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United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.
A survey of the coast of the United States was authorized by act of of February 10, 1807, and the plans formulated by F. R. Hassler, an eminent scientist of Swiss birth, were adopted. The necessity of securing instruments from abroad and the breaking out of hostilities with Great Britain delayed the organization of the Survey under the Treasury Department until 1816. The work had just begun when, by act of April 14, 1818, Congress repealed so much of the statute of 1807 as authorized the employment of other than Army and Navy officers in the Survey.
No surveys were made under the War Department, and after a full consideration of the unsatisfactory results obtained in the survey made under the Navy Department, as repeatedly suggested by the Secretary of the Navy and others, Congress revived the law of 1807, with somewhat extended scope, by the act of July 10, 1832, and the work was again placed under the Treasury Department.
On March 11, 1834, the Survey was transferred to the Navy Department, and on March 26, 1836, it was re transferred by President Jackson to the Treasury Department, where it remained until July 1, 1903, when it was placed under the Department of Commerce by act of Congress approved February 14, 1903.
By the act of March 3, 1843, prompted by suggestions of the expediency of a retransfer of the Survey to the Navy Department, Congress provided that the President should organize a board to make an intelligent and efficient inquiry for the development of a plan of permanent organization for the Survey. The report of this board, giving in detail its plan for reorganization, was approved by the President April 29, 1843, and the work of the Survey has ever since been modeled on the lines then laid dawn. For fifty years prior to 1898 nearly one-half of the vessels of the Survey were manned and officered by the Navy, but since the war with Spain these duties have devolved exclusively upon the officers and employees of the Survey.
By including in the appropriation for the Coast and Geodetic Survey a provision to ''man and equip'' the vessels of the Survey, Congress in 1900 placed the service on a purely civil basis, as at present organized.
The name "Coast and Geodetic Survey" was authorized by its use in the sundry civil appropriation act approved June 20, 1878.
The Survey is a bureau of the Department of Commerce, and its work is under the direction of a Superintendent and an Assistant Superintendent, with an office at Washington and a sub-office at Manila, P. I. Its original and principal duty was the survey of the coasts of the United States, but many other duties too numerous to mention have been imposed by law from time to time as the development of its operations showed the wisdom of such legislation.
The scope of the Survey has been extended from time to time and now includes surveys of Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, and "other coasts under the jurisdiction of the United States."
By joint resolution of February 5, 1889, the United States accepted the invitation of the Imperial German Government to became a party to the International Geodetic Association, and delegates to meetings of the association are by law officers of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, to be appointed by the President.
The use of the facilities of the Survey for research and study by scientific investigators and students of any institution of higher education is granted by law (31 Stat., 1039), and resolution of April 12, 1892.
The general continental coast line of the United States, including Alaska, measures 11,500 miles, which is increased by the indentations and convolutions of the littoral of its tidal rivers, islands, bays, sounds, and gulfs to 91,000 miles; and to these figures must be added, because of the recently acquired insular possessions, 5,400 miles of general coast line and 12,100 miles of detailed share line. For the use of the mariner and surveyor the results of the Survey's operations are published in 645 charts; in Tide Tables, which, prepared annually in advance of the year for which predictions are made, give the daily high and low values of the tide far each day of the year for the ports of the United States and for the leading ports of the world; in 21 volumes of Coast Pilots and Sailing Directions; and in weekly notices to mariners, published in cooperation with the Bureau of Lighthouses. These publications supply detailed information concerning the navigation of the coasts and the approaches to the harbors except in the case of unsurveyed portions of Alaska and the Philippines.
In addition to the foregoing the Survey issues many other publications containing the results of its work, which are distributed free to schools, scientific institutions, libraries, and individuals upon request.
A survey of the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts of the mainland of the United States, except in the case of Alaska, has been made, but supplemental work is necessary, and also a continuous revision on account of changes due to tides and currents; to the improvement of rivers and harbors; to the requirements of deep-draft vessels that are now essential for the necessities of commerce and national defense; and to the needs of the rapidly increasing fleet of motor boats.
Only two steamers and one schooner owned by the Survey are available for this work on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and for the surveys and examinations which have to be made to keep the information in the Coast Pilot volumes up to date.
On the Pacific coast only two steamers for outside work and two steamers and two large launches for inshore work are available to meet the pressing demands for accurate surveys in Alaskan waters and for supplemental and revision work on the coast of the United States and Hawaii.
The acquisition of Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Philippines largely increased the responsibilities of the Survey. A survey of Puerto Rico has been made, but it should be supplemented by wire-drag work.
The Philippine archipelago comprises 3,141 islands and islets, and as there is no point in the group distant more than 60 miles from the sea the importance of correct charting of its vast system of waterways is self-evident. This duty as one of the first undertaken in the islands by the United States, and in December, 1900, a suboffice of the Coast and Geodetic Survey was opened in Manila, and astronomic, topographic, and hydrographic parties began operations without delay. The importance of the work in the Philippines was at once recognized by the insular government, which from the beginning has generously cooperated with the Survey. The field results receive their preliminary discussion and are prepared for publication in Manila. A force of native draftsmen is employed in the Manila office in the preparation of chart drawings, which are engraved and printed in Washington, D. C. One steamer, owned by the Survey, and four steamers furnished by the insular government and operated by the Survey are available for work in the islands.
An important operation of the Survey is the determination of standard elevations of points throughout the country by lines forming a network of precise levels, which incidentally makes available in this form useful results from the thousands of miles of levels run for works of public improvement.
Magnetic surveys at sea and on shore, the results of which are essential for the construction of charts and necessary for the property and political subdivision of this country, where the compass has been so generally used in locating property and boundary lines, form an important part of the activities of the Survey.
In addition to his other duties, the Superintendent, as Commissioner on the part of the United States, is charged with surveying and marking the southeastern boundary of Alaska from Portland Canal to Mount St. Elias, and of the meridianal boundary from Mount St. Elias to the Arctic Ocean, the field work of which has been completed. Also under his direction, as Commissioner, the work of surveying and re-marking the northern boundary between the United States and Canada, except a portion of the water boundary, is in progress.
An officer of the Survey is a member of the Mississippi River Commission.
The office in Washington is the executive center of the Service and is equipped to handle the wide range of duties imposed upon the service by law, with divisions dealing with the various branches of the work, which renders it possible to prepare and publish all information obtained in the forms most useful to navigators and to the public at large.
In addition to the administrative divisions, the office work is handled by the following divisions: Computing, Terrestrial Magnetism, Tidal, Chart Construction, Instrument, and Tidal Research.
In the Computing Division are discussed with the highest mathematical refinement the observations made in the field, the results being prepared for their final publication and utilization.
In the Division of Terrestrial Magnetism the observations made by the parties in the field and at the magnetic observatories are reduced and prepared for publication in the form of tables and charts for public use. Information in regard to the magnetic variation in the past is furnished to surveyors and others interested and the variation noted on the compasses shown on the charts of the coast is verified before publication.
In the Tidal Division are discussed the tidal phenomena on such a scale that the Tide Tables of the Survey, published annually in advance, furnish the mariner with the values of the high and low tides at 3,270 ports selected from all over the world.
The Chart Construction Division comprises the drawing, engraving, electrotype, photograph, and printing sections, all engaged in the construction, maintenance, and publication of charts. The drawing section assembles and compiles all chart information received, including the results of the topographic and hydrographic work, harbor improvement surveys of the Army Engineers, surveys by local engineers, additions and changes in lights and buoys, and newly discovered rocks and other dangers. From this information new chart drawings are prepared for engraving or photolithography and old charts are brought up to date. The engraving section engraves the new charts on copper plates and makes the corrections required on existing plates. The electrotype section reproduces the engraved copper plates for printing plates, so that worn printing plates can be replaced by new ones. The photograph section makes negatives for those charts published by photolithography, makes photographic copies of original surveys required by other departments and the courts, and etches on copper some of the new charts. The printing section prints from copper plates and by photolithography over 140,000 charts a year.
The Instrument Division constructs instruments when necessary, and makes repairs. Some of the instruments made for the use of the Survey have been adopted by other nations for national work. One of the late achievements is the construction of the most effective tidal predicting machine in existence. This machine takes into account 3 of the tidal influencing components, and is capable of producing a year's record of predictions of the daily high and low waters for a port in less than ten hours, an undertaking not possible by direct computation using 100 computers.
The Tidal Research Section of the Office deals with all matters of research relating to tides and currents and to physical hydrography.
The annual report of the Superintendent of the Survey gives an account of activities which are of value to the mariner, the hydrographer, the surveyor, the engineer, the landowner, and the physicist, and forms a record which covers the practical needs of navigation and makes a national contribution to the knowledge of the dimensions and configuration of the globe.
A more extended description of the organization and functions of the Survey will be found in the pamphlet entitled "The United States Coast and Geodetic Survey: Description of its Work, Methods, and Organization," which those interested may obtain on application.