2010-09-29 21:25:11.000 – Brad Bradstreet and Charlie Hawkins, Summit Volunteers
Stage Office around sunset
Our volunteer week is coming to a close. Wednesday is Shift Change Day. The other crew of Observers and Interns will ride up to the summit in the morning – we will have a set of joint change-over meetings – then we will head down in the afternoon leaving the other crew to stay for their eight day shift. This has been a fantastic week being here on the summit with the crew. Charlie and I thought we understood the Observatory and what it does. Being here for an extended period of time, living with them as they work and relax (yes, they do relax) has allowed us to learn so much about what really goes on up here.
Both of us participate on the Observatory’s forums on the web site and have a constant interaction with Observers and staff members. But, being here with the crew gives one a whole new perspective. We are used to seeing the web cameras provided through the web site – the Current Conditions image being updated every 15 minutes – the temperature and wind speed data. What happens behind the scenes is more than we imagined.
The summit facility is not large – the work area on the main floor; sleeping, eating and relaxing areas on the lower level; and multiple levels going up the tower with cameras, instruments, cables, ladders and the real important instruments outside above the tower. This facility is not only where the crew works, it is where they live. It is home for their eight day shift. So, all the things we do at home (except mow the grass) they have to do at the summit. This week included – scraping paint, painting, mopping up water coming in through cracks in the walls and around windows and doors, cleaning windows, swapping screens for storm windows, cataloging thousands of photo files and tagging them, eating, getting their own breakfast and lunch (we provided dinner and leftovers), doing live video conferences to North Conway and schools through the Internet, running the retail shop and museum, vacuuming, giving the cat a bath (Marty was not excited about this), unplugging the tub drain, fastening safety cables in the tower, improving the programs that gather data from instruments into the databases where everything is stored, replacing seals on doors and windows to try to keep the water (and the snow that is coming) out, hiking down to and trying to remove an anemometer from the roof of the Lakes of the Clouds hut, living with seven people and one shower and different schedules, working 12-hour shifts every day, inventorying supplies and food to keep the pantry full and well stocked, and of course, gather weather data and produce forecasts.
The Observatory has three key missions – weather data gathering, research and education. On top of all that, the Observers keep the operation running. They do whatever it takes to keep things working, on time, all the time – in any weather condition. It is impressive! And it was a lot of fun for us to participate and help in any way we could. Charlie provided excellent meals and we had a lot of fun getting to know the Observers on their home court. We thank them all for letting us come and help. It was a treat we will always remember.
Check out the Mount Washington Observatory’s fan page on Facebook to see photos taken by Charlie and Brad during this week.
Brad Bradstreet and Charlie Hawkins, Summit Volunteers