2016-05-30 18:25:24.000 – Meredith Campbell, Summit Intern
My house in southern New Hampshire is 312’ above sea level. At 6,288’ the peak of Mount Washington is 5,976’ above my house. That kind of altitude change definitely takes some getting used to.
Acclimating is the act of adapting to a new climate, place, or situation, and being an intern at the MWO has definitely required some acclimating. There is roughly 20% less Oxygen at this altitude, and while illnesses such as acute mountain sickness typically don’t occur below 8,000’, you can still feel the physical effects of the elevation. My first week here I was exhausted, and it wasn’t just because I was working so hard. I could feel that there was something “wrong” with my body. I’ve lived at elevation before, but I drove to Denver gaining 4000’ over 600 miles in two days. I acclimated as I travelled, yet I still felt “off” my first two days in the city. To get to the Observatory I gained more than 5000’ over 8 miles in half an hour, and I absolutely felt it. My main symptom was fatigue. I slept at least 8 hours every night, and it was never enough. Walking up the stairs left me completely out of breath, and I was glad it was snowing, because I had no desire to go hiking (a clear sign that I’m not feeling well).
I am on my second shift, and I am feeling 100% better. I’ve gone for two short hikes this week with hardly any abnormal shortness of breath or fatigue. Sadly though, my body is returning to its naturally nocturnal state. At least for one week of my life I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow, and I will remember it fondly. It’s actually pretty amazing what the human body can adapt to. To make up for the fact that there is 20% less Oxygen to breath, my body has changed my respiratory patterns as well as created more red blood cells to carry more Oxygen. Amazing.
In addition to adapting physically, I’ve also had to acclimate to a whole new living situation. When you work at a remote mountain top observatory, you don’t get to go home every night. And in the case of those of us who work at the MWO, we live up here for a whole week at a time. It’s strange having to “pack” for work, and it’s strange not having an hour commute every day. Having just graduated from college, I’m actually pretty accustomed to the long work hours, but it’s weird seeing the same three people every waking hour of every single day. When I first got here there were a lot of things I wasn’t sure about. I wasn’t sure what food I was allowed to eat. I wasn’t sure what parts of the building I was allowed to explore. I wasn’t even sure if I was allowed outside without permission (world’s worst weather and all). Luckily my intern nerves have settled, and I am thriving in my new environment. My exhaustion has subsided, my shift is hilarious, and I have the most beautiful office view in NH.
As an engineer in a meteorologist’s world, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to adapt, but I’m happy to report acclimatization success.
Meredith Campbell, Summit Intern