James Horsburgh Expedition

James Horsburgh was shipwrecked on the Chagos in 1786 whilst under the employment of the East India Company on the ship Atlas. Horsburgh later writes, 'The charts on board were very erroneous in the delineation of the Chagos Islands and Banks, and the commander, trusting too much to dead reckoning, was steering with confidence to make the non-existent Adu or Candu for a new departure, being their longitude nearby, by account, and bound for Ceylon; but, unfortunately a cloud over Diego Garcia prevented the helmsman from discerning it, (the officer of the watch being asleep), till we were on the reef close to the shore. The masts, rudder, and everything above the deck went with the first surge; the second lifted the vessel over the outer rocks and threw her in towards the beach". This experieince led him to create more accurate maps of the Indian Ocean and he became one of the formost hydrographers of the time. His specifically named "Directions for Sailing to and from the East Indies, China, New Holland, Cape of Good Hope, and the interjacent Ports, compiled chiefly from original Journals and Observations made during 21 years' experience in navigating those Seas" (also known as the 'India Directory') became the foremost work on oriental navigation in the first half of the 19th Century. His work included the first accurate maps of the trade routes used between Chagos, Maldives and Lakshapweep (then known as the Laccadives). "This Island is one of the wonderful phaenomena of this globe." JAMES HORSBURGH (1809, 131)
Expedition leader
James Horsburgh
Expedition leader email
  • Diego Garcia