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Outlander Hurricane in the Books

What Outlander's Writers Changed About That Epic Hurricane

The Outlander season three finale ends with a thrilling, emotional sequence when Claire, Jamie, and young Ian are leaving Jamaica to return to Scotland on the Artemis but are caught in a hurricane and wind up washing ashore in what will become the United States — Georgia, to be exact. And thus begins their adventure in the Colonies on the cusp of the Revolutionary War.

The show did a remarkable job with the ending of the book, with some incredible shots of Claire sinking in the ocean and a beautiful, sweeping tracking shot of the Georgia coast. There was also a harrowing sequence of the storm that was part CGI and part soundstage, but all of it worked together to look incredibly realistic.

The only thing we're disappointed about is that the show's writers changed the hurricane slightly and robbed viewers of a couple very exciting moments. We understand why they needed to make the changes — staging a hurricane on TV cannot be cheap — but it's a bummer nonetheless.


In the book, Jamie, Claire, Ian, and the gang flee Jamaica in the governor's pinnace, which is a small boat carried aboard larger vessels to serve as a ferry or delivery boat. They are pursued through the Caribbean by the Porpoise, because Captain Leonard has not given up on capturing Jamie. When they encounter the hurricane, the relatively featherweight pinnace rides the waves with ease. But the Porpoise is not so lucky — its fate is almost like what happens on screen with the Artemis:

"The Porpoise's foremast was oddly bent, the top of it leaning far to one side. Before I had time to realize what was happening, the top fifteen feet of the mast had split off and pitched into the sea, carrying with it rigging and spars.

The man-of-war swung heavily round this impromptu anchor, and came sliding sideways down the face of a wave. The wall of water towered over the ship, and came crashing down, catching her broadside. The Porpoise heeled, spun around once. The next wave rose, and took her stern first, pulling the high aft deck below the water, whipping the masts through the air like snapping twigs.

It took no more than three waves to sink her; no time for escape for her hapless crew, but plenty for those of us watching to share their terror."

After the Porpoise sinks, a new wave rises, and inside the glassy wall of water, Claire sees the body of Captain Leonard, suspended in a "grotesque ballet." Then as the storm worsens, the pinnace is surrounded by lightning strikes, causing the spars and rigging to be enveloped in what is known as St. Elmo's fire.

No, not the 1985 Brat Pack movie. St. Elmo's fire is a weather phenomenon wherein glowing plasma is created by discharge in the atmosphere, like what happens during a thunderstorm. At that point, all the crew can do is hang on for dear life and wait for the hurricane to pass.

It's quite the sequence. While the show did a tremendous job with the Artemis in the storm, I'll confess to being a little sad we didn't get to see it play out as written. However, the way they incorporated Claire being swept overboard, which in the book happens after the storm has passed, when the pinnace's mast snaps suddenly, was great, and her voice-over is lifted straight from Diana Gabaldon's text.

But one thing the show did omit at the very end is that Jamie doesn't appear to have the gemstones Geillis was using in the cave. In the book, he takes the time to grab six gems before they run out of the cave. Perhaps the show has decided to eschew the gemstone aspect of time travel altogether. It certainly will simplify matters as the series goes on, since the Frasers won't have to worry about getting their hands on one every time someone wants to travel through the stones.

Overall, though, I was quite impressed with the finale and also how the show managed to condense Voyager into 13 episodes. The book, which might be my favorite of the entire series, is jam-packed, and this season managed to hit all the highlights. I am eagerly anticipating season four.

Image Source: Starz
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