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  Debow's review, Agricultural, commercial, industrial progress and resources. / Volume 26, Issue 3, Mar 1859, pp.328-330

17.—COAST SURVEYS.

    There having been some complaint about the cost of our Coast Survey, we present the following comparison of the cost of the U. S. Coast Survey with foreign coast surveys; and comparison of the cost and progress during twelve years previous to 1844, with cost and progress during the last twelve years under the present organization, taken from the Boston Post:

    The trigonometric and hydro graphic surveys of England, Ireland, and Scotland have been in progress since 1701. The trigonometric survey had cost, up to 1856, $12,000,000. and $8,000,000 more are required to complete it. The hydro graphic survey, which is an independent survey, has cost in the last twenty years $10,000,000. Total cost of land work and hydrography, $22,000,000. This is exclusive of $17,000,000 expended since 1837 for parish maps, and exclusive also of the British foreign hydrography.

    France has been engaged nearly one hundred years on her trigonometrical survey; besides which she has expended in her hydrography alone, since 1834, $4,300,000.

    The surveys of England, France, Germany, and Russia, cost, per square acre, from nine to twelve cents. The cost of the land work of the United States Coast Survey is only one fifth of this amount per square acre.

    While England has expended $10,000,000 since 1836 on her hydrography alone, and France $4,300,000, the United Stales Coast Survey land work and hydrography has only cost, up to the present time, $4,500,000. The English land work and hydrography have cost $22,000,000 up to the present time.

    The length of the whole English coast is 4,400 miles; that of the French coast 600 miles; and of the coast of the United States, nearly three times the length of the English and French coasts together.

    The English employ over three thousand persons on their land work alone, while the land work of the coast of the United States does not employ as many hundreds of persons. There have been engaged on the new map of France 2,500 persons, men of education, since its commencement, besides the laborers. The advantage of the United States Coast Survey in its very efficient organization which has been recently spoken of in Europe as the most perfect of modern times.

    The work of the last twelve years may be compared with the previous twelve years as follows :

    The expenditures for the twelve years previous to 1844 amounted to $766,000, and Mr. Hassler operated from only one base. Since that time the length of coast has been more than doubled by the admission of Texas and the acquisition of California, and the operations are carried on now from eleven bases. The expenditures during the last twelve years have been four times the expenditures for the previous twelve years, but while the expenditures have been increased by about 33 per cent. yearly, the amount of work done has been increased by about 55 per cent. yearly. The following examples of statistics will illustrate this point:


12 yrs. prev. to
1844.

12 yrs. after
1844.

Land surveyed by triangulation, square miles...............

 9,000

30,000

Soundings.................................................................

808.000

3,574,000

Miles of shore surveyed by the plain table.................

7,500

27,500

Astronomical stations occupied...........................

9

109

Base lines measured...............................................

3-19 mls.

59-153 mls.

Magnetic stations...................................................

 0

183

Tidal stations.....................................................

127

900

Total number volumes of original observations
    previous to 1844 and since...............................


566


9,051

Complete maps engraved previous to 1844 and since.

 5

61

Preliminary charts previous to 1844 and since.

0

276

Printed copies of maps distributed since 1844.


66,576

    The amount of office work done in the last twelve years is estimated from the statistics to be eighteen times the amount executed the previous twelve years.

    Taking all this work into account, while the increase in expenditures, supposing it to have been gradual, has been 33 per cent., and the extent of the coast doubled, the gain in economy has been about 55 per cent.

    And it should be remembered that, in making this calculation, the cost of labor and material on the Atlantic Coast the last twelve years has been much higher than the preceding twelve years.

    By the report of the New-York Underwriters, it would appear that the losses from shipwrecks, &c., on our coast amounted to,

In 1854................................

$25,000,000

    1865......................

15,860,000

    1856.................................

22,100,000

    1857.................................

20,000,000

In 1844 the value of our foreign imports was..

$108,000,000

    1854...................................

304,000,000

The object of the Coast Survey is the protection of this commerce. Ought its efficiency to be imperiled by attacks which have originated in personal difficulties with the superintendent ?


posted April 2005
image source: Making of America project at the University  of Michigan