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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)

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)
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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)

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)
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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)
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History Selection

CPS-98: An Odd Geodetic Survey Crew

The following paragraph is found on page 9 of the official history of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in World War II: “To provide the additional staff needed, and to replace employees who joined the armed forces, many changes in personnel were made during... (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)

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)

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)

'As it Was'

Sir Robert Dudley was born in 1574 but his birth was kept secret from Queen Elizabeth, for she would have been enraged had she heard that her favourite courtier, the Earl of Leicester, had fathered a child by her goddaughter and maid-of-honour Lady Sheffield. Robert graduate... (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)

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)

‘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'

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)

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)
History Selection

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)

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)

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)

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)

The Making of an Earth Measurer

In the April 2009 issue of Hydrointernational, Carl Aslakson was mentioned as having devised a method of determining the velocity of light by using Shoran (short-range navigation). This article traces Aslakson’s professional career from his beginnings as “a farm... (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)

James Horsburgh

In the 18th century, a trading ship was on a passage in the Bay of Bengal. There were 250 people on board the sailing ship. The sea through which they traversed was mostly uncharted. The ship unfortunately strayed many miles from her path and was wrecked on a remote islet in... (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)

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)

‘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

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)

Some Early Observations on Tidal Bores

The 1941 Admiralty Manual of Tides defined a tidal bore or eagre as special tidal phenomena found only in certain estuaries or rivers, characterised by a sudden onrush of water on a rising tide. The word bore comes from the old Norse word 'bara' meaning wave. In general, bor... (read more)

The Bering Sea Survey

1939 marked the beginning of a concerted programme to chart the Bering Sea area. The surveys in this area that were conducted prior to United States entry into the Second World War marked some of the last that were done in frontier areas prior to the advent of the era before... (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)

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)

The Dutch Way of Measuring Depths

Once upon a time there was no satnav, multibeam sonar or a computer to handle a survey system. Hydrographic surveying was done ‘by hand’ with instruments long forgotten, instruments which boasted accuracy which would nowadays make your hair stand on end. Which in... (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)

Some Early German Contributions to Oceanography

The names Augustus Petermann, Victor Hensen, Carl Chun, Fritz Spiess, Alfred Merz, and Gunter Dietrich are hardly household names. Even today their names are little known in the geographic, oceanographic, and hydrographic communities which they served so well. They were all... (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)