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Scarce sea chart of the Irish Channel, surveyed by famed naval Arctic and Alaskan explorer Frederick William Beechey.

Centered on the Isle of Man, the chart illustrates the most advanced charting of one of this busy and important waterway.

The map was published following Beechey's extensive survey work in the Irish Channel, which resulted in his publication of an important Tidal Chart in 1846 and this chart.

Frederick William Beechey

Frederick William Beechey (1796 – 1856) was an English naval officer, artist, explorer, hydrographer and writer.

The son of two painters, Sir William Beechey, RA and his second wife, Anne Jessop, Beechey entered the Royal Navy at the age of 10 under the command of John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent. He was promoted to midshipman on February 8 1807 and saw active service during the War of 1812. He served in the Battle of New Orleans.

In 1818, Beechey sailed on HMS Trent under Lieutenant John Franklin in David Buchan's Arctic expedition, following which he wrote an important narrative. In the following year he accompanied Lieutenant W. E. Parry in HMS Hecla, sailing as far north as Melville Island. 

In 1825, Beechey was appointed to command HMS Blossom on an expedition to explore the Bering Strait in concert with Franklin and Parry operating from the east. The whole voyage lasted more than three years, which included a visit to a Catholic mission in California in 1826.  In 1831, Beechey's Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Bering's Strait to Co-operate with the Polar Expeditions, 1825-1828 was published.

Beechey Tidal Chart of the Irish Channel dated 1846

In 1835 and '36, Captain Beechey was employed on the coast survey of South America, and from 1837 to 1847, he carried on similar work along the Irish coasts, and in the North Sea and English Channel. He carried out detailed tidal surveys during this period, which were published, with charts, in two Royal Society papers in 1848 and 1851. This was the first published work of its kind since Edmond Halley's tidal chart appeared in about 1702.

He was appointed in 1850 to preside over the Marine Department of the Board of Trade. In 1854, he was made rear admiral, and in the following year was elected president of the Royal Geographical Society.

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.