Archive for the ‘History’ Category
By Linda Joy, NOAA Communications and External Affairs
In April 1935, George Marsh, an unassuming engineer employed by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, took a photo in the course of his work during a Texas surveying mission. Not having Facebook or other social media tools at hand, he put the photo in an album and stored it away. He could not have known that many decades later, thanks to the NOAA Library and the Internet, his photo would eventually reach millions of people around the globe.
The now famous photo captured boiling dust clouds about to swallow a homestead during the Dust Bowl’s infamous Black Sunday storm.
USC&GS engineer George Marsh took this photo of a Texas dust storm in 1935.
Upon Marsh’s death in 1955, relatives gave his album to the Coast and Geodetic Survey, which in 1970 became part of NOAA. There it remained in a file cabinet until 1994 when slides of the original photo were created. Three years later, the slides were digitized. Then the inevitable happened. The NOAA Library made the image freely available over the Internet through its online NOAA Photo Library where publishers, news outlets, historians, educators, students and many others discovered it.
A recent NOAA Library analysis shows that the photo has been published in works in 25 languages, 39 countries, and on more than 1,000 websites. It also blasted into space on a communications satellite on Nov. 12, 2012, along with 99 other photos selected by artist Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures project. Paglen intends the images, etched on a disc, to serve as a cultural archive and to last well longer than human civilization.
Marsh’s photo was one of three that Paglen selected from the NOAA Photo Library. The space project prompted NOAA librarian Albert “Skip” Theberge to do an analysis of the Photo Library’s reach.
“I selected Marsh’s photograph for tracking as its use emanated from only one possible root – that being its digitization and posting to the Internet in the very first version of the NOAA Photo Library in late 1997,” Theberge explains. It had never been published in either a scientific journal or any book, popular magazine, or other media prior to its posting on the Internet via the NOAA Photo Library.
“Fortunately, Marsh was a keen observer of the world about him and on Black Sunday, April 14, 1935, he took a photo of a dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas. A white house is seen on the right of the image and two people stand in the middle distance, seemingly mesmerized by the boiling mass of dust and sand approaching their little town. I felt that the photo had historical significance and merited further preservation.” Theberge says. The image is actually labeled April 18, but Theberge believes Marsh erred in labeling the date.
Theberge devoted about 80 hours of detective work last November to finding how many times and where the image has been used. Among his findings:
- USA Today has used the image four times.
- It has been published in 24 books.
- Among the more than 1,000 websites that have posted the image are 214 blogs, 134 news sites, 129 photo sites, 91 educational sites, 67 political sites, 41 government sites, 20 sites on religion, philosophy and self-help, and 17 music sites.
- The photo has been shared on social media, including 51 posts on Pinterest.
“Although you would predict that the photo would be used primarily for either climate discussions or Dust Bowl history sites, what I discovered was an astounding variety of uses of the image,” Theberge says. Since he concluded his analysis last year, he has found the Marsh image posted on even more sites. “It will never be possible to state definitively how many times it has been used or how many people have seen it.”
Besides the Marsh dust bowl photo, the NOAA Photo Library and its sister site on the social media photo sharing website Flickr today have nearly 60,000 images online. These resources and the power of imagery have helped spread NOAA’s work, discoveries and heritage worldwide.
Last week we blogged about the Civil War sailors whose remains were being interred at Arlington National Cemetery on March 8. The funeral, for unknown sailors who were lost when the USS Monitor capsized, was solemn and stirring, and reflected the nation’s great esteem for our fallen patriots. The unknown sailors were lost along with 14 of their shipmates when Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., on Dec. 31, 1862.
All 16 sailors will be memorialized on a group marker in section 46 of the cemetery, which is between the amphitheater and the USS Maine Mast memorial.
Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, Coast Survey’s director, was honored to represent NOAA in the officer escort for the caissons. Glang and Rear Admiral Anthony Kurta (USN) served as Escort Commanders, and were joined by Capt. Gary Clore (Navy Chaplain) and Cmdr. Nathaniel Standquist (U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard), as the nation paid a final tribute.
Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, acting NOAA administrator, spoke at the chapel service preceding the procession and burial. (See NOAA: Remains of USS Monitor sailors interred for highlights of Dr. Sullivan’s remarks.)
Thanks to public affairs officers David Hall (NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations) and Lt. Lauryn Dempsey (U.S. Navy), we are able to provide a photographic montage of the burial ceremony.
After a moving memorial service in the Fort Meyer Chapel, the caskets are transferred for the funeral procession. (Photo: Lt. Lauryn Dempsey, U.S. Navy)
Casket teams position the caskets on the caissons, while the escort team salutes. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
Members of the elite Caisson platoon at Fort Myer draw the caissons to the burial site. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
Capt. Gary Clore (Navy Chaplain); Rear Admiral Anthony Kurta (USN); Rear Admiral Gerd Glang (NOAA); and Cmdr. Nathaniel Standquist (U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard). (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
- The funeral procession arrives at the burial site. (Photo credit: David Hall, NOAA)
After the graveside religious service, casket teams remove the flags from the coffins. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
Folding the flags. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
A final moment. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
On Friday, March 8, a NOAA Corps admiral will have the honor of doing something extraordinary. Coast Survey’s director, Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, will be the NOAA Escort Flag Officer for the full honors funeral of two unknown sailors who went down with the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor in 1862. Rear Adm. Glang will join Rear Adm. Anthony Kurta, U.S. Navy, as the two officers escort the caissons during the somber event at Arlington National Cemetery.
The interment will be open to the public.
Facial reconstruction of the two sailors found in the Monitor’s turret (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gina K. Morrissette)
The Monitor sank southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, during a New Year’s Eve storm, carrying 16 crew members to their deaths.
The wreck was discovered in 1973, and confirmed in 1974 by John Newton and a team from Duke University. The ironclad was lying upside down with the turret separated from the hull, resting in 230 feet of water approximately 16 miles off Cape Hatteras. In the late 1990s through 2002, experts recovered iconic Monitor artifacts, which are now conserved at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia. Two skeletons were discovered in 2002 when the turret was raised from the seafloor, and efforts to identify the remains have been unsuccessful so far.
To protect this national treasure, Congress created the nation’s first national marine sanctuary. The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1975.
The U.S. Coast Survey was intricately involved in the Civil War, creating the Slave Density Map, making thousands of copies of maps and charts for the war effort, embedding with the Armies and supporting naval operations, writing and distributing Notes on the Coast (which were essential for the blockades), and documenting the war’s successes and failures. Coast Survey had no involvement with the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack (or Virginia), but NOAA historian Albert Theberge tells us that the unpublished autobiography of Joseph Smith Harris, a Coast Surveyor and future railroad magnate of the late 19th century, has an interesting story…
Harris was assigned as the officer-in-charge of the Coast Survey steamer Uncas, which was supposed to be Admiral Farragut’s primary Coast Survey vessel during the bombardment of Fort Jackson and subsequent attack on New Orleans. The Uncas left New York in late February 1862 but had to put into Hampton Roads because of storms and low coal. It was determined at that time that the Uncas was not seaworthy, so Coast Survey secured a second vessel. That vessel, the Sachem, left New York, apparently in company with the Monitor, on March 4, 1862, for Hampton Roads.
The trip was exceedingly stormy. Harris writes:
“Her [Sachem's] captain, a former merchantman, told me of their voyage down… On their way down, probably on the night of March 4th, the Monitor telegraphed to the Sachem to come and take off the crew as the vessel was sinking. Just then the band which encircled the head of the Sachem’s rudder slipped, and the vessel became unmanageable. It took perhaps an hour to secure it, and when the Sachem was laid along side the Monitor, it appeared that the panic was past. A heavy sea had gone down the smokestack, the gas forced out from the furnace had overpowered the engineer and the assistant engineer, and left the engine in the hands of a young man just making his first voyage who became badly scared. By the time an hour had passed the fear had passed too, and they were willing to try their fate further, but the Captain told me that if the rudder band had held the Monitor probably would have been abandoned that night. On how small occurrences great events turn! In that case the Merrimack would have had no competent antagonist, and the Government might have lost control of Hampton Roads. The Captain, whose name I immediately forgot, seemed like a reliable person and I have no doubt he told me the truth.”
Theberge explains that “Harris was not one to embellish his stories, as is shown by his description of what he saw in Hampton Roads” during the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. “Although Harris reported that he entered Roads on the night of March 9, he apparently erred in his date” as he reports:
“We headed about for Hampton Roads which we reached early on the evening of March 9th. [Theberge points out that this had to have been March 8.] We noticed during the latter part of the night a bright light evidently from a fire ahead and supposed a barn was burning, but it turned out to be the U.S. frigate Congress, set on fire by the C.S. steamer Merrimack, and in the morning about 8:00 A.M. we saw firing from vessels a few miles to the S.E., which I thought was artillery practice of our own vessels, but which was the battle between the Monitor and Merrimack…”
Tomorrow’s interment of the two unknown sailors from the Monitor represents the nation’s enduring commitment to our men and women who serve in uniform. We are proud that Rear Adm. Glang will represent NOAA, the NOAA Corps, the National Ocean Service and Coast Survey in honoring the memory of fallen comrades at sea.
Coast Survey Civil War Collection
War Record of J.W. Donn
Coast Survey and Army Operations during the Civil War
As the scientific federal office that has provided the nation’s navigational charts and services for two centuries, we probably shouldn’t offer (strictly personal) reviews of the (absolutely phenomenal and deeply moving) movie, “Lincoln.” However, after seeing the movie this weekend, we would be remiss if we failed to note the (gorgeous) set designs that show the walls of the White House Cabinet Room and war offices covered with U.S. Coast Survey maps.
Especially prominent, over the shoulder of (marvelous) actor Daniel Day-Lewis, playing the (brilliant and compassionate) Lincoln, was the slave density map that influenced public opinion in the North and guided many of Lincoln’s military decisions, and the map of the State of Virginia.
Those maps, and hundreds more, can be explored in the special historical collection of maps, charts, and documents prepared by the U.S. Coast Survey during the war years. The collection, “Charting a More Perfect Union,” contains over 400 documents and is available free to the public.
U.S. Coast Survey was essential to the Union cause
President Thomas Jefferson established the Survey of the Coast in 1807 to produce the nautical charts necessary for maritime safety, defense, and the establishment of national boundaries. By 1860, the United States Coast Survey was the government’s leading scientific agency. Teams of men were surveying coastlines, determining land elevations, and producing maps and nautical charts for an expanding nation experiencing growing trade relationships between states and with other countries.
Under Coast Survey Superintendent Alexander Bache, the agency was quick to apply its resources to the war effort. In addition to setting up additional lithographic presses to produce the thousands of charts required by the Navy and other vessels in government service, Bache made a critical decision to send Coast Survey parties to work with blockading squadrons and Armies in the field. Bache detailed these activities in his annual reports to Congress.
U.S. Coast Survey cartographer Edwin Hergesheimer created the 1861 map showing the density of slave population in the Southern states.
Bache was also one of four members of the Union’s blockade board, planning strategy to essentially strangle the South, economically and militarily. On April 16, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring the blockade of ports from South Carolina to Texas. Bache’s Notes on the Coast provided valuable information for Union naval forces.
In the centuries before Google Earth, maps in wartime had special military significance. As Bache pointed out in his annual report, on Nov 7, 1862:
“It is certain that accurate maps must form the basis of well-conducted military operations, and that the best time to procure them is not when an attack is impending, or when the army waits, but when there is no hindrance to, or pressure upon, the surveyors. That no coast can be effectively attacked, defended, or blockaded without accurate maps and charts, has been fully proved by the events of the last two years, if, indeed, such a proposition required practical proof.”
Today, the Office of Coast Survey still meets its maritime responsibilities as a part of NOAA, surveying America’s coast and producing the nation’s nautical charts. To honor its legacy and to inform the public, Coast Survey maintains a digital Historical Map & Chart Collection, with over 30,000 maps and charts from 1747 to 2009. The collection also maintains historical Coast Pilots.
The “Charting a More Perfect Union” project was supported by the NOAA Preserve America Initiative, part of Preserve America, a federal initiative to preserve, protect and promote our nation’s rich heritage.
As NOAA strives to meet the present and future navigational needs of the maritime transportation system, it is sometimes helpful ‒ not to mention inspirational ‒ to look back at history. Coast Survey has an amazing history that isn’t well known. It is a quiet history of men and women who led the country’s mapping and charting advancements in the centuries since Thomas Jefferson authorized the Survey of the Coast in 1807.
Coast Survey maintains a publicly accessible Historical Maps and Charts Collection, with about 35,000 images that anyone can download and print. For history buffs, searching through the images is a great way to find images related to your area of interest. Exploring the charts, one can almost develop personal relationships with the individual Coast Survey assistants and cartographers who produced some truly beautiful work. (Check out the Civil War Special Collection to find some especially intriguing maps, including the pivotal 1861 map showing the density of slave population in the Southern states.) Or you can spend some quality time browsing through little-known sketches and maps in the historical collection maintained by the NOAA Central Library.
This close-up of the Kohklux map shows how Davidson used English spelling to “sound out” the Native names of features. (See the full map in Coast Survey’s Historical Map and Chart Collection.)
The U.S. Coast Survey (which became the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1878, and was eventually one of the founding agencies within NOAA) has a unique heritage of scientific exploration and innovation. The exploits of George Davidson and others in 1860s Alaska is especially fascinating as we now look north to a new century of work in the Arctic. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology recently published an article by John Cloud in its magazine, Expeditions. The Tlingit Map of 1869: A Masterwork of Indigenous Cartography, linked here with the permission of Penn Museum, explains how Davidson set the tone for Coast Survey’s early sensitivity to the importance of preserving Indian names on maps ‒ especially, in this case, of a map drawn by Tlingit clan leader Kohklux and his wives.
Cloud further expounds on the discovery of Davidson’s maps in a recent radio interview with KCAW Radio, linked at Alaskan cartography influenced by Native mapmakers.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the United States, James Tilghman has written about Coast Survey superintendent Alexander Bache and assistant Ferdinand Gerdes, and the efforts to survey the Florida Reef in the 1850s. “If the enormity of the undertaking is the overarching story of the survey,” Tilghman writes, “it was equally remarkable for the budding science, hydrographic breakthroughs and creative solutions that enabled it.” Hydro International July/August 2012 has published the absorbing article, Surveying the Florida Reef.
Tilghman points out that “not all credit goes to the hydrography, but by the turn of the century wrecks on the reef were down 90 percent and wrecking was fast becoming a distant memory.” That quiet history, and the newly discovered connections to Alaskan cartography, speaks volumes about the heritage, and continuing promise, of NOAA’s navigation program contributions to preserving life and property along U.S. coastal waters.
The United States Coast Pilot®, originally called the American Coast Pilot, has been published for over 200 years. This set of sailing directions for U.S. coastal waters has kept millions of mariners safe from perils at sea. Last week, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey unveiled yet another improvement to the nine-volume set geared to modern mariners who need updated information as soon as it becomes available.
Anyone can now access PDF versions of the United States Coast Pilot that are updated weekly. The volumes, and the list of corrections or updates applied each week, are available for free on the NOAA Coast Survey website. For those who don’t want to print corrected pages (or the entire volume!) on their home printer, the most up-to-date volumes are also available as Print-on-Demand products from some commercial vendors. (The traditionalists among us will still be able to purchase the hard copy printed annually.)
Coast Pilot has one of the longest publishing records in U.S. history.
Edmund March Blunt published the first American Coast Pilot in 1796. Blunt’s Coast Pilot was not the first book of sailing directions, or even the first such book concerning American waters. However, it was the first book of American sailing directions published in the United States.
The U.S. Coast Survey, an early predecessor to NOAA, had the knowledge, the capacity, and, one could argue, a responsibility to ensure the timeliness and accuracy of sailing directions for U.S. coastal waters. The agency published its version of sailing directions in George Davidson’s Directory for the Pacific Coast of the United States, as Appendix No. 44 in the 1858 annual report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey Showing the Progress of the Survey.
From Notes on the Coast of the United States, Coast of South Carolina, page 14.
In 1861, as the federal government prepared for naval action for the Civil War, the U.S. Coast Survey assembled the Notes on the Coast of the United States, secret documents used by the Union Blockade Board. The 1857 edition of the American Coast Pilot was available for the war effort but, as John Cloud points out in The U.S. Coast Survey in the Civil War, it “assisted the mariner in getting from here to there. The Coast Survey needed a guide detailing why one would want to go there in the first place, and what the strategic significance of there was.” The Notes series, covering the Delaware Bay to the Mississippi Sound on the Gulf Coast, contributed to the efficacy of the Union blockading squadrons. The volumes were handwritten, in an effort to avoid disclosure to any Confederate sympathizers who may have been working with the printing presses.
In 1867, the United States government bought the copyright to Blunt’s American Coast Pilot, then in its 21st edition.
U.S. Coast Pilot modernizes its update capabilities.
Fast forward through the next 145 years. Today, United States Coast Pilot users can be their own printers if they wish, and they have an easier way to keep track of changes. The “Weekly Record of Updates” (now preceding the index) provides a quick reference and cumulative listing of all affected paragraphs revised at the time of download. It also serves as a record for future hand corrections. To serve you better, we have also made it easier to self-correct the printed Coast Pilot. In the past, updates identified only those lines of a particular paragraph that required revision. Now, we will replace the entire paragraph that contains the change, as explained here.
To increase efficiency and timeliness, Coast Pilot updates will only be posted here on the Coast Survey website. They will no longer be included in the Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners.
Coast Survey has thoroughly tested this new Coast Pilot update system. While the changes are substantial improvements for navigation safety, we realize that customers are accustomed to the traditional books and updates. If you have questions or comments, we’d like to hear from you.