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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research


A Geographical Description of the Spratly Islands and an Account of Hydrographic Surveys Amongst those Islands

Author: David Hancox & Victor Prescott


A Geographical Description of the Spratly Islands and an Account of Hydrographic Surveys Amongst those Islands - image

Unlike most of the recent literature dealing with the Spratly Islands, this study by Captain Hancox and Professor Prescott avoids politics. In this Briefing, the authors provide information on two topics which contribute to the foundation for any historical, legal, political or economic analysis of that area.

The first part consists of a geographical description of the features that are called the Spratly Islands. These features comprise islands and rocks that stand above high water, reefs that uncover at low water and shoals that reach near the surface of the sea but are always submerged. These descriptions have been based on the best available sailing directions and charts which have been published by American, British, Chinese, French, Japanese, Malaysian, Philippine and Taiwanese authorities. Where there are unresolved discrepancies in these sources they have been noted.

The second part reviews the history of charting the Spratly Islands from the end of the 18th century to the present. This account reveals the extent to which surveys produced by hydrographers of one country were incorporated, with or without acknowledgement, onto the charts of other countries. Appendices attached to this part list all published charts of the Spratly Islands and unpublished surveys and sketches made by Captain Hancox or other salvage masters in this region.

The information in this Briefing provides a research tool for those interested in the politics and development of the Spratly Islands, which can be improved in the future as more information becomes available.

Maritime Briefings (Vol. 1 no. 6)
This article is available as a free download.



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