MAURY’S LOG  &

19TH CENTURY NAVIGATION

Throughout Sarah’s Journal mention is made of “readings”

taken by the captain and crew at least once a day.

These “readings” were recorded in what was known as “Maury’s Log”.

Who was Maury and how did this all come about?

Navigators of all nationalities are deeply indebted to Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury, U.S. Navy, for he first conceived the idea of exploring the winds and currents of the ocean.

Born in Virginia, Maury entered the Navy as a midshipman at the age of nineteen.

In 1830 as sailing master of the warship Falmouth, he sought information relating to winds and currents in order to make a rapid passage around Cape Horn.

Finding none, he designed his own Wind and Current Charts.

Upon his return he wrote papers and also a Treatise on Navigation which became a text-book for the pupils of the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

What Was Maury’s Idea?

After an accident that left him unable to return to sea, Lieutenant Maury was placed in charge of the Depot of Charts and Instruments at Washington, which afterwards became the National Observatory and Hydrographic Office.

Maury believed that by studying the winds and currents of the seas in different seasons he could help ships make faster and safer passages.

He attempted to get American naval and merchant ships to provide data readings so that his department could develop charts and ideal shipping routes.

However, his ideas met with opposition at first.

 

So What Did He Do Instead?

Without any recent data, Maury decided to collect and convert the data found in piles of old US Navy logbooks that were stowed away and about to be discarded.

Using this data, his team created the first Wind and Current Charts.

What Happened Next?

With the help of Maury’s charts, ships began to drastically shorten their journeys.

Time was money and people took notice.

HOW MUCH FASTER DID THEY GO?
HOW DID THE AVERAGE IMPROVE?
WHAT DID THE SEA SERPENT DO?

                                                                      MAURY’S LOG

Soon there were many followers among American sea-captains, who gave their earnest cooperation and received great benefits in return, since all who kept Maury’s Log, as it was called, were entitled to a copy of the Sailing Directions.

The captains sent their recent data to Maury so his team could continue to improve the charts.

In addition to winds and currents, they tracked

ship traffic

weather patterns

trade winds

ocean temperatures

storm and rain charts

and whale migration patterns

During the voyage in 1853, the Sea Serpent was not only the beneficiary of these charts, they were also supplying data to Maury himself.

THEN THE WHOLE WORLD GOT “ONBOARD”!

In August of 1853,  Maury organized an international conference in Brussels to present his findings. As a result, every country that attended agreed to use Maury’s Log as well.

Soon thousands of ships from all over the world were contributing data to the effort!

Maury’s Physical Geography of the Sea (1853) ran through twenty editions

and was translated into French, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, and Italian.

The world had come together to cooperate in understanding the oceans, making travel safer, faster and easier for everyone.

Read More and See Some of the Charts…
Go To Journal
Go To The Mid-1800’s