Old Weather Whaling - New Bedford Whaling Museum

Old Weather: Whaling

Help scientists transcribe Arctic and worldwide weather observations recorded in ship's logs since the mid-19th century | oldweather.org

Old Weather: Whaling

Museum Whaleship Journals Used to Uncover Weather Patterns Throughout the Centuries

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. The Old Weather: Whaling project hopes to improve future weather predicting patterns by analyzing historical weather descriptions and accounts.

Old Weather: Whaling is the sister project of Old Weather, a successful ongoing project led by the NOAA, the University of Washington and Zooniverse, the citizen science web portal. Similar to the original Old Weather, Old Weather: Whaling (OWW) is about citizens extracting historic weather measurements and other data from ship logs. However, OWW offers particular focus on observations of sea ice, which many whaling ships sailed through and documented while navigating Arctic waters.

Old Weather: Whaling represents a new era for the 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 the collective understanding of long-term climate variability and weather patterns, from the 19th century into the future.

  • What is a citizen scientist, and how do I become one? Visit whaling.oldweather.org.
  • For more information please contact Michael Lapides, Director of Digital Initiatives

Old Weather: Our Weather's Past, The Climate's Future

Produced by NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Be a citizen scientist and help recover Arctic weather and sea-ice observations from times past for better understanding of future climate.

The Museum’s Old Weather Collaborators


National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. We ensure continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. We support democracy, promote civic education, and facilitate historical understanding of our national experience.

For this project NARA archivists and preservationists are providing expert guidance on the logbook holdings of the Archives, training student interns in document preservation and digital imaging, and leading the online publication of selected vessel logbooks – an important resource for understanding the history of Alaska and the Arctic that will be accessible to all.

The National Archives


Met Office

The Met Office is the UK’s national weather service and one of the world’s leading providers of climate services. We support a large number of customers in many different sectors, including civil aviation, defense and industry. We also supply weather and climate data along with our products and services to many countries throughout the world. The Met Office Hadley Centre is a world-leader in climate research. It plays a central role in providing the scientific evidence of climate change to inform the UK Government and international negotiations on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.


NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them.

From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product. NOAA’s dedicated scientists use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers with reliable information they need when they need it.

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL)

PMEL carries out interdisciplinary scientific investigations in oceanography and atmospheric science. Current research programs focus on open ocean observations in support of long-term monitoring and prediction of the ocean environment on time scales from hours to decades. With support from the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) and the NOAA Arctic Research Program, PMEL and JISAO scientists are coordinating project activities with partners and collaborators, and providing expertise in historical climatology, climate dynamics and information systems.

Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS)

ONMS Maritime Heritage preserves and protects valuable historical, cultural, and archaeological resources within our coastal, marine, and Great Lakes environments. Maritime heritage includes not only physical resources such as historic shipwrecks and prehistoric archaeological sites, but also archival documents and oral histories. Maritime heritage can also include the stories of indigenous cultures that have lived and used the oceans for thousands of years. ONMS is contributing expertise in maritime heritage, historical ecology and providing logistical support for student interns working on the project in Washington, D.C.

National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC)

The NODC manages the world’s largest collection of publicly available oceanographic data. NODC holdings include in situ and remotely sensed physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic data from coastal and deep ocean areas. These were originally collected for a variety of operational and research missions by U.S. Federal agencies, including the Department of Defense (primarily the U.S. Navy); by State and local government agencies; by universities and research institutions; and private industry. NODC data holdings extend back over one hundred years. Status of the World Oceanographic Database as of June 27, 2012: 12,519,136 stations. Data available via internet without restriction: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/SELECT/dbsearch/dbsearch.html NODC scientists are helping to locate and assess heritage data assets in Russia and with manuscript records from the Russian period in Alaska.


The National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum is part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site and incorporates the Royal Observatory, home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian Line. The Museum’s collection of manuscripts is the largest and most important dedicated archive for the study of maritime history in the world. The collection occupies over four linear miles of shelf space and covers all aspects of British seafaring history from the 14th to the 20th centuries.

Providence Public Library

The Nicholson Whaling Collection at Providence Public Library is now the second largest whaling logbook collection in America. Mr. Paul C. Nicholson, the son of the founder of the world-renowned Nicholson File Company, formed an outstanding collection of over 750 manuscript logbooks describing more than 1,000 whaling voyages, as well as several thousand printed books on whaling. Providence Public Library has contributed digital images of more than 150 Arctic logbooks from the Nicholson Whaling Collection to the project.

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) is a private, non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, created to assist the federally managed National Marine Sanctuary Program with education and outreach activities. NMSF is assisting with the student intern program at the National Archives.


The University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is the oldest in the English-speaking world having been founded in the 11th or 12th centuries. Today, it combines research in the humanities with major effort in the natural sciences and medicine. Climate initiatives include the program on modeling and predicting climate change, part of the Oxford Martin Schools and Climateprediction.net.


The Citizen Science Alliance

The Citizen Science Alliance is a transatlantic collaboration of universities and museums who are dedicated to involving everyone in the process of science. Growing out of the wildly successful Galaxy Zoo project, it builds and maintains the Zooniverse network of projects, of which Old Weather is part.


The international Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) initiative links projects recovering and improving the quantity and quality of historical global weather observations over the last 200 or so years, to global weather and climate reanalysis or reconstructions assimilating these weather data, in order to facilitate the use of these reconstructions across all disciplines and user communities worldwide. Old Weather is part of the international outreach arm of ACRE.


Naval-History.Net of Penarth, UK, was started in 1998 by Gordon Smith with his first two published books. Now one of the premier naval history sites on the web with 5,000 visitors daily, it is internationally recognized for the quality of its contributions, such as Don Kindell’s Royal Navy casualties lists, 1914 to the present. Recently moving into on-demand publishing, one of its first books has been shortlisted for the 2010 Mountbatten Award of the Maritime Foundation.

More and more people are fascinated by their past, and family history is big business. Much of the interest is in the military or naval background of relatives and friends. Go back to the start of World War 2 and there is plenty of information. To World War 1 and the Army, almost as much. But not with the Navy. With the “Senior Service”, World War 1 was the Battle of Jutland and almost nothing else. But it wasn’t. The “War to End All Wars” was as much a maritime struggle as its successor only 20 years later. But there is so little information on the hundreds of ships and tens of thousands of men who served. This is now going to change fundamentally as the day-by-day story of 280 warships and auxiliaries across all the oceans of the world is digitized through the Old Weather project. As the centenary of World War 1 approaches, Naval-History.Net is proud to be part of this imaginative approach to researching history. We look forward to publishing the results online at www.naval-history.net in the coming months.


This project is part of the JISC’s Developing Community Content programme. The programme has funded ten projects at UK universities to create and use digital content that is useful not only for those involved in Higher Education, but also for various communities within the broader general public.


Established in 1967, CIRES is a joint institute of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado Boulder. It is the largest of NOAA’s cooperative institutes nationwide. As a world leader in environmental sciences, CIRES conducts groundbreaking research into all aspects of the Earth system, including the hydrosphere, biosphere, geosphere, atmosphere, and cryosphere.

Situated in Boulder, Colorado, at the foot of the Flatirons rock formations, CIRES supports more than 500 scientists, nearly 180 graduate and undergraduate students, five research centers, and two programs, the Western Water Assessment and Education & Outreach. CIRES researchers are committed to identifying and pursuing innovative research in Earth system science and fostering public awareness of these processes to ensure a sustainable future environment.

Old Weather: Whaling Resources


Old Weather: Whaling is the sister project of Old Weather, a successful ongoing project led by the NOAA, the University of Washington and Zooniverse, the citizen science web portal.

Sailor Series

Results: NOAA-CIRES 20th Century Reanalysis V2c contains objectively-analyzed 4-dimensional weather maps and their uncertainty from the mid 19th century to 21st century.

NPR Morning Edition Story

Listen to Brain Naylor’s NPR Morning Edition story with Old Weather Whaling lead scientist Dr. Kevin R. Wood.


The Point (CAI Podcast)

Old Weather Points to Future Climate by Mindy Todd & Amy Vince at capeandislands.org.
Listen to a discussion of a crowd sourcing project to mine weather data from Nineteenth Century ships’ logs and a new underwater vehicle designed to collect data from a region we’ve never explored before – beneath the sea ice.