Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/416

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the pen-name of Harry Bluff, attracted attention and approval. Among the points discussed in them—most of which were brought up for the first time—were the adoption of steam as a motive power; great-circle sailing; the establishment of navy-yards and forts at Memphis and Pensacola; the use of blank charts on board public cruisers; the Gulf Stream and its causes; the connection of terrestrial magnetism with the circulation of the atmosphere; and a ship-canal from the Illinois River to Lake Michigan. The papers gave their author fame, and secured respect for his opinions on naval questions. He was placed in charge of the Depot of Charts and Instruments at Washington, an office which was developed into the Naval Observatory and Hydrographical Department. "No man," said Senator John Bell, "could have been found in the country better fitted than Maury for this difficult duty; and he worked with the zeal and energy that were expected of him."

One of Maury's first enterprises in this office was the compilation of his wind and current charts and sailing directions. He had already, as sailing-master of the Falmouth, in 1831, observed the want of trustworthy information concerning the winds and currents encountered by mariners. He then resolved, if he ever had opportunity, to compile such, information from the store of old log-books in the Hydrographical Bureau of the Naval Department. This he now did, and his charts and sailing directions were furnished to the masters of vessels bound for foreign ports, who in turn supplied the results of their own observations. The most favorable reports came in of the value of the work, and it was illustrated by some then really wonderful incidents.

The fact was demonstrated in American and English journals that, by the mere shortening of voyages they made possible, these charts effected a very great saving in the expense of commerce between distant ports. Testimony was repeatedly borne to their value in the annual reports of the Navy Department and of congressional committees. Secretary Dobbin reported, in 1855, that other maritime nations, appreciating the value of this plan of investigation, had united in a common system of observations for its further prosecution; and that it was suggested by Lieutenant Maury that the same system of meteorological research, "if extended to the land, would afford for the agricultural interests of the country, and for science too, results quite as important as those which commerce and navigation have already received from it." "While analyzing and tabulating these "millions of observations," Maury wrote his Physical Geography of the Sea, which took rank at once as a masterly as well as a charming work. In the preface to it the author attributed such success as he had achieved to the observance of the rule "to keep the mind unbiased by theories and speculations; never to have any wish that