One of the most famous moments in New Hampshire history – the most famous if you’re a weather fan – has taken center stage in the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, although it’s missing a couple of things.
Giant mounds of frozen snow and ice, for one.
“The frame structure should never have withstood this,” said Donna French Dunn, interim director of the Mount Washington Observatory, during the unveiling Thursday of a replica of the “Shaky Shack” where world-breaking winds were measured in 1934. “We think it was completely encased by a giant ice block, and that’s why it withstood the 231 miles per hour wind.”
Also missing: felines. Lots of felines.
“It’s so small. And there were nine cats in there!” marveled Jeanne Gerulskis, executive director of the Discovery Center.
“Cats were essential. Cats kept the rodent population down,” said Dunn, noting that eight decades ago it was a lot harder to bring food up to the summit of Mount Washington, so observer teams stocked a winter’s worth of provisions that had to be kept safe from mice. “We’ve had a cat just about continuously for the last 90 years.”
The highest wind speed ever measured by people happened April 12, 1934 atop Mount Washington by a team from the Mount Washington Observatory, which had been created barely two years earlier. They were working and staying in the Auto Road Stage Office, a two-story wooden house held down by chains that ran over the roof and were bolted into the mountain.
A replica of that building, a.k.a. the Shaky Shack, has been moved to the Discovery Center along with a host of other weather-related displays from the recently closed Weather Discovery Center in North Conway. The building was taken award, trucked south, and reassembled.
“I’ve been reconstructing it for the last seven weeks,” said Paul Higgins, a volunteer at the Discovery Center.
Faster winds have since been measured at ground level but only by automatic instruments, not by people who had to brave the “world’s worst weather” to keep the windspeed-measuring anemometer operating despite ice buildup.
Also moved to Concord are “mini-tornado” in the Discovery Center’s Planetary Sciences Gallery and an exhibit on solar power.
The Discovery Center is open but reservations are required within certain time slots to allow social distancing. Sessions just for at-risk and senior visitors occur Fridays from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Masks are required.
The rooftop observatory is open, as is the planetarium, which has had its audio-visual systems have upgraded by SSIA Technologies, a New Hampshire firm. Three programs are available.
For more information, check the Center’s website, starhop.com.
As a boy I recall watching our B & W TV, avec “rabbit ears” nightly, on Lake Winnipesaukee until it shut down at 10pm. The final show every night (this was WMTW then from Maine) was a trip to the ‘top of the Mountain’ (Mt Washington) where we would hear the various scientists that manned that location. They were great, none of the glamorous, polished TV characters of today, but real scientists that told it as it was every night. It would be a great addition if they could be recaptured in a series of loops, showing their actions, comments, and faux pas that kept me up for that nightly lesson.