21 March 2019

Where Were Early Ottawa Official Weather Observations Taken?

This has nothing to do with family history.

Soon after Canada's federal government appropriated funds for a Meteorological Service plans were to take weather observations from a site on Parliament Hill, starting in October 1871.  That didn't happen (1). A suggestion to take them from a rooftop location, made by the Department of Marine and Fisheries, was rejected as unsuitable when made to the Meteorological Service headquarters in Toronto.

It was not until March 1872 that Ottawa's first official observations were taken. I've long been curious about where exactly. (2)
A few days ago I obtained images of the original forms used to report the observations to the head office in Toronto. The top of the form, shown above, clearly states the observing site to be in Ottawa and at N45°26' 20.0" W75° 43' 30.0". However, entering those coordinates in Google maps places it on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River in Hull, just south of the intersection of highways 5 and 50.
The same meteorological observations are online with the location given at https://bit.ly/2VZpkri as Latitude: 45°24'00.000" N  Longitude: 75°43'00.000" W Elevation: 71.90 m. That's between Dow's Lake and the Ottawa River, very close to St Mary's Catholic Church on Bayswater Ave. The coordinates are rounded to the nearest minute.

Or perhaps there was a transcription error onto the form which should have been Latitude N45° 24'  20" Longitude W75°43' 30". That would place the observation on Ladouceur St in Hintonburg. Neither of those two locations is within the limits of the City of Ottawa at the time.

Having searched newspapers and directories I'm no closer to finding the exact location. My suspicion is it was close to the offices of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, in the West Block on Parliament Hill. Observations were taken as part of the responsibilities of a department clerk. Soon after it was established the station was changed from a Chief Station to an Ordinary Station which likely reflected dissatisfaction with the siting from Meteorological Service Headquarters in Toronto. Around that time an unsuccessful attempt was made to move the headquarters operation from Toronto to Ottawa, ostensibly to take advantage of administrative efficiencies.

(1) The Beginnings of Canadian Meteorology, Morley Thomas, ECW Press, Toronto, 1991 ISBN 1-55022-149-3.
(2) In Instructions to observers connected with the Meteorological Service of the Dominion of Canada, G. T. Kingston, Copp Clarke and Co, Toronto, 1878, each station was to supply a map marked with the location observations were taken (not found).

1 comment:

K said...

I'm just going out on a limb here, but could the Ottawa location have been on Cliff St. which i think was near the Parliament Buildings and very near the Ottawa River. Later, could the readings have been taken from the Dominion Observatory on Carling Avenue which is very near Dow's Lake.