Maps from Galathea I

Dusting off the old maps
In August 2006, the Danish research vessel Vædderen began its eight-month long Galathea 3 expedition.

Among the preparations for the voyage, maps and charts from the first Galathea expedition, which took place in the eighteenth century, were exhumed from the Nautical Chart Archives. These records are part of the Archive's Antique Map Collection and had been all but forgotten for more than 150 years.

Secrets of the Archive
Captain Steen Andersen Bille, advisor to Christian VIII, wrote to the first Galathea commander in his instructions:

"You are instructed to examine the coastlines of the Nicobar Islands and compile texts and maps about these areas. Where you find anchorages or harbours, you are instructed to take depth measurements and note what can be obtained in port…"

The Nicobar Islands were, at the time, a Danish colony. The Islands are located in the Bay of Bengal and were of interest to the Danish crown for their potential natural resources. A number of researchers who sailed with the first Galathea expedition were commissioned to examine opportunities for mining and agriculture that could enrich the Danish crown.

Onboard Galathea I, survey officers, including later Nautical Archive Director H.P. Rothe, conducted the required hydrographic surveys of the Nicobar Islands and produced a number of manuscripts and maps.

Upon Galathea I's return to Denmark, the 19 original manuscripts from the Nicobar Islands survey were filed away in the Nautical Chart Archives. And here they remained for nearly two centuries.

When these manuscripts were unearthed earlier this year, in addition to others from Galathea I's stops in Singapore, Japan, Hawaii, Tahiti and the southern American islands of Juan Hernandez, they were celebrated for their scientific detail and aesthetic attributes.

In addition to the manuscripts and maps, such documents as the "Survey Protocol of 1846" have provided new insights to the resources and techniques of the time. A Geographic Journal was also found amid the records, in which time tables, sea clock readings, coordinate lists and depth readings from the entire Galathea I journey were registered.

More information about the Galathea 3 expedition can be found at