Modern hydrography (First study)

Modern hydrography (First study)

  • Map of the port of Gravosa and the Ombla river, surveyed in 1809

    BEAUTEMPS-BEAUPRÉ Charles-François (1766 - 1854)

  • View of the port of Gravosa (detail).

    BEAUTEMPS-BEAUPRÉ Charles-François (1766 - 1854)

To close

Title: Map of the port of Gravosa and the Ombla river, surveyed in 1809

Author : BEAUTEMPS-BEAUPRÉ Charles-François (1766 - 1854)

Creation date : 1810

Date shown: 1809

Dimensions: Height 97.5 - Width 208

Technique and other indications: ... by order of His Majesty the Emperor and King under the ministry of His Excellency Count Decres (...) Ss-serie.fonds de la Marine: modern series; hydrographic service; (Marine JJ); cards (Marine 6 JJ) CotConsu.6JJ / 54 / terPieceAct.22 Designer: Portier

Storage place: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: 6JJ / 54 / ter / NUML000540 and NUML000541

Map of the port of Gravosa and the Ombla river, surveyed in 1809

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: View of the port of Gravosa (detail).

Author : BEAUTEMPS-BEAUPRÉ Charles-François (1766 - 1854)

Creation date : 1810

Date shown: 1809

Dimensions: Height 97.5 - Width 208

Technique and other indications: Detail of the plan of the port of Gravosa and the Ombla river raised in 1809 by order of His Majesty the Emperor and King under the ministry of His Excellency Count Decres (...). Ss-serie.fonds de la Marine : modern series; hydrographic service; (Marine JJ); cards (Marine 6 JJ) CotConsu.6JJ / 54 / terPieceAct.22 Designer: Portier

Storage place: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: 6JJ / 54 / ter / NUML000542

View of the port of Gravosa (detail).

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: October 2003

Video

Modern hydrography (First study)

Video

Historical context

French hydrographers in the Gulf of Venice

From 1806 to 1809, a handful of French hydrographic engineers performed feats on the eastern Adriatic coast, then known as the "Gulf of Venice". At their head, Charles-François Beautemps-Beaupré (1766-1854) - the father of modern hydrography - applied the principles of this new marine cartography that he had just developed around the world with d'Entrecasteaux, to the search for La Pérouse (1791-1793), then on the coasts of Flanders, since 1799.

However, well beyond geographic science, its mission is highly strategic and confidential.

When the Treaty of Pressburg (December 26, 1805) gave the Austrian provinces of Veneto, Istria and Dalmatia to the kingdom of Italy, the Adriatic Sea found itself at the center of the Empire, while the Grand Army progressed to the heart of 'a Europe heated in the Austerlitz sun (December 2, 1805). The large shipyards of the arsenals and their annexes immediately occupied a major place: Venice, Trieste, Ancona, Pola, Ragusa (now Dubrovnik) and Corfu were all support points on which Napoleon relied to straighten out his navy.

Image Analysis

From statements to cards

The roadstead of Gravosa is separated from Ragusa by an isthmus only two kilometers wide (Modern hydrography. Second study). Between a beautifully washed blue sea, where the density of soundings is impressive along the coast, and a white hinterland - like the emptiness of a land that the navigator cannot see from the deck of his ship - , the Beautemps-Beaupré maps provide a perfect representation of the relief, the plot and the constructions of the coastal strip. The probes are carried out at the feet of France from a boat navigating in a zigzag way between the two banks of the harbor, the route of which can be followed on the map. The nature of the seabed: mud, gravel, shell, rock, seaweed… is indicated by initials. Climatological (wind regime) and oceanographic (tides and currents) information complete the data. Great art!

Spectacular in their large formats (some reach more than two meters by nearly four meters), these handwritten plans - mostly on a very large scale (1/7200 or 1/14400) - are enhanced with watercolor tints and mounted on canvas in order to be presented directly to Napoleon by their author, the Emperor, keeping the unique copies. The quality of their finish is thus exceptional for hydrographic documents. They also come with a considerable number of panoramas. Painted in watercolors, these are not only views of the coast, intended to facilitate positioning from the sea, but also real paintings depicting scenes from everyday Dalmatian life. Due to the hydrograph designer Portier, they constitute as many illustrations of Beautemps-Beaupré reports.

In front of the port of Gravosa, which extends to the Ombla estuary, the view is taken from point A which can be seen on the coast (in red). Two hydrographers flanked by a militiaman smoking his pipe, leaning on his old musket, take readings: one of the engineers, seated, notes in his notebook the observations dictated to him by the other. The latter, perhaps Beautemps-Beaupré himself, uses the reflection circle. Two boats, one of which has a square sail, could be used to probe the shoals of the harbor.

Interpretation

A work of the future

Even if the great project of a new imperial road between Venice and the Levant (thus the East) fails, like the ephemeral integration of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik) into the Empire - since the place will never be the annex of the city of the Doges that it should have become - hydrography, on the French side, is once again one of the rare maritime activities of the period to succeed. Well beyond the conquests and the defeat, the cards raised by Beautemps-Beaupré on the European coasts remain "among the peoples who have become again in the north and south the neighbors of France, our finest titles to their recognition and consequently to true glory", as 'wrote a chronicler of the Restoration. The work is of importance for the foundation of a reference French hydrography, in the eyes of many States. After the Congress of Vienna (September 1814-June 1815), Austria had copies of the maps drawn up by Beautemps-Beaupré in the Adriatic, until then banned for distribution by Napoleon, for reasons of defense secrecy. She will derive the greatest benefit from it throughout the XIXe century…

  • cards
  • hydrography
  • innovation
  • sea
  • engineer

Bibliography

Olivier CHAPUIS In the sea as in the sky. Beautemps-Beaupré and the birth of modern hydrography (1700-1850) Paris, University of Paris-Sorbonne Press, 1999.

To cite this article

Olivier CHAPUIS, "Modern hydrography (First study)"


Video: MBT - Hydrographic Surveyor