If you have a bit of an odd, but charming garden-obsessed friend who is hard to buy a gift for, I can recommend an Admiral Fitzroy Storm Glass!
Come Christmas; I’m the one my family hope they don’t pick in the Kringle.
I adore weird, quirky things.
Specifically, the kind of things I call curios but my Husband calls crap.
Like my prized vintage collection of framed butterflies. Or my tongue-in-cheek collection of coprolite (literally, fossilised dinosaur crap) shells, fossils, crystals, meteorites, and geodes.
I love collecting anything that you might find in the Museum of Natural History in New York. (Incidentally, if someone out there has managed to bottle the smell of that museum, please get in contact! I need it.)
A few months ago, when it was my birthday, I was so annoyingly vague about what I wanted, my sister ended up giving me some cash.
It wasn’t long in my purse before I discovered the perfect gift for me.
As I wandered around yet another garden centre, I found something unusual that appealed to all my geeky, gadgety, historical, weathery obsessions.
An Admiral Fitzroy Storm Glass.
I had never seen or heard of one before but was immediately intrigued. A quick wiki-check filled me in.
Admiral Robert Fitzroy was Captain of the HMS Beagle, yes, the very same ship that ferried Charles Darwin around the Galapagos in the 1830s.
While Darwin contemplated the Origin of the Species, Admiral Fitzroy was testing a hypothesis of his own. (You know how much I love an innovative mindset! Admiral Fitzroy was a complex person who met with an ultimately tragic end.)
He was road (sea?) testing a new weather predicting instrument.
A Weather Experiment
In a sealed glass, he mixed potassium nitrate, ammonium chloride, ethanol, camphor and water.
Admiral Fitzroy observed his new-fangled, technologically advanced device and recorded his examinations thus,
- If the liquid in the glass is clear, the weather will be bright and clear.
- Cloudy liquid means cloudy weather, perhaps with precipitation.
- Small dots in the liquid indicate humid or foggy weather is expected.
- A cloudy glass with small stars indicates thunderstorms.
- When the liquid contains small stars on sunny winter days, snow is coming.
- Large flakes floating through the liquid, suggest it will be overcast in temperate seasons or snowy in the winter.
- Crystals at the bottom indicate frost.
- Threads near the top? It will be windy.
Fresh from its box, the glass was completely clouded with fine crystals (predicting snow?) and the instructions precisely detailed how to set it up in its new home.
Calibrating 19th Century “Technology.”
To calibrate my storm glass, I had to dissolve the existing crystals back into the solution until the fluid was clear. This was miraculously achieved by agitating the storm glass while simultaneously heating with my hairdryer.
One wonders how Admiral Fitzroy accomplished the same feat (probably close to an open fire, risking a scorched eyebrow or two) but given my general clumsiness; I was rather chuffed that my combined shake-and-heat performance didn’t result in a broken storm glass and tears of remorse.
Once every crystal was dissolved, I placed it proudly atop my seed bank drawers, away from curious little grabby hands.
For accuracy’s sake, it cannot be moved or disturbed.
I have since wondered how Admiral Fitzroy kept his storm glass perfectly still as he sloshed about the high seas?
Thanks to our weather, it seems for at least six months of the year, I will be admiring a glass tube of clear water.
After waiting and watching for a few weeks, nothing happened. Disappointed, I forgot about it for a while. Then I checked back while dusting and discovered crystals had formed at the bottom of the tube.
Today it looks like this…
Frankly, when it rained last week, it looked like that.
When it was frosty this morning, it looked like that.
During our recent, unseasonably sunny weather, it looked like that.
When gale-force winds swept our neighbour’s trampoline onto our roof, it looked like that.
It appears my doubt regarding the storm glass’s accuracy was shared by others inclined to do the appropriate scientific tests.
Those results concluded that Admiral Fitzroy’s Storm Glass could predict the weather half of the time.
Yes, half the time it is completely wrong.
Flipping a coin will produce the same weather-predicting result.
Other research has determined that it is ambient temperature, (perhaps not quantum tunnelling) responsible for the beautiful crystals forming. It seems no one knows for sure.
Conclusion? I have a pretty, but otherwise useless crystal making tube. I’ll keep my eye on it and hope it’s debated quantum mechanics kick in and it starts to work reliably in this actual universe.
In the meantime, when I want to know if it is going to rain, I’ll check out my much-beloved weather app on my phone.
What would Admiral Fitzroy have made of an iPhone?
I would love to hear from you, especially if you have discovered your sure-fire way of predicting the weather! Please leave a comment below…
* You can read more about Admiral Fitzroy’s Storm Glass experiments here.
Have you visited the Subscriber Resource Library yet?
With apologies to Admiral Fitzroy, if you need something useful for your garden, be sure to check out a Farm of Your Home’s Subscriber Resource Library. You will need the password to access checklists, guides, journals and templates, all waiting to be downloaded for FREE and put to good use!
Sign up today for updates and access!