National Archive and NOAA look to old Arctic ship logs for climate change history

A project to help track Arctic climate change using volunteers to transcribe U.S. ship logs online was launched on Wednesday by the National Archives and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Using citizen scientists to transcribe thousands of pages of logbooks from Navy, Coast Guard and other ships from 1850 to World War Two will fill a big data gap, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said.

Scientists in recent decades have gotten weather data from satellites and ground observations, and such tools as ice samples show ancient patterns, she said. But the archived logs could establish a baseline of historical weather data

Project organizers, which include science web portal Zooniverse, hope to enlist thousands of volunteers to transcribe scanned pages from logbooks. The pages will be loaded onto Old Weather, an online weather data project (www.oldweather.org)…Navy logs carried weather observations 24 times a day.

Mark Mollan, a reference archivist and a project organizer, said the National Archives had 1,000 boxes of Arctic ship logs. Each page put online will be transcribed three times to eliminate errors, he said…

Four bulky logbooks, all with Arctic observations in neat 19th century handwriting, were displayed at the news conference.

The logs included one from the doomed 1879 Arctic voyage of the Jeannette, a U.S. Navy ship that sank after being trapped in ice off Russia. The commander starved to death and 18 other expedition members died.

New like this drives me up a tree. I would love to become un-retired and start all over again with a geek career in computational analysis. Just imagine what can be done with these transcriptions? Converted to digitized text they can become a searchable database for the world of research that was never envisioned by the original record-keepers.

Not only will we be able examine and determine a baseline for Arctic weather; but, ship’s logs typically record both the ordinary and the unusual. What a delight to data-mine.

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