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Thirty Years of Discovering the Mariana Trench

Thirty Years of Discovering the Mariana Trench On 23 March 1875, HMS Challenger sounded in 4475 fathoms at latitude 11°24N, longitude 143°16E to the southwest of the Mariana Islands and north of the Caroline Islands. Because this great depth was unexpected, the Chall... (read more)

Small Boat Work – Dangerous Then, Dangerous Today

The ability to conduct inshore hydrographic surveys has always been dependent on small boats and the seamanship of those conducting the surveys. Besides the obvious use of small boats for the acquisition of soundings and their accompanying positions, it was not so long ago t... (read more)
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The Northern Barrage

Historically, perhaps the naval discipline most related to the work and skills of the hydrographer is naval mine warfare. Successful implementation requires knowledge of the configuration of the bottom in the area to be mined, local tides and currents, and relatively precise... (read more)

Mountains in the Sea

One can hardly discuss the configuration of the deep ocean bed without eventually using the term ‘seamount’. Today, the existence of tens of thousands if not over 100,000 seamounts is taken for granted. But in the not so distant past, their existence was unknown... (read more)
Latest article

Pursuing Accuracy

The profession of hydrographer is built upon accuracy of measurement. Ever since Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer produced the first true nautical charts in 1584, hydrographers have been working to improve the accuracy of their measurements. For anyone fortunate enough to have revie... (read more)
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History Selection

Getting to California

During the California Gold Rush, many people from around the world left everything behind - including their jobs - to seek their fortune in California. A copy of one of the more interesting historical documents from this period resides in the NOAA Central Library. This docum... (read more)

World War II Charting: The Pacific War

In late November of 1941, the USS Sumner AG-32 proceeded to Pearl Harbor and joined the United States Pacific Fleet. This ship had begun its career as the USS Bushnell, a submarine tender, but had been ordered to hydrographic duty and renamed in 1937. It was moored at the Su... (read more)

Charting the Data

Radio-acoustic-ranging (RAR) navigation, developed within the US Coast and Geodetic Survey, was the very first survey-quality navigation system that did not need to see fixed, known objects on land for inshore piloting navigation or astronomical bodies for celestial navigati... (read more)

Collision at Sea

On 20 June 1860, the iron-hulled United States Coast Survey Steamer Robert J. Walker was proceeding to New York City, its home port. The ship, under the command of Navy Lieutenant John Julius Guthrie, was returning from a successful season surveying in the Gulf of Mexico whe... (read more)

‘As it ­Was’

Gerhard Mercator, Flemish geographer of German extraction, during his long life (1512-1594) became the greatest cartographer of the Renaissance. The projection upon which he based his World Map of 1569 is still used for sea charts today. Mercator's father Herbert Kremer was... (read more)

As it Was

James Cook in the Endeavour circumnavigated New Zealand in 1769-1770 and the coastline was surveyed. Thus the coastline appeared complete on the world map. The coast is rugged and stormy and a hazard to sailing vessels. Cook's chart lacked detail of harbours on the west coas... (read more)

'As it Was'

It is hard to imagine today that there was once a time when no side scan or multi-beam sonar existed to cover the entire sea bottom. Even after the echo sounder had taken the place of lead and line, sounding tracks lay a hundred and more metres apart, depending on the scale... (read more)

'As it Was'

Matthew Fontaine Maury is probably the best known of all hydrographers, and the most celebrated both in his homeland, the United States of America, and in Europe. He served for 18 years as Superintendent of the Depot of Charts and Instruments in Washington during which time... (read more)

Horses, Hydrographers and Hypsography

Administrative officers, long experienced in studying estimates of the various field parties engaged in hydrographic work, were somewhat surprised to see an estimate submitted by the commanding officer of the USC&GS Ship Discoverer preparatory to the 1937 season’s... (read more)

'As it Was'

On 14th October 2004 a large French flag was lowered to reveal the name <i>Pourqui-Pas?</i> on the hull of a magnificent new ocean survey ship which will be jointly operated by the French Navy and Ifremer, the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the... (read more)
History Selection

As it Was

Two famous scientists, Charles Darwin (1809-82) and John Murray (1841-1914) differed greatly as to how tropical atolls had assumed their unique structure: a shallow lagoon surrounded by a narrow strip of low land. In the early 1950s an opportunity arose to use marine seismic... (read more)

As it Was

Soon after the first Directing Committee of the International Hydrographic Bureau arrived in Monaco in 1921 the Directors began to receive reports from a number of newly enrolled Member States which, turning from their wartime attempts to locate submarines and underwater obs... (read more)

From Longitude by Fowl to Three-Point Sextant Fix

Prior to the development of modern navigation methods and modern charts, the mariner was left to his own devices both in approaching unknown and known coasts. Although Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer invented the nautical chart in the late sixteenth century, his charts and the char... (read more)

As it Was

Among XVII century astronomers, Halley (of 'comet' fame) was unique in his attraction to working at sea. Nobody quite knows how he acquired his training in seamanship, but from 1698 to 1701 he was given command of a naval 'pink' to make pioneering measurements of compass var... (read more)

'As it Was'

In 2004 the Provincial Government of the Åland Islands in Finland celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the destruction of Bomarsund, the great, Russian fortress built during the occupation of 1808 to 1854. Much of the credit for this rests with a British naval hydrographic su... (read more)

Seeking a Rift

In 1953, Hans Pettersson published Westward Ho with the Albatross, a popular account of his around-the-world scientific cruise on the Swedish sailing ship Albatross. In it he stated, “… geological evidence found in the last thirty years indicates that the Ridge... (read more)

Portland Harbour

A progressive spirit was awakening in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. This movement was notable for emphasis on education reform, prison reform, women’s suffrage, the abolitionist movement and an embryonic conservation movement among other concerns. Al... (read more)

The Making of an Earth Measurer

In the April 2009 issue of Hydrointernational, Carl Aslakson was mentioned as having devised a method of determining the velocity of light by using Shoran (short-range navigation). This article traces Aslakson’s professional career from his beginnings as “a farm... (read more)

Hendrick Brouwer and the Circumnavigation of Staten Land

In 1520, the Portuguese explorer Magellan discovered the long and tortuous strait connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The high land south of this dangerous fairway was thought to be part of Terra Australis Incognita, the mythical southern continent. However, in 1578,... (read more)

As it Was

On 2 November 1902 the Antarctic research ship, Scotia, sailed quietly down the lower Clyde from its berth in the yards of the Ailsa Shipbuilding Co., on its way to Antarctica. There was no fanfare nor publicity, for this was the Scottish sabbath. and moreover its leader and... (read more)
History Selection

The Neptune Oriental

The article below is reproduced from the Field Engineers Bulletin of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey for December 1936 with minor changes. Lieutenant Earle Deily (1900-1995), the author, was then a veteran of 13 years in the Survey having served on both coasts of the United... (read more)

100 Years of Service

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA Corps). The law forming the service was signed on 22 May 1917 and overnight made the field officers of the then United States Coast and Geodetic Surve... (read more)

‘As it ­Was’

Research vessels are by no means ad hoc inventions. The following story describes the three-year circumnavigation by the Italian corvette Vettor Pisani that successfully combined military and national interests of purely scientific scope. On 20th April 1882 the Italian steam... (read more)

Identification of the ­Wreck of the U.S.C.S.S. ­Robert J. Walker

From 21 to 24 June 2013, a NOAA team from the Office of Coast Survey (OCS) and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) conducted a joint mission to explore a shipwreck off the coast of New Jersey near Absecon Inlet and Atlantic City. That wreck has proved to be the... (read more)

System Without Fixed Points

Radio-acoustic-ranging (RAR) navigation, developed within the US Coast and Geodetic Survey (C&GS), was the very first survey-quality navigation system that did not need to see fixed, known objects on land for inshore piloting navigation or astronomical bodies for celesti... (read more)

HURRICANE!

North Atlantic hurricane season is now upon us. Until well into the twentieth century there was little understanding of the nature of hurricanes and no adequate system to warn mariners of these dangerous storms. This often led to disaster. The following is an incident affect... (read more)

'As it ­Was

Claudios Ptolemaios (to use the Greek version of his name), the greatest geographer of ancient times and the father of our geography, was a scholar who lived in Alexandria, Egypt. He originated from Upper Egypt and lived from about 100AD to 180AD. He reached the peak of his... (read more)

Pioneer Surveyor

George Davidson, whose name is indelibly connected with the survey of the West Coast of the United States, spent most of the sixty-one years between 1850 and 1911 in service to the citizens of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. He was born in Nottingham, England, on... (read more)

Past Practitioners

Despite bitter experiences in earlier conflicts, it was not until the French Revolutionary War was in full swing that Britain established a very small ‘Hydrographical Office’ to organise the provision of charts and publications to the Royal Navy. As more ships continued to b... (read more)

By the Old Hydrographer

A number of largely British settlements had been established in New Zealand by the early 1840s,where natural harbours had been found. The general Admiralty chart of New Zealand, published in 1836 and resulting chiefly from Captain Cook's surveys became inadequate for the nav... (read more)