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Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology


Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology 1929–1946 by Allan Cornish
Chapter 1: My Early Days in the Bureau
Chapter 2: Some New Vistas
Chapter 3: The RAAF Measures Upper Air Temperatures
Chapter 4: The Bureau Begins to Grow
Chapter 5: My Voyage in Discovery II
Chapter 6: The Birth of the Instrument Section
Chapter 7: Darwin Days
Chapter 8: I Leave the Bureau

History of Major Meteorological Installation in Australia from 1945 to 1981 by Reg Stout

Four Years in the RAAF Meteorological Service by Keith Swan

The Bureau of Meteorology in Papua New Guinea in the 1950s by Col Glendinning


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Chapter 6: The Birth of the Instrument Section (continued)

Alan Martin was responsible for developing the technique of hydrogen generation. He worked out what was needed, the grain size of the ferrosilicon and the caustic soda.

We arranged for a contract to be arranged for the modification of oxygen cylinders for use as hydrogen generators. That saved the day because it was the only way to obtain a supply of hydrogen.

It was also necessary to have balloons made for radiosonde flights. Again Alan Martin was a great help in solving this problem. Ansell were making toy balloons but we wanted these big six-foot (two metre) balloons. Martin was a better chemist than I. He did a lot of work in designing a system to use the Ansell equipment to make large latex radiosonde balloons. Ansell was given the contract for their manufacture.

The original radiosonde ground equipment was based on a super-regenerative receiver supplied by Friez. We imported one radiosonde transmitter for examination by PMG research. There were a number of different radiosonde designs world-wide at this time. Some worked on variable radio frequencies to measure temperature and pressure. Some worked on variable audio frequency. A Finnish one worked on a chronometric type of delay. The time between signals was the measure. There were various types.

In the Diamond-Hinman type of radiosonde an aneroid cell drove a contact over a commutator which switched in a cycle of temperature, relative humidity and reference. Pressure was calibrated in millibars at each switching position.

The design of the commutator strip was about three inches long made up of alternate metal and insulator segments and that had to be produced and individually calibrated. It was hooked up to an aneroid capsule (with thermal compensation built in) which drove a wiper across the commutator.

As the wiper moved it switched from a contact to a no-contact. Contacts provided measurements of temperature and humidity. Because of drift due to battery changes a reference point was needed; so every fifth contact had a standard resistor attached that sent a standard signal.

People in Bright Sparcs - Cornish, Allan William

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Cornish, A., Stout, R., Swan, K and Glendinning, C. 1996 'Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology', Metarch Papers, No. 8 February 1996, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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