Cursed to be Blessed

2018-05-15 12:48:06.000 – Ben Seleb, Summer Intern


Hearing that the previous shift had saw some especially exciting events, including aurora borealis and 130+ mph winds, I was extremely excited to start my first shift on the summit. However, when I arrived last Wednesday, I received a very warm welcome, with cotton candy clouds, sunny skies, and a comfortable breeze. This warm and clear weather has continued throughout most of my 8-day shift, giving me a misleading introduction to what living on the summit is typically like.

Adam Gill, experienced meteorologist and observer, agrees that the odd weather is probably my fault, and likely due to some kind of “good weather” curse. This is a true disappointment to all the extreme weather fanatics on my shift. Despite the curse, Mt. Washington still did its best to show me some cool meteorological phenomena. Last Friday, I awoke to a nice riming, a chilly event that will probably become rarer as the summit warms up this summer. Winds picked up a bit, and I got to wrestle a few hurricane force gusts out on the observation deck.



A photo of the light riming on the observation deck, taken behind the safety of the tower which blocks a majority of the wind from the west.


While most of the rime melted away during the afternoon, a bit was able to hang on throughout the day and into Saturday.

I am a mechanical engineering student from Atlanta, Georgia, so you could say that I’m a bit out of my element up here. I’ve always enjoyed the colder weather, and I’d say I’m getting the hang of things pretty quickly. While the Observatory has regular intern responsibilities like scanning papers and updating archives, I’m also learning quite a lot about the weather, and I’ll get to work on a research project throughout the summer.

I haven’t actually been assigned a research project yet, so I’ve had some extra time to explore and learn about Mt. Washington. One thing I’ve been looking into during my spare time is a small-scale wind turbine for power generation on the summit. A typical turbine would not be realistic here, due to its impact and the intensity of the weather. A small-scale, easily removable turbine solely for summer use is much more plausible. Combined with a battery array, a turbine could be used to offset power usage almost anywhere in the Observatory. Using random supplies I found in the Observatory, I fashioned a very crude turbine generator to help actualize this idea.


I’ve always been terrible at documenting a build process, but here’s a pic of the near-complete “trash turbine.”


The trash turbine in action, producing a whole 72.1 mV in 15 mph wind.


While the trash turbine (an affectionate name of course) produced less than impressive results, I’m still proud though, knowing that it came from a tin can, a couple shelf brackets, and whatever other hardware I could find. The motor used was definitely not ideal for power generation, nor was the fan assembly which would have been torn apart in high winds due to imbalance. Unfortunately, the trash turbine isn’t an immediate solution to gathering free wind energy on the summit, nor will it be powering the Sherman Adams building anytime soon. It did, however, highlight a lot of features and tolerances that would be necessary if a real design was to be developed.

Taking advantage of the cursed good weather last night, I left dinner early to try to summit the nearby Mt. Clay. Let’s just say it looks much closer from the weather room of the Observatory. Hurrying through most of the trek in order to get back before nightfall, I thoroughly exhausted myself. I’m very excited to explore more of the trails around Mt. Washington as summer progresses.

Enjoy the following picture of me about to sneeze on the summit of Mt. Clay.

Doctor: “Do you have any allergies?” Me: “Yeah, a good view really gets to me.”



Ben Seleb, Summer Intern

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