Better know a Canadian functionary: the Dominion Hydrographer

Hydrography is the practice of making nautical maps and navigation charts. The Royal Navy, in olden days, mapped much of the eastern Canadian coast, as it did with the coasts of most of the Empire. The Canadian government did not give much thought to charting inland waters until 1882, when the steamer SS Asia struck an uncharted shoal in Georgian Bay and sank, killing 150. In response, the government set up the Georgian Bay Survey, which charged the Surveyor-General with charting the beds of the Great Lakes, then the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, then charting tides and currents and the seasonal level variances of the Great Lakes, until it was finally renamed the Hydrographic Survey of Canada in 1904, changing its name to the Canadian Hydrographic Survey in 1928.

With the retirement of Surveyor-General F.H. Peters in 1948, the CHS was spun off and placed under the command of the Dominion Hydrographer. This title is still officially in use, although most government communication uses the job’s other title, the Director of the Canadian Hydrographic Survey.

The Dominion Hydrographers have been:

R.J. Fraser, 1948-52.
Frank Clifford Goulding Smith, 1952-57.
Norman Gerald Gray, 1957-67.
Arthur E. Collin, 1967-72.
Gerald Neil Ewing, 1972-79.
Stephen B. McPhee (1st time), 1979-87.
G. Ross Douglas, 1987-94.
Stephen B. MacPhee (2nd time), 1994-98.
Anthony David O’Connor, 1998-2002.
Denis Hains (1st time), 2002-04 (acting)
Savithri Narayanan, 2005-14.
Denis Hains (2nd time), 2014-now.


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