85th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 11 January 2005: 8:30 AM
The weather observations of Surgeon Menzies
Malcolm Walker, Royal Meteorological Society, Reading, United Kingdom
Poster PDF (519.1 kB)
On Vancouverís historic voyage around the world from 1791 to 1795, Archibald Menzies served as surgeon and naturalist. During the voyage, he kept a weather log, including in it observations of air temperature, sea-surface temperature, barometric pressure, wind direction and wind force (using terminology similar to that used by Admiral Beaufort a decade later in the first published version of his famous scale of wind force).

The log is important historically, for it includes the first weather observations ever made systematically along the west coast of North America (from Mexico to Alaska), among them observations made whilst at anchor at San Francisco and Monterey. The sheets on which Menzies recorded his observations have recently been returned to the archive of the Royal Meteorological Society. The story of how they came to be in the possession of the Society in the first place will be told in this presentation.

During Vancouverís voyage, Menzies became the first to climb Mauna Loa, and he also climbed Wha-ra-rai, another Hawaiian peak. He used a barometer to ascertain the heights of these mountains, and the values he calculated were close to heights accepted today.

This paper will focus upon the activities of Surgeon Menzies during Vancouverís historic voyage, particularly his meteorological activities. Relations between Menzies and Vancouver became so bad towards the end of the voyage that Vancouver ordered Menzies to hand over all of his journals, charts and drawings. Happily, Menzies did not comply. Had he done so, this paper might never have been possible.

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