Charting Northern Waters: Essays for the Centenary of the Canadian Hydrographic Service


275 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2710-9
DDC 526.9'9'0971




Edited by William Glover
Reviewed by Alex Curran

Alex Curran is a former member of both the National Advisory Board on
Science and Technology and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council. He was chair of the Telecommunications Sectoral Advisory
Committee on Free Trade and the first recipien


Hydrography is the science of describing, measuring, and charting bodies
of water. March 2004 marked the 100th anniversary of the Canadian
Hydrographic Service (CHS). It was a time to review what has been
accomplished and to set the stage for the next set of challenges. That
is the purpose of this book, a series of essays written by people
involved in the process of making ever safer navigation in an
environment as hostile as any on the earth.

The “Domestic Era” began in 1904 with the establishment of CHS at a
time marked by competition and co-operation involving canals, railways,
and construction of deep water ports. In a sense, that era ended in 1970
with the completion of all 918 topographic maps covering the land mass
of Canada. Without a pause, however, CHS accepted the demand for maps
and charts of greater definition and larger scale. In turn that created
a demand for new technologies for more rapid capture of basic
information and for more flexible means of incorporating the information
in standard and in tailored formats. Government, academic, and
industrial resources are co-operating to ensure the expansion of
Canadian capabilities in the field.

Two of the essays remind us that we are not alone. Russia, in
particular, faces conditions as harsh as does Canada for we share the
Northern Waters. Russia has also faced political turmoil, particularly
since 1917. Yet, in spite of revolution, war, and pogrom, the search for
information has continued. Hydrographic information does, indeed, have
value. The second external essay is a reminder that, at least in
wartime, if one does not protect interests they will be used by the
enemy. In this instance, it was the failure to protect the Gulf of St.
Lawrence and the Labrador coast that gave to German U-boats the right of

Here is displayed a little-known success of Canadians tackling a
demanding challenge. As an example of public service management and of
government, industrial, and academic co-operation, Charting Northern
Waters will be valued by both professional and amateur historians.


“Charting Northern Waters: Essays for the Centenary of the Canadian Hydrographic Service,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 13, 2024,