We discovered a wonderful book this week at the library, The Coast Mappers by Taylor Morrison. In the mid-1800s, the U.S. Coast Survey authorized a survey of the west coast. As little was known of the topography of this area, the ships that sailed those waters did so at a considerable risk, sometimes depending on only a school atlas to navigate and all too often crashing into the rocks. So the U.S. Coast Survey, whose purpose was to map every mile of American shoreline, commissioned George Davidson to chart all of the major points on the coast and all of the waterways in between. In this beautifully illustrated book, Taylor Morrison chronicles the challenges and adventures Davidson and his team faced and the methods they used to accomplish this monumental, and essential, task.
Combining applied science with history and biography, the discussion follows Davidson and his companions through the years as they work toward their goal. About three-quarters of the book comprises Morrison’s attractive paintings and ink drawings. While the many illustrations suggest a younger audience, their sophistication and the text are better suited to older readers. I thereby read this one aloud and will ask the kids to give an oral narrative to their father. Included in the appendix are extensive acknowledgments, a bibliography, and a glossary.
The Coast Mappers provides a thoroughly enjoyable historical record of the early survey of the west coast of the United States. It is certainly one we will be adding to our personal library. We were fascinated by this historical account and were inspired to do a little more research on the topic. If you are also inclined, here is a little peek at Davidson’s map of Monterey Canyon as published in 1897.