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TURKEY – IASOS / KıYıKıŞLACıK: Asia Minor / Mandelyah Gulf / Port Isene / Jassus / By Comr. Thomas Graves / H.M.S. Beacon 1837.



Very Rare – the first edition of an Admiralty chart that represents the first scientific survey of the port of Iasos, near Bodrum, on Turkey’s Aegean coast, site of a once great Greco-Roman port, by the esteemed hydrographer and naturalist Commander Thomas Graves.

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This very rare Admiralty chart showcases the port of Iasos, located on today’s ‘Turkish Rivera’, only a short distance south of Bodrum.  The area is today home to the town of Kıyıkışlacık, and is a popular recreation area.  The present work represents the first publication of the first scientific maritime survey of the vicinity, conducted by the esteemed hydrographer and naturalist Commander Thomas Graves, R.N., in 1837, executed as part of his larger mandate to chart much of the coasts of Western Anatolia and the adjacent Aegean Islands.

The survey is highly accurate, with the shorelines delineated by trigonometric methods and, while the seas feature innumerable bathymetric soundings, as well as the locations of nautical hazards.  The most interesting aspect of the chart is the small peninsula in the lower left, which features large and impressive ancient ruins.  The peninsula, formerly an island, was settled as a town at least as early as 5,000 BC.  By the Classical Greek period, Iasos was a major and very wealthy port, occupying the entire peninsula, and over the succeeding centuries continued to prosper, in spite of wars and conquests. 

The chart depicts Iasos’s ancient walls, ‘Theatre’ and ‘Aqueduct’ (on the mainland, to the north), plus innumerable smaller constructions that in the 1830s were the remaining legacies of Greco-Roman times.  The chart also labels the ‘Venetian Castle’, which was, in fact, constructed during the Middle Ages by the Knights of St. John. Following the Ottoman conquest of the region in the 15th Century, the town of Kıyıkışlacık developed along the mainland shore by the base of the peninsula.  Iasos has been a major centre of archaeological discovery since the early 19th Century, and today still boasts many impressive ruins.

Until the Napoleonic Wars, very few parts of the coastlines of the Eastern Mediterranean had been scientifically surveyed.  The Ottoman Empire had limited interest supporting such surveys, and Western powers were generally discouraged from conducting such operations in Turkish waters.  However, Britain’s victory in the conflict gave the Royal Navy complete mastery of the entire Mediterranean, a reality grudgingly accepted by the powers in Istanbul.  In 1815, the Admiralty ordained that the entire Mediterranean should be hydrographically charted to top-notch scientific specifications, a task that would take some decades to complete.

The present chart follows the format and design pioneered by Captain Thomas Hurd when he was the Hydrographer to the Admiralty between 1808 and 1823.  Small-format, yet well designed and of high printing quality, the charts compressed a large amount of information into a single easily portable sheet.  They tended to focus specifically on single ports (as opposed to stretches of coastline) and were valued by officers as far more practical for inshore navigation than the established elephant hydrographic charts.  As each of these charts suited very specific purposes, they tended to have been issued in smaller print runs than the general regional Admiralty charts, and so today tend to be quite rare.


Thomas Graves: Hydrographer and Naturalist of the Mediterranean

Enter Thomas Graves (1802 – 1856), a Royal Navy officer, respected naturalist and prolific hydrographer.   Born in Belfast, Graves entered the navy in 1816, and gained rapid promotion.  In 1827, he was elevated to lieutenant and served on Philip Parker King’s famous surveying-naturalist expedition to the Tierra del Fuego and the Straits of Magellan.  In 1831-2, he retuned to Ulster to survey Lough Neagh for the Admiralty.  Subsequently, Graves was dispatched to hydrographical duty in the Mediterranean, with the rank of lieutenant commander, in charge of the HMS Mastiff.

In 1837, Graves was promoted to Commander and given chart of a larger vessel, the HMS Beacon.  He was tasked with surveying the coasts of western Anatolia and several of the adjacent Aegean Islands.  However, Graves true passion was for the natural sciences – botany, ornithology and biology.  With the Navy’s blessing, he transformed the Beacon into a mobile scientific research laboratory, in which surveying work would be combined with discoveries of flora and fauna.  The common crew assumed their unorthodox roles as amateur scientists with gusto.  From 1841, the esteemed naturalists William Thompson and Edward Forbes joined Graves’ company.  The main scientific discovery of the Graves expeditions was the eight distinct layered zones of marine life in the Eastern Mediterranean, detected after the crew had dredged down 231 fathoms, the deepest reconnaissance yet made in those waters.

From 1837 to 1846, Graves charted innumerable ports along the Aegean, several of which were published by the Admiralty, such as the present chart.  His surveys were of such high quality that they remained the authoritative charts of the region’s port for many decades.

Graves subsequently served in Ceylon, before becoming, in 1853, the Naval Chief of the Malta Station.  Sadly, in 1856, Graves was murdered by a mentally deranged Maltese boatman, Giuseppe Meli.  Graves left behind an impressive legacy of hydrographic and natural scientific work that would perhaps be better known today had Graves lived long enough to publish his memoirs.


A Note on Rarity

Like most such small-format, separately issued Admiralty charts, Graves’ present chart of Iasos is very rare.  We can trace only a few examples in institutions, and can find no examples as having appeared on the market during the last generation.


References: British Library: Cartographic Items Maps SEC.5.(1529.); OCLC: 557776381; Catalogue of the Books and Maps in the Library of the Geological Society of London (London, 1846), p. 155; Monatsberichte über die Verhandlungen der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin, New Series, vol. 3 (Berlin: Simon Schropp, 1846), p. 258; Admiralty Catalogue of Charts, Plans, Views and Sailing Directions, & c. (London, 1860), p. 48.



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