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The Sonnblick Mountain Observatory

Nature volume 49, pages 204205 | Download Citation



THE progress of meteorological science having rendered necessary a more careful investigation of the conditions of the higher strata of the atmosphere, the subject of mountain stations was considered at the Meteorological Congress at Rome, in 1879, and the various problems which could best be solved by such observations or in balloons were discussed. Among these may be mentioned:—The decrease of temperature with height, especially during cyclones and anticyclones; terrestrial and solar radiation; the behaviour of barometric maxima and, minima at the earth's surface and at great heights, and the increase of wind velocity with height. Several important stations were already in existence, and the establishment of others was strongly recommended. Herr Ignaz Rojacher, the proprietor of the Rauris gold mines, having proposed to the Committee of the German and Austrian Alpine Club, in the year 1884, the erection of a meteorological station at the Miners' House on the Sonnblick, in the province of Salzburg, situated at an elevation of 7550 feet, about halfway between Kolm-Saigurn and the summit of the Sonnblick, Dr. Hann, director of the Austrian Meteorological Service, gladly took advantage of the suggestion, and in December of that year the station was equipped by the Austrian Meteorological Institute. But it was soon found that the site was unfavourable for the purpose, and Herr Rojacher decided that the only suitable position would be the summit of the mountain. After surmounting many difficulties, the work was satisfactorily carried out in the early part of 1886. The Alpine Club undertook the expense of the erection of a wooden house, while the Austrian Meteorological Society provided the self-recording instruments and undertook the building of a substantial tower for the anemometer and the establishment of telephonic communication between the summit and Rauris, a distance of 15½ miles, and, further, to supply instruments to the base station at Kolm-Saigurn. The accompanying illustration shows the position of the Observatory on the peak of the mountain; it is situated at a height of about 10,150 feet, and is the highest station in Europe. The difficulties of dragging the materials for the construction of the Observatory over glacier and snow for a distance of about 900 yards can hardly be overrated. Each trip occupied from three to four hours, and it was at this stage of the work that the greatest assistance was given by Herr Rojacher and his men. His intimate knowledge of the conditions of the glacier and névé, obtained from thirty-five years’ residence in the neighbourhood, enabled him to select a favourable site and to carry out successfully the construction of the building. Dr. J. M. Pernter has given a graphic description of the difficulties of an ascent which he made in February 1888 (NATURE, vol. xlii. p. 273), during which the foremost guides sank to their hips at every step, despite their use of snowshoes. The maintenance of the station in winter was a matter of great difficulty; but it was materially facilitated by the fact that the Miners' House workmen were at hand for the conveyance of fuel and for carrying out any necessary repairs. But in the year 1888 Rojacher was compelled, from failing health, to sell the mine, and in 1889 operations were discontinued; he succumbed in January, 1891, and then Koim was abandoned altogether. Under these circumstances, the difficulty of continuing the Sonnblick Observatory was increased. The observer could not remain alone on the summit, separated from all human communication by a difficult journey of several hours over the snow, and it became necessary to hire men specially to carry up the fuel. The Salzburg section of the Alpine Club gave up the use of the house on the Sonnblick, and their contribution was, to a great extent, withdrawn, so that the maintenance of the Observatory was jeopardised. It was under these conditions that the Sonnblick Society, whose first report for 1892 we received a short time ago, was formed for the purpose of aiding in the expense of continuing this most important station. The Society already numbers 280 members, and, in addition to several other contributions, receives considerable subventions from the Austrian Government and the Committee of the German and Austrian Alpine Club.

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