The Coast and Geodetic Survey maps digitized for North Carolina Maps were created between 1838 and 1920 by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. This agency, first established as the Survey of the Coast in 1807, created highly detailed maps of the North Carolina coast which were revised and republished frequently. Unlike inland maps, which show the surface of the earth (and sometimes topography), coast survey maps focus on the shape of the coast while showing depths and underwater obstructions. Due to the frequency with which they were revised, the Coast and Geodetic Survey maps are excellent sources for studying changes in the coastline over time. These maps are essential resources for anyone studying the history and ecology of the North Carolina coast.
The National Geodetic Survey and the Office of the Coast Survey are now part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The NOAA website offers more information about the history of the NOAA and its component organizations, including the Coast and Geodetic Survey. This site also includes a great section about the surveying and mapping tools used to make historic coast survey maps.
For additional maps of the North Carolina coast, as well as historical Coast and Geodetic Survey maps of other states, the NOAA Historical Charts page offers many digital images of historic maps.
More information about historical coast surveys, including explanations of naming systems, numbering systems, sketches, reconnoissance charts, and preliminary charts, is available in Shore and Sea Boundaries by Aaron L. Shalowitz (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1962 and 1964). The book is currently out of print, but has been digitized by the NOAA.