Whaling logbooks and journals contain a vast amount of information on a wide range of subjects that appeal to more than just a whaling or maritime historian. Each entry begins with recorded observations on the weather, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recognized the implications in regards to meteorological research. NOAA’s “Old Weather” project hopes to improve future weather predicting patterns by analyzing historical weather descriptions and accounts.
“Old Weather” represents a new era for the Whaling Museum, marking the first time logbooks from the world’s largest whaling library will be digitized, but its significance does not end there. The project intends to deliver these digitized materials to a wide-range of people. This crowd-sourcing allows anybody with a computer the ability to read and extract weather related data from a logbook. These “citizen scientists” will use the weather descriptions contained in logbooks to help improve weather prediction capabilities.
Check out the video below for a look at the citizen scientist process at work.
After securing a grant through the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), NOAA contacted the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library in an effort to digitize logbooks documenting North Pacific and Arctic Ocean voyages. The library staff, in response to NOAA’s request, selected 224 logbooks for digitization. Once digitized, citizen scientists from anywhere in the world will have the opportunity to mine through thousands of pages of whaling logbooks for weather related data, enabling climate scientists to further their research.