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 when Dalrymple became ill. 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 as the Admiralty’s hydrographer between 1855 and 1863, a series of agreements were drawn up with the Australian colonies to help solve the frequency of shipwrecks, severely hampering communication These agreements provided boats and crews for use by officers, lent from the Royal Navy, to chart the coasts and shoal waters of the approaches to the rapidly developing towns.
It had been the discovery of gold, and the consequent rush of miners and emigrants, from England and California that had added greatly to the numbers of ships sailing to Australia’s east coast. This led to numerous petitions being made to Her Majesty’s Government to chart all approaches to Australia, to make for safer passage for shipping.