Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mapping the Pacific

This month's staff pick is a chart/sketch of the "Gulf of California drawn from the surveys made by the Spanish Officers and pilots of St. Blas" the chart details soundings, tracks, anchorages as well as missions and towns. The sketch is from Coll 304, v. 7, of The William T. Skiddy Collection.
and can be viewed in the Collections Research Room. Pictured on the left is another harbor sketch by Skiddy showing the Bay of Pisco on the coast of Peru.

William T. Skiddy was an artist, naval architect, Captain and an entrepreneur. In 1805 at the age of ten he signed on as a cabin boy aboard the packet ship the ROSE-IN-BLOOM. After a voyage to Charleston, S.C. he returned to New York City and become an assistant steward for his step-father, John R. Skiddy, a ship captain of Stamford and New York.

With the exception of his three years of schooling in France he stayed in the merchant service until 1812. He then spent eight months as a prisoner of war when the crew of the Brig STEPHEN was captured by the British frigate ANDROMACHE. The day after his release he joined the US Navy and received his Midshipman's commission from President Madison. Captain James Lawrence ordered him to report to the HORNET as a master-mate where he served under the command of Captain James Biddle for the duration of the war.

In 1816 he returned to merchant service where he was given the command of the ship MARIA THERESA. He was in the South Pacific during the blockade of Callao by Lord Cochrane, at which time he ran the blockade and brought away the Spanish Viceroy of Peru.

During his many voyages along the Pacific coast he surveyed and charted many of the ports he visited including the Gulf of California chart selected as this months Staff Pick.

In 1844 he entered into the naval construction business with his half-brother Francis. Soon after he was appointed by the US government to superintend the construction of the Collins steamers, which were used as mail steamers.

During his life at sea, Capt. Skiddy kept a journal, and at some point in his life he transcribed them into two volumes entitled "The Ups and Downs of a Sea Life from 1805" which are excellent description of life at sea are also part of Mystic Seaport's wonderful collections.

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