National Geographic : 1903 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE bring the Survey into existence after it had been authorized by Congress. Mr Gallatin's first step was to invite the opinion of scientific men as to the plans to be adopted, in a circular setting forth the objects to be attained. Thir teen replies were received, and these were referred to a committee of the American Philosophical Society, which recommended the adoption of the plan submitted by Mr Hassler. We shall presently see that 36 years later another committee of learned men, called to gether to reorganize the Survey, affirmed and adopted the scientific methods of Hassler and adapted them to the larger work devolved on the Survey by the extension of our domain. It thus hap pens that in the case of the Coast Survey the most competent authorities of the times were consulted to prescribe the principles on which the work was to be carried out. This later generation of men may well be thankful for the pre vision of the two statesmen who gave direction to the work, and for the wis dom of those who conceived in those early days the broad lines on which the work was to be conducted; for though the methods have been modified, changed, and perfected, the principles then prescribed have guided the Survey ever since. THE NEED FOR A COAST SURVEY The problem before the Survey was to perform a national as well as an in ternational duty. It behooves every country, in the interests of humanity, to safeguard the lives and property which are continually at stake on the great highways of commerce along the shores of the oceans; and the first step toward the fulfillment of this obligation is to map the coasts and chart the waters, in order that the mariner may have before him a graphic guide of the routes he must follow to insure the safety of the lives and property committed to his charge. The high seas claim their victims through fogs and storms and collisions, but to the experienced navi gator the open ocean is a place of safety, while a proximity to the coasts, even where surveys and light-houses have minimized the risks, inspires feelings of grave responsibility and even of dread of hidden dangers, of unknown cur rents, and of collisions where busy commerce concentrates in narrowing lines the coming and departing ships. Mr Hassler, whose plan was adopted, was a Swiss by birth, a mani of great learning and well qualified by experi ence to outline the scientific principles on which an extended survey was to be conducted. His task was a difficult one, for neither men trained in the profession nor instruments were to be had in our country, nor was there a common ap preciation of the importance of the work at that time. He went to England in 1811 to procure instruments, but the war with that country deferred the ac complishment of his purpose. It was not until 1816 that he was appointed Superintendent, and though he immedi ately began his operations with vigor they were cut short by the practical abolition of the Survey two years later through the revocation of the authority to employ civilians on the work. Its connection with the Treasury Depart ment ceased, and the country became dependent for its charts on the private enterprise of the Messrs Blunt, of New York, and on fitful and unsystematic surveys made under the Navy Depart ment. On the recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy the original act of 1807 was revived and the Survey was resumed in 1832 under Mr Hassler's di rection, and it was again placed under the Secretary of the Treasury, only, however, to be retransferred to the Navy in 1834. This arrangement again proved to be unsatisfactory, and in 1836 the Survey was finally placed under the Treasury Department.