Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/812

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This was certainly a very important series of conclusions, and it establishes certain principles or laws in regard to a certain class of North American storms beyond cavil. Redfield had thus shown that many at least of the great storms which traverse the Atlantic coast come from the tropics east of the West Indies and describe a great parabola in their course; that the direction of the wind in these storms was entirely a distinct matter from the direction in which the storm is moving; and that this storm is a system of winds, blowing whirlwind-fashion about a central point, in a direction contrary to that of the hands of a watch. That is the substance of Redfield's discovery; and it is one of the most important contributions ever made to the science of storms, not alone in its purely scientific relations, but also, as we shall see, in a most practical way in the service of mariners.

Just here we touch an interesting episode of Redfield's career, in his connection with Sir William Reid, an English engineer-colonel at Barbadoes, himself deeply interested in this subject, and an investigator of the law of storms in general. Redfield and Reid entered into a correspondence upon the subject which lasted for twenty years, and which Redfield declares was most serviceable to him. But, as Colonel Reid's earliest inquiries were based on a storm of 1831, ten years later than the one which gave Redfield his first hint of a theory, it may still be maintained that Redfield was the first to grasp the new facts in all their meaning. He acknowledges an indebtedness to Colonel Reid as well as to Piddington, in his essay on "Asiatic Storms." But their work could have done little more for him than to confirm his own thought and guide his investigations. It remained for this early student of these phenomena to follow the great storms of the Atlantic from their breeding-place near the "doldrums," in their curving path through the Gulf of Mexico and along the United States coast, proving that these vast hurricanes of the West Indies are progressive storms, moving westward till central in the Gulf and then recurving toward the northeast, retaining their essential characteristics, though somewhat less violent than in their beginnings. This was the scope of Redfield's investigations. He indicated the track of one entire class of American storms, and showed them to be great circular movements of the air, like immense whirlwinds or cyclones, traveling bodily over wide areas.

A word more ought to be said before we pass from the work of Redfield, as to his theory of the direction of the winds about the center of a cyclone, a point much debated since his day, and in which he was singularly correct in his judgment. At the time he made his investigations, everybody supposed that these great storms were disturbances in which the winds blew