Using Nautical Charts
Nautical Charts: Using Nautical Charts
The paper Nautical Charts in the MAP library's Current Nautical Chart collection are created for mariners to use in navigation. However, they go out of date quickly, and as a result, we include the disclaimer that these charts should not be used for navigation.
Boatsafe.com has a very nice primer [http://www.boatsafe.com/nauticalknowhow/chart101.htm] on reading and using nautical charts.
What, then, is the collection good for? They are useful for studying almost any coast in the world. Our collection includes charts of international waters and foreign coasts, created by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency [http://www.nga.mil] (NGA), in addition to charts of United States territorial waters are created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [http://www.noaa.gov/] (NOAA). Some charts also include features on land, especially landmarks that are useful for navigation. From this information, researchers can also get a sense of terrestrial features in places our collection may not have other coverage.
Our Superseded Series Collection and the Historic Collection offer views of past coastlines, harbors, port structures and navigation aids, and some past natural and cultural features on land. Charts printed during WWII are particularly interesting for investigating restrictions placed on navigation during the war.
Looking toward the future, NOAA is beginning to provide GIS data [http://nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/csdl/ctp/encdirect_new.htm] of U.S. coast and waters. NOAA is also gearing up to offer free electronic navigation charts [http://nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/mcd/enc/index.htm] (ENCs), which can be read with an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS). NOAA has a list of approved ECDISs [http://nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/mcd/enc/resource.htm], including some for free. The interfaces to select and download GIS and ENC data are still in beta, however, and do not yet always work consistently.