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George Eldridge’s Upside-Down Chart




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The publication in 1852 of this, George Eldridge’s first chart, launched a chart-making and nautical publication enterprise which continues to this day with the annual publication of the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book by his great-great grandson, Robert Eldridge White and his wife, Linda. It is entitled: Chatham Lights to South West Part of Handkerchief, Surveyed and Published by George Eldridge, Chatham, Mass. It is known as the “Upside-Down Chart” because, contrary to tradition, South is at the top. It covers an area south of Chatham (the Twin Lights are at the very bottom of the chart) comprising the southern tip of Nauset Beach (now South Beach Island), Monomoy Island and the surrounding shoals.
George Eldridge, born in Chatham in 1821, began a maritime career as a fisherman, coaster and local pilot. During his 20s he earned the reputation of being an intrepid and skillful ship master. This part of his career came to an abrupt end when he fell from the rigging of his coastal schooner in a storm and was severely injured. During his recovery ashore he realized that his disability required him to undertake a new career. He taught himself marine surveying and decided to become a chart-maker. His decision was inspired by the severe coastal changes caused by a storm which had recently opened up a new inlet in Nauset Beach and caused some new and hazardous shoals to form. These he set out to survey from his dory. The resulting chart was an immediate success, which prompted him to continue with chart-making as a career. He subsequently expanded his publication efforts to include pilot books and tide and current tables and later enlisted his son, George W. Eldridge, to join him in the enterprise.
This chart is a gift to the Atwood House & Museum from the Executive Board of the Chatham Historical Society in honor of John J. King, II in recognition of his service as Chairman of the Board. It was purchased from Maps of Antiquity, Chatham.