British Admiralty

British Admiralty

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.


1857 - Indian Ocean -- Sokotra Surveyed by Lieutenants S.B. Haines and I.R. Wellsted, I.N. . . . 1835

  • $21.99

A Rare Early Sea Chart of Socotra Island. Fine large format Socotra Island, published by the British Admiralty, first published in 1857. Includes large insets of Tamrida or Hadibo Bay and Ghubbet Kallansiya Regional History In 1507,Tristão da...


1890 - Tortugas Cays to Cape San Blas From The Latest United States Coast Surveys . . .

  • $21.99

Antique Sea Chart of the West Coast of Florida Centered on Tampa Bay Detailed sea chart of Florida's West Coast, from St. Andrews Bay and Apalachicola Bay to Chatham Bay and the Florida Keys. The coverage of the Keys extends from Cay Vaccas, Boot Cay...


1861 - Entrance of Brazos River From The United States Preliminary Coast Survey 1858

  • $14.99

Extremely rare British Admiralty Sea Chart of the Mouth of the Brazos River, first surveyed by the US Coast Survey in 1858. The mouth of the river includes the towns of Velasco and Quintana, including an Observation Station and PIlots Range and...


1897 - Galveston Entrance From the latest United States Government Chart. . . .

  • $14.99

Galveston in the Year of The Great Hurricane (1900) Scarce separately published map of the area around Galveston, Texas, published by the British Admiralty. The coding at the bottom left of the map suggest this is the third revision in 1900, and...


1858 - San Diego Bay to Cape Mendocino From United States Coast Surveys To 1885 . . .

  • $21.99

Fine large British sea chart of the Coast of California, improved to 1897, with small corrections to 1925. The chart tracks the coast of California, showing over over 30 light houses and lights, meticulous soundings and sailing directions. Early rail...


1879 - Cape San Lucas to San Diego Bay with the Gulf of California Chiefly from the Surveys of Commander G. Dewey & Officers of the United States Ship Narrangansett 1873-5 with corrections to 1895

  • $21.99

Large Sea Chart of Baja California and the Sea of Cortez / Gulf of California A fine example of the British Admiralty chart of Baja California and the Gulf of California, first engraved and published from London in 1879, and updated numerous times...


1928 - San Diego Bay to Conception Point Including Santa Cruz and Adjacent Islands . . . 1883. with corrections to 1926

  • $21.99

Fine large British sea chart of the Southern California Coastline, published in 1928, with small corrections to 1957. The chart extends from San Diego to Point Conception and Arguello Point, centered on Santa Monica and the LA Basin. Offshore islands...


1886 - [Pacific Northwest] Cape Mendocino to Vancouver Id. From Cape Flattery Southward, From The United States to 1886, with corrections and additions to 1920 . . .

  • $21.99

This is a detailed navigational chart showing the whole of the Pacific Northwest, stretching from northern California to southern British Columbia. Many minor coastal and riverine towns are labeled, including some that would become major cities, such...


1928 - Columbia River (Entrance to Harrington Point) From United States Government Charts of 1925. with additions and corrections to 1928.

  • $21.99

Extremely detailed chart of the mouth of the Columbia River, between the states of Oregon and Washington. The map covers the north and south shore of the Columbia as it exits into the Pacific Ocean. On the north shore, the towns of Ilwaco, Holman, and...


1882 - Juan de Fuca Strait to Strait of Georgia Surveyed by Captn. G.H. Richards, H.M.S. Plumper, 1858-9... additions to 1899

  • $21.99

Excellent British Admiralty chart of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, focusing on the San Juan Islands, and also showing Victoria and Vancouver B.C. The chart was originally published in 1882 and was updated numerous times to 1924. Despite the fact that...


1900 - Approach to Juan de Fuca Strait . . . From The Latest Admiralty Surveys, 1883, with additions and corrections from United States Government Charts to 1899

  • $21.99

Scarce working sea chart of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and contiguous regions, published by the British Admiralty. The map extends from Flores Island and Sydney Inlet in the northwest to Cape Flattery and New Dungeness in the south. with Victoria, and...


1855 - Sitka or New Arkhangel From A Russian Plan By Captn. Yassiieff. 1850

  • $14.99

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...


1897 - Port Simpson To Port McArthur including the Inner Channels and Prince of Wales Island from the Latest United States and British Surveys . . . 1907

  • $14.99

Detailed map of the southernmost part of Alaska, centered on Ketchikan and extending to the Alaska-Canada Border, north to Thorne Island and east to Mt. Gladstone (BC). As noted in George Davidson's The Alaska Boundary (1903) discussing an earlier...


1843 - The Sandwich Islands From Various But Imperfect Sources

  • $14.99

Highly Detailed and Scarce Admiralty Chart of Hawaii Fine, thorough chart of Hawaii first published in 1843 and revised to 1871. The present chart includes inset maps of "Hilo or Byron Bay" by C.R. Malden in 1825. It also includes Kairua Bay...


1881 - Sandwich Islands Chiefly from a Trigonometric Survey in progress by the Hawaiian Government to 1885

  • $21.99

Fine and Rare Admiralty Chart of the Sandwich Islands from the First Government Survey of Hawaii Good example of Admiralty chart of the Hawaiians Islands, then known as the Sandwich Islands, with input from the first trigonometric survey of the...


1901 - [Pearl Harbor] Pearl River and Lochs From The United States Government Plan of 1899 . . .

  • $21.99

Finely detailed chart of the Pearl River and "Lochs", illustrating the environs of Pearl Harbor, published by the British Admiralty. First issued in 1901, this chart includes major revisions to 1920 and smaller revisions to 1931. The use of the term...