Media release: Sunday, 17 August 2008
'Rather a dry year' was in store for Australia in 1908, according to long range weather forecaster J Harcourt Giddons. The National Archives has chosen Giddons' 1908 Commonwealth Weather Chart as its August Find of the Month.
'Mr Giddons, an “astronomical meteorologist” from South Australia, published his chart for 28 years from 1898,' said researcher Jane Ellis from the National Archives. 'He claimed to be able to predict weather up to 18 months in advance and that he could “eclipse the best efforts of the scientists of the day”.'
The featured edition predicted the 1908 weekly weather for each state of Australia and seasonal weather for northern and southern Australia as well as New Zealand. Giddons' 1908 predictions were based on 'astronomical data' and 'personal observation'.
Long-range weather forecasting was a hit with the public and Giddons' Weather Chart included plenty of testimonials.
On September 23, 1903 the Cootamundra Herald wrote: 'We have been struck by the absolute correctness with which the seasons were predicted by Mr J Harcourt Giddons … He especially warned residents on river banks of the April floods and they came sure enough'. He also presented other testimonials from newspapers in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.
Giddons' chart also included a range of advertisements including one for Australian Bates Salve which was claimed to cure 'Grannie's bad leg', 'Ma's bad breast', a poisoned hand and which had even 'saved baby's life' when bronchitis struck.
Although popular, long-range forecasts failed to impress conventional meteorologists. After the Australian Constitution granted the new federal government power over meteorology, the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology was established in 1908.
The Commonwealth Weather Chart is on display in Canberra and also online at Find of the Month.