Hello from the summit of Mount Washington! My name is Jackie Bellefontaine, you may remember me from the previous blogs I wrote this winter as a summit intern. Well, as I am writing now, I have officially risen through the ranks and am about to finish my first shift as the newest Weather Observer and Education Specialist at the Mount Washington Observatory! I’m incredibly grateful and excited for the opportunity to continue contributing to the work happening at the Observatory as well as continuing to enjoy summit life. I thought I’d write this blog to re-introduce myself to you all and reflect on the experiences I’ve had since first joining the summit as an intern in January.
View of the Sherman Adams building and Observatory from the snowcat on my first trip up as a summit intern
Growing up in the Greater Boston area, I spent every summer recreating around the New Hampshire Lakes Region and White Mountains. It was through the time I spent in New Hampshire that I developed a passion for the outdoors and our natural world. I later went on to earn a degree in Earth Sciences from the University of Maine. During my undergraduate studies, I concentrated in climate sciences which turned into a keen interest of mine. I specifically became interested in the field of glaciology and was a student of the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP), based out of Juneau, Alaska, in the summer of 2019. My fellow “JIRPers” and I spent the summer engaging in a variety of Earth science research and education relating to glaciology while learning mountaineering skills during our icefield traverse. After graduating in 2020 from the University of Maine, I continued to search for opportunities to live and work in extreme environments. This interest in addition to the desire to learn more about the extreme weather and dynamic microclimate of Mount Washington drove me to pursue the internship at the Mount Washington Observatory.
First day as a summit intern ended pretty spectacularly
My first shift at the Observatory as a summit intern was incredibly exciting. The shift started off with my fellow shift members and I waiting at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road for the Observatory snowcat to pull out of the garage so we could load our gear and begin our journey up to the summit. I was in total awe of the sheer size of the snowcat as it slowly but surely rounded the corner from the garage to pick us up. My shift and I loaded up and boarded the cat then made our way up the Auto Road. The summit of Mount Washington spends about 60% of the year shrouded in the fog, but my first snowcat ride up the mountain happened to occur on a rarer bluebird day. It’s hard to convey the excitement and awe I felt as we chugged up the road, with the beautiful snow-capped summits of the Northern Presidentials right out of my window. The first few days of my shift remained relatively clear and mild, allowing me to experience some stunning sunsets and to venture out on a short hike to the nearby Lake of the Clouds Hut.
Returning to the summit as a Weather Observer & Education Specialist
However, these relatively clear and mild days did not last — by my second shift I got a true taste of the “Home of the World’s Worst Weather”. I was treated to an extreme high wind event with a peak gust of 157 mph on January 24th. I’d say this was one of the most excitement filled days of my life and one I will not likely forget (if you’d like to hear more about my high wind experience, check out my “An Intern in the Wind” blog from this past January!). Over the next few shifts, I truly came to enjoy the work happening at the Mount Washington Observatory. I looked forward to shadowing the hourly weather observations and became interested in the educational outreach that the current Education Specialist, Nicole Tallman, engaged in. I began to think of how much of a dream it would be to continue working for the Mount Washington Observatory, and was surprised when an opportunity to do so presented itself sooner than I expected. I was particularly excited by the open position since it was specifically for a Weather Observer and Education Specialist. Science outreach and education is something I consider to be incredibly important, as well as something I want to become more involved in. I continued through the application process and the next thing I knew, I left the summit as an intern only to be told during my off-week that I’d be returning as an Observer! I’m thrilled to continue contributing to the Mount Washington Observatory as a Weather Observer and Education Specialist. I hope that through this position, I am able to encourage others to become passionate about science and the awesome work done up here at the Mount Washington Observatory!