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Secret Hydrographic Surveys in the Spratly Islands
By David Hancox & Victor Prescott
ASEAN Academic Press
219 pages, Illustrated, 5 3/4" x 8 3/4"
From the beginning of modern western hydrographic exploration in the early 1800's,
around what was then called the Archipelago of Reefs in the South China Sea,
numerous reefs, banks, shoals and islands have been reported and recorded on
navigational charts. However, doubts about some of these reported features began
to arise after the first detailed investigation of the western, southern and
eastern boundaries of what was then known as the Dangerous Ground of the South
China Sea were completed by 1870. From the 1880's, a number of these features
began to be qualified on British Admiralty charts with notation ED (Existence
Doubtful) or PD (Position Doubtful), indicating that the feature's either existed
or existed in the position recorded. Extensive secret surveys in the Dangerous
Ground were conducted principally by British Admiralty and Japanese naval surveyors
between 1926 and 1939 for territorial and strategic reasons. These conclusively
proved that many of these reported features did not exist. However, despite
the extensive revision of non-confidential British charts in 1954, many charts
and maps of the Spratly Islands continue to show features that do not exist.
This book reviews the history of national open and secret surveys in the Dangerous
Ground and enumerates a number of features that do not exist, and probably never
have existed except as a result of errors made by navigators in reporting those
perceived dangers between 100 and 200 years ago.