I almost cancelled with the chaps this morning, but was glad I didn’t as Gary wore his nicest aftershave for the visit. I always remember Gary as a warm, friendly guy who DJ’d for us youngsters back in the day. They called it ‘The Hop’…..most of the time I was hopping into bed at a fairly decent hour on a Saturday night as I had very strict curfews, which I bent a little through the bedroom window.

A few guys can claim to have been part of our Met Office stats, including Saint FM’s very own Johnny Clingham and my brother in law Gavin. I took a photo of the awesome ghetto blaster on the cupboard for Johnny which brings Saint FM to the Station. You won’t have nearly as hi-tec equipment in the UK my friend! Gary likes to request 80’s music when I’m on air and now I can see why.

Vintage equipment bring Saint FM to the Met Office

Everywhere I go, I feel the warmth of this community.

Lori is a new (ish) addition to the station and island as he hails from Suffolk in the UK although his Mum is also from Trinidad in the Caribbean. With a surname like Bennett he gets confused for a St Helenian all the time, I am sure that our cultural strands are overlapping. My Mother’s side of the family is Bennett, so who knows, he could even be related to me by some lengthy and colourful weave. Lori came to the island with his Saint Helenian wife whom he met on Ascension Island.

Gary ‘Huggy Bear’ Mercury & Lori Bennett

I observed Lori readying the weather balloon for takeoff (which takes about five minutes to prepare). Hydrogen is blasted into it and then the bottom is taped firmly before having a gauge with a chip attached to it so that readings can be taken as the balloon makes it way 30’000 metres above ground. It ascends three times higher than aeroplanes before bursting. Wish I could go for a ride one day but I don’t fancy the tumble.

Hydrogen to the ready

The release is co-ordinated with other Met Stations around the Globe so that records can be correlated every day. There have been requests from eco friendly warriors about the equipment but it is believed that the balloon is as refined as possible and a lot smaller than the balloons of old.

With the balloon costing £15 a pop (literally) from a Japanese company called Totex  (who seem to be the leaders in this sort of thing) and other bolt ons, including labour and facilities, this is not a cheap exercise. Yet, the data (we have forty years worth on St Helena) has been crucial to science, development, knowledge etc. Thank goodness for the Met Office.

As climate change is the biggest threat that earth faces, the work that the Met Office does globally is imperative to understand trends and changes so that we can alter our course accordingly.

Lori wears his anti electro-static equipment and protective mask as he goes in to add the finishing touches to the balloon, I wait outside so that I can live to fight another day 🙂

Once the whistle is blown by Gary (not really a whistle on this occasion, more a bark) the balloon shoots up into the air and far far away. It is suggested that the balloon does about five miles per minute and will travel for ninety minutes before bursting.

The chaps have been in a Portacabin for a few years whilst the old premises was torn down and rebuilt, so they are very happy to finally be in their squeaky clean new facility. It’s such a bore when things take longer than they need to. They have some pretty awesome views to gaze upon too. The finest. Drones are restricted for obvious reasons.

The office is fitted with all of the up to date recording equipment and where updates need to happen, this is fully funded by the Met Office.

As I bid the guys goodbye, I felt so grateful for their time and hospitality and like any visit on St Helena, we always stray off the subject and talk about lots of different things.

Gary is a Hand-Radio enthusiast and was just a few weeks ago talking to a fellow enthusiast in Vatican City! Who said that the Internet and email was the only way to grow communities? Wherever there is a method of communication, there will be a human at the end of it and Gary gets asked lots of questions about St Helena. Promotion St Helena continues.

Stay tuned to Saint FM to hear the latest statistics from the Met Office in Bottom Woods.

On my way back I walked through to the Colt Sheds in Longwood and then on to Alarm Forest. I don’t want to eat meat anymore 🙁

Thanks to Bernard in the Colt Sheds for allowing me to feast on his sweet guava tree as I started to feel peckish on the way home. They were the sweetest guavas I have eaten since I arrived on the island. “No washing them luvie”.

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *