The Surveyors: Charting America's Course

Travel through time and across a growing nation with the visionary scientists and intrepid explorers of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in The Surveyors: Charting America's Course.

Watch as these great men and women create the first scientific agency in the United States and build a power-house of new technology and innovation, to help engineer the growth of the nation. Witness the establishment of a new uniformed service, formed to keep surveyors from being mistaken as spies during times of war. Join the surveyors of today as they use state-of-the-art technology to deliver the products and services needed to preserve and protect our marine and coastal areas. And catch a glimpse of the future of NOAA and the critical work of tomorrow.

From the depths of our harbors…to the positions of our peaks…to the movements of our tides and currents…this is the story of pushing the edge of technology to guarantee the secure flow of people and commerce. This is the story of America's Surveyors.


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Running Time: 26:40 minutes

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Quicktime, 720x480, 513.7 MB
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Chapter 1: America's Surveyors (~ 8 minutes)

This chapter provides an introduction to the group of men and women who for over 200 years have been surveying our coasts to produce nautical charts and shoreline maps. This segment covers the mission of NOAA today and looks at how that mission has evolved over time. You will also learn about the challenges encountered by Ferdinand Hassler, the first Superintendent of the Survey of the Coast, in getting the Survey started.

Chapter 2: Growing with the Nation (~ 6 minutes)

This chapter looks at the years under second Superintendent Alexander Bache, during which time the United States—and the Survey—began expanding westward. Learn how science used by the Survey, such as the telegraph and self-recording tide gauges, helped the nation grow.

Chapter 3: Bringing the Nation Together (~ 5 minutes, 30 seconds)

This chapter highlights the Transcontinental Arc that was essential in bringing the East and West coasts together. You will see how the Survey and the country moved from baseline surveys to today’s global positioning methods and the use of the Global Positioning System to define the National Spatial Reference System. This chapter also takes you through the contribution of the men and women during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.

Chapter 4: New Technology: Moving Toward the Future (~ 6 minutes)

Through time, technology advanced and so did the Survey. Advances in underwater mapping technology and positioning have made charts more accurate and reliable, allowing the Survey to provide critical information for the movement of commerce today. As this chapter of the film reflects on the past, it also looks toward the future and the challenges of tomorrow.

Extra: oneNOAA (~ 3 min.)

Learn about the exciting work of NOAA today.