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.
It was during Rear Admiral John Washington’s period as the Admiralty’s Hydrographer (1855-1863) that numerous petitions were made to Her Majesty’s Government to chart all approaches to Australian ports to make for safer passage. A series of agreements were drawn up in 1860 with the Australian colonies to provide Royal Naval boats, crews and officers to perform this task. The rush of miners and emigrants, not only from England but California, in the 1850’s’ had added greatly to the number of boats frequenting Australian waters. The lack of good charts had led to many boats being shipwrecked; and had also added to poor communications between England, Australia and the rest of the world. There were at least two Royal Navy ships engaged at any one time in surveying activities in Australian waters between 1860 and 1926.