A voyage of marine discovery

Take a journey through some of the marine material held in the National Meteorological Archive

Beaufort Diary (1806) by Met OfficeMet Office

Beaufort Scale

Admiral Beaufort became increasingly dissatisfied with the standard means of measuring and recording wind speed and in 1806, he developed a wind scale and letter system to describe the weather. The wind scale was revised to 12 points the following year and is still in use today.

Maury North Atlantic (1852) by Met OfficeMet Office

Matthew Fontaine Maury

Matthew Fontaine Maury of the US Navy realised that by collating observations it was possible to derive a much greater understanding of the climatology of the oceans.  An international maritime conference was held in Brussels in 1853 and it was agreed to collect and share data.

Index of bottle papers (1870) by Met OfficeMet Office

Message in a Bottle

These ‘Bottle Papers’ as they are more accurately known were used by the Admiralty and the Met Office to understand the direction and speed of currents in the worlds oceans.

Arachne bottle paper (1856) by Met OfficeMet Office

The finder would smash open the bottle and unfold the paper to find either pre-printed, or hand written instructions in the main languages of the world asking them to arrange for the message to be sent back to the Admiralty in the UK. 

Evangeline bottle paper front (1862) by Met OfficeMet Office

Not all messages were formal. This one, was thrown into the Atlantic Ocean by the Captain of the ‘Evangeline'.

Evangeline bottle paper back (1862) by Met OfficeMet Office

He refers to his crew as ‘the most infernally ordinary old shells that ever trod a plank’! He chose to remain anonymous but the Ships Meteorological Logs for the Evangeline are also held in the National Meteorological Archive and the handwriting matches that of Captain J Wolfe.

Royal Charter Storm Chart (1859-10-26/1859-10-26) by Met OfficeMet Office

Royal Charter Storm

On the night of the 25 and 26 November 1859 the UK was struck by the Royal Charter Storm, named after the most famous ship to be lost that night.  Robert FitzRoy believed he could have forecast the storm and asked Parliament for permission to establish a storm warning service.

Cautionary Signals (1861) by Met OfficeMet Office

Storm Warning Service

After analysing the Royal Charter Gale, FitzRoy proposed a national Storm Warning system. The first warning was issued on 5th February 1861. It used a combination of canvas cones and drums to warn ships both in harbour and along the coasts of an approaching gale. 

Titanic Iceberg Report (1912) by Met OfficeMet Office

Titanic Disaster

North Atlantic ice reports are held in the National Meteorological Archive and the report here notes that on 14th April 1912, the British steamer Titanic collided with an iceberg, and went down soon after.

Prince of Wales - Bismarck Action Barograph Trace (1941) by Met OfficeMet Office

HMS Prince of Wales - Ship log

A barogram trace taken from the ship log of HMS Prince of Wales in May 1941

On Saturday 24th May 1941, HMS Prince of Wales was involved in the Battle of Denmark straight and the effect of vibrations caused by firing of guns can be seen clearly on this barogram trace.

OWS Weather Adviser (1961) by Met OfficeMet Office

Ocean Weather Ships

In 1946 the Conference of Directors of the International Meteorological Organisation passed a resolution urging the establishment of stationary meteorological ships in certain ocean areas to collect weather data. 

The Met Office operated weather ships between 1947 and 1996.

Deployment of MAWS Weather Station Buoy off the Shetland Islands by Met OfficeMet Office

Marine Buoys

One of the recommendations after an intense storm in October 1987 was to look at deploying additional buoys in the area to the south-west of the United Kingdom.

This recommendation was carried out and the new network of buoys still provides important marine data for forecasting.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Met Office
Demystifying the science behind the weather and why it matters
View theme
Google apps