Conspiracy

240-year-old nautical maps show coral loss is much worse than we knew. Half of the reefs recorded in the 1770s are missing from the satellite data.

Between 1773 and 1775, George Gauld, a surveyor with the British Admiralty, immortalized the coast of the Florida Keys in ink. Though his most pressing goal was to record the depth of the sea — to prevent future shipwrecks — Gauld embraced his naturalist side, too. He sprinkled his maps with miscellany that later charts would omit: where sea turtles made their nests, or the colors and consistency of sand.

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