The nautical chart is a type of map, which has unique characteristics and a detailed representation of the coastline. It includes lots of information about local tide ranges and geographical features that are critical to the navigator.
Unlike regular maps that include details about the land and only blue space where there is water, the nautical chart only includes landmarks and features ashore if they might be easy to recognize from seaward, such as a tall building or tower.
Most of the details are in the water, such as depth (or soundings), seafloor characteristics (is it muddy, sandy, rocky?), aids to navigation (buoys and lighthouses), and local information that might be relevant, such as strong currents, protected areas, anchorages, shipping lanes, etc.
A nautical chart is flat, but it represents a round surface.
Cartographers, or map makers, split the earth into imaginary circles parallel to the equator, which get smaller and smaller as they get closer to the North and South Poles. The circles are called parallels or lines of latitude. Cartographers also divide the earth into imaginary lines radiating out from the poles. These lines are called meridians or lines of longitude.
Meridians and parallels intersect at specific geographic coordinates, or at a specific latitude and longitude, measured in degrees, minutes, and seconds.
Featured image: chart and globe images and information courtesy NOAA Office of Coast Survey.
Did You Know?
Albert Einstein loved to sail and he sailed his whole life.
Renowned as one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists of all time, by most accounts Einstein was also a terrible sailor! Making a boat go in a particular direction is a very interesting bit of science, so you wouldn’t think he would have had any trouble with it—but you’d be wrong.
What’s the secret to sailing any place you want to go, no matter which way the wind is blowing?