• A section of the bowsprint and figurehead on the bow of BALCLUTHA.

    San Francisco Maritime

    National Historical Park California

Some Things Change Some Stay the Same

A map of San Francisco Bay published in 1883.
A section of a nautical chart of San Francisco Bay published in 1883.
NPS
 
A map of San Francisco Bay published in 1983.
A section of a chart of San Francisco Bay published in 1983.
NPS
 

Do you use maps? Have you ever drawn a map of your house or bedroom? Have you ever used a treasure map and found where X marked the spot? You might even be holding a small rectangle in your hand that can connect you to a digital map of anywhere in the world.

Maps are made to serve different purposes. These charts were drawn to assist mariners piloting their craft in the waters around San Francisco.

Here are two small sections of nautical charts showing the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The one on the top was published in 1883, and the one on the bottom was published in 1983, 100 years later. Of course maps and charts of the same place change over time. But a quick look at these two charts suggests that they look pretty similar, but look again. See if you can spot at least ten differences.


Some things you might have noticed: The Golden Gate and Bay Bridge (built in the 1930s). Treasure Island north of Yerba Buena Island. Shipping lanes and directional arrows. Changes to the northern and eastern shoreline of SF. A tunnel under the Bay (the tube for BART). The way landforms are symbolized on the maps. Little numbers in the water areas indicate water depth; in the 1883 chart they are in fathoms and in the modern-day chart they are in feet. Words (place names) used to label things are easier to read in 1983 version.

Did You Know?

A historic photo of a 19th century San Francisco street.

19th century San Francisco was a hard drinking town. The sailing ship Balclutha helped quench that thirst by delivering cargoes containing Scotch whiskey, Dutch bitters, French vermouth and ales and liquors of all kinds. More...