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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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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)

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)
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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

As it Was

In 1955 exploitable areas of ironwood were discovered near the North West River, in the south of former Netherlands New Guinea. Transport by coastal vessel became a problem when the ship encountered difficulties in avoiding mud-banks in the river entrance. The Governor of Ne... (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)

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)

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)

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)

A Note on Fifty Years of Multi-beam

The year 2013 marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of the first installation of a multi-beam sonar sounding system. A review of the early development of multi-beam sonar systems follows. On 1 May 1960, a United States U-2 spy plane flown by Francis Gary Powers was shot d... (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)

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)

The Arctic Field Party

It seems ironic that in the early stages of the Cold War, the United States Government sent surveyors and hydrographic engineers to the coldest reaches of the North American continent. For these men, it was truly a Cold War. From 1945 through 1953, field parties of the Unite... (read more)

‘As it Was’

In the summer of 1943, when planning the landing in Normandy, it was found that the best available charts showing offshore depths were based on surveys dated 1875. It was thus essential to confirm this data and a small naval survey unit of two officers with hydrographic expe... (read more)
History Selection

Mountains in the Sea II

As noted in the previous issue of Hydro International, at least 200 seamounts had been discovered prior to the Second World War. The advent of acoustic sounding systems and the efforts of a few expeditions and organisations accounted for the majority of these discoveries. Ho... (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 2 - Vidal

Part 1 dealt with HMS Owen and the redoubtable nineteenth century hydrographer and explorer after whom she had been named. That Summer of 1953 the second of the two British surveying ships lying in No 2 basin in Chatham Dockyard was brand new HMS <i>Vidal</i>, co... (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)

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)

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)

'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)

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'

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)

'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)
History Selection

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)

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

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)

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)

The Siboga Expedition

The Indonesian Archipelago is one of the world’s most beautiful archipelagoes. Home to over 17,000 islands, mountains rising to over 5,000 metres including over 70 historically active volcanoes, fabled spices, and a rich flora and fauna, Indonesia has beckoned fortune... (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)

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)

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)

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)

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)