NOS Office of Coast Survey
Office of Coast Survey
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

Historical Data

U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Annual Reports Annual reports, produced for Congress, contain information about charting and chart inventories.

U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Special Publications Scientific research uses geodetic, hydrographic, geophysical and oceanographic methods.

Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) :  This resource is the federal standard for geographic names within the U.S.  The GNIS database serves as the backend of the Historical Map and Chart Collection’s search by location/place name.

NOS Hydrographic Survey Data NOAA's hydrographic surveys (H-sheets) are available for search and download through the National Geophysical Data Center. Smooth sheets of surveys are available in SID and TIFF formats. Smooth sheets that correspond to some of historical charts are available from this site.

NOAA Shoreline Website Links to various shoreline datasets as well as the history of shoreline mapping. Request scanned copies of topographic sheets (T-sheets) by emailing

Notes on the Coast of the United States Series of eight memoirs written in 1861 by the "Blockade Strategy Board. The surveys were completed by the Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey and his team. They include sailing directions and detailed geographic information for the Southeast and Gulf Coasts. The documents were instrumental to Union Army and Navy operations during the Civil War.

Historical Coast Pilots The United States Coast Pilot® editions, covering U.S. coastal and intracoastal waters and the Great Lakes, contain information important to navigators. The earliest in this series of nautical books is from 1796. They are in Adobe PDF format. Download time may be significant due to file size.

Historic Current Survey Data from NOAA Tides and Currents Data for various depths is available for each historic current survey station.

NOAA 200th Anniversary Website During its 200th anniversary in 2007, NOAA celebrated the rich history of science, service, and stewardship provided by the agency and its predecessors. This site tells stories dating back to the founding of the U.S. Survey of the Coast by Thomas Jefferson.

Historic Louisiana Placenames A PDF document of historical geographic placenames that were removed from NOAA charts in Louisiana.

Other Historical Map and Charts available on the Web

The Library of Congress Map Collections focus on Americana and cartographic treasures of the Library of Congress. These images were created from maps and atlases and, in general, are restricted to items not covered by copyright protection.

Other Map and Charts available on the Web

Inland Electronic Navigation Charts The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' inland electronic navigation charts (IENC) cover much of the 8,200 miles of rivers in the U.S. inland river system.

U.S. Nautical Charts NOAA's suite of nautical charts covers the coastal waters of the U.S. and its territories.

Topographic Maps Find national topographic maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Helpful Resources

U.S. Chart No. 1 Chart No. 1: Nautical Chart Symbols, Abbreviations and Terms depicts basic chart elements and explains nautical chart symbols and abbreviations associated with NOAA and NGA charts. It is a valuable aid for new chart users and a useful tool for all mariners. This publication is in Adobe PDF format.

Interactive Chart Catalog While this catalog shows the placement of modern charts, the catalog's numbering system goes back to the mid-1970s. Use the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey number to find pre-1970s charts.

Regionally based catalog Catalogs formatted into PDF for printing at home.

Distance between U.S. Ports This document details distances between U.S. ports.

Distance between Ports Pub 151 This document, from the National Geospatial-intelligence Agency, details distances between ports around the world.

U.S. Board on Geographic Names A federal body created in 1890, established in its present form in 1947, it maintains uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government.

North American Datum Conversion (NADCON) Computes datum shifts between NAD 27 and NAD 83, which is important when using historical charts as a data layer in a change analysis of features.

An Album of Map Projections This document (~88MB PDF) is U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1453 (1989) by John P. Snyder and Philip M. Voxland. It contains useful information about map projections.

Practical and Emblematic Roles ofthe American Polyconic Projection This article by Mark Monmonier was published in a special Austrian journal. It contains useful information about polyconic projections, which are prominently featured on early Coast Survey charts.

Map Projections Classified and Defined: Appendix 39 to the 1853 Coast Survey Annual Report Most modern NOAA charts are constructed on a Mercator projection (except in the Great Lakes); however, early charts utilized a type of polyconic projection. If you are interested in the science behind it, you will enjoy reading this report (~24MB PDF).

U.S. Government Works and Copyright Law Copyright information for US Government works.


Library of Congress - Geography & Map Division Supported by funding from NOAA's Climate Database Modernization Program in 2009 and 2010, the Office of Coast Survey is working with the Library of Congress' Geography and Map Division to digitally capture and record its collection of NOAA heritage assets.

NOAA Central Library The NOAA Central Library supports research regarding the Historical Map and Chart Collection.

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