1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Physical Geography of the Sea

(Part 52)

Physical Geography of the Sea

There is one great branch of physical geography which has only been effectively studied within the last thirty years, namely, the physical geography of the sea. Mathew Fontaine Maury, by his wind and current charts, by his trade wind, storm, rain, and whale charts, and above all by his charming work The Physical Geography of the Sea, gave the first impulse to this study.

It was Captain Maury who organized the first deep-sea sounding in the North Atlantic, which up to that time was deemed to be unfathomable; and when his work was published, the illustrious Humboldt declared Maury to be the founder of a new and important science -- the meteorology of the sea.

He first took charge of the Washington Observatory in 1842; he resigned that post under a deep sense of duty in April 1861, after a career of great usefulness; and he ended a noble and well-spent life in 1872.

The investigations into a system by Maury, have since been ably and zealously continued by others, among whom the names of Dr Carpenter, Sir Wyville Thomson, and Professor Mohn of Christiania are pre-eminent.

The voyage of the "Challenger" from 1873-1876, under Captains Nares and Thomson, with Sir Wyville Thomson as chief of the scientific staff was organized with the object of examining and mapping the bottom of the ocean, of describing the fauna of the great depths, of ascertaining the temperatures at various depths, and of solving questions relating to oceanic circulation. The area thus explored in the Atlantic, Antarctic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans is of vast extent, and the researches, ably and zealously conducted, have resulted in an important addition to geographical knowledge.

In this rapid sketch of the history of geographical discovery, the labours of numerous explorers during many generations have been enumerated; but its perusal will show that, notwithstanding all this work, there is much remaining to be done. Vast areas round both poles, and in the interior of Asia, Africa, South America, and New Guinea, are still unknown, even more extensive regions have only been partially explored, and millions of square miles remain to be surveyed, before the work of geographers is complete. (C.R.M.)

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Geography - Table of Contents

The section "Historical Geography" of the above article was written by Sir Clements Robert Markham, K.C.B., F.R.S.; President of the Royal Geographical Society, of the International Geographical Congress, 1894-99, of the Hakluyt Society, and of the Geographical, Elizabethan, and Royal Society Clubs; served in the Arctic Expedition, 1850-51; Geographer to the Abyssinian Expedition; Assistant Secretary in the India Office, 1867-77; author of Life of the Great Lord Fairfax, The Fighting Veres, History of Peru, History of Persia, History of the Abyssinian Expedition, etc.

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