New Instruments for the Collection

By

Posted on

We added two really interesting navigating instruments to our collection this month.  Both were designed to help navigators plot a tropical storm’s circulation so the ship could navigate around the zones where the worst weather was occurring—essentially “navigating by storm.”

The first, extremely rare instrument is called a Paracyclone. It was designed by Captain François Louis Roux of the French Navy in the 1870s and constructed by A. Santi of Marseille. This particular instrument was for use in the Southern hemisphere although Santi also developed a supplemental semicircle for Northern hemisphere use. Unfortunately this piece is missing the compass plate that would help determine the course of the storm. Only two other instruments of this type are known—one is in the Science Museum in London and the other is at the Observatory of San Fernando in Madrid.

The second instrument is a combined cyclonometer and typhoon-barometer. The instrument is also known as a barocyclonometer. It was designed by José Maria Algué and made by the firm of Schmidt & Ziegler in Remscheid, Germany around 1915.

This instrument was the culmination of the efforts of two successive Jesuit Priest directors of the Manila Observatory, Federico Faura and José Maria Algué (1856 – 1930). The problem of predicting destructive typhoons, which took dozens of lives each year in the Philippines, led to Faura’s research and eventual publication of his paper “Senales precursoras de un temporal” in 1882. He then went onto develop the ‘Faura’ pattern barometer which through the use of a carefully devised scale could predict with a fair degree of accuracy the proximity of a typhoon. José Algué, who succeeded Faura, undertook further research to devise a method of forecasting the direction from which a typhoon would approach and in 1897 published (in Spanish) his major work “The Cyclones of the Far East.” This included full details on his barocylonometer, with which one could determine the position and direction of motion of a distant cyclone. The cyclonometer “wind-disk” provided an adjustable model of the low pressure circulation system. The incorporation of both instruments into one unit was termed a ‘barocyclonometer’, examples of which were utilized throughout the Philippines saving countless lives during the opening years of the 20th century.

The instrument was such a success that in 1912 Algué was invited by the United States government to devise a version of his barocylonometer for use in the Northern hemisphere in order to assist in the prediction of hurricanes and Atlantic storms. By January 1913 Algué was in London where discussions regarding the production of further models took place. An account of his visit to New York was published in The New York Times August 18th 1912, and a review of the instrument was published in Popular Mechanics January 1913 issue which reported that Algué’s barocyclonometer was being made in Germany and being installed on the USS Connecticut, flagship of Rear Admiral Osterhaus, commander of the Atlantic Squadron for the U.S. Navy.  The article also predicted the instruments use on all American naval vessels but it never happened.

Leave a Reply