Riding the wave


Italian Navy Hydrographic Institute

Plan of the Port and the City of Genoa, scale 1:4000, published in 1884 and reissued in 1888.

Lt. Cdr Giovan Battista Magnaghi - who directed the Italian Hydrographic Office (in 1899 renamed "Institute") from its foundation in 1872 until 1888, commanding the annual campaigns of the hydrographic vessel "Washington" - actively started surveying the Italian territorial waters. By 1903 the whole Italian coast was surveyed and 229 charts and harbour plans were published, including the first national chart of the port of Genoa.

Meanwhile, in 1880 surveys were extended to the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, and to the coasts of Libya after 1911, so that by 1914 provisional charts of the Libyan coasts were published together with about thirty charts of the Horn of Africa.

Assab, 1886, 1:5000, surveyed by the ship " Scylla "
The village of Bender - in two coastal profiles as seen from "Columbus", about 2 km off the shoreline. The Unit, which reached Somalia in 1901 to combat arms trafficking, carried out scientific research and hydrographic surveys which resulted in the compilation of a pilot book of that region.
Coastal view of Mogadishu, published in 1910 on a chart titled Ancoraggio di Mogadiscio, resulting from the survey conducted in 1908 by the ship " Staffetta" under the command of Lt. Cdr M. Giavotto, later appointed Director of the Italian hydrographic service.

Surveys in the overseas colonies were resumed in 1923 with an expedition to Eritrea, to Libya in 1927-29, to the Red Sea in 1928-29 - where research was carried out on local currents and tides still fundamental today - and again in Libya and Somalia in 1930-31. Surveys in Eritrea were completed in 1933-36, and were extended in 1935-39 to Somalia, which resulted in several small and medium-scale charts, and many anchorage plans.

Tripolitania, 1929: view of Homs, 5 miles away.

After the war, surveying was resumed off shore and on the high sea, extended to the main lakes, so that over a period of thirty years several hundred charts were published on different scales with a total circulation of over two million copies, associated to the pertinent nautical documents.

International chart of the series Mediterranean Sea / Strait of Gibraltar / Channel of Sicily / 1:2.250.000, 1972, INT 301
Mar Ligure - Italia / Da Imperia a Portofino / 1:100,000, 1985
Mar Tirreno - Italia / Isole Alicudi e Filicudi, 1:30,000, 1997. It is the first entirely digital chart made at the Italian Navy Hydrographic Institute
Antartide / Mare di Ross - Baia Terra Nova / Carta batimetrica / ..., 1991

Since 1986 the Italian Hydrographic Institute has been participating in the "National Programme of Antarctic Research", and has produced bathymetric maps 1:50,000 1:500,000 of the Ross Sea, where the representation of the land was developed from satellite imagery.

Today, a primary goal is the production of electronic charts, equivalent to the traditional paper-charts that the law requires mariners to have on board. The Italian Hydrographic Institute is working on a portfolio of charts 1:100,000, 1:250,000, 1:1,000,000, and large scale plans of major ports, thus ensuring the availability of the most commonly used charts. Recently the production was also launched of a chart portfolio for yachting 1:100,000, together with the relevant pilot books.

(Edited by
Paola Presciuttini, 2002)