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Description

Rare separately published sea chart illustrating a portion of Magellan's Strait.

The map covers the northeastern entrance to the the Strait.

The Third Surveying Voyage to the Straits of Magellan, by Captain Mayne, 1866-9

A generation after King and FitzRoy's surveys, the Admiralty decided that it required more detailed bathymetric soundings in the eastern part of the Straits and further exploration of the fjords on the western side of the passage. In 1866, they selected the Captain Richard Charles Mayne to lead the endeavor. Mayne was uniquely qualified, having previously surveyed the heavily indented and mountainous coastlines of British Columbia, an area that bore geographic similarity to the southern reaches of Patagonia.

Upon hearing of the Mayne's assignment, Charles Darwin requested that the Admiralty instruct Mayne to collect fossil bones of extinct species that were known to be found along the shorelines of Tierra de Fuego. While Darwin himself had collected fossils on these shores decades previously, since then Admiral Sir Bartholomew Sulivan had discovered bones that were far more significant specimens, and belonged to a more ancient era than Darwin's finds. Mayne showed great enthusiasm for this aspect of his mandate, and one of Darwin's protégés, Robert Oliver Cunningham, was assigned to join the mission.

From 1866 to 1869, Mayne's crew, aboard the HMS Nassau, exactingly charted the waters of the Straits of Magellan. The present 1871 chart of the straits, in comparison to its 1837 predecessor, features far more copious soundings in the critical eastern passage of the strait, as well as more refined shoreline conventions throughout the waters. An inscription, which appears in the upper left center of the chart, notes that Mayne also conducted new and important surveys of the Smyth Channel area, near where the straits enter the Pacific.

Mayne's mission was considered a great all-around success. Upon his return to London, he produced this chart that would become the definitive map of the Straits for the coming decades. Consequentially, the bones and fossils collected by Cunningham and Mayne were instrumental in refining Darwin's theories on evolution. These specimens are now preserved at the Museum of Natural History in London.

Robert Charles Mayne (1835-1892) was one of the most important British hydrographers working in the Pacific in the mid-19th century. He came from a family of distinguished jurists and law-enforcement officers, and his father was the first commissioner of the London's Metropolitan Police. He joined the Royal Navy at a young age and received advanced training in hydrographic surveying. From 1856-60, Mayne conducted the first systematic coastal survey of Vancouver Island and parts of British Columbia's mainland. His charts were widely admired and his book, Four Years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island (1862), is considered a classic source on the early history of the colony. In 1862, Mayne was promoted to command the HMS Eclipse, which participated in the native wars in New Zealand. Severely wounded in battle, he was sent back to England to recuperate. Upon his recovery, in 1866, he was selected by the Admiralty to lead a high-profile mission to map and explore the natural history of the Straits of Magellan region, resulting in the present chart. Mayne was eventually promoted to Admiral, and towards the end of his life, served as an MP for the Welsh constituency of Pembroke.

Rarity

The present chart is very rare, we are not aware of another example of this edition appearing on the market during the last 25 years, and WorldCat does not cite this edition.

Condition Description
Dissected and laid on linen, with original covers.
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.