United States Hydrographic Office

The United States Hydrographic Office prepared and published maps, charts, and nautical books required in navigation. The office was established by an act of 21 June 1866 as part of the Bureau of Navigation, Department of the Navy. It was transferred to the Department of Defense on 10 August 1949. The office was abolished on 10 July 1962, replaced by the Naval Oceanographic Office.[1]


Before the hydrographic office was established in 1866, U.S. navigators were almost entirely dependent on British charts. A few private enterprises had prepared and published charts, but had not been able to do so profitably.[2] The Hydrographic Office was established "for the improvement of the means for navigating safely the vessels of the Navy and of the mercantile marine, by providing, under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy, accurate and cheap nautical charts, sailing directions, navigators and manuals of instructions for the use of all vessels of the United States, and for the benefit and use of navigators generally".[3]


The impetus for establishing the Hydrographical Office came from a petition submitted to Congress in 1863 by the American Shipmasters Association. A Senate committee prepared a report, and a Senate bill was passed on 24 June 1864. The purpose was to empower the Navy Department to give navy and merchant ships the results of surveys and explorations by naval officers in foreign waters. The office was not envisioned as being a rival to the British Admiralty hydrographic office or the French depot of charts, but as an office that could publish charts and directions where there was sufficient information available, priced to cover the cost of paper and printing but not the cost of preparation.[4]

In 1873 the office prepared the instruments needed to determine by using the electric telegraph the longitude of West Indian islands and of points on the northern coast of South America where telegraph cables had been laid. A survey of the Gulf of Mexico had found many errors. Some surveying had been carried out in the Pacific Ocean.[5] In July 1875 the Commodore responsible for the office, describing the work that had been accomplished in the previous year, called for a permanent building with proper fireproofing instead of the temporary rented premises, and asked for funding to conduct a proper survey of the Pacific Ocean, for which the charts were in many areas inadequate.[6] That year a great deal had been achieved in charting the Caribbean.[7] By 1880 the office was divided into the Division of Archives, Chart Division, Meteorological Division, Division of Drafting and Engraving and Division of Longitudes.[8] The office had published about 700 charts of foreign coasts.[9] In 1881 the office employed 22 naval officers and 28 civilians.[10]

An 1889 report described the function of the office as mainly being reconnaissance of foreign coasts, office duties and publication of compiled maps. The Coast and Geodetic Survey of the Treasury Department was responsible for the systematic hydrographic survey of the coasts of the United States.[11] That year the office employed 39 officers and 40 civilians.[12] The office gave out instruments for meteorological observations to the masters of vessels willing to record and report their findings, requiring only that they take reasonable care of the instruments.[13] In 1894 the hydrographic office paid the sum of $20,000 for patents taken out by a former employee for engraving machines, which would greatly reduce the time and cost of engraving soundings, compasses and border shadings. A number of these machines were in use by 1907.[14]

In 1946 the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office published an ice atlas covering the North American Arctic on a scale of about 1:20,000,000.[15] In 1954 aerial observation of sea ice moved from development into operations, with navy weathermen trained by the Hydrographic Office.[16] Information was transmitted to the Hydrographic office, which prepared forecasts used in planning movement of shipping.[17]


  1. ^ Records... Archives.
  2. ^ 1874 Annual report..., p. 17.
  3. ^ United States Congress 1886, p. 64.
  4. ^ President of the USA 1866, pp. 108–109.
  5. ^ American Geog. Society 1874, p. 246.
  6. ^ 1874 Annual report..., pp. 72–74.
  7. ^ 1874 Annual report..., p. 15.
  8. ^ Naval encyclopædia 1880, p. 354.
  9. ^ Naval encyclopædia 1880, p. 355.
  10. ^ Lamphere 1881, p. 195.
  11. ^ Geographical Surveys 1889, p. 468.
  12. ^ Geographical Surveys 1889, p. 475.
  13. ^ Wheatley 1890, pp. 763.
  14. ^ Young 1888, pp. 20–21.
  15. ^ Office of Naval Research 1958, p. 22.
  16. ^ Office of Naval Research 1958, p. 265.
  17. ^ Office of Naval Research 1958, p. 266.


Aracena Island

Aracena Island (Spanish: Isla Capitán Aracena or Isla Aracena) is an island in the Magallanes Region of Chile. It belongs to the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, and forms part of the Alberto de Agostini National Park.

For some 6000 years the coastal areas of Aracena Island have been inhabited by the Alacalufe (or Kawésqar) people. By the early years of the 21st century, the continued presence of the Alacalufe has been put seriously at risk by the actions of non-indigenous people.The highest point on Aracena Island is Mount Vernal. (The United States Hydrographic Office in South America Pilot (Year 1916, page 316) erroneously located Mount Vernal on the Clarence Island.)

Archipelagoes of Patagonia

The landmass known as Patagonia hosts a series of archipelagoes, all of them located on its western and southern coast. These archipelagoes, with the exception of Tierra del Fuego and some islands in Argentina's Atlantic Ocean, lie mainly in Chile and in the Pacific Ocean, covering about one third of Chile's coast.

The United States Hydrographic Office, stated in its South America Pilot (1916):

The Patagonian Archipelago, the range of islands lying west of Tierra del Fuego and stretching along the western coast of Patagonia for 11° of latitude north of the western entrance to Magellan Strait, is about as inhospitable a land as is to be found in the globe, especially in its more southern parts. The land is mountainous, presenting an alternation of matted forest, bare rock, and deep bogs, and is cut up by deep channels into peninsulas and islands whose forms are yet very imperfectly known. Drenching rains, varied by snow and sleet, prevail throughout the year, while furious westerly gales succeed each other with rapidity. The scenery is magnificently stern, but is seldom seen to advantage, the clouds and mists usually screening the higher peaks and snow fields. Glaciers, however, extend in many places either nearly or quite to the level of the sea. In such a climate life is scarce, sea fowl and a few wild fowl being the main representatives of the animal kingdom.The scenery in the western portion of the Strait is grand and savage. The snow-capped peaks supply ice and snow for numerous glaciers, which descend nearly to the sea in some places, and frequently crown the precipices. Many waterfalls and cascades, some of which are of great height, fall into the bays, furnishing scenery that rivals the fiords of Norway. It is unfortunate for the voyager in these parts that the weather is such as to render exceptional an opportunity to witness this grandeur of the best advantage.

The archipelagoes of Patagonia include:

Guaitecas Archipelago

Guayaneco Archipelago

Chonos Archipelago

Campana Archipelago

Queen Adelaide Archipelago

Tierra del Fuego Archipelago

Hermite Islands

Ildefonso Islands

Wollaston Islands

Diego Ramírez Islands

Ataliklikun Bay

Ataliklikun Bay (pronounced "At-lik-lik-kun") is a bay of East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, opening into the Bismarck Sea. It is located in the northern part of New Britain, south-west of Lassul Bay and to the west of Cape Lambert and Rabaul. Urara Island is located in the northern part of the bay. The Raulavat plantation lies in the eastern part of its 25-mile shoreline. The villagers along the shore reportedly speak the Minigir language and the Masava dialect of Tolai. The United States Hydrographic Office said "a reef awash, about 200 yards long east and west, with 15 and 19 fathoms around, on which the steamer Seestem struck in 1909, lies in the south-west part of Ataliklikun Bay."

Benito Vines

Benito Vines was a Jesuit cleric during the 19th and early 20th centuries in Havana, Cuba. He became well-known for his studies of hurricanes. He was the Director of the Magnetical and Meteorological Observatory of the Royal College of Belen in Havana, and the author of Practical Hints in Regard to the West Indian Hurricanes, a work which was translated into English by the US Navy and issued by the United States Hydrographic Office.

Cape Farewell Archipelago

Cape Farewell Archipelago (also Nunap Isua Archipelago) is an island group located at the southern end of Greenland in Kujalleq municipality. The archipelago takes its name from Cape Farewell, a headland of Egger Island (also known as Itilleq).

Ikeq Island

Ikeq is an uninhabited island of the Kujalleq municipality, southern Greenland.

Inner Holm of Skaw

The Inner Holm of Skaw is a small, uninhabited islet off the northern tip of the island of Whalsay, in the Shetland Islands of Scotland, north of the village of Skaw.

Isla Cardona

Isla Cardona, also known as Sor Isolina Ferré Island, is a small, uninhabited island located 1.30 nautical miles south of the mainland Puerto Rican shore across from Barrio Playa, on the west side of the entrance to the harbor of Ponce, Puerto Rico. The small island is considered part of barrio Playa. It is home to the 1889 Cardona Island Light, which is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Together with Caja de Muertos, Gatas, Morrillito, Ratones, Isla del Frio, and Isla de Jueyes, Cardona is one of seven islands ascribed to the municipality of Ponce. The island gained notoriety in 2010 when the Puerto Rican Bird Society made it a target for the eradication of the black rat.

Isla de Jueyes

Isla de Jueyes are a group of three small uninhabited islands off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. Together with Caja de Muertos, Gatas, Morrillito, Ratones, Cardona, and Isla del Frío, Isla de Jueyes is one of seven islands ascribed to the municipality of Ponce. At an area of just 2.89 cuerdas, they are also the smallest of these seven islands. Like Isla del Frío, the islands are considered part of barrio Vayas.

Isla del Frío

Isla del Frío is a small uninhabited island off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. Together with Caja de Muertos, Gatas, Morrillito, Ratones, Cardona, and Isla de Jueyes, Isla del Frío is one of seven islands ascribed to the municipality of Ponce. Like Isla de Jueyes, the island is considered part of barrio Vayas.

Karimata Strait

The Karimata Strait (Indonesian: Selat Karimata) also spelled Carimata or Caramata is the wide strait that connects the South China Sea to the Java Sea, separating the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo (Kalimantan). It is bordered by the Belitung island (off Sumatra's eastern coast) in the west and Borneo in the east. It is the widest strait that connects the South China Sea and the Java Sea (other straits include the Bangka and Gaspar Straits), but its numerous islands and reefs reduce its navigability. Its weather and current is influenced by the annual southeast and northwest monsoon.

It was used as an invasion route by the British fleet in the 1811 Invasion of Java in the Dutch East Indies. More recently, it was the site of the crash of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501, and the location of the 2016 edition of Sail Indonesia (dubbed "Sail Karimata Strait").

Kumai River

The Kumai River is a river of Central Kalimantan province, Borneo island, Indonesia.

Linga Sound, Shetland

Linga Sound is the strait between the islands of Whalsay and West Linga in the Shetland islands of Scotland.

The sound has a depth of 11 to 12 fathoms (66 to 72 ft; 20 to 22 m).

The narrowest width is 900 feet (270 m) between the 6 fathoms (36 ft; 11 m) contours.

The sound is the channel most often used by large vessels.

The tidal stream running south through the sound starts about four and a half hours before high water at Lerwick, and the stream starts running north about two hours after high water at Lerwick. The maximum rate is 6 knots. The sound has several islets. The most notable is the Skate of Marrister. A lighthouse on Suther Ness below Brough stands at the northern entrance into Linga Sound.

Magdalena Island, Aysén Region

Magdalena Island is an island in Aysén Region of southern Chile. The island is located between the Moraleda Channel and the Puyuhuapi Channel, and belongs partially to the Isla Magdalena National Park. The United States Hydrographic Office assigns four different names for this island: Isla de Cay, Isla Desierto, Isla Magdalena, and Isla de Motalat.

This large island extends into the continental coast, from which it is divided by the channels just mentioned. In its central part the extinct volcano Montalat rises to a height of 5,446 feet. The crater is at all times full of snow.

In. the west coast of the island is Pangal Inlet, which is of no use to navigation. Five miles farther north of this is Senec Island, low and sloping, forming a good day mark, which should be left to the eastward in passing.

The fishing community and hamlet of Puerto Gaviota is located in the southwestern part of the island at the meeting point of Puyuhuapi Channel with Moraleda Channel.

Nisqually Reach

The Nisqually Reach is a portion of Puget Sound south of the Tacoma Narrows, near the exit of the Nisqually River into the Sound. It is classified as a bay by the United States government. It was originally defined as "the portion of the Sound lying between Anderson Island and the mainland".The Thurston–Pierce County line bisects the Reach.

Outer Holm of Skaw

The Outer Holm of Skaw is a small, uninhabited islet, a rock outlier off the northeast coast of the island of Whalsay, in the Shetland Islands of Scotland.

Picton Channel

Picton Channel (Spanish: Canal Picton) is a waterway in the Magallanes Region of Chile that continues southward the Ladrillero Channel, and it runs between the Chipana Island (east) and Mornington Island (Chile) (west).

It forms with the Ladrillero and Fallos Channel an optional route to the Messier Channel-Grappler Channel-Wide Channel. It has several arms or fiords.

The United States Hydrographic Office, South America Pilot (1916) states:

Picton Channel, with an average breadth of 1½ miles, extends to the northward and westward for about 20 miles, with bold shores intersected by inlets on either side and deep water in mid-channel. Mornington Island, the western shore, then becomes low and dips gradually to the northward till it ends 36 miles from Trinidad Channel in an extensive area of rocks, islets, and disconnected breakers, with no prominent islets fit for leading marks to guide a vessel through the channels to the sea.

Pitt Strait (Indonesia)

Pitt Strait (Indonesia) (a.k.a. Pitt's Strait, Sagewin Strait), falls within the waters of the Indonesian province of West Papua. The strait separates the Raja Ampat islands of Batanta and Salawati and links the Ceram Sea to the Pacific Ocean. To its west lies Dampier Strait, which separates Batanta island from Waigeo island. The Sagewin Strait name refers to Sagewin Island, which lies at the south east side of Pitt Strait, close to Salawati.

Skate of Marrister

The Skate of Marrister is a flat ledge that extends about 300 yards (270 m) from the western shore of Whalsay, in the Shetland islands of Scotland. It is slightly more than 1 mile (1.6 km) north-north-west from Symbister Ness off the village of Marrister, in Linga Sound. At low tide the ledge rises 5 feet (1.5 m) above the water. There is a risk that the strong tide in Whalsay Sound (Linga Sound) will carry a boat onto the Skate.

There is a minor light on the Skate with a nominal range of four miles, flashing green every six seconds.Piltock may be caught around the skate.

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