From Day to Night
2019-02-02 15:18:55.000 – Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
It certainly has been an interesting shift so far. This is our first week back after our Night Observer Chris moved on from the Observatory. Obviously there is a bit of a void, as Chris is a great meteorologist who brought a lot of heart and character to our crew. You can tell that everyone misses him pretty badly, with each us of dealing with his departure differently. I mean, even several of the New Hampshire State Parks crew have come around asking if he is still here, not wanting to miss the chance to say goodbye. That speaks volumes to me, to have so many people hoping to see you and visit with you before you leave. It speaks to the man and the observer that Chris is. I can honestly say that he has become my best friend since I’ve started my new life here in New Hampshire. And while I’ll miss him greatly here at the Obs, I certainly look forward to hanging out with him in the off week!
Chris and I hanging out on Cragway on our way down from the summit.
It has not been an easy task filling in for Chris’s work, and has certainly provided me with a brand new perspective on the role of the Night Observer. There is a powerful effect in forcing your body to switch to a different sleep schedule, and it has had me disoriented a bit for the last few days as I wake up at 1pm. Adam and I have decided to split the night in half, whereas I work the first half of the night and Adam wakes up for the second. You can tell the first few days were a bit taxing for both of us, and I can imagine Chris working through the whole night on that level. It certainly is a physical and mental challenge that can be tough to work through.
There is a considerable amount of work to be done as well! On par or even greater than what might be done during the day. The day crew can split responsibilities to make sure everything gets done on time during their 12-hour stint. But the Night Observer does it all on their shift! Hourly observations, putting out a professional forecast product, filling out our many forms and records, changing all of the paper charts at midnight, checking to make sure there aren’t any errors, fielding public inquiries, deicing, troubleshooting any issues that might arise, and much more! It is a lot of responsibility for sure.
And within that, observations at night are a bit tricky as well! You have to go outside a bit earlier than you do during the day, just to wait a few minutes while your eyes adjust to the dark. Once you can “see”, then you can really start taking the observation. Cloud heights and exactly how far away you can see can be a bit more difficult to differentiate in the dark. You may have to use satellite, radar and other observation points to confirm your own observations! And honestly, it can be a bit spooky out on the deck in the dark. There are plenty of ghost stories, weird bumps in the night, etc. And while I myself haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary so far, the fear of the unknown or the dark can creep up on you a bit. Beyond that, just walking into 90 mph winds, blowing snow and freezing fog in the dark can be a bit intimidating. These are things that you don’t normally “worry” about during the day.
All of this aside, there are a lot of perks to working at night as well. Take last night for example. It was a fairly clear sky, and I could see tons of stars and constellations! Despite the elevated winds, I took a moment to sit outside and enjoy the “peace” of it, trying to identify as many constellations as I could! I even saw a shooting star! It makes me wish I had a much nicer camera for sure!
An example of how beautiful the night sky can be!
And for those who enjoy “me time”, there’s plenty of that! I can listen to whatever music I like while I’m working, without having to worry about bothering anybody sleeping downstairs. And with limited distractions, I find that I can get a ton of work done, both as the “Night Observer” and as the Education Observer. I also take a lot of pride in my work, and enjoy working at my own pace and accomplishing so many different goals each night. When I wake up the next day and Adam tells me there were little to no errors, it truly makes me happy and confirms that I am doing solid work up here.
And let’s not forget Marty! Marty and I have actually bonded a bit, believe it or not. I like to think I have a natural affinity to animals, which is why my fiancé and I have a dog, a cat, a bird, a hedgehog and a fish at home! But up until the beginning of this shift, Marty and I hadn’t really connected. Now I find that he usually saunters into the weather room just after 1 am, and he and I have “talked” a bit. Then he follows me downstairs at the end of my shift, knowing that I am going to feed him. I wonder if that’s really it….
My new buddy Marty hanging out with me in the kitchen.
Having done this work just for the last 4 nights really has given me a full, new perspective on the Night Observer role here at the Obs. It has its ups and downs, all of which I will be getting used to for the next few weeks. We are beginning to narrow down candidates to permanently fill the position for our crew, and I am interested to see how the next round of interviews go and who is stepping up to the plate! Again, I will miss Chris with all my heart and he has certainly left a special mark on the Observatory’s history. But I am excited to meet and welcome the new member of our crew with open arms, and can’t wait to make a new friend here on the summit!
Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist