Spores were blown about the united states from

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spores were blown about the United States from Illinois eastward to Nova Scotia and from Virginia northward to Ontario. When a seed order for Belgium farmers was sent across the Atlantic in 1845, the potato blight made its way to the Low Countries and from there to northern Spain, Norway, Sweden, and northern Italy. It reached England in the fall of 1845, and Ireland by mid-October, having been carried by unusual easterly winds consonant with the “blocking of westerlies” caused by the warming of the earth. Everywhere, the potato became inedible, even those already harvested and placed in storage. The humidity kept the surface of stored potatoes wet, exposing them to the ravages of the fungus. The 1846 potato crop simply didn’t appear in Ireland, though different weather patterns effecting the continent militated against the fungus’s return to the Low Countries and the rest of Europe. The Irish potato crop of 1847 was only marginally better than that of 1846; 1848 saw some improvement relative to the earlier years, but the crop could be characterized only as very poor. The Irish suffered terribly. Because the potato served as the single staple crop for most of the population, its failure meant disaster: one million Irish starved to death and another million emigrated, mostly to America. The population of the country never recovered its losses. Other countries experienced the failure of the potato less drastically, as they cultivated potatoes as a supplemental rather than a primary food source and were able to turn to grains to make up much of the shortfall. In Ireland per capita consumption of the potato reached 0.8 tons a year by 1845, whereas in the Netherlands, the comparable figure was .03 tons. The almost complete dependence of the Irish on the potato created conditions among the population that even the most hardened British administrator could not stomach. “Although a man not easily moved,” reported one in 1846, “I confess myself unmanned by the extent and intensity of suffering I witnessed, more especially among the women and little children, crowds of whom were to be seen scattered over the turnip fields, like a flock of famishing crows, devouring the raw turnips, and most half-naked, shivering in the snow and sleet, uttering exclamations of despair, whilst their children were screaming with hunger. I am a match for anything else I may meet with here, but this I cannot stand.” Relief efforts from America had been hampered by unusually strong autumnal storms that made the Atlantic crossing too dangerous at times; they also kept fishing boats in port, effecting the size of the catch they were able to bring in. Nor was all well in the European countries that survived the potato blight, for the grain harvests of 1846 and 1847 were much reduced in size owing to drought. These crop failures set off a train of devastating economic events across Europe. Depleted harvests meant low income for the rural areas, and put agricultural laborers out of work. Even landowning peasants felt the pinch of low
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