Exceedingly rare and highly detailed British Admiralty Chart of Sitka, Alaska and environs, based upon an earlier chart by the Russian Sea Captain Ivan Vasilyev.
This exceptional chart shows one of the earliest obtainable scientifically drawn surveys of the area around Sitka, along with soundings, sailing channels, anchorages and the details of the Indian Village, Monastery, Observatory and Russian settlement. With the exception of the inset map in Gavrill Andreevich Sarychev's Karta zaliva Chiniatskago, nakhodiaschagosia pri Ostrovie Kad'iake, so vkodom v pavlovskuiu gavan' k eleniiu Rosiisko Amerckansko Kompanii, published in St. Petersburg in 1826 we know of no other charts which treat Sitka in such detail. vilda.alaska.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/cdmg11/id/10691/rec/1 . Duflot du Mofras also published a smaller map of Sitka and New Archangel in 1844: /gallery/detail/17412
Originally settled by the Russians in 1799 and occupied by Alexandr Baranov, the Governor of American Russia, which was then primarily a venture of the Russian-American Company, the Russian settlers were run out of Sitka by native Tlingit, before returning in 1804 and engaging the Tlingit in what would become known as the Battle of Sitka. Sitka became the capital of Russian America in 1808. The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael was constructed in 1848, becoming the seat of the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands and Alaska. Sitka was perhaps the most important port on the West Coast of North America during the first half of the 19th Century, before being supplanted by San Francisco following the start of the Gold Rush in 1849.
Ivan Vasilyev was a Russian explorer and navigator, working for the Russian Imperial Navy. His first major command was with Leonty Andrianovich Gagemeister on ship Neva, which explored the coasts of Alaska and the North Pacific in 1806. Vasilyev explored the Alexander Archipelago and the many coastal Islands in the area. Later, in 1809, Vasilyev surveyed the western shore of Baranof Island. Mt. Verstovia was named in 1809 by Vasilyev. Redoubt Lake was originally named Ozero Glubokoye, meaning "deep lake", in 1809 Vasilyev.
Vasilief Bank, near Sitka, Alaska and Vasilief Rock in Kodiak Island were named after Ivan Vasilyev. There were two other well regarded Russian Naval officers named Vasilyev, including Mikhail Vasilyev, whose "Remarks on California" (from Fragments of Draft Notes on the round-the-world voyage of the sloops Otkrytie and Blagonamerenny in 1819-1822), is an important source of information on Russian California.
The chart is of the utmost rarity. OCLC locates only the copy in the British Library. The Library of Congress website notes a facsimile copy of this chart at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which also holds an 1862 edition of this chart.
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.