|Maps for Mariners
Charts for Marylanders
The Language of Charts
Cartographers of the Chesapeake
The cartographers of the Chesapeake were artists, explorers,
businessmen, sea captains, and scientists. Whatever their backgrounds,
however, their work combined the art of interpreting the bay's physical
features and the science of plotting the exact location of those features.
"The broiling of their fish over the flame."
Engraving by Theodore de Bry after John White.
from an original in the collection of the
Calvert Marine Museum.
John White, an Englishman,
was an artist and member of the 1585 expedition to establish the Roanoke
colony, off the coast of present-day North Carolina. He and Thomas Harriot,
philosopher, naturalist, and mathematician, were employed to gather information
about the New World. White's drawings of Eastern Woodland Algonquain Indian
life were used with Harriot's notes in A Brief and True Report of the
Newfound Land of Virginia. White's granddaughter, Virginia Dare, was
the first child born of English parents in the New World.
What did John White
look like? We do not have a clue since no sketch of the artist himself
has survived. Yet because of John White's drawings that were published
in addition to his map, we have a glimpse of Indian life in the Chesapeake
hundred years ago.
||America Pars, Nunc Virginia
Frankfurt, Germany, 1590
Huntingfield Corp. Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-207
John White's map was
the first to identify the bay by its present name. (You can find the words
"Chesepiooc Sinus" in the middle right side of the map.) White's map shows
only the mouth of the bay, since the remainder had not been explored by
his expedition. The decorative touches in White's map reflect his training
as an artist and contrast with the scientific approach employed in modern
Augustine Herrman was born in Prague, Bohemia (Czechoslovakia)
in 1605. His family eventually settled in Amsterdam, a leading center of
commerce and trade at that time. By 1644, Herrman was an agent for a large
shipping company in New Amsterdam (New York). He then established his own
trading company and also engaged in farming, fur-trading, and land speculation.
By the mid-1650s he was one of the leading merchants and citizens of New
In 1659 Herrman applied to become a resident of the territory
of Maryland. Lord Baltimore approved the request and in 1662 Herrman received
the first of several extensive grants of land, which totaled between twenty
and twenty-five thousand acres. Herrman established his residence, called
Bohemia Manor, on a 6,000 acre tract located on both sides of the Elk River
in present day Cecil County. First surveyed in August 1661, it was granted
to Herrman by patent of June 19, 1662, in exchange for his promise to make
a map of the territory.
Herrman conducted surveys for his map from 1659 to 1670
and spent the next several years plotting, drafting, and ornamenting the
map, He sent his finished manuscript to London, where William Faithorne
engraved it in 1673.
The Herrman map was copied and adapted by mapmakers for
more than a century after its publication. It was especially important
in helping to solve the boundary disputes between Maryland, Virginia, and
||Virginia and Maryland as it is Planted and Inhabited
this Present Year 1670, Surveyed and Exactly Drawne by the Only Labour
& Endeavour of Augustim Herrman Bohemiensis
London, 1673 
Reproduction of facsimile from the Huntingfield Corporation
Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-679
Herrman's map was the prototype for charts of the Chesapeake
for over sixty years. Based on his own surveying and sources, it had more
information for the navigator than anything else publicly available. Its
navigational use, however, was hindered by its four-sheet format.
Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler
from a painting by Wm. G. Williams, c. 1835
MSA SC 1399-1-757
|Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler
Ferdinand Hassler was a Swiss mathematician who had extensive
surveying experience. When the U.S. Congress authorized an official Survey
of the Coast in 1807, Hassler, who was between teaching appointments in
Philadelphia, became interested in the enterprise. After Hassler was appointed
to the post in 1811 he immediately set off to Europe where he had special
instruments made to do the survey work.
Hassler was the first superintendent of the U.S. Coast
Survey and insisted on an unprecedented level of scientific accuracy. His
surveyors carried out their triangulation -- fixing the relative positions
of different locations of the earth's surface by use of a network of triangles
-- according to strict geodetic principles. This careful approach delayed
the production of charts and thus brought criticism from individuals within
the government. Yet Hassler's legacy was in the sound scientific base of
the bureau's work. While it was expensive and time consuming, U.S. charts
became the standard for the world.
Courtesy of the Mystic Seaport Museum
Edmund March Blunt was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire,
in 1770. He became America's most notable early hydrographic with the publication
in 1796 of the American Coast Pilot, the first book of sailing directions
compiled and printed in the United States. Blunt continued to publish updated
volumes of the American Coast Pilot, describing all coasts of the
Blunt's sons, Edmund and George, devoted their lives to
charting and the sea as well. Edmund was hired by the U.S. Coast Survey
for whom he worked on triangulation of the bay, among other duties. George
Blunt became a publisher of charts and nautical books in New York. He revised
the American Coast Pilot several times and was a major force behind
causing the federal government to organize the Lighthouse Board. After
the death of the elder Blunt in 1862 and Edmund Blunt, Jr., in 1867, George
sold the copyright for American Coast Pilot to the U.S. Coast Survey.
||The Bay of Chesapeake from its Entrance to Baltimore
Edmund M. Blunt
Huntingfield Corp. Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-191
This chart was among the first prepared and published
in the United States. It showed both true and magnetic north, a new feature
for charts of the bay. (You can see true and magnetic north marked beneath
the work "Bay" in the center of the chart.) It was also one of the earliest
charts to show navigational aids. (See Cape Henry Lighthouse in the lower
left of the chart.)
|Cartographers for the National Ocean Service
Cartographers for the National Ocean Service (NOS) of
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) compile and
construct charts for about 2.5 million square nautical miles of the nation's
coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and connecting waterways. They work with
data from surveys and other sources in constructing and revising charts.
The work of modern-day cartographers is varied. Some participate
in surveys or assist with hydrographic observations aboard ships of the
National Ocean Survey fleet. Others evaluate survey data to ensure it accuracy.
Cartographers today use aerials photographs to plan extensive field surveys
and to map shore detail. They also operate special survey instruments and
process data through computers to determine exact positions of data. In
addition, they compute direction information obtained from orbiting satellites.
Experience cartographers engage in research and development to devise improved
cartographic methods and portrayal techniques.
Cartographers today typically have advanced degrees and
experience in fields such as mathematics, astronomy, cartography, engineering
science or drafting, geodesy, geography, geology, geophysics, meteorology,
navigation, oceanography, physics, and surveying.
||United States-East Coast, Virginia: Chesapeake Bay
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Washington, DC 1986
Huntingfield Corp. Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-747
This experimental chart was produced by the National Ocean
Service (NOS) of NOAA to examine possible improvements in traditional charts.
Among the changes proposed were to highlight fish havens and disposal areas
and to subdue road designations and compass roses. It was submitted to
the International Hydrographic Organization conference in 1987. The National
Ocean Service surveyed user organizations for their reactions to the changes,
some of which were adopted while others were rejected. This experimental
chart was part of a continuing effort to achieve worldwide standardization
of nautical charts and to improve chart usefulness.
||A Draught of Virginia from the Capes of York in York
River and to Kuiquotan or Hampton in James River
Huntingfield Corp. Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-29
Tiddeman was master of the British vessel Tartar from 1724 to 1728. While patrolling the mouth of the bay, he made extensive
soundings which were published in The English Pilot. The soundings
were the most complete available for the area at that time.
||Plan of the Peninsula of Chesopeak Bay
Unpublished manuscript, 1781
Copy of detail courtesy of the William L. Clements
Library, University of Michigan
John Hill's manuscript was the first surviving chart to
feature profile views of the shoreline. Such views were helpful for coast
piloting -- navigating within sight of land -- and were widely used for
seventy-five years. Hills did his manuscript in pen and tinted it with
water colors. It was probably used by the British during the Revolutionary
||N. 11 Reconnoitering the Chesapeake Bay 1818
U.S. Topographical Bureau
Unpublished manuscript chart, 1818
Huntingfield Corp. Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-334
The War of 1812 called attention to the inadequacy of
charts furnished to the U.S. Navy. As a result, the government organized
surveys of the Chesapeake Bay and its harbors. The survey included extensive
soundings like those shown here, crisscrossing the St. Mary's River.
|Today teams of specialist rely on sophisticated
instruments for measuring and analyzing the physical characteristics of
bodies of water. Their forerunners were not so specialized, nor did they
have the benefit of such highly accurate instruments. Early charts were
based on data collected by explorers, navigators, sea captains, or military
men. Their instruments often served two purposes: one for obtaining data
to record on the chart and the other for navigating in conjunction with
Backstaff, or Davis' quadrant.
From John Seller's Practical
Navigation, first printed in 1669.
Reproduced from The Story
of Maps by Lloyd A. Brown, 1949.
Early mariners used the backstaff to determine their latitude
by measuring the altitude of the sun at noon. Introduced by John Davis
of London in 1594, the backstaff was so named because, unlike the cross-staff
which it replaced, the user had the sun behind him when taking an observation.
The backstaff was also known as Davis' quadrant.
Reproduced from The Story
of Maps by Lloyd A. Brown, 1949.
The cross-staff, forerunner of the backstaff, was used
by mariners to determine latitude at sea by measuring the altitude of the
sun at noon. Its chief drawback was that it forced the user to look directly
at the sun to take a reading. From John Seller's Practical Navigation,
first printed in 1669.
The mariner's astrolabe was the forerunner of the backstaff,
quadrant, octant, and modern sextant developed to measure the altitude
of the sun or stars. A mariner could determine his latitude by means of
The astrolabe consists of a graduated ring of brass fitted
with a sighting rule, pivoted at the center of the ring. The astrolabe
is suspended by the thumb or by means of a thread from a shackle at the
top of the ring so that it hangs vertically. The sighting rule is then
turned about its axis so that the sun or star can be sighted along it and
the altitude read off on the ring.
The astrolabe was used from the late fifteenth century
until the end of the seventeenth century. It was of little use for observations
from the heaving deck of a ship at sea but was of considerable use in charting
the approximate latitudes of new discoveries where observations were made
The octant uses an eyepiece and mirror to measure the
altitude of heavenly bodies. It has an arc of one-eighth of a circle, but
its design permits the measurement of altitude up to 90 degrees. Octants
remained in use by navigators until 1800 when they were replaced by sextants.
Using a small telescope and an arrangement of mirrors,
the sextant allows the sailor to measure the angle of the sun or a star
above the horizon. Invented in the 18th century by John Hadley, the sextant
is used to determine a ship's latitude.
May 23, 2017
Maryland State Archives