Logbook of Revenue Cutter BearA group of three organizations, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Archives and Records Administration and citizen science association Zooniverse have joined forces to transcribe weather data from historic ship logs. The US Navy, Coast Guard and Revenue Cutter log books date from the 1850s into the 1940s. They represent an extensive record of arctic environmental conditions, containing millions of weather and sea ice observations, which have been underutilized and unavailable to researchers.

Labeled the Old Weather Project, organizers are seeking to enlist volunteers in the effort to transcribe the logbooks that are being scanned and placed online for viewing. While weather conditions are a key focus of the project, others interested in history, genealogy and marine science will benefit from access to these records. 

“We are delighted to be working with NOAA and Zooniverse so that our historical records can enable scientific discovery in the 21st century,” said David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States. “While the data extracted from these records will be useful to scientists, these documents are also a treasure-trove of information for historians, genealogists, and others interested in the experiences and accomplishments of seafaring people.”

Started in 2010, some 16,400 volunteers have transcribed more than 1.6 million weather observations recorded in British Royal Navy logbooks. The effort is now focused on vessels that operated in the Arctic and the hope is that the data will help improve understanding of the global climate.

Copyright © 2013 by Alan Sorum

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