British Challenger Expedition
is often heralded as the beginnings of modern oceanography. That expedition
was a defining moment in the science of oceanography; but the United
States had a thriving oceanographic heritage extending back to the
Eighteenth Century observations of the Gulf Stream by American whaling
captains and the subsequent mapping of that great river of the sea
by Benjamin Franklin.
Gulf Stream studies were continued in the Nineteenth Century by Alexander
Dallas Bache, Franklin's grandson. Bache, the second Superintendent
of the Coast Survey, developed the framework for the modern oceanographic
cruise when he wrote the following instructions for Gulf Stream studies
"First. What are the limits of the Gulf Stream on this part of
the coast of the United States, at the surface and below the surface?
"Second. Are they constant or variable, do they change with the season,
with the prevalent and different winds; what is the effect of greater
or less quantities of ice in the vicinity?
"Third. How may they best be recognized, by the temperature at the
surface or below the surface, by soundings, by the character of the
bottom, by peculiar forms of vegetable or animal life, by meteorology,
by the saltness of the water?
"Fourth. What are the directions and velocities of the currents in
this Stream and adjacent to it at the surface, below the surface,
and to what variations are they subject?"
an adjunct to the first set of questions, he issued an additional
set of instructions:
"(1) determine the temperature at the surface and at different
depths; (2) the depth of water; (3) the character of the bottom; (4)
the direction and velocity of the currents at the surface and at different
depths; (5) as far as practicable notice the forms of vegetable and
as a whole, Bache's instructions encompass physical, chemical, geological,
and biological oceanography. He also touched on the interaction of
meteorology and oceanography. Since 1845, instruments have evolved
and new theories have been developed. However, the underlying philosophy
of observation and parameters to be observed remains the same for
today's oceanographers as they were for Bache's captains 150 years
In this album join the Coast and Geodetic oceanographers of yesteryear
as they study the Gulf Stream, discover geological and geophysical
phenomena, and develop new and better methods of studying the World
ocean. Work with the BLAKE in the Gulf Stream: the first ship to use
steel cable for deepsea dredging; the first ship to anchor in the
deepsea; and the ship from which the first modern bathymetric surveys
were conducted. Visit with the old OCEANOGRAPHER as it builds on radio
acoustic ranging experience and hosts Maurice Ewing for his first
offshore seismic reflection experiments; sail with the PIONEER as
it conducts the great magnetic survey of the West Coast in the 1950's
that discovered magnetic striping of the seafloor; work with Harris
B. Stewart, the first chief oceanographer of the Coast and Geodetic
Survey, as he works in the Atlantic and Pacific on the EXPLORER and
on the PIONEER in the Indian Ocean; and work with scientists around
the world with the new OCEANOGRAPHER as it circum-navigates the Earth.
NOAA, through the Coast and Geodetic Survey as well as through its
fisheries arm, has a rich oceanographic heritage. That heritage continues
today as NOAA ships work throughout the World Ocean.