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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)

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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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)

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)
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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... (read more)
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History Selection

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)

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)

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)

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)

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

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)

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)

A Life-changing Voyage

On New Year’s Day 1916, S. Davis Winship, a young Coast and Geodetic Survey (C&GS) officer, began a life-changing voyage, one that would take him far from his New England roots to a life in an exotic tropical land. Much of what follows is in Winship’s own wor... (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)
History Selection

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)

System Without Fixed Points

Radio-acoustic-ranging (RAR) navigation, developed within the US Coast and Geodetic Survey (C&GS), 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 celesti... (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

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)

As it Was

Above my desk hangs an ageing annotated photograph of a beautiful surveying ship which recalls a visit by the Directing Committee of the I.H.B. to Genoa in the Centenary Year of the Italian Hydrographic Office to view the new ‘Nave A. Magnaghi’, the second survey ship to bea... (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)

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)

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)

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)

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)
History Selection

‘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)

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)

'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)

'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)

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’

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)

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)

‘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

In the aftermath of the First World War Germany was made to deliver most of its warships to the allies. The gunboat Meteor, lying at a yard in Gdansk (Danzig), was excused under the argument that she was to be turned into a survey vessel. German naval ships were also debarre... (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)