Humboldt (schooner)

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Humboldt (#) (1854-1872+), surveying schooner used by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey off the coast of California and around the Channel Islands in the mid 19th century. Humboldt was a schooner, 76 feet in length, beam 21 feet, draft 5 feet. Built in 1854 specifically for duty on the Pacific coast of the United States, it is one of two Coast Survey ships (EWING the other) to have rounded Cape Horn during transit to western coast. For most of its west coast duty it served as transportation for the party of Assistant William E. Greenwell, who served as triangulation party chief and senior Coast Surveyor in the Southern California – Channel Islands region. The vessel was planned and designed by William E. Greenwell specifically for West Coast duty. She arrived in San Francisco in 1855, and virtually duplicated the voyage of the Ewing.


In 1871, Humboldt served under Assistant William Healey Dall in the Coast Survey’s first reconnaissance of the Aleutian Islands and southwestern Alaska area following its purchase in 1871. Humboldt remained in service from 1855-1872. The vessel was named for the great European geographer and scientist Alexander Humboldt.




In the News~

November 17, 1855 [Los Angeles Star]: “The U. S. Surveying schooner Humboldt, arrived at same port on the 11th inst., from Santa Catalina.”


November 4, 1856 [DAC]: “Arrived. U.S. Surveying schooner Humboldt, [Captain] Greenwell, 6 days from Santa Cruz Island.”


1861: “Triangulation of the Santa Barbara Channel, Cal. Assistant W. E. Greenwell, after revisiting the Atlantic coast, returned to San Francisco in June, and at once reorganized his party for service in the schooner Humboldt. The vessel proceeded to the western end of Santa Cruz Island, where a signal was put up to be observed on from stations on the main shore of Santa Barbara Channel. Others were adjusted which had been previously erected on that island of Anacapa. These preliminaries were attended to under the disadvantage of prevailing fogs and gales of wind.” [U.S. Coast Survey Volume 6, 1861, p. 66]


August 27, 1886 [SBDP]: “In the death at half past four o’clock this morning, at the family residence in this city of Captain William E. Greenwell... Captain Greenwell was a native of the state of Maryland, and while yet a young man, and about the year 1850, entered the United States Coast Survey service on this coast. During his first years of duty as Coast Surveyor he used as his transport ship, the schooner Humboldt, chartered by the government for this department of service and remembered by many old timers. This position was held continuously by Captain Greenwell until a few years ago when he resigned his commission…”