Page:The Pathfinder of the Seas.djvu/84

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52
MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY

down upon them, and the commanders of ships were to be requested to lay off on them the tracks of their vessels every day, and indicate as well the time of the year, the direction of the winds, the force and set of the currents, and all other phenomena having a bearing on the navigation of the seas on which they sailed. Sailing directions, Maury declared in this address, are now not a written branch of navigation but merely a matter of tradition among seamen. As to his contemplated chart, he boldly asserted that short passages are not due to luck and that "this chart proposes nothing less than to blaze a way through the winds of the sea by which the navigator may find the best paths at all seasons".

Not having at that time made a name for himself as a scientist, Maury thought it wise to seek the support of the National Institute, and asked that a committee be appointed from its members to wait upon Secretary of the Navy Upshur and invite his cooperation in authorizing that these charts be kept on all public cruisers. Such cooperation was, after a fashion, granted, and Maury drew up a letter of instructions at the request of the Secretary. But as not much political capital was to be made of it, the matter ended with the issuing of a set of instructions to Commodore Biddle who was on the point of sailing for China in the Columbus. Maury then asked permission of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography to make a chart of the Atlantic American seaboard. He was ashamed, he wrote, of the meagerness of the contributions of the United States to the general fund of nautical science, and called attention to the fact that even the charts used by an American man-of-war in making her way up the Chesapeake Bay toward Washington had to be secured from the English Admiralty,