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To Master the Boundless SeaThe U.S. Navy, the Marine Environment, and the Cartography of Empire$
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Jason W. Smith

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469640440

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469640440.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

Conquering Old Ocean

Conquering Old Ocean

(p.107) 4 Conquering Old Ocean
To Master the Boundless Sea

Jason W. Smith

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines U.S. Navy’s hydrographic efforts after the American Civil War, in the period from 1865-1890, an era in which earlier commercial imperatives began to significantly breakdown with the near demise of the American merchant marine and amid slowly-growing geo-strategic imperatives related to the growth of American imperial aspirations, particularly in the Pacific Ocean. The chapter traces a multiplicity of hydrographic efforts from the North Pacific, to the Central American isthmus, the Arctic and the deep sea, arguing that this era was actually one of vigour for American naval science even as the American navy more generally shrank considerably from wartime peaks and lost ground in terms of technological innovation. The Navy’s hydrographic efforts show both a continued commercial imperative and now, emergent strategic interests that would fully emerge in 1898 during the Spanish-American War and with the acquisition of a territorial empire. Finally, despite a growing faith in technology and machines to both usher new dimensions of hydrographic surveys and to change the natural world, these American efforts remained limited, often undermined by the magnitude and dangers of scientific work in a difficult environment.

Keywords:   Geo-Strategy, Pacific Ocean, Deep sea surveying, Empire, Technology

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