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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)

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)
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A Casualty of War

In 1899, a new ship was launched at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabethport, New Jersey, USA. This vessel was a Coast and Geodetic Survey ship designed and constructed for rugged service in the far reaches of Alaska. Although 196 feet long, the ship appeared boxy, almost like... (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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Pursuing Accuracy

The profession of hydrographer is built upon measurement accuracy. 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 reviewed... (read more)
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History Selection

Life and Death of a Survey Ship

Great ships seem to develop a personality and sometimes even seem to be conscious beings with a life of their own. Such was the Coast and Geodetic Survey Steamer Carlile P. Patterson, a ship that spent over fifty years plying the waters of Alaska. Her keel was laid in 1883,... (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)

James Horsburgh

In the 18th century, a trading ship was on a passage in the Bay of Bengal. There were 250 people on board the sailing ship. The sea through which they traversed was mostly uncharted. The ship unfortunately strayed many miles from her path and was wrecked on a remote islet in... (read more)

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)

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)

As it Was

Over a period of 30 years, from 1867 onwards, the Norwegian Hydrographic Service made an epic and complete hydrographic survey of the Norwegian continental shelf. For the first time The Hydrographic Service had a vessel purpose built for hydrographic surveying off shore. The... (read more)

As it Was

That Dieppe was a major centre of hydrographic progress in the 16th Century was recently chronicled in this Column (see Hydro international 2002 Vol. 6 No. 2). David Ross, a Scot, had emigrated to France where he married and settled down in Dieppe. His son, known as Jean Rot... (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)

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)

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)
History Selection

Hydrographers in the Liberation of the Philippines’ Charted Waters

Following the capture of Morotai in the Dutch East Indies, the stage was set for the invasion of the Philippine Islands. The liberation of the Philippines was a blur of manoeuvre with General Douglas MacArthur sending prongs almost simultaneously north, south and west from O... (read more)

First Developments of Electronic Navigation Systems

Before and during the Second World War, there were several developments in electronics that changed the course of hydrographic history. These aircraft bombing systems were what ultimately led from the medium-frequency systems to super-high-frequency navigation systems t... (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)

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’

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)

William Hutchinson (1715-1801), Liverpool Dock Master

William Hutchinson was born in 1715 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Following his father's death he was compelled at the age of eleven to seek employment as a cabin boy on a Newcastle collier working the coal trade from North East England to London. The strong tidal current... (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)

Aircraft Lost at Sea

With the growth of air traffic following the First World War, it was inevitable that aircraft would be lost over the oceans. It was equally inevitable that hydrographers would be called into humanitarian service to help with both search and rescue and, sadly, in the recovery... (read more)

Some Early German Contributions to Oceanography

The names Augustus Petermann, Victor Hensen, Carl Chun, Fritz Spiess, Alfred Merz, and Gunter Dietrich are hardly household names. Even today their names are little known in the geographic, oceanographic, and hydrographic communities which they served so well. They were all... (read more)

Large of Spirit

Sprinkled throughout the world’s oceans are thousands of named seafloor features. Many of the major features have received names that associate them with some other geographic feature such as Mid-Atlantic Ridge, East Pacific Rise, or Aleutian Trench. Many of the smalle... (read more)
History Selection

'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)

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)

The Longest Line

Mt. Shasta is a huge stratovolcano near the southern end of the Cascade Mountains of western North America. It rises to an elevation of 14,179 feet above sea level and is at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley of California. It is believed to have been named by early R... (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)

Deep-sea Soundings from Boats

During the pioneering years of deep-sea sounding it became apparent that sounding from a sailing vessel often gave improbable results because of the drift of the vessel and the inability to maintain a perpendicular sounding line. In early 1840, Sir James Clark Ross overcame... (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)

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)

'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)

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)

Bilby Towers

The great classical continent-spanning geodetic networks of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries had two major obstacles to overcome – distance and the curvature of the Earth. Distance was overcome by railroads, automobiles and helicopters. The curvature of the Earth... (read more)