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Ben Nevis Observatory


IN NATURE, vol. xxvii. p. 39, I gave a brief notice that on November 1—owing to stress of weather forbidding the regular daily ascents of Ben Nevis—I was obliged to discontinue the daily work of the meteorological observing system on the summit and slopes of the mountain. This was in simultaneous connection with my system of observations near the sea-level at Achintore, Fort William. As in the previous summer, I had the honour to organise and carry on the work under the auspices of the Scottish Meteorological Society. The experience gained in 1881, when I first commenced observing on the Ben, enabled me to draw up and submit to the Society a more elaborate plan of mountain observation for the summer and autumn of 1882; and as I have been fortunate enough to carry it through for five months without any hitch, and as I am not aware that anything of the kind had, previous to my first undertaking, been attempted, I am naturally anxious that NATURE should have a more complete account of my last year's operations. My plan was to have fixed stations at different altitudes between the main observatories at the base and on the summit of the mountain so placed in fact that I could observe regularly at half-hourly intervals during the daily ascent and descent of the Ben; to extend the number of summit observations to five sets; and to have in every case simultaneous observations taken at the sea-level station—my grand base of operations. All this was with a view to localising disturbances existing in the stratum of atmosphere between the sea-level and the top of Ben Nevis, to furthering meteorological research generally, and so ultimately to gain forecasting material. I arrived at Fort William from Edinburgh on May 25, and at once proceeded to give effect to my plans. During the next few days I was engaged mainly in erecting Stevenson's thermometer screens, and laying out the sea-level station; in establishing a new “midway” observatory at the lake, erecting screen, and building there a granite cairn for a barometer; and in reopening the temporary observatory on the summit of the mountain. It was only by dint of great exertion and a gang of men that I got all in order on the top of the Ben on May 31. I had no occasion, however, to alter the arrangements of the previous summer; and the heavy work of reopening chiefly consisted in digging out from the vast accumulations of snow the barometer cairn, hut, and thermometer cage which here, as a safeguard, incloses Stevenson's screen. The snow, in fact, was nearly four feet deep, and it was necessary to cut out wide areas around the instruments. I also erected another screen to contain Negretti and Zambra's self-registering clock-hygrometer, most kindly placed at my disposal by that eminent firm for the purpose of obtaining 9 p.m. values. I had also to fix a new roof of ship's canvas to the rude shanty that affords some little shelter from the piercing cold and storms. The barometer, a fine Fortin, had been left in its cairn built up during the past winter; and great labour was expended before the north side of the cairn was reopened, the stones being so hard frozen that a crowbar had to be employed. The instrument was found in good condition.


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WRAGGE, C. Ben Nevis Observatory . Nature 27, 487–491 (1883).

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