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Nautical Charts

Tailored to the needs of marine navigation, nautical charts delineate the shoreline and display important navigational information, such as water depths, prominent topographic features and landmarks, and aids to navigation.

NOAA Nautical Chart, near NU Campus

This example, extracted from a chart produced by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provides an example of the detail available on many nautical charts.

Whether your are a sailor or a fisherman, if you sail in the ocean (or Great Lakes) you need a nautical chart to navigate. Nautical charts can also be used to examine coast area changes over time. The map collection has two major nautical chart series: domestic coastlines and foreign waters.

To locate chart #s for paper charts in our collection you need to use chart catalogs (available in print, call # C 55. 418:-):

  • US Domestic Coasts - 1:Atlantic, 2:Pacific, 3:Alaska; 4:Great Lakes, 5:Gulf
  • Foreign Oceans - Region 1:US & Canada, 2:Central & South America, 3:Western Europe, 4:Scandinavia-Russia, 5:Western Africa & Mediterranean, 6:Indian Ocean, 7:Australia, Indonesia & New Zealand, 8:Oceania, 9:East Asia

Historic nautical & coastal charts (US area, mostly) are available online:

Historical Map & Chart Collection
The Office of Coast Survey's Historical Map & Chart Collection contains over 20,000 maps and charts from the late 1700s to present day.

Alabama Maps : Historical Map Archive
Viewing only. Check "Coastal Navigational Charts" but more coastal charts can be found from other categorical pages.

PLEASE NOTE:  In 2019, and after more than 200 years of producing nautical charts on paper, NOAA announced a phased cessation of paper chart production.  Details on the timeline and what will replace traditional nautical charts are available.