National Geographic : 1955 Dec
838 Phillip Swatek + Bridge Watch on Station Bravo Can Be Cold Duty Seaman Charles R. Wise uses his headset to relay messages be tween the bridge and all parts of the cutter Half Moon. He and fireman Robert S. Williams, both wearing special cold-weather clothing, converse under the ship's bell. + George, an old sea dog whose amiable disposition belies a fierce countenance, has made many voyages as the Half Moon's mascot. W. Irving Tuttle, Newark News While the observer's struggles and the resulting weather reports affect everyone, they are vital to those in aviation. The ocean-sta tion network was developed pri marily to benefit Allied flying in World War II. Hundreds and eventually thousands of American built warplanes flew east across the Atlantic in the course of the conflict. To get these planes over safely, weather forecasts for landing fields in the British Isles had to be re liable. It was also important, of course, for the Allies to have accu rate forecasts for bombing mis sions over the Continent. Storms generally move from west to east, and forecasters had to know what was happening over the ocean. This meant observation stations scattered across the Atlantic. Three weather ships-two Brit ish, one American-were lost, pre sumably to enemy action, during the war. In view of the ships' extreme vulnerability, so few losses could be considered fortunate for the Allies' cause-unless the Ger mans had devised some means of picking up the meteorological data for their own uses. With the armistice the weather ships were withdrawn and the project abandoned. But it was already apparent to many, par ticularly transatlantic aviators, meteorologists, and scientists in re lated fields, that the international project would be immensely useful in peacetime. A year after the war's end, on September 17, 1946, representa tives of Belgium, Canada, France, Ireland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Por tugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States met in Lon don and agreed to establish a net work of ocean weather stations in the North Atlantic. With the pressure of war gone, the program got off to a slow start. A year passed and fewer than half the planned stations were manned. Congressmen began wondering aloud about the project's value.