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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)

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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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)

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)
Latest article

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

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)

Challenger: the Life of a Survey Ship

With this publication, the author – George Stephen Ritchie, founder and first editor of this column – marked himself as a noted maritime historian and, particularly, a historian of the art and science of hydrographic surveying. Admiral, then Captain Ritchie had b... (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)

'As it Was'

The late Professor Taylor, a former Registrar General for Scotland, whilst researching the Balfour Collection of documents at the National Library of Scotland, came across a set of early sailing directions for the entire coasts of Scotland. They were written on a dozen fools... (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)

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)

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 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

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)

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)
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)

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'

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)

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)

'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)

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)

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)

'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)

'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)
History Selection

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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 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)

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)