Volunteer report

2007-12-18 12:31:29.000 – Jon Gale,  Summit Volunteer

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When I volunteered for a week in the winter at the Observatory, I was hoping to experience some extreme weather. Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of riding up to the summit in the in the copilot seat of the State’s Cat with Mike Pelchat. At times the conditions were white out and Mike had to stop the Cat and wait for some signs of the road. At the summit the winds were blowing at a sustained speed of 85 mph and gusting near 100 mph. I got my wish right off the bat.

Later on in the afternoon Mike invited me to walk out to check a couple of out buildings that housed transmitter equipment. At that time the winds were blowing at 100 mph with a 115 mph gust. It took a serious effort to keep my 6’5”, 250 lb body on its feet and headed in the direction of the building. In just 30 yards of stooped scrambling my heart was racing and I felt like I had just sprinted 300 yards. The pressure of a 100 mph wind is around 250 lbs. It’s kinda like pushing a sled with Teddy Bruschi on it. The tricky part was staying on my feet as the winds varied from about 90 mph to gusts around 110 mph constantly throwing me off balance. The thought entered my mind that if I fell, I might end up down in Tuckerman’s ravine.

The observers and interns get excited with the wild weather, even though it means more work. The observers need to go out on the deck every hour to get data. They also need to climb into the tower to de-ice rails that hold weather equipment. I can tell you, it is not easy, especially on a day like yesterday when winds exceeded 100 mph and wind chills of -60F. I went out to de-ice and shovel snow a couple of times. There can be no skin exposure in those conditions. I have developed a lot of respect for the observatory staff up here. They are young and fit, and take their jobs seriously.

From my seat at the table in the observatory kitchen, while preparing dinner, I hear the stove vent whistling and banging. I’ve gotten pretty accurate in guessing the wind velocity by listening to the vent noises. Maybe the next time the instruments freeze up, I can help make observations while drinking coffee in the kitchen.

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Jon Gale,  Summit Volunteer

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