2012-10-16 18:26:19.000 – Brian Fitzgerald, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
L to R: McKenzie, Monahan, Pagliuca and Dodge
Eighty years ago yesterday, Alex McKenzie, Robert Scott Monahan, Salvatore Pagliuca and Joe Dodge with the help of many supporters took their very first weather observation under a newly formed group of citizen-scientists known as the Mount Washington Observatory. Picking up where the U.S. Signal Service (the precursor to the Weather Bureau) had left off decades earlier, the new observers began settling in for their first winter at the home of the world’s worst weather in the cramped quarters of the Auto Road’s Stage Office, moving supplies, and tweaking instruments.
In a similar tradition, the summit was buzzing with projects to finish yesterday before winter settles in for good. Instead of receiving deliveries of coal or fixing telegraph lines, we found ourselves replacing one of our old refrigerators and freezers with the help of our valley staff and Mount Washington State Park employees, and shoring up storm windows/working with communications engineers in our server room to make sure everything is in working order (winter repair visits become just a tad more difficult).
While the technology may be different from 1932, many things remain the same. The most obvious thing, as you might imagine, is that our weather observations are still happening, every hour on the hour without fail. Governing weather organizations and more technically-advanced instruments have certainly changed over the years, yet whenever an observer goes outside we still have our sling psychrometer in hand (unless we’re in the clouds) ready to assess the temperature and dew point just as we have since our inception.
If you have spent any time with the Mount Washington Observatory in the past 80 years, chances are you have noticed another time-resilient quality: passion. From our Management, to Interns, Observers, Volunteers or Members, passion runs deep for this organization, and more pointedly, Mount Washington. Anyone who has felt the rush of the wind against their body, the stinging, choking cold, or seen the sun rise up over the Atlantic or set west onto the Green Mountains has been touched by this place. And it’s that sense of place that has kept us all coming back over the years (or kept us here for some of us).
I am willing to bet that back in October of 1932 McKenzie, Monahan, Pagliuca and Dodge were probably not celebrating the start of the Observatory, especially when so much work was needed to be done. Fast forward 80 years and here we were battening down the hatches and carrying and replacing major appliances as fast as possible while the weather still allowed, with celebration being only an after-thought (our volunteers did make a fantastic birthday cake, though). I’m proud of our heritage and traditions here at the Observatory, and just as proud to think of where the Observatory is today and where it will be in the future. I feel confident that in another eighty years our passion, curiosity, and wonder for Mount Washington will still be here- along with a robust and enduring Observatory.
Thank you to everyone who has stood by the Mount Washington Observatory over the years!
Here’s to the next 80!
Brian Fitzgerald, Weather Observer/Education Specialist