The NOAA Library is one of the nation's oldest federal repositories of scientific information. The Library of Congress was founded in 1800; NOAA established its primeval library about 10 years later, when Ferdinand Hassler, founding superintendent of the U.S. Survey of the Coast, amassed books and illustrations on mapping, charting, and other topics related to navigation. (President Thomas Jefferson established the Survey of the Coast, NOAA's predecessor agency, in 1807.)
The Rare Book Room of the NOAA Library in Silver Spring, Maryland, preserves for posterity an impressive array of documents drafted at a time when the newly emergent marine sciences made exciting contributions to scientific inquiry. Many of these items can be viewed online in the Treasures of the NOAA Library Collection.
Here are but a few images depicting the observations and adventures of pioneers in marine science and other explorers, whose experiences ranged from the practical and mundane to the compelling and—dare we say it?—unfathomable.
Cover of Das Meer [The Sea] by M.J. Schleiden, 1888.
An image of this delightfully drawn book cover resides in the NOAA Library Photo Collection. Renowned German botanist M.J. Schleiden was one of the first respected scientists to accept Darwin's Theory of Evolution. The book itself is famous for Schleiden's richly detailed depictions of marine flora and fauna, prints of which sell briskly online some 125 years post-publication.
Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle Between the Years 1826 and 1836: Describing Their Examination of the Southern Shores of South America, and the Beagle's Circumnavigation of the Globe, 1839.
This three-volume treatise recounts the voyages of the British ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836. The NOAA Library holds online versions of volumes I and II.
When Captain Robert FitzRoy took command of the Beagle in 1830, he requested the presence of a scientist as a companion and intellectual peer. That person turned out to be world-renowned naturalist Charles Darwin.
FitzRoy served as principle author and editor of the first two volumes; Darwin wrote and edited the third.
A Necker Island Tern (Procelsterna saxatilis) in Birds of Laysan and the Leeward Islands, Hawaiian Group by Walter K. Fisher (Bulletin of the Bureau of Fisheries, Volume 23, 1903).
This illustration of a Necker Island Tern and its speckled egg was drawn by Dr. Walter K. Fisher, director of Stanford University's prestigious Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey, California, from 1917-1943. A recognized expert in birds and invertebrates, Fisher was the first to describe this bird in the scientific literature, having discovered the species on a 1903 expedition aboard the U.S. Fish Commission Steamer Albatross. He was also a gifted artist who wrote and illustrated the first definitive scientific work on starfishes!
"A Monster Born of a Ewe" in Journal des Observations Physiques, Mathematiques et Botaniques by Louis Feuillee, 1714
While it has nothing to do with marine science, the author of this work gave Louis XIV, France's infamous Sun King, an eyewitness account of this one-eyed Brazilian monster. Feuillee claimed to have observed the grotesque chimera in Buenos Aires during a 1708 expedition to South America.