Fitzroy Stormglass: A Forgotten 19th Century Meteorological Instrument
The story is briefly like that. Robert Fitzroy, an aristocrat, naval officer, graduate of the Royal Naval Academy in Portsmouth in October 1828 was appointed captain of the famous Beagle vessel - a research barge that took part in four hydrographic expeditions. Charles Darwin himself took part in the third expedition - research done during this voyage formed the basis of many scientific works of the great scientist.
Fitzroy was not a scientist - he was primarily a sailor, and at the time of taking office he was very young, he was only 23 years old. At the same time, he showed himself to be a brilliant captain and a very initiative person - in fact, the invitation to board the naturalist Darwin came with the light arm of Fitzroy (it was a world expedition of 1831-1836).
Vividly interested in natural phenomena, Fitzroy, enrolled in the Beagle, was given the idea to build a device predicting changes in sea weather - compact enough to work on a ship. And he built it.
Fitzroy's Stormglass is a hermetically sealed glass flask, inside which is a mixture of various chemical components: distilled water (33 ml), ethanol (40 ml), potassium nitrate (2.5 g), ammonium chloride (2.5 g) and camphor ( 10 g). This mixture, according to Fitzroy, turned out to be extremely sensitive to changes in temperature, humidity, pressure. He described his observations of the contents of the vessel in one of his subsequent works (later Fitzroy became the head of the Department of Meteorology and in 1862 published the famous "Book on the Weather").
According to Fitzroy's observations, the behavior of the mixture was as follows: - it was clean, transparent and liquid in light, sunny, calm weather; - she became cloudy if the weather was cloudy; - separate cloud points formed in it if there was fog overboard; - the liquid was cloudy and with individual points of solidification before a thunderstorm; - if the pour points were in a clear liquid, this portended snow; - large crystalline flakes - to snowfall; - needle crystals portended frost; - muddy threads at the bottom promised a windy day.
So far, neither the correctness of Fitzroy, nor his error has been proved. Some characteristics of the storm class are confirmed by modern research, some are not. Stormglass has not been needed for a long time, since we learned to predict the weather with more accurate devices, and this unusual device finally became a historical artifact. Regardless of what specific weather conditions the composition of the fitzroy mixture reacts, it looks very beautiful from the side.
In fact, we just saw a stormglass for sale at Hammacher Schlemmer and thought it was worth telling about it. Maybe you want to have such a thing. Beautiful, though.