Next edition of Bowditch will have paper version

A 374
To the editor: A recent article concerning The American Practical Navigator (popularly known as Bowditch after its first author, Nathaniel Bowditch — ed.) in the Chartroom Chatter section of a recent issue (“Virtual ‘Bowditch’ for book’s bicentennial,” Issue 122, May/June 2002) contains some inaccuracies and factual errors that I would like to correct.

First, the 1995 edition of the book certainly did not reduce the celestial navigation section to a "small chapter alongside several navigation chapters like radio navigation … " A glance at the table of contents will confirm that the celestial navigation section contains more chapters than any other section with the exception of the navigation safety section. The celestial navigation section also contains more actual pages of information and graphics than any other single section of the book. Measured by page count, chapter count or graphics count, celestial navigation comprises the largest part of the 1995 edition.

Second, no one at any level of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency leadership has made the official statement that it is "unclear" whether Bowditch will be published on paper for public distribution. To the contrary, present plans call for NIMA to publish the book for its military customers, and for the Government Printing Office to publish it for the public, the exact format to be determined by each agency according to its customers. The schedule for future editions, as we move into the age of digital publications, has not yet been determined. The same is true regarding cost. You quote an "unnamed NIMA source" as saying the cost will be "close to $100 a copy." No such cost has been determined, either by NIMA or GPO.

As for the "dizzying" series of links to access the online version of Bowditch, please bear in mind that NIMA is a large, multifaceted organization with a complex suite of products. From the NIMA homepage (, one can access Bowditch via the "Geospatial Intelligence" link or from the "Safety of Navigation" link. In either case, access to the online Bowditch is only four clicks away.

Steven C. Hall is chief of maritime safety information at NIMA.

By Ocean Navigator