Matthew F. Maury and the Pilot Charts in the 21st Century
Will be interesting to see how the Navy handles Maury’s work on the pilot charts in the future. The naming commission correctly recommends striking his name from vessels and buildings for siding with the Confederacy.
But his efforts at the pre-Civil War observatory are duly noted in a new book on the variable sailing conditions at different times over the year over time.
The charts proved invaluable to international trade, maritime safety, and establishing the United States as a force in studying the seas and atmosphere.
Let’s be clear, there is no question Maury promoted slavery’s expansion as most evident in the explorations of the Amazon in his pre-war career and certainly accepting a commission in the Confederate Navy demonstrated his commitment to “take up arms against” the United States says those moves are appropriate.
During the war and immediately after it, the Naval Observatory superintendents — longtime Maury antagonists for years, vigorously began purging his name from records, downplaying his contributions or attributing to technology faster and safer transit times.
From an excerpt of Elliot Rappaport’s “Reading the Glass” excerpted in Literary Hub.
“Mariners step away from the daily exigencies of weather and into the world of climate when they lay out plans for future voyages. How challenging might one expect the sailing conditions to be, on a given ocean at a certain time of year? Will the winds be favorable? And how likely is it that a hurricane will come along and turn a carefully laid plan on end?
Much of this information is embedded in a fascinating publication called the pilot chart—a bundled sheaf of pages showing, month by month, the historical trends of wind and storms for each ocean. You don’t navigate on these charts, but their distinct iconography will tell you what your ship might expect once the harbor is left astern.”
As he then writes, Maury was the “father” of these charts.