Copper engraved Admiralty Chart showing the coastline of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory from Point Keats in the West to Groote Eylandt in the East from Surveys by Commanders P P King, J C Wickham and J L Stokes RN, Lieut W Chimmo RN, F Howard, Master and M S Guy 2nd Master RN. Commander R F Hoskyn, Captain J E L P Maclear, and Commander J W Combe RN between the years 1818 and 1900
The Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty was founded in 1795, Alexander Dalrymple who had been hydrographer to the East India Company was appointed its first director. Between 1797 and 1803 Captain Bligh of Bounty fame was employed as hydrographer, and took over direction during Dalrymple’s illness. Capt. Thomas Hurd R.N. was in charge from 1808 to 1823, and during the latter part of his term made the official charts available to the Merchant Marine. He appointed George Thomas, a young man in his twenties, as Head Marine Surveyor. William Parry was Hydrographer from 1823-1829 and was succeeded by Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort 1829-55.
On the succession of Rear Admiral John Washington’s period as the Admiralty’s hydrographer, 1855-1863, a series of agreements were drawn up with the Australian colonies. These agreements provided boats and crews for use by officers lent from the Royal Navy to chart the coasts and shoal waters in the approaches to the rapidly developing towns, communication with which was seriously hampered by the the frequency of shipwrecks. It had been the discovery of gold and the consequent rush of miners and emigrants from not only England but California that added greatly the numbers of ships sailing to Australia’s east coast. This led to numerous petitions being made to Her Majesty’s Government to chart the all approaches to Australia to make for safer passage for shipping.