The surveys of the Persian/Arabian Gulf, between 1785 and 1829, were first and foremost, made to advantage British trade with countries surrounding the waters of the Gulf. The very first surveys, including that of John McCluer in
1785-87 had largely ignored the southern coast of what is now that United Arab Emirates as it was deemed of little or no trade value. Indeed, the coastal settlements to the east of Dubai were generally unfriendly to European shipping and were eventually dubbed the 'pirate coast' as a result of constant attacks by Qasimi vessels, based principally on Ra's al-Khaimah. A number of the charts in the Heritage Charts collection reflect this history.
When Captain Hurd, Hydrographer to the Admiralty, published the first British Admiralty chart of the Gulf on 21 September 1820, in response to growing British commercial interest in the region, he incorporated the early surveys and comments made by men such as McCluer amongst others and the legend ‘This part of the Coast is unknown' became something of a staple on charts up until Lieutenants Captain Maughan and Lieutenant J. M. Guy began their survey of the coast in 1821, at the behest of the Bombay Marine Service.
By the end of 1822 they had surveyed from Cape Musandam to Abu Thabi (Abu Dhabi)and submitted a report on the so called 'pirate coast'. During this time Maughan had succumbed to ill-health and Guy had taken over command. In February of 1823 Guy himself was taken ill and his assistant Lieutenant George Brucks took over responsibility. By the end of 1824 the survey had reached Ras Reccan at the top of the Qatar peninsular. Vitally, all of the islands adjacent to the coast had also been surveyed. By the end of 1825 Brucks had taken the survey to the very top of the Gulf at Khor Abdulla and the entire south coast had been charted. The final Persian section of the survey was started in 1826 and completed in April 1828 with the final section at the mouth of the Gulf being undertaken in the October of 1828. Brucks fell in just before completing this final section and Lieutenant Haines completed the massive work in 1829. It had take nine years and cost the lives of three of its main surveyors
In his paper 'Surveying the waters of the UAE' Andrew David states:
'The results of the surveys covering the waters of the UAE, were drawn at the end of the survey of the Gulf in 1830 on a small scale chart, extending from the Musandam Peninsula to Khor Abdulla, with the off-lying islands drawn on nine large scale plans..' (see Heritage Charts ME701-ME702b). Also in 1830 James Horsburgh, Hydrographer to the East India Company, published a chart of the Gulf on two sheets based on these surveys (see also Heritage Charts ME825). '..The publication of this chart led to the withdrawal of the 1820 Admiralty chart, which thus was in publication for a very short time. When the Admiralty took over the charting responsibilities of the East India Company in 1861, the Hydrographer of the Navy continued to publish Horsburgh’s chart as charts 90 (a) and (b), but did not initiate further major surveys of the coastal waters of the UAE for over 100 years, although a number of minor surveys of small extent were carried out during this period. Thus it was not until after the end of World War II that Guy’s survey was finally superseded, when the discovery of oil in the waters of the UAE led to the area being surveyed in detail to modern standards.'
For further reading on the British survey of the Gulf see:
Great Britain. Hydrographic Department. The Persian Gulf pilot. London, J.D. Potter, 1982, 1864. Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/01018289/.
George Barnes Brucks, Memoir Descriptive of the Navigation of the Gulf of Persia; with Brief Notices of the ... People Inhabiting its Shores and Islands, (Bombay: Bombay Education Society’s Press, 1856)
Surveying the waters of the UAE, Andrew David. Original Paper. United Kingdom Hydrographic office listings.
Surveys of the Arabian/Persian Gulf