A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: The Mapmakers--I need more!
From: Trevor Kenchington
Date: 2002 Dec 12, 00:16 -0400
From: Trevor Kenchington
Date: 2002 Dec 12, 00:16 -0400
George Huxtable wrote: > Ritchie refers to "Des Barres' Atlantic Neptune", and I wonder if this is > the same work as the "American Neptune" discussed by Trevor. Sorry -- premature senior moment. It was, of course, the "Atlantic Neptune", even though it contained charts of only the American coastline. > Ritchie points > out that although that title refers to DesBarres only, it was in fact a > compilation of the works of many men- > Cook, and his successor Michael Lane, in Newfoundland; > Holland in the River St.Lawrence, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton > Island, the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire; > DesBarres himself on the coasts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and Sable > Island; > Lieut. Hurd from St John to Passamaquoddy Bay; > George Gauld as far south as Florida and even in the West Indies. My understanding is that DesBarres and William De Brahm were contracted to do the hydrographic surveys (DesBarres in the north working for the Admiralty, De Brahm in the south working for the Board of Trade -- though I can't find a note of the dividing line between them). Holland (also working for the Board of Trade) was supposed to be doing terrestrial surveying. However, the three surveyors and two agencies managed to coordinate their work so that terrestrial survey teams did adjacent waters and the marine teams did adjacent land, thus covering all areas with economy of effort. DesBarres name went on the final product because he had the contract to produce the published charts, in what would now be called a public-private partnership. (DesBarres got little cash from government for the publication but kept the profits from sale of the charts.) I had not realized that _the_ Cook was still actively surveying in this region after the Seven Years War. He was, of course, but in Newfoundland which wasn't intended to be included in the "Neptune" (though charts of that area may well have been bound into some copies). There was some surveying done in the Halifax area at that time by "Captain James Cook" but that is said (in seemingly authoritative, local sources) to be a second man with the same name -- a surprising coincidence. Lane, Hurd and Gault I know nothing of. > Ritchie adds that DesBarres gave too little credit to the many surveyors > whose work he published, and made good money privately from its sale. Other writers have been more sympathetic. It was 21 years from starting the surveys to finishing the final volume, during which DesBarre had to front up with some of the capital. He would need to have made good money by the end if the whole was to be a fair deal. > Cook first learned about plane-table surveying from another military man, > Samuel Holland (not surprisingly, a Dutchman) who had been commisioned into > the British Army. Holland later became surveyor-general of Quebec. Holland, > and also Cook and John Simcoe (master and captain of the Pembroke) > overwintered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1758-9, as also did Des Barres. > Ritchie records that these four spent many sessions discussing surveying > together over that winter, so both Holland and DesBarres could have > contributed to Cook's education on surveying mattersBeaglehole doesn't > mention DesBarres, in that context Thank you. That clarifies DesBarres' role. > ====================================== > > Trevor's guess is, I think, rather wide of the mark, when he says- > >>The Admiralty commissioned the surveys of the >>American coastline, so far as I can tell, before much of England was >>properly charted. Why? My guess is that they had traditionally-trained >>pilots who knew the English coast without needing charts, whereas ships' >>Masters needed to navigate along American coasts that they had never >>seen before and without the aid of people who knew every rock and >>channel by heart. >> > > There were indeed charts of Englich coastal waters, long before that date, > though perhaps far below Cook's meticulous standard. The difference is that > these were commercial charts, not commisioned by the Admiralty, and not in > general made by naval vessels. Many were copied, or stolen from older Dutch > "platts", as the Dutch were the first real chart-makers. Of course there were much earlier charts, going back to the portolans. But how many charts were there before the 1750s which could be used as reliable representations of coastline and seabed, as we expect charts to serve today? How much of the British coastline was so charted? In the early 1760s, Admiralty decided to invest a large effort in a form of hydrographic surveying that would not have been out of place in the 1960s and they did so in the form of surveys of the American coast, not of home waters. Was that because home waters had already been surveyed to equivalent standards by commercial interests? Maybe. But I have never seen reference to such charts. > Captain Greenville Collins was appointed Hydrographer-in-ordinary to the > King by Charles II in 1682 to survey the coasts of Great Britain, and > published his collection of charts as "Great Britain's Coasting Pilot" in > 1693. I have a reduced facsimile copy of the 1753 edition (and I wonder > whether these charts had been updated much on the original ones). It > contains 48 charts in various sizes, scales, and orientations, together > with sailing directions, tidal information, and some coastal silhouettes. > Only a few of the charts shows a scale of latitude, and none show > longitude: nevertheless, this must have been an essential documents to > carry aboard ship, for those that could afford it. Without scales of latitude and longitude, could these charts have served as more than visual aides memoires, equivalent to the illustrations in a modern pilot book? If not, they are not in the same league as those produced by Holland, DesBarres, Cook and the rest on this coast. Those presumably DesBarres didn't anticipate his charts being used quite as we use charts today, else he would not have published them bound into large volumes that refuse to lie flat. I have only handled a couple of copies but I would not care to have to navigate with the charts bound in that form. > Perhaps those in a regular trade, such as the North Sea Coal Trade, got to > know the waters well enough that they were content to do without a chart, > as their forefathers had done. When I am sailing in familiar waters, I > seldom need to look at my local charts, though they are always out of the > locker. But a sailing vessel, particularly a square-rigger, might at any > time be driven out of her home waters by adverse weather. A returning > trader might get orders to unload at a port unfamiliar to her master. > Charts would be of great value then. Would be but also would _not_ be available because of expense, save on the largest and most valuable ships. It is clear that 18th century warships carried local pilots when working along the English coasts -- men who knew their own stretch of coast in great detail. (I think that, even then, warship pilots were required to have warrants from Trinity House.) Homeward bound deepwater ships probably sought a safe and recognizable landfall, their captains' hoping to there take on a man who had the needed intimate knowledge of the coast. And those who failed to get that knowledge on board were likely cast away. There was no shortage of ships which suffered that fate. > In 1751 the Admiralty employed Murdoch Mackenzie, and later his nephew of > the same name, as their surveyors, to produce charts of the west coasts of > Britain and Ireland. These famous charts were made in the period 1751 to > about 1780. Now that is interesting -- placing a major survey effort in home waters some ten years before that on this side of the Pond. But why the west coasts? Was the availability of commercial charts or that of pilots much worse than in the more frequented waters of the Channel and southern North Sea? > I think the answer to Trevor's question lies with the French, who had just > been expelled from North America, except for some islands in the St > Lawrence. French influence in those islands, and to a lesser extent in > other French-speaking provinces of Canada, exists to this day. The > Admiralty's need for good charting was to forestall any French re-invasion, > as France and Britain were in a perpetual state of on-and-off war. Perhaps > (I suggest) these coastal regions of Canada were so lightly populated, with > so little trade except the cod fishing, that there was no prospect of > commercial surveying and chartmaking. That was why Cook was sent out in a > Naval vessel, to do that job. The islands in question are St.Pierre and Miquelon, which are not in the Gulf, while their people would be insulted to hear that French influence still exists there since they remain a Department of France. Nor is it likely that Admiralty wanted to survey the coast of newfoundland (where Cook worked) to prevent an invasion -- partly because the charts would be of more use to the invaders than to those seeking to intercept them out at sea but mostly because English strategy called for America to be defended in European waters, by preventing an invasion fleet from sailing, just as Quebec had been defeated in Quiberon Bay, where the relief fleet was destroyed, and not on the Plains of Abraham where Wolfe had only to terminate Montcalm's doomed defence of the city. Besides, any French army that was landed on the Rock could stay there until it starved for all the influence it would have over world affairs. Indeed, blockading it in place and starving it out of existence would have been the Royal Navy's obvious and rather trivial task. I need a better explanation of why Admiralty chose to survey such distant waters when they did, just as I need a better account of why the primitive charts of earlier centuries were so suddenly replaced by the near-modern charts produced by Cook and his contemporaries. Trevor Kenchington -- Trevor J. Kenchington PhD Gadus@iStar.ca Gadus Associates, Office(902) 889-9250 R.R.#1, Musquodoboit Harbour, Fax (902) 889-9251 Nova Scotia B0J 2L0, CANADA Home (902) 889-3555 Science Serving the Fisheries http://home.istar.ca/~gadus