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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)

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)
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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)

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)
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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

'As it Was'

Until the abolition of the Indian Navy in 1862 surveys of Indian and eastern waters were carried out by officers of the Bombay Marine and later by the Indian Navy. At first these surveys were published by Alexander Dalrymple on behalf of the East India Company and later by J... (read more)

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)

Discovering the True Nature of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge: Part I

Prior to the mid-19th century, the floor of the world ocean was virtually a clean slate. Nothing was known of the bottom of the deep sea with the exception of a few sporadic soundings. In the early 1850s, this began to change as Matthew Fontaine Maury obtained use of one sma... (read more)

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)

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

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)

Introducing Capt. Skip Theberge

Although this is my second effort at contributing to the History column, I would like to use this issue’s column to introduce myself to the readership of Hydrointernational. As most of you know, I have accepted the somewhat audacious task of ‘editing’ the c... (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)

Heaven Descended to Earth

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, France, like every other nation, regarded shipwrecks as an inevitable downside of maritime life. There were fewer than 20 lighthouses dotting the French coastline, and these were generally limited to its harbours, intended to guide ship... (read more)

'As it Was'

Gavriil Andreevich Sarychev, scientist, geographer and hydrographer, explored and surveyed parts of the North Pacific Ocean and the Baltic Sea during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As a Vice-Admiral he became the first Russian Navy Hydrographer in 1827. Gavriil Sar... (read more)
History Selection

‘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)

New York Harbour

The greatest of the Coast Survey mid-nineteenth century harbour studies was that of New York Harbour. In 1855, the Commissioners on Harbor Encroachments of New York requested that new hydrographic surveys of New York Harbour be conducted. The first surveys had been conducted... (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)

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)

The Dutch Way of Measuring Depths

Once upon a time there was no satnav, multibeam sonar or a computer to handle a survey system. Hydrographic surveying was done ‘by hand’ with instruments long forgotten, instruments which boasted accuracy which would nowadays make your hair stand on end. Which in... (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)

'As it Was'

<i>The New England Coasting Pilot</i> was the first folio of sea charts of the coast of North America. The work of an English naval officer, they covered the coastal waters from New York to Cape Breton. Cyprian Southack, son of a naval officer, was born in London... (read more)

'As it Was'

The history of charting the estuary of a navigable river to enable shipping to safely enter port is inevitably long and continuing as the channels, and the shoals which confine them are constantly changing both their location and their depth. The River Thames, wherein is to... (read more)

First Command

Albert Parker Niblack, third director of the International Hydrographic Bureau from 1921 and second President from 1927, had been an officer in the United States Navy for eleven years when he earned his first command. In 1887, he was thirty years old and had been attached to... (read more)

Understanding the Unthinkable

In the night of 14 April 1912, the unthinkable happened. The mightiest ship afloat, the brand new White Star Line ship Titanic, was on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York. The ship was advertised as unsinkable. And, if unsinkable, why should there be ade... (read more)
History Selection

The Amphibious Engineers in World War II

On 21 March 1942, General Douglas MacArthur had just escaped from conquering Japanese forces that had overrun the Philippine Islands. In a speech that day he vowed “… I shall return.” A major part of that return involved the formation of Engineer Special B... (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)

What's in a Name? Part 1 'Owen'

In the summer of 1953 two British surveying ships were lying in No 2 basin in Chatham Dockyard. Owen had recently returned (with me as a watch-keeper) after a busy two-year commission working in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Persian Gulf. The brand new Vidal was completing... (read more)

The Discovery of Long-Distance Sound Transmission in the Ocean

The existence of the SOFAR Channel has been known for many years. In the American geophysicist Maurice Ewing’s authorised biographical memoir The Floor of the Sea, the following passage occurs: “The first time Ewing’s seismic gear was tried at a thousand fa... (read more)

Charles-François Beautemps Beaupré and French Coastal Surveying

In 2003 France’s new surveying ship Beautemps-Beaupré deployed into the Indian Ocean in the wake of the man whose fame it justly commemorates. Charles-François Beautemps-Beaupré refined a methodology for coastal hydrography during the voyage of cir... (read more)

As it Was

"Land in sight", a cry soon to be followed by "Clew up the main", to reduce speed. It is 1606 as the Dutch ship Duyfken makes first recorded landfall in Australia. But this is not simply landfall: Duyfken, under the command of Willem Janszoon, charts the... (read more)

CPS-98: An Odd Geodetic Survey Crew

The following paragraph is found on page 9 of the official history of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in World War II: “To provide the additional staff needed, and to replace employees who joined the armed forces, many changes in personnel were made during... (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)

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)

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)