A Chromatic Anthology of Weather

Research, 2012–13

The atmospheric transcribed into words

Focusing on the use of colour terminology in the recounting of weather, this research gathers together written material from the archived observations of explorers, geographers and amateur weather enthusiasts.

Research was undertaken in the archive at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), in London, to compile content for a new bookwork that explores the language of weather, colour and place. Tracing 500 years of geographical discovery and research, the archive holds expedition reports, manuscripts, logbooks, travel diaries and journals. I sought instances of chromatic descriptive language used in the observation and recording of weather. To locate weather colour in time and place, dates and geographical information are also noted.


Sample extracts:

John Tyndall, F.R.S.
The Glaciers of the Alps: A Narrative of Excursions and Ascents by John Tyndall, F.R.S. (London, George Routledge & Sons, Limited 1860)

Sometimes no breath disturbed the perfect serenity of the night, and the moon, set in a black-blue sky, turned a face of almost super-natural brightness to the mountains, while in her absence the thick-strewn stars alone flashed and twinkled through the transparent air. (p.37 In Residence at the Montanvert)

William Abraham Bell
New tracks in North America; a journal of travel and adventure whilst engaged in the survey for a southern railroad to the Pacific Ocean, during 1867-68 (London, 1870)

The Rocky mountains lay in full view of us all the way, gradually increasing in grandeur as we neared Denver; the moon was very brilliant, and the view over the plains to the eastward presented an endless expanse of undulating whiteness, upon which the moonlight played like phosphorescence on the sea. (p.46 Chapter xiv / part iii / The Black Hills)

Richard J Bush
Reindeer, dogs, and snow-shoes; a journal of Siberian travel and explorations made in the years 1865, 1866 and 1867 (London, 1871)

The sky was of the brightest blue, partially obscured by huge feathery masses of clouds that lazily drifted across the heavens, casting alternate light and shade upon the landscape. (p.52 Chapter II)

The summit of the ridge we had just crossed, with its snow-burdened forest, was all aglow with the sun’s parting rays, and reared itself against the bright eastern heavens like a mountain of golden fleece, while the lower part, buried in the cold, ashy hues of approaching darkness, through brilliant contrast, served to make the former doubly resplendent. (p.278 Chapter XIX)