Here is another one of my blog entry on the Transit of Venus Project
As I’m sitting at Boston airport, hoping to be able to get out before a snow storm is going to hit Massachusetts, I’m thinking of Jesuit priest Maximilian Hell who exactly 243 years ago, at the end of October was facing his first Arctic snow storm in Vardø. After a long and harrowing journey from Vienna to Vardø at the most north-eastern corner of Norway, Hell had arrived in mid-October 1768. The last part of the voyage had been by boat from Trondheim along the rugged coast of Norway. For six weeks their vessel performed an erratic dance on the rough sea. Icy waves crashed into their small cabin and several times they feared for their lives and instruments, worried that the sea would ‘bury’ them forever. Only the sailors, Hell’s assistant observed with disbelief, became increasingly happier, ‘the wilder it roared around us’.
On 11 October 1768, they arrived at the Danish garrison Vardø and immediately searched for a location for their observatory. They settled on the centre of the small town but with hardly any timber on the island, Vardø’s commander advised them to send their boat to the mainland to procure the necessary building materials. Amid snowstorms and freezing temperatures, it took two months to build the observatory.
At the end of October they encountered their first fierce storm – whipping snow across the island while mountain-high waves crashed on to the shore. They couldn’t see any stars, the provisions froze and burst their containers, and with an icy wind blowing through the shutters and walls, sleeping was almost impossible. On 31 October Hell and his assistant had enough and bought some ‘good furs’ to keep warm – but winter was only just beginning.
for blog entry on Transit of Venus Project click here