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By Terry Nathans he weather and climate of the trans-Mississippi west was virtually unknown at the begin- Tning of the nineteenth century. This changed dramatically shortly after the Louisiana P- chase was signed in 1803, which set the stage for acquiring the first systematic weather measurements of the trans-Mississippi west. The framework for obtaining these measurements was outlined in the now famous June 20, 1803 letter from President Thomas Jefferson to his protégé and personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis. In that letter, Jefferson instructed Lewis to plan and carry out an overland expedition to the Pacific Ocean for the purposes of commerce, and to observe and record a broad range of natural history subjects, including the …climate, as characterised by the thermometer, by the proportion of rainy, cloudy & clear days, by lightning, hail, snow, ice, by the access & recess of frost, by the winds prevailing at different s- sons, the dates at which particular plants put forth or lose their flower, or leaf… (Jackson 1978, p. 63). Jefferson’s instructions to Lewis, which were part of his decades-long ambition of laun- ing an expedition to explore the interior of North America, were made at the threshold of what Fleming (1990) has called the “expanding horizons” in meteorology. During this period, more reliable meteorological instruments began to emerge allowing for a more comprehensive and systematic acquisition of weather data.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Meteorology and the Corps of Discovery

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Meteorological Synopsis of the Expedition

Abstract
For decades, exploration of inland portions of the North American continent had been a goal of many governments worldwide, and lucrative trade with Indian nations led many countries to develop remote trading posts. Thomas Jefferson was intrigued by the idea of an expedition up the Missouri some twenty years prior to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He tried to interest General George Rogers Clark in making the expedition in 1783, but lack of funding prevented an attempt. While serving in Paris, Jefferson tried to engage John Ledyard to cross Russia, enter North America by way of Alaska, and explore eastward to St. Louis. This too fell through as Ledyard was stopped by Russian officials while trekking through Siberia. Jefferson’s concern over who would control interests in the Pacific Northwest was further aroused when he learned of overland journeys by British explorer Alexander Mackenzie. Mackenzie made two westward trips from northern Alberta’s Lake Athabasca. During his first journey in 1789, Mackenzie led a small party northwest to the Arctic Ocean down a broad river (later named for Mackenzie). On his second journey in 1793, Mackenzie made a trek to the Pacific Ocean down the Peace River and later Fraser River. Arriving at the coast, he threw down the gauntlet to other countries by painting the rocks near the shore with the following inscription: “Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three“ (Mackenzie 1801; Bakeless 1947; Salisbury 1950; DeVoto 19.53; Gilbert 1973; Allen 1975; Appleman 1975; Wood and Thiessen 1985; Ambrose 1996; Ronda 2000; Hayes 2001; Ronda 2001; Saindon 2003). As a twist of irony, the Lewis and Clark Expedition took liberties of a similar nature during their journey, and one of these markings still remains at Pompey’s Pillar near Billings, Montana; it is the only remaining physical evidence of their journey on the landscape.
Vernon Preston

Chapter 2. The Expedition Journals

Abstract
While several scientific books have been written describing the expedition’s study of flora and fauna,* its advances in the fields of geology, geography, and cartography,† and its members’ medical needs,‡ the expedition’s systematic daily observations of climate, water, and weather elements have largely been ignored. However, the daily observations en route represent the dawn of modern meteorology, when only a handful of scientists were noting the changing weather patterns. In general, regular daily observations, although noted back to the Greeks as early as the fifth century B.C.E., were not recorded until the late 1600s as instruments such as the thermometer, barometer, and hygrometer were developed (Frisinger 1983).
Vernon Preston

Excerpts from the Weather Diary and Narrative Journals

Frontmatter

Section 1. East of the Mississippi

Abstract
On August 31, 1803, Meriwether Lewis left Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a small party in a keelboat and canoes. They moved slowly down the Ohio River due to low water conditions brought on by drought. Lewis arrived at the Falls of the Ohio near Clarksville, Indiana / Louisville, Kentucky on October 14 and met William Clark with additional recruits. As author and historian Stephen Ambrose noted, “When they shook hands, the Lewis and Clark Expedition began“ (Ambrose 1996, 117). They set out from Louisville on October 26, arriving at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi on November 14 and moved up the Mississippi through early December. Heading up the Mississippi was made difficult by low water and strong currents, and even more burdensome as late-fall cold fronts and accompanying strong northwest winds pushed against the boats. They arrived near St. Louis on December 12 and established winter quarters across from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers at Camp Dubois near the mouth of the Wood River (See Section 2).
Vernon Preston

Section 2. Camp Dubois

Abstract
This section is comprised of entries from the expedition’s Field Notes made while wintering at Camp Dubois, Illinois, on the Wood River. Apparently the captains did not regard this journal as an official document because they were not traveling and the Expedition had not actually begun; hence it is extremely sketchy and disorganized (Moulton 1986, 2: 133). Data were entered in these field notes until the day the Expedition commenced up the Missouri on May 14, 1804.
Vernon Preston

Section 3. Ascending the Missouri River

Abstract
Most of the expedition (between 45 and 50 members) started out on a rainy May 14, 1804, crossing the Mississippi to begin the ascent of the Missouri River. Lewis joined the party in St. Charles, Missouri, where the party remained until May 21. The expedition moved slowly against the current, passing present-day Kansas City, Missouri, in late June and Omaha, Nebraska, by late July under the sweltering summer heat. They traveled westward parallel to the Nebraska-South Dakota border for 10 days in late August through early September, and then turned north into central South Dakota, constantly buffeted by prairie winds. Their first frost blanketed them on October 5 as they neared the South Dakota-North Dakota state line. By mid-October they experienced their first snows near present-day Bismarck, North Dakota, and established winter quarters at Camp Mandan on November 2. Here they would endure the rigors of prairie winter, including the coldest temperature of the year.
Vernon Preston

Section 4. Fort Mandan

Abstract
The expedition established Fort Mandan on November 2, 1804, near the Mandan and Hidatsa villages, the last mapped outposts in a largely unexplored territory. They remained at the fort, their winter quarters, until April 7, 1805. At Fort Mandan, located near today’s Washburn, North Dakaota, they would endure a harsh winter with the rigors of prairie winter, including frequent snows, blizzards, and extreme temperatures—indeed, the coldest temperature of the year. They saw a variety of natural phenomena, including sun dogs, mirages, northern lights, and even an eclipse of the moon. They interacted with the villagers—even partook in hunting ceremonies—and met the Shoshone woman who would become a tremendous asset during the journey: Sakagawea. As spring neared, the party moved quickly to free the keelboat and pirogues from the icy barrier of the Missouri River before breakup. By late March, the ice was flowing and temperatures were warming.
Vernon Preston

Section 5. To the Pacific

Abstract
On April 7, 1805, a small party returned the keelboat downriver to St. Louis, carrying journal notes and plant and animal specimens from the previous year’s journey destined for President Thomas Jefferson. The permanent expedition of thirty three members set off up the Missouri River in two pirogues and canoes toward the Rocky Mountains and their ultimate goal, the Pacific Ocean. The expedition made slow progress westward as they endured strong spring winds that created sandstorms along the Missouri.
Vernon Preston

Section 6. Fort Clatsop

Abstract
“Wet and disagreeable“ was the motto of the Corps of Discovery during the winter of 1805/06 at Fort Clatsop, near present-day Astoria, Oregon. Using dead reckoning, Clark estimated the mileage of their winding journey from St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River at 4,162 miles. He was within 40 miles of the actual distance (Duncan and Burns 1997, 159; Ambrose 1998, 175).
Vernon Preston

Section 7. Return to St. Louis

Abstract
The expedition left its winter quarters at Fort Clatsop on March 23, 1806 and headed up the swollen Columbia River. Clark toured up the Multnomah (Willamette) River, missed during their foggy, rainy descent, reaching a point near modern-day Portland, Oregon. The rapid early spring waters and strong Columbia River Gorge winds created difficulties for the corps. Near Dalles, Oregon, the expedition purchased horses and traveled by land to the confluence of the Columbia and Walla Walla rivers. Instead of returning up the Snake River, they followed an overland Indian trail along the Walla Walla River to the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers.
Vernon Preston

Backmatter

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