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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)

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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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)

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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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

Resuming New-Zealand Charting After World War II

After World War II, ship owners pressured the New Zealand Government to resume charting of coastal waters by the Royal Navy. Ships were now larger and most charts were a hundred years old. The Government approached Britain, which declined but kindly offered assistance to set... (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

European hydrographers surveying distant waters in the 18th and 19th centuries whenever possible used the native names for the features on their charts. When communication with local tribes proved difficult names had to be devised; often descriptive of the features concerned... (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)

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)

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)

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)

Clumbungies, Lemons and Cranky Little Vessels

In times past, it was often the lot of the hydrographer and ocean scientist to have hand-me-down ships and vessels from the naval service or revenue service of various nations. Or, if they did have ships designed for hydrographic service, they were kept in service so long as... (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)

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)
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)

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)

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)

'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)

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’

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)

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)

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)

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)

The Survey of the Philippine Islands

Following the Spanish–American War, the Philippine Islands became a US Protectorate. Consequently, the US Coast and Geodetic Survey commenced providing this vast archipelago with modern nautical charts. An assignment in the Philippines was the great, defining experienc... (read more)
History Selection

'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'

<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)

Locating Cagayan Sulu

A glance at a map of the Philippine Islands shows that the Sulu Sea is nearly an enclosed body of water: the Sulu Archipelago on the southeast; Palawan to the northwest; the main body of the Philippine Islands to the northeast; and Borneo on the southwest. Far in the souther... (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

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'

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)

'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)

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)

The Drifters

“Although the Currents of the Ocean form a most important part of hydrography, yet it is only since the introduction of chronometers, and of celestial observations for the longitude at sea, (that is, not much more than forty years ago,) that a competent idea of their [... (read more)

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)