Maps in Master and Commander

Spoilers?A new chart of the coast of Brazil...A new chart of the coast of Brazil...

In the aftermath of the first attack by the Acheron on the H.M.S. Surprise, Captain Aubrey consults his charts for a safe spot to lay up and make repairs. The three maps probably serve better as narrative shorthand than as navigational aids. A continental map of South America is followed by a chart of its northeast coast, before Aubrey puts a chart of St. Roque (?) under magnification. The camera lingers long enough on the second map to read the title: A new chart of the coast of Brazil from the banks of St. Roque,...

Well, enough to do a web search. The map appears online courtesy the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, attributed to the London publishers Laurie and Whittle. (London: 1794) The full title is: A new chart of the coast of Brazil from the banks of St. Roque, to the Island of St. Sebastian with the islands and soundings in the offing from the Portuguese and Dutch draughts, and the journals of the British navigators. Laurie and Whittle were important producers of navigational charts.

In the film's final scene, Dr. Maturin muses over another map, this time of the Galapagos Islands. John Woram is the expert in that area and his detailed website quickly identifies this as Emmanuel Bowen's map of 1741, The Gallapagos Islands Discovered and Described by Capt. Cowley in 1684. The map appeared in John Harris', Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca, (2nd and 3rd editions only), but may have been separately issued. Maturin holds a loose copy.

Bowen copied his map from an earlier work by Herman Moll. Moll produced a printed version of the map for inclusion in A Collection of Original Voyages, published by Capt. William Hacke. (London: James Knapton, 1699). Although Hacke is listed as a captain and a publisher, he was neither. William Hacke (c. 1655 - 1708) edited A Collection of Voyages..., but was primarily a chart maker of the Thames School. Over 300 of his manuscript sea charts and several of his waggoners survive. Moll's map, in turn, appears to be based on a manuscript copy found in Morgan Ms. 3310. (compare)

Maturin also holds a coastal view, presumably of one of the islands. There are no views in Harris' Navigantium..., nor does it match any of the (four) views reproduced from Hacke's, Collection of Voyages... on Woram's website. It does resemble this image, but without more than a glimpse it's hard to be certain.


See also: Master and Commander's Varied Sources by Luke Arnott and/or

Susanna Fisher. The Makers of the Blueback Charts: A History of Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson Ltd. (St Ives: Regatta Press, 2001)