After Keith first suggested this event I was asked about EA8/TF-001, Teide, on Tenerife. I said that it wouldn’t count. I now want to rethink that…
… In fact there is an Observatorio del Teide. I worked there on several occasions and it was a desire to check whether perhaps “Izaña” might be a valid, unlisted summit that got me into prominence analysis in the first place!
But that’s not the reason. Izaña is actually more than 13 km from Teide and a little in excess of 11 km from the nearest SOTA summit, EA8/TF-003. No, it’s a question of history. And I should have remembered, as my supervisor from the time of my trips to Tenerife had a keen interest in a certain Victorian astronomer.
I suppose many of you will have heard of Robert Baden-Powell, in particular if you have any involvement with the scouting movement. Well, perhaps you didn’t hear of his uncle (his mother’s brother).
Charles Piazzi Smyth was the son of an admiral. From 1846 until 1888 Smyth was Astronomer Royal for Scotland.
At the time there was some discussion about whether or not astronomical observation would benefit from moving to high altitude. Newton had said as much, but many thought the weather at altitude would be worse, so better to stick at sea level. Smyth determined to settle the matter and persuaded the Admiralty to fund an expedition to Tenerife in 1856. Robert Stephenson, of railway fame, was a friend to Smyth and leant his yacht, Titania.
The whole expedition is described in Smyth’s 1858 book Teneriffe, an astronomer’s experiment. This is a really entertaining read. It has a lot in common with a DXpedition I suspect, but imagine mules with telescopes and the men (and Smyth’s new wife) in Victorian clothing.
Travelling with two sizeable telescopes there was some concern about the practicality of getting up Teide. So the first target was EA8/TF-002, Guajara, taking the smaller of the two instruments, assisted by the second mate and carpenter from Stephenson’s yacht.
They arrived at the summit a little before sunset and were lucky with conditions, being able to get tents erected quickly (starting with Mrs. Smyth’s - see above), to bed down for the night. In the days that followed one of the most important tasks was to build a set of walls to give some protection from the anticipated high winds. These walls still stand and may be seen on Google Streetview or, for instance, M0JCQ’s blog.
Straight away Smyth got excellent results with his telescope and made interesting meteorological observations also. Spanish friends visited, with copious supplies of goats’ milk. At one point one of the sailors disappeared, only to be led back the next day in a very sorry state by a goat heard, having wandered far across Las Cañadas!
Here is the second mate noting the temperature of a black thermometer (to measure solar radiation):
You might be wondering why these pictures are doubled up. They are stereoscopic, and rendered by a certain Mr Melhuish of Blackheath (but not a close relative to me, so far as I know!).
Having proved the value of high-altitude observation Smyth decided to relocate to Teide. The actual site chosen was not quite at the top, where it was thought the emissions from the volcano might interfere, but at Alta Vista, about 2/3 of the climb from Montaña Blanca. Also, the larger telescope, having been divided into smaller loads, would now be taken.
In this view you can see a similar arrangement of walls:
This time they really needed it as summer was turning to autumn and the weather turned rather nasty. But apparently the sailors felt quite at home. In the brief spells of clement weather Smyth was able to demonstrate exceptional results from the telescope, so the expedition was certainly a success.
It seems that in this case the old walls have been lost to later rebuilding, and this has become Altavista del Teide Refuge.
Finishing with a visit to the ice cavern near the summit Professor & Mrs Smyth returned to Oratava, took leave of their Spanish friends and headed home on the Titania.
The book is great fun, also with descriptions of the vegetation (Dragon Trees for instance) and the geology (which he didn’t quite get right, I’m told).
Later in life Smyth became obsessed with measuring pyramids. His views seem to have stretched to the unorthodox. He would be popular now with metric martyrs, having determined that the inch was divinely inspired, upon finding that the dimensions of the Great Pyramid were in inches. He was wrong on this one!
So, in conclusion:
- EA8/TF-002 - good as an observatory summit, so long as historic is Ok
- EA8/TF-001 - good as an observatory summit, so long as historic and on the same mountain is Ok