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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)

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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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)

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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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

'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)

Pathfinder

In the Second World War, the Pacific was poorly charted, and the Navy would require the services of a cadre of hydrographers to rapidly survey areas of tactical and strategic interest. Officers of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey provided the nucleus of that cadre and served... (read more)

Portland Harbour

A progressive spirit was awakening in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. This movement was notable for emphasis on education reform, prison reform, women’s suffrage, the abolitionist movement and an embryonic conservation movement among other concerns. Al... (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 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)

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

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)

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)

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)

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)
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'

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)

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)

Hydrographers in the Liberation of the Philippines’ Charted Waters

Following the capture of Morotai in the Dutch East Indies, the stage was set for the invasion of the Philippine Islands. The liberation of the Philippines was a blur of manoeuvre with General Douglas MacArthur sending prongs almost simultaneously north, south and west from O... (read more)

As it Was

In 1953 there appeared, amid a welter of underwater explosions, around the northern end of Das Island in the Persian Gulf a converted WWII surplus LCI(L) looking like some form of marine tram and still complete with fittings for personnel gangways on either side of the bow.... (read more)

'As it Was'

In 2004 the Provincial Government of the Åland Islands in Finland celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the destruction of Bomarsund, the great, Russian fortress built during the occupation of 1808 to 1854. Much of the credit for this rests with a British naval hydrographic su... (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)

Understanding the Unthinkable

In the night of 14 April 1912, the unthinkable happened. The mightiest ship afloat, the brand new White Star Line ship Titanic, was on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York. The ship was advertised as unsinkable. And, if unsinkable, why should there be ade... (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)

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)
History Selection

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)

Tide Prediction in Colonial America

Although tidal ranges in America are, in general, less than in Europe, they have still had an impact on history. Many harbours were only accessible with high tide, introducing a lunar influence on the maritime economy. However, misjudgement of tide levels also played a cruc... (read more)

As it Was

I was in command of the British surveying ship HMS Challenger in 1951 during a world voyage, with geophysicists Tom Gaskell and John Swallow onboard, to measure by seismic methods the thickness of the various sediments on the floor of the three great oceans. (See ‘As It Was’... (read more)

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)

Pioneer Surveyor

George Davidson, whose name is indelibly connected with the survey of the West Coast of the United States, spent most of the sixty-one years between 1850 and 1911 in service to the citizens of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. He was born in Nottingham, England, on... (read more)

The Longest Line

Mt. Shasta is a huge stratovolcano near the southern end of the Cascade Mountains of western North America. It rises to an elevation of 14,179 feet above sea level and is at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley of California. It is believed to have been named by early R... (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)

'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)

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

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)