Perth office got much sleep last night and we’re all drinking Red Bulls and Coke Zeros like they’re going out of fashion.
This should make us sympathise with the residents of Perth 120 years ago, who had a very bad heatwave. Starting on Christmas Day 1895, the heat continued for more than two weeks, reaching up to 112F (44.5C) in the shade by early January 1896. If you were stupid enough to stand on the street without shade, solar radiation—the heat registered in the sun—was a mind-boggling 169F (76C).
Still, it had not broken Perth’s 25 January 1879 record of 117F (47.2C) in the shade. Which sounds quite hot to us, even though global warming could not yet be blamed.
Five people died of sunstroke, including Mrs Wilson who was staying with friends in Bayswater. By the time the doctor was called the unfortunate woman’s body temperature was 110F (43.3C).
Perhaps this heatwave could have been managed, but thanks to the incompetence of the Water Company, much of Perth had little or even no water to help them. A little water was available at night, and people had to fill their bath and every bucket they owned to get them through the next day.
People with wells had official types call round who ordered their only supply of water to be sealed off or face prosecution.
Naturally the City of Perth Water Supply Co. blamed low reservoir levels (don’t they always?) and then really helped matters by announcing that from now on water would be cut off between 12 p.m. and 5 a.m. No one knew what they meant. Noon to early morning? Midnight to early morning?
In any case, parents had to turn to giving children lemonade and ginger beer as the only source of fluid (there was no bottled water), and Perth suffered and suffered and suffered.