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Surveyed For The New Headquarters of the British Navy's Pacific Fleet

Rare British Admiralty Chart of Constance Cove, Esquimalt Harbour, home to the British Royal Navy's Pacific Fleet beginning in 1865 and thereafter the Canadian Royal Navy.

This is the second revised state of the map, which was first surveyed in 1858 and the first edition of the map printed in 1864, with revisions in February and March of 1865, as the British Royal Navy began to complete its relocation from Valparaiso, Chile, to Constance Cove. The Boundary of the Admiralty Lands are shown, as are the recently constructed Naval Hospital, Boat House, Naval Stores and other recently constructed naval facilities. Thetis Island also appears, named for one of the first British naval ships to arrive to the region in 1852. Forsters Pier is also shown, along with the Road to Victoria.

The first Europeans to reach Esquimalt were the Spanish expedition of Manuel Quimper in the Princesa Real in 1790, with Gonzalo López de Haro and Juan Carrasco. Quimper entered and carefully mapped Esquimalt Harbor. Quimper claimed the region for Spain and placed a wooden cross on a hill. When the Spanish returned later that summer the cross had vanished. In 1792 Captain George Vancouver extensively explored the region. Following resolution of the Nootka Crisis, control of the region went to the British and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC).

In 1843, near the height of the Oregon question, the HBC was looking for a new location for its Pacific base of operations. John McLoughlin, the company's chief factor at Fort Vancouver, ordered James Douglas to build a new fort on Vancouver Island. Douglas liked Esquimalt Harbor, but chose a spot on the eastern shore of Victoria Harbor at the mouth of the Gorge Inlet. He called it Fort Camosun, but later renamed it Fort Victoria in honor of the British Queen.

Ships continued to use Esquimalt Harbour to load and offload passengers and supplies. In 1852, sailors from a British naval ship, HMS Thetis, built a trail through the forest linking Esquimalt Harbour with Victoria Harbor.

The Hudson's Bay Company decided to try farming and Douglas leased all of Vancouver Island for seven shillings a year from Great Britain, and had a division of the HBC, the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, come in to develop the land. The Viewfield farm was the first in 1850, with the Constance Cove farm and Craigflower farms added later. By the mid-1860s, the farms were considered failures and abandoned, and the property sold off in small parcels.

In 1855, the British Royal Navy constructed three hospital buildings on the harbor to treat casualties of the Crimean War. A small settlement grew up on the water's edge near the naval installation. But in 1858, the discovery of gold on the Fraser River triggered a massive influx of people, who came to Fort Victoria to buy permits and supplies before setting out for the mainland.

In 1865, the British Royal Navy relocated the headquarters of its Pacific fleet from Valparaíso, Chile, to the Esquimalt Harbor. In 1887, a military base was located at Work Point. In 1905, the Royal Navy abandoned the area, but the Pacific base of the new Royal Canadian Navy replaced it in 1910.


OCLC locates a single copy of the 1864 first state of the map (British Library) and a photocopy of the 1867 edition of the chart (University of British Columbia).

British Admiralty Biography

The British Admiralty has produced nautical charts since 1795 under the auspices of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (HO). Its main task was to provide the Royal Navy with navigational products and service, but since 1821 it has also sold charts to the public.

In 1795, King George III appointed Alexander Dalrymple, a pedantic geographer, to consolidate, catalogue, and improve the Royal Navy’s charts. He produced the first chart as the Hydrographer to the Admiralty in 1802. Dalrymple, known for his sticky personality, served until his death in 1808, when he was succeeded by Captain Thomas Hurd. The HO has been run by naval officers ever since.

Hurd professionalized the office and increased its efficiency. He was succeeded by the Arctic explorer Captain William Parry in 1823. By 1825, the HO was offering over seven hundred charts and views for sale. Under Parry, the HO also began to participate in exploratory expeditions. The first was a joint French-Spanish-British trip to the South Atlantic, a voyage organized in part by the Royal Society of London.

In 1829, Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort was appointed Hydrographer Royal. Under his management, the HO introduced the wind force scale named for him, as well as began issuing official tide tables (1833). It was under Beaufort that HMS Beagle completed several surveying missions, including its most famous voyage commanded by Captain FitzRoy with Charles Darwin onboard. When Beaufort retired in 1855, the HO had nearly two thousand charts in its catalog.

Later in the nineteenth century, the HO supported the Challenger expedition, which is credited with helping to found the discipline of oceanography. The HO participated in the International Meridian Conference which decided on the Greenwich Meridian as the Prime Meridian. Regulation and standardization of oceanic and navigational measures continued into the twentieth century, with the HO participating at the first International Hydrographic Organization meeting in 1921.

During World War II, the HO chart making facility moved to Taunton, the first purpose-built building it ever inhabited. In 1953, the first purpose-built survey ship went to sea, the HMS Vidal. Today, there is an entire class of survey vessels that make up the Royal Navy’s Hydrographic Squadron. The HO began to computerize their charts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968, the compilation staff also came to Taunton, and the HO continues to work from there today.