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Gold, Glory, and — HYDRO!

This month marks the 555th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry of Portugal, known as the Navigator, on 13 November 1460. Henry had set in motion a series of events that led to a new understanding of the earth, the discovery of the Americas, and on a darker note, the Afr... (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)
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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)

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)
Latest article

La Minerve, Vanished in 1968, Discovered off Toulon

The French navy has located La Minerve, one of its submarines that disappeared more than 50 years ago. Onboard were 52 crewmembers.  The submarine was discovered on the seabed at a depth of 2,370 metres, 27 miles (45km) off the port of Toulon, the home of a French... (read more)
 
 
 
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History Selection

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)

Unravelling the Ridge and Rift

Following Maurice Ewing’s first cruise to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, two more were made by the end of the 1940s. The first of these was led by Ewing while the second was led by Bruce Heezen. Although Gunter Dietrich’s paper was referred to in the 1949 paper by Ivan... (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)

As it Was

In 1953 there appeared, amid a welter of underwater explosions, around the northern end of Das Island in the Persian Gulf a converted WWII surplus LCI(L) looking like some form of marine tram and still complete with fittings for personnel gangways on either side of the bow.... (read more)

William Pope McArthur – A Life Cut Short

Lieutenant Pope McArthur was appointed a midshipman in the United States Navy in 1832 and followed a fairly conventional career path for the first few years of his career. He served in the Seminole Wars and in 1838 was shot in both legs, with one lead ball remaining in... (read more)

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)

The Grounding and Sinking of MV 'Minna'

The high cost of exploration in subarctic, often uncharted, waters was demonstrated in an unorthodox but convincing way by the 1974 grounding and sinking of the MV <i>Minna<i> off Resolution Island [Canada] while conducting a combined hydrographic-geophysical sur... (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)

'As it Was'

Foreword by Steve Ritchie Until 1959 the two triangulation networks on either side of the Persian Gulf had never been connected, so that ships’ navigators, when changing their fixes from one set of coastal features to the other, might experience an apparent shift in position... (read more)

The Banana Belt – Southern Alaska

As opposed to the Alaskan Arctic, portions of Southern Alaska are relatively balmy, with average annual temperatures approximately 28 degrees Celsius higher than on Alaska’s north coast, thus giving rise to the humorous name ‘Banana Belt’. The weather here... (read more)
History Selection

The Battle of Port Royal Sound

At the beginning of the American Civil War, the temporary dissolution of the United States Coast Survey was considered by Congress as a cost-saving measure. In response to this possible action, Alexander Dallas Bache, then superintendent of the Coast Survey, attached Coast S... (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)

The Myth of the Telegraphic Plateau

In the mid-nineteenth century the great hydrographic myth of a Telegraphic Plateau located in the North Atlantic Ocean was born. The origin of this myth began with the cruise of the USS Dolphin under the command of Lieutenant Commanding Otway Berryman, USN, in the year 1853.... (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)

‘As it Was’

At my interview for a job at Canadian Hydrographic Service, I had to answer all the usual sort of questions posed to me by two very formidable men. Finally, the time came to speak my own questions and thoughts! Considering a statement on family heritage might be an appropria... (read more)

‘As it Was’

The long history of the charting of the waters off the west coast of Ireland, including Galway Bay, began in the 16th century. It may be said to be culminating with the current National Seabed Survey being made by the Geological Survey of Ireland, about which delegates will... (read more)

As it Was

I was in command of the British surveying ship HMS Challenger in 1951 during a world voyage, with geophysicists Tom Gaskell and John Swallow onboard, to measure by seismic methods the thickness of the various sediments on the floor of the three great oceans. (See ‘As It Was’... (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)

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

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)
History Selection

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)

George Belknap and the Thomson Sounding Machine

Prior to the year 1874, the Pacific Ocean was a blank slate with regard to the nature and depths of its seafloor. A few sporadic soundings had been attempted in the 1850s and Alexander Dallas Bache, Superintendent of the US Coast Survey, had derived an average depth for the... (read more)

As it Was

Olaus Magnus, a Swedish Catholic priest, had for some years been employed collecting funds for the Church in the far north. During his extensive travels he made copious notes and sketches concerning the inhabitants and their way of life, the flora and fauna and even the deni... (read more)

'As it was'

With uniting of German Nations into the 'Kaiserreich' in 1871 marine affairs became a dominant factor in foreign policy. Already in 1861 the Prussian Naval Ministry had established a Hydrographic Bureau in Berlin for surveying and charting the sea. This was transferred to Ha... (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)

Alaska – The Wild Coast

At the turn of the century, the West Coast fleet of the Coast and Geodetic Survey was comprised of a mélange of ships, some of which were not retired until they were nearly 40 years old . The largest of these ships was the 163-foot barkentine-rigged steamer Carlile P.... (read more)

'As it Was'

Sir Robert Dudley was born in 1574 but his birth was kept secret from Queen Elizabeth, for she would have been enraged had she heard that her favourite courtier, the Earl of Leicester, had fathered a child by her goddaughter and maid-of-honour Lady Sheffield. Robert graduate... (read more)

Surveying the Florida Reef

The Florida Reef became a menace to shipping in the 1500s when the Spanish discovered that the safest way home for their New World gold and silver was north through the Florida Straits. With the Cay Sal and Bahama banks to starboard, the reef, arcing along the Florida Keys,... (read more)

Survey Vessel Acadia

On July 5th 2003 the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the Canadian Hydrographic Service and former officers, staff and crew of the CSS Acadia, gathered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to celebrate her 90th birthday. The Acadia was the pride of the Canadian Hydrographic Service flee... (read more)

Pathfinder

In the Second World War, the Pacific was poorly charted, and the Navy would require the services of a cadre of hydrographers to rapidly survey areas of tactical and strategic interest. Officers of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey provided the nucleus of that cadre and served... (read more)