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Über dieses Buch

This book presents a complete account of the 19th century German immigrant Edward Cordell, a hydrographer who discovered a major seamount that was designated the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The book is entirely primary source material, and offers previously unpublished material about Edward Cordell, the Cordell Bank, and numerous other events and places associated with Cordell and the United States Coast Survey. The book will be of interest to maritime researchers and historians, environmental scientists and managers, and general enthusiasts of maritime history and the U.S. Coast Survey in the mid-1800s.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Part I

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Origins 1828–48

Born in 1828 in the historic town of Philippsburg, Edward Cordell grew up as a normal German id, but as a young adult found himself embroiled in the revolution of 1849 and accused of treason. He did the only reasonable thing: he escaped to America.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 2. America 1849–50

With his technical education, Cordell found a job with the U. S. Coast Survey. With almost 100 employees, the Survey provided him with not only work but also further education.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 3. The Early Coast Survey 1851–52

The Coast Survey was staffed by a Superintendent and a variety of Assistants, the latter being men in the field sounding the coast and waterways of the east and west coasts.

Robert William Schmieder

Part II

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. Stellwagen Bank 1853–57

Henry Stellwagen was one of the Assistants of the Coast Survey, and Cordell became his draftsman. In 1854 the crew discovered a large shallow bank just outside Boston Harbor, eventually to be named Stellwagen Bank.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 5. Hydrographic Draftsman 1857–61

For about 5 years, Cordell worked for various Assistants, executing extraordinarily detailed, accurate, and artistic drawings of their surveys. These drawings are now invaluable historical records.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 6. Maine Casco Bay 1861

Cordell was attached to the party of Charles Schott, and processed and plotted the survey data in Casco Bay (Maine). The statistics show an almost unbelievable amount of data was reduced in an amazingly short time.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 7. North Carolina 1862

As the Civil War raged around them, Cordell and the party attached to Henry Mitchell did their best to continue surveying, this time on the coast of North Carolina.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 8. Casco Bay Continued 1862

Cordell’s was promoted from Hydrographic Draftsman to Charge of a Hydrographic Party. He returned to Casco Bay and recorded nearly 31,000 soundings.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 9. Florida Reefs 1863

Cordell was directed by the Superintendent to survey portions of the Florida reefs. Besides the threat of attack by Confederate guns and pirates, the crew faced many obstacles, including running aground, the ship’s engine exploding, the loss of the depth thermometers, and being rammed by a schooner.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 10. Maine: Portland Rocks 1863

Free of the physical disasters experienced in Florida, Cordell moved to Maine to survey the Portland Rocks. This time he ran into a viscous attack by C. P. Patterson, who claimed (incorrectly) that Cordell had plotted the rocks incorrectly. Eventually Cordell was exonerated.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 11. North Carolina Lighthouses 1861–65

The War demanded the support of the Coast Survey, so Cordell was dispatched to North Carolina to survey the Beaufort Harbor. The work was frustrated by the inability to obtain appropriate vessels for the work.

Robert William Schmieder

Part III

Frontmatter

Chapter 12. California! 1865

In June 1965, Cordell moved to California, where he took command of the Survey Schooner Marcy.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 13. Half Moon Bay South 1865

Cordell’s first survey in California was Half Moon Bay. The crew spent months waiting for the fog to clear, which it did only sporadically and incompletely.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 14. Suisun and Carquinez 1865–66

Suisun Bay is an embolism on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers just upstream from San Francisco Bay. It is shallow but critical for commercial navigation, so Cordell carried out some of the first hydrographic surveys.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 15. Point Reyes to Bodega 1866

The coast to the north of Pt. Reyes was charted as a series of lines running from shore out into the Pacific. Had Cordell extended one of those lines by 5 miles he would have discovered the 20-fathom bank now known as Cordell Bank.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 16. Currents and Tides 1866–67

Making San Francisco Bay safe for navigation was high priority. Cordell measured currents and tides at critical locations using very rudimentary gear.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 17. Blossom Rock 1867

Cordell was assigned to survey the shallow rock just offshore from San Francisco. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tried to blast the top off the rock, and Cordell measured the depths after the blasts. There was no reduction.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 18. The Later Coast Survey 1867

Ultimately Cordell worked for the Superintendent, but in California he was effectively supervised by George Davidson. It was Davidson who actually discovered Cordell Bank, 16 years before Cordell did.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 19. Suisun Creeks 1867

Continuing the survey of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River, Cordell’s crew moved further up the river, feeing their way up the Suisun Creeks.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 20. Point Sal 1867

Following up on reports of shallow water near Pt. Sal, Cordell elaborated the hydrography in the vicinity. The work was dangerous and difficult. The conclusion: Don’t build a breakwater.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 21. Columbia River 1867–68

Surveying the Columbia River was no easy task: the river froze, and huge chunks of running ice threatened the wooden vessel. While they were on the river, the U.S. purchased Alaska from the Russians.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 22. Vitula Shoal 1868

In an unbelievable wild goose chase, Cordell was sent out repeatedly to search for a shoal about 80 miles SW of the Farallon Islands. His searches were only part of an extensive effort that eventually showed there is no such shoal.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 23. Point Reyes Light 1869

Realizing that the Pt. Reyes lighthouse was too high (the fogs would hide it from offshore vessels), Cordell, Davidson, and A. F. Rodgers went by wagon, horseback, and foot to locate a lower point for a new light.

Robert William Schmieder

Part IV

Frontmatter

Chapter 24. George Davidson’s Discovery 1853

Returning from his survey of Alaska, George Davidson passed Pt. Reyes on Oct. 20, 1853. One cast of the lead gave 30 fathoms, where it should have been much more. Davidson had discovered Cordell Bank.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 25. Searching for the Bank 1868–69

Under instructions from Davidson, Cordell searched for the 30-fathom bank in June, 1869. His instruments were simple, but would be enough.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 26. The Discovery of Cordell Bank 1869

Executing a series of sawteeth, Cordell first missed the Bank altogether, but moving his starting position he made a perfect double pass over it. The Bank was confirmed.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 27. Logs and Data

Matching Cordell’s detailed ship’s logs with modern hydrographic surveys, we can confirm that his observations of the depths and the locations of bottom specimens were correct.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 28. First Biological Specimens

Using the Stellwagen Lead, Cordell recovered samples of the bottom on the Bank. These specimens were sent to Washington, and are still preserved in the U. S. Museum of Natural History.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 29. How Cordell Bank Got its Name

Davidson, rightly, thought the Bank should be named for him, and lobbied the Superintendent for that. With the untimely death of Cordell, the Superintendent simply defined it to be Cordell Bank.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 30. The First Chart

Cordell made a sketch of his survey west of Pt. Reyes, but it is now lost. Eventually Chart 661, Cordell Bank, was issued. Unfortunately, Cordell died before it was released.

Robert William Schmieder

Part V

Frontmatter

Chapter 31. Santa Barbara Channel 1869

In a survey season very similar to his survey of Pt. Reyes to Bodega, Cordell carried out an extensive offshore survey from Pt. Conception to Ventura.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 32. Death of Edward Cordell 1870

Cordell completed his plotting of the Santa Barbara survey, and left the Coast Survey office. Unaccountably he fell on the street and died within minutes.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 33. Unfinished Work 1870

A list of planned work was already prepared when Cordell died. Some of that work, including a re-survey of Cordell Bank, was passed to others to carry out.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 34. The Resurvey of Cordell Bank 1873

Ferdinand Westdahl carried out the re-survey of Cordell Bank, obtaining an almost identical copy of Cordell’s 1870 survey.

Robert William Schmieder

Part VI

Frontmatter

Chapter 35. Relatives

Genealogical records are available from Edward Cordell backwards to 1760 and forwards to related Cordell families at present. Cordell himself had no known descendants.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 36. The Person Named Edward Cordell

Edward Cordell was universally liked and admired, both professionally and personally. He left a complete record of an exemplary career in the service of the U.S. Coast Survey and made a notable mark on the history of the United States.

Robert William Schmieder

Part VII

Frontmatter

Chapter 37. Philippsburg

As a child Edward Cordell’s world was centered on the Engelsmühle (the “Angel’s Mill”), just outside the village of Philippsburg, Germany. After more than a millennium, the town has nearly 12,000 inhabitants in an area of about 5 square miles. The Engelsmühle is still there, almost unchanged from the earliest images we can find, and it still functions as a farm and residence, although now there is also a restaurant in the building.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 38. Stellwagen Bank

After coming to America in 1849, Cordell was employed at the U.S. Coast Survey office in Washington, D.C. In 1853 he was attached to the party of Henry Stellwagen, who was directed to survey the area in front of Boston Harbor. There they discovered a large shallow bank, which was immediately recognized as a major discovery and named Stellwagen Bank.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 39. San Francisco

Cordell arrived in San Francisco in 1865, 15 years after the great gold rush. By then, the City had expanded, and the streets were laid out in the pattern we see today. What has changed, of course, is the buildings and the landscape. Two places were important in Cordell’s life:

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 40. Blossom Rock

The U.S. Coast Survey considered bays and rivers to be part of the “coast,” hence within the purview of their field work. The Assistants, including Edward Cordell, were routinely assigned to survey the waters of such bodies. Cordell did not actually survey San Francisco Bay, but he did extensive surveys above Carquinez, in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, and in the Columbia River.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 41. Currents and Tides

Among many other assignments, Cordell spent some time in late 1866–1867 measuring the currents and tides in San Francisco Bay, especially in the vicinity of the Golden Gate. Naturally the facilities for automated measurements of these (and other environmental properties) have developed extensively since then. However, the system now in place for environmental measurement is not nearly as complex as the navigational system shown in the previous figures. In fact, a relatively small number of stations is sufficient to monitor the currents and tides.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 42. Pt. Reyes light

The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse served mariners for 105 years before it was replaced. It endured many hardships, including the 1906 earthquake, during which the Point Reyes Peninsula moved north 18 ft in less than 1 min, carrying the lighthouse with it. The only damage to the lighthouse was that the lens slipped off its tracks. The lighthouse keepers quickly effected repairs and by the evening of the 18th, the lighthouse was once again in working order. The earthquake occurred at 5:12 AM, but ironically the lighthouse was scheduled to be shut down for regular maintenance at 5:25 AM. Although the earthquake caused much devastation and disruption elsewhere, the Point Reyes Lighthouse was essentially off-line for only 13 min!

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 43. Vitula Shoal

Whatever else George Davidson was, he was a hunter. When he got several fragmentary reports of shallow water SW of the Farallon Islands, he just had to go find it. Some reports were that the shoal almost broke the surface. Three ships were launched to track it down, including Cordell’s schooner the W. L. Marcy. All three vessels cruised back and forth, crisscrossing an area of more than 4000 square miles. Davidson’s persistence was still at work in 1874, after Cordell had died, so he sent out another party to continue the search. All this effort was fruitless. More than a century after this endeavor, high-resolution multi-beam bathymetric surveys showed clearly why they failed to find any shallow water–there is none there. The search areas lie well off the continental shelf, in areas where the ocean is some 2 miles deep.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 44. Visualizing Cordell Bank

For years after its discovery in 1853 and re-discovery in 1869, Cordell Bank was known mainly as a pointer to San Francisco Bay. Sterling Hayden captured it vividly in his epic novel Voyage, tracing the circumnavigation of a ship called Neptune’s Car. As the vessel came up west of Pt. Reyes, the captain explained: “Rocky bottom with live barnacles. That’ll be the Cordell Bank: God’s own gift to Frisco-bound shipmasters…the lead socked home at 30 fathoms…he was right where he wanted to be…” For many decades, no one really cared what was beneath the surface, only that it was about 20 fathoms deep and 20 miles from the Pt. Reyes Light.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 45. Exploring Cordell Bank

Cordell Bank is a challenge to see in person. You have to go 20 miles out into the ocean and dive to about 150 ft. The biggest challenge in the early years (ca. 1980) was finding it. By “it” we mean a place that is less than 150 ft. deep, and there aren’t many. Initially we knew of only one spot, 120 ft. deep, and we knew it from the existing chart only within a circle about 1000 ft. in diameter. Our navigation onsite gave us our position only within about a mile, so it was necessary to run sounding lines back and forth to locate a relatively shallow area, and then successively close in on the shallowest point. As soon as we found a pinnacle or high ridge, we dropped a marker buoy on it, then systematically set an anchored diver descent line and proceeded with the dives. The author was the first person to actually see Cordell Bank itself, and to collect specimens of the organisms living there. Edward Cordell could only imagine what the bottom was like–he would have been amazed at what became possible with the invention of powered vessels, high resolution surveys, and scuba.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 46. Documenting Cordell Bank

The author’s expeditions to Cordell Bank produced thousands of specimens and underwater photographs. Many of these were distributed to specialists in various institutions, including the U.S. Museum of Natural History, the California Academy of Sciences, the University of California at Berkeley, the U.S. Geological Survey, Stanford University, the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Texas A&M University, and others.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 47. The Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

It took only one glance by divers in 1978 to see that the environment on Cordell Bank was extraordinary. It was obvious that there exists a combination of factors that generate the exceptionally lush community. It’s all in the water: it’s clear and clean, allowing sunlight to penetrate; it upwells from abyssal depths, carrying a heavy burden of nutrients; it’s cold, which favors invertebrates; and it’s deep, protecting the bottom from the violence of crashing surf. It’s the overlap of all these factors that make Cordell Bank exceptional, and it was immediately obvious to us that it should be protected.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 48. Navigating Around Cordell Bank

When we started exploring Cordell Bank in 1978, the large ships leaving San Francisco Bay bound for points north would pass Pt. Reyes from 5 to 25 miles from the head. Sometimes we were diving on the Bank as huge freighters passed within a mile or so of our vessel, which was at anchor and unable to move. But when Cordell Bank was designated a national marine sanctuary, a channel for vessel traffic was established that ran exactly midway between Pt. Reyes and the Bank. The traffic would therefore pass about 10 miles from the Bank, essentially eliminating the potential for damage or contamination.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 49. Visiting Cordell Bank

Perhaps you would like to see Cordell Bank for yourself, and you are welcome to do that. Here is a picture of it. Of course, the ocean looks pretty much the same everywhere, so probably you will have to be content to see the birds, whales, sharks, seals, and other creatures that appear on the surface. If you are lucky. Otherwise you’ll need help to descend into the depths under the surface. Unless you’re a marine scientist with lots of funding, you’ll probably never see Cordell Bank in person.

Robert William Schmieder

Chapter 50. Underwater Island

If this book has excited your interest in Cordell Bank, there is some help for you. The only book about it is shown in the following figure. At its core, it is a case study of Cordell Bank, but it goes well beyond that: it defines the idea of an “underwater island,” by which we mean a geologic formation that peaks relatively sharply at relatively shallow water (but is always submerged). The fundamental ecological question is “What lives there, and why?” The book is 100 pp. long, with illustrations on every page and 98 color plates. It is available from the author: info@cordell.org.

Robert William Schmieder

Backmatter

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