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Coast and Geodetic Survey

COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY

COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY. The Coast and Geodetic Survey was born in 1807 when Congress, on the initiative of President Thomas Jefferson, passed a law authorizing "a survey to be taken of the coasts of the United States." The Survey, originally called the Coast Survey, was—for the first time in the history of the new nation—"to designate the islands and shoals, with the roads and places of anchorage, within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States.…" The Survey, using new scientific methods, would be responsible for producing accurate charts of these features and would also identify other key characteristics of what can roughly be defined as the coastal zones of the United States. As the nation grew, new areas such as Florida, Texas, the Pacific Coast, and Alaska were added to the Survey's growing mission.

Historians agree that the Coast Survey led American science away from the older descriptive methods to the modern methods of statistical analysis and the prediction of future states of natural phenomena based on mathematical modeling. Virtually all branches of science, including the social and biological sciences, have adapted similar methodologies and similar techniques in their quest for scientific truth. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "Comments on the Archive of the Coast and Geodetic Survey," 1991).

The survey was placed under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department but its gestation and evolution were complicated and politicized from the outset. A Swiss immigrant to the United States, the geodesist and mathematician Ferdin and Rudolph Hassler, was selected to head the Survey. He left for Europe in 1811 to secure the necessary scientific books, instruments, and knowledgeable expertise necessary for conducting a massive, complex, and accurate survey of the coastal areas of the United States. None of these necessities was available in America at that time. Hassler remained in Europe until 1815 and it was not until 1816 that Congress appropriated the funds for the survey. Hassler was officially made superintendent of the survey in 1816. However, in 1818 Congress changed the law and specified that only military and naval officers could be employed in the survey, neither of which Hassler was. The instruments and management of the project were turned over to the Navy Department.

In 1832 Congress reactivated the original 1807 legislation placing the Survey in the Treasury Department, and Hassler was again appointed superintendent. The tensions between military and civilian control of the Survey continued. In 1834 the Survey was again transferred to the Department of the Navy, but after repeated protests from Hassler it was once more returned to the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department in 1836. Further efforts to move the Survey to naval jurisdiction continued until 1882.

After the death of Hassler in 1843, Alexander Dallas Bache, a great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, took over as superintendent of the Coast Survey. Bache built on the strong foundation that had been created, and is credited with developing the Survey into the first real scientific organization in the federal government. He became a leader in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a founding member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scope and flair of the Survey is captured in the following description taken from an analysis of its annual reports:

The Survey was continental in scope, tying together east and west coasts by an invisible transcontinental network of triangles while leading American commerce by means of precise nautical charting surveys into the ports of our Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific shores. Storms, mountains, dust, mud, deserts, wild beasts, heat and cold; all were the companions of the Coast Surveyors. They engaged in a great physical adventure that is little known and little understood. Beyond the romance of the Coast Surveyors, there was an enduring intellectual adventure as the field men and the office force of the Coast Survey engaged in a fascinating quest for the ultimate limits of accuracy of scientific measurement. They were seekers of scientific "truth." No effort was too great or hardship too onerous to overcome in this quest. The perseverance and fortitude of the field men was matched by the office force of mathematicians, physicists, geodesists, astronomers, instrument-makers, draftsmen, engravers, and pressmen. These men and women (the Coast Survey hired women professionals as early as 1845) helped push back the limits of astronomic measures, designed new and more accurate observational instruments for sea and land surveying, developed new techniques for the mathematical analysis of the mountains of data obtained by the field parties, and further refined techniques of error analysis and mitigation. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "Comments on the Archive of the Coast and Geodetic Survey," 1991)

In 1878 the program was officially renamed the Coast and Geodetic Survey. In 1903 it was transferred to the Department of Commerce and Labor and it remained in Commerce after Labor became a separate cabinet department in 1913. In 1920 the title "superintendent" was changed to "director."

In 1965 the Coast and Geodetic Survey became part of the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), which also incorporated the Weather Bureau and the National Bureau of Standards' Central Radio Propagation Laboratory. When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was created in 1970 as a new entity within the Department of Commerce, ESSA and thus the Survey became part of NOAA.

The Survey is considered to have been one of the major birthplaces of modern American science, including many disciplines not generally associated with geodesy and hydrology. Its creation is a cornerstone of the rapid growth of science and technology and of the development of natural resources for commercial use in the United States.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dracup, Joseph F. The United States Horizontal Control Network, 1816–1976. Rockville, Md.: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, n.d.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Comments on the Archive of the Coast and Geodetic Survey." Available at http://www.lib.noaa.gov.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Functions of the Coast Survey and the Coast and Geodetic Survey." Updated February 17, 2000. Available at http://www.lib.noaa.gov.

U.S. Department Commerce. U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey: 150 Years of Service, 1807–1957. Washington, D.C., 1957.

Wright, A. Joseph, and Elliot B. Roberts. The Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1807–1957: 150 Years of History. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, 1957.

Steffen W.Schmidt

See alsoGeological Survey, U.S.

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Coast and Beach

Coast and beach

The coast and beach, where the continents meet the ocean, are everchanging environments where the conflicting processes of erosion (wearing away) and sedimentation (building up) take place. Coast is the land that borders an ocean or large body of water. Beach refers to a much smaller land region, usually just the area directly affected by wave action.

Coasts

Coasts are generally classified into two types: emergent and submergent. Emergent coasts are those that are formed when sea level declines. Areas that were once covered by the sea emerge and form part of the landscape. This new land area, which was once protected underwater, is now attacked by waves and eroded. If the new land is a cliff, waves may undercut it, eventually causing the top portions of the cliff to fall into the sea. When this happens, the beach is extended at its base. Along emergent coast shorelines the water level is quite shallow for some distance offshore. Much of the coast along California is emergent coast.

Submergent coasts are those that are formed when sea level rises, flooding formerly exposed land areas. Valleys near coastal areas that had been carved out by rivers become estuaries, or arms of the sea that extend inland to meet the mouth of a river, for example, Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and Maryland. Hilly terrains become collections of islands, such as those off the coast of Maine.

Beaches

Most of the sand and other sediments making up a beach are supplied by weathered and eroded rock from the mainland that is deposited by rivers at the coast. At the beach, wave action moves massive amounts of sand. As waves approach shallow water, they slow down because of friction with the bottom. They then become steeper and finally break. It is during this slowing and breaking that sand gets transported.

Words to Know

Emergent coast: A coast that is formed when sea level declines and is characterized by wave-cut cliffs and formerly underwater beaches.

Longshore drift: Movement of sand parallel to the shore, caused by slowing and breaking waves approaching the shore at an angle.

Submergent coast: A coast that is formed when sea level rises and is characterized by drowned river valleys.

When a breaking wave washes up onto the beach, it does so at a slight angle, moving sand both toward and slightly down the beach. When the water sloshes back, it does so directly, without any angle. As a result, the water moves the sand along the beach in a zigzag pattern. This is called longshore drift. The magnitude and direction of longshore drift depends on the strength of the waves and the angle at which they approach, and these may vary with the season.

Barrier islands

A barrier island is a long, thin, sandy stretch of land that lies parallel to a mainland coast. Between the barrier island and the mainland is a calm, protected water body such as a lagoon or bay. If the coastline has a broad, gentle slope, strong waves and other ocean currents carry sand offshore and then deposit it, creating these islands. In the United States, most barrier islands are found along the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast as far north as Long Island, New York.

Sand being moved by longshore drift and being replenished on beaches by eroding highlands is a natural, constant cycle. Beaches erode, however, when humans intervene in the cycle, often by building on coastal land. Two methods used to remedy beach erosion include pumping sand onto beaches from offshore and building breakwaters away from shore to stop longshore drift.

[See also Erosion; Ocean; Tides ]

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coast

coast, land bordering an ocean or other large body of water. The line of contact between the land and water surfaces is called the shoreline. It fluctuates with the waves and tides. Sometimes the terms coast and shore are used synonymously, but often shore is interpreted to mean only the zone between the shorelines at high tide and low tide, and coast indicates a strip of land of indefinite width landward of the shore. Classically, coasts have been designated as submergent if they resulted from a rise in the relative sea level and emergent if they resulted from a decline. Young submergent coasts usually are irregular and have deep water offshore and many good harbors, either bays or estuaries. Much of the coast of New England and most of the Atlantic coast of Europe are young submergent coasts according to this classification scheme. Gradually the submergent coast, subjected to erosive attacks of the ocean and other agents, becomes mature. Headlands are worn back to form cliffs, at the base of which deposits of eroded material accumulate as fringing beaches; spits and bars also grow up from material that is carried by currents and deposited in deeper water. The shoreline is called mature when it is smooth, the headlands having been cut away and the bays either filled up or closed off by spits. Emergent shorelines usually have shallow water for some distance offshore. Such shorelines are found along the Atlantic coast of the SE United States and along part of the coast of Argentina, near the Río de la Plata. This classification system does not adequately describe many coasts, partly because many of them exhibit features of both submergence and emergence. Because of these and other problems a classification system that is based on the most recent and predominant geologic agent forming the coast has become popular. Under this scheme, there are essentially two major types of coasts. Primary coasts are youthful coasts formed where the sea rests against a land mass whose topography was formed by terrestrial agents. These coasts include land erosion coasts (Maine), volcanic coasts (Hawaii), deposition coasts (Nile Delta coast), and fault coasts (Red Sea). Secondary coasts are formed chiefly and most recently by marine agents, and may even be primary coasts that have been severely modified by wave action. These coasts include wave erosion coasts, marine deposition coasts, and coasts built by organisms (reefs and mangrove coasts). The nature of the coastline of a country or a state is an important factor in its economic development because it relates to defense, fishing, recreation, and overseas commerce.

See C. A. M. King, Beaches and Coasts (2d ed. 1972).

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coast

coast / kōst/ • n. 1. the part of the land near the sea; the edge of the land. ∎  (the Coast) the Pacific coast of North America. 2. a run or movement in or on a vehicle without the use of power. • v. 1. [intr.] (of a person or vehicle) move easily without using power: the engines stopped, and the craft coasted along. ∎  act or make progress without making much effort: he coasted to victory. ∎  slide down a snowy hill on a sled. 2. [intr.] sail along the coast, esp. in order to carry cargo. PHRASES: the coast is clear there is no danger of being observed or caught.

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coast

coast †tract, region XIII; †quarter, direction; †side; sea-shore XIV; (N. Amer.) toboggan slide XVIII. ME. cost(e) — OF. coste (mod. côte) :- L. costa rib, flank, side.
So coast vb. †keep or move by the side or coast of; †border upon XIV; †traverse, scour XV; (U.S.) slide down a slope on a sled (also in transf. use) XIX.

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coast

coastboast, coast, ghost, host, most, oast, post, roast, toast •backmost • headmost • leftmost •endmost • midmost • hindmost •rightmost • topmost • foremost •almost • northernmost • downmost •outmost • southernmost • upmost •utmost • rearmost • lowermost •undermost • innermost • uppermost •aftermost •centremost (US centermost) •westernmost • easternmost •bottommost • outermost • uttermost •nethermost • furthermost •lamp post • bedpost • gatepost •Freepost • impost • guidepost •milepost • signpost • doorpost •outpost • goalpost • newel post •fingerpost • sternpost

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