Bridgend, United Kingdom
Coast Survey Map Of Nantucket And The Davis Shoals
This beautiful and important sea chart or map depicts the waters immediately surrounding the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, including Davis’ Shoal, Old South Shoal, and others. Uncommon, highly significant, and often underappreciated, this is 1849 map is the one of the first U.S. Coast Survey chart to depict the shoals off Nantucket. Though the unpredictable waters off Nantucket were long a nemesis to sailing vessels on the important London – New York shipping routes, they had never been properly charted. The harsh conditions, including rapid unexpected swells and frequent heavy fog, contrived to make the hydrographic survey of the hazards south of Nantucket one of the most dangerous and challenging projects of the early coast survey. The first survey party to tackle this area was lead by the indomitable Lieutenant Commanding Charles H. Davis. Starting at Old South Shoal, a known danger, Davis worked his way southward and soon discovered “New South Shoal”, which is here renamed “Davis Shoal” in his honor. Working seasonally, it took the Coast Survey to 1853, fully seven years, to complete the survey of the Old South Shoal and Davis’ Shoal. Bache himself discussed the difficult of accurately mapping the regions south and west of Nantucket in his 1852 Congressional Report: The most difficult piece of hydrography on our coast has been completed during the past season. The area of broken ground east and south of the island of Nantucket is nearly seven hundred miles in extent, and is spread with dangers, some real and some only apparent. The work which has been prosecuted there perseveringly for some seasons has made the position of the dangers fully known, and has in turn employed the resources and taxed the perseverance of some of the most able hydrographers of the survey. It was commenced in 1846 by Lieut. C. H. Davis, U.S.N., has been continued since 1849 by Lieut. C. H. McBlair, and has this year been completed by Lieut. H. S. Stellwagen. The breaking of the water over these sunken shoals and banks ... which, under the name of Rips, occurs extensively over this region, serves, no doubt, to increase the terrors of the spot, though indicating in reality a change of depth, and not absolute shoalness. The outliers of this ground, Fishing Rip and Davis's Bank, have twenty-five and a half feet upon them, while on Great Rip, the Rose and Crown, Old South, and Davis's shoal, there are, respectively, but four, seven, six, and eight feet. The arrangement of these shoals led us to suppose that there must be dangers south of Davis's shoal, and several attempts have been made to look them up. The explorations of Lieutenant Commanding Stellwagen this year have completed the search over the space south of Davis's shoal to deep water, without any indication of another tier of banks. The hydrography of such ground as this is truly difficult; it must be surveyed with the minuteness of a harbor, without the facilities which neighboring land affords. The land cannot be seen from the deck of a vessel from Davis's shoal, and yet it must be traversed closely with the sounding line, and the position of the soundings be closely determined. It is necessary to establish bases from those on land by floating objects, which, like vessels, can be seen at a sufficient distance, and to preserve temporarily the positions of these floating stations by buoys. The first severe storm not only stops the actual sounding work, but is apt to break up the system entirely by removing or changing the position of these marks. The weather fit for surveying on that peculiarly stormy part of the coast is but a small fragment of each summer, and the harbors which must necessarily be sought as a refuge on the coming up of storms, which cannot be weathered in such exposed situations, are distant.
October 24th, 2013
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