Civil War-era U.S. Navy ships’ logs to be explored for climate data, maritime history

Coaling Admiral Farragut’s fleet at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, circa 1862.

U.S. Library of Congress/Flickr
Coaling Admiral Farragut’s fleet at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, circa 1862.

A new grant will let a University of Washington-based project add a new fleet to its quest to learn more about past climate from the records of long-gone mariners. The UW is among the winners of the 2017 “Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives” awards, announced Jan. 4 by the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Library and Information Resources.

The new $482,018 grant to the UW, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and the National Archives Foundation will allow the project to digitize the logbooks, muster rolls and related materials from U.S. naval vessels, focusing on the period from 1861 to 1879.

“Very few of the marine weather observations diligently recorded by Navy officers since the early 1800s have been digitized and made accessible for modern climate and weather research,” said principal investigator Kevin Wood, of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, a research center operated by the UW and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The Civil War- and Reconstruction-era logs we are targeting here are particularly useful to fill in and extend our knowledge of past weather conditions around the world, from the mid-19th century to the beginning of the 20th century.”

Read more at UW Today »