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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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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)

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)
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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)
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History Selection

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)

'As it Was'

In 1958 Commander Hunt MBE, RN was about to undertake a survey in HMNZS <i>Lachlan</i> to complete NZ Chart 61, which included part of the rugged West Coast of the South Island much of which then lacked geodetic control stations. The members of the crew of <i&... (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'

The John Murray - Mabahiss Expedition to the Indian Ocean, 1933-34. In the early years of the 20th century, Sir John Murray, erstwhile Challenger naturalist and author of a controversial theory on the origin of coral reefs (see Hydro 7 (6)) was the top man in oceanography. H... (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)

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)

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'

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)

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)

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)
History Selection

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)

'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)

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)

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)

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)

By the Old Hydrographer

A number of largely British settlements had been established in New Zealand by the early 1840s,where natural harbours had been found. The general Admiralty chart of New Zealand, published in 1836 and resulting chiefly from Captain Cook's surveys became inadequate for the nav... (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)

'As it Was'

On 8th October 1993, with the introduction of the Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) flown in a Fokker F-27 aircraft, the Australian Hydrographic Service could claim to be among the first to use airborne Lidar systems for surveying. However, this was by no means the first t... (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'

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)
History Selection

'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)

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)

As it Was

Among XVII century astronomers, Halley (of 'comet' fame) was unique in his attraction to working at sea. Nobody quite knows how he acquired his training in seamanship, but from 1698 to 1701 he was given command of a naval 'pink' to make pioneering measurements of compass var... (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)

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)

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 that ch... (read more)

William Pope McArthur – A Life Cut Short

Lieutenant Pope McArthur was appointed a midshipman in the United States Navy in 1832 and followed a fairly conventional career path for the first few years of his career. He served in the Seminole Wars and in 1838 was shot in both legs, with one lead ball remaining in... (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)

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)

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)