Finely executed chart of Catalina Harbor and Isthmus, prepared by the US Coast Survey, with a profile view and soundings.
Surveyed under the command of James Alden. View by WB McMurtrie. Includes sailing directions and notes.
Catalina's Isthmus is created by two coves separated by approximately a half mile of land. The leeward cove is known as Isthmus Cove and the windward cove as Catalina Harbor. For thousands of years the Isthmus was the site of a large Native Islander village and the center of their religious community. By the 1860s, smuggling and mining operations for silver, lead and zinc took place in the area. In 1864, during the Civil War, the Union Army sent soldiers to both protect the area from Confederate privateers and survey the Isthmus for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a location for a future Indian reservation. Company C of the Fourth Infantry built barracks at the Isthmus and spent a total of nine months on the Island surveying the land and maintaining their post. All interest in the Island was later abandoned, but the barracks were left behind and are in use today as headquarters for the Isthmus Yacht Club. The barracks stand as the most western Civil War site in America, and the oldest structure on the Island.
Several movies have been filmed at Catalina Harbor, dating back to the turn of the century. The most notable film was the 1926 production of Old Ironsides, were the south point of the Harbor (near Pin Rock) was turned into the port of Tripoli with the construction of giant sets. Several of this films left behind the burned out and blown up hulks used in the making of the movie. There are at least six known wrecks in the Harbor.
The United States Office of the Coast Survey began in 1807, when Thomas Jefferson founded the Survey of the Coast. However, the fledgling office was plagued by the War of 1812 and disagreements over whether it should be civilian or military controlled. The entity was re-founded in 1832 with Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler as its superintendent. Although a civilian agency, many military officers served the office; army officers tended to perform the topographic surveys, while naval officers conducted the hydrographic work.
The Survey’s history was greatly affected by larger events in American history. During the Civil War, while the agency was led by Alexander Dallas Bache (Benjamin Franklin’s grandson), the Survey provided the Union army with charts. Survey personnel accompanied blockading squadrons in the field, making new charts in the process.
After the Civil War, as the country was settled, the Coast Survey sent parties to make new maps, employing scientists and naturalists like John Muir and Louis Agassiz in the process. By 1926, the Survey expanded their purview further to include aeronautical charts. During the Great Depression, the Coast Survey employed over 10,000 people and in the Second World War the office oversaw the production of 100 million maps for the Allies. Since 1970, the Coastal and Geodetic Survey has formed part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and it is still producing navigational products and services today.