Persian Gulf Pilot 1864–1932, The

 (13) 978-1-85207-180-6       Extent:  8 volumes, 2,600 pages
Editor: N/A  Published: 1989
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

The series of Pilots or guides to navigation were issued by the Admiralty, London, for a range of maritime areas including the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The Persian Gulf Pilot provides, chapter by chapter, a progressive survey of the Gulf Coast viewed from the seaboard side. Particular attention is paid to navigational hazards, including weather, water depths and islands, the regular shipping channels are described and in the later editions illustrations of coastal profiles and views of particular locations are included.
The documentary interest of the Pilots lies in their detailed descriptions of coastlines and communities of 50 and 100 years ago, most of which have altered beyond recognition. The Pilots go into great circumstantial detail about local conditions of life as well as the geography of the coastline and shipping features. The Pilots remain a valuable research source.


Archive Editions presents the first eight editions of the famous Pilot series of Guides to Navigation issued by the British Admiralty, published here as a set to present a cumulative picture of 19th and early 20th century Gulf navigation and to allow comparative studies at different dates. They contain fascinating descriptions of shorelines and coastal scenery, harbours and towns, occasionally unchanged to this day, but mostly long-vanished under modern developments.
Development of contents in successive editions
Each edition of the Pilot is revised from the previous edition, and often the text in any particular section will remain the same, or alter only slightly from one edition to the next. Change is gradual and progressive through the succeeding editions of the Pilot - a reflection of the transformation of the Gulf, piecemeal and imperceptible at any one point, cumulative and far-reaching over half a century and more. Gradually the contents and style of the Pilots assume a more modern aspect. In the introductory chapter meteorological detail is increased as well as information on maritime communications, coal and fuel oil, docks and repairs.
The later editions include illustrations, and the 1932 List of Views includes: View of approaches to Sur - Approaches to Muscat - Sohar town - Kalba village - Khor Fakkan - Musandam Peninsula - Cape Jask - Hormuz - Bandar Abbas approaches - Qishm island - Tunb and Bu Musa islands - Ras al Khaimah fort - Al Ajman town - the Shatt Al Arab control-vessel.


The contents of each edition follow the same general structure. The following is a summary of the contents of the First Edition (1870):
Preface, glossary of terms, coins, weights and measures.
Chapter I: General description. Coasts. Soundings. Islands. Winds. Weather. Temperature. Barometer. Currents. Tides. Health. Towns. Trade, pearl fishery.
Chapter II: Passages to and from the Gulf: From India, the Cape, and the Red Sea to the Gulf.
Chapter III: Navigation of the Persian Gulf: Passages up the Gulf; passages down the Gulf.
Chapter IV: Arabian coast from Ras al Hed to Maskat. Ras Jibsh to Ras al Hed. Khor Jerameh. Sur. Kalhat. Ras as Shijr. Kerriyat. Ras Abu Daud. Ras al Kheiran. Sudab.
Chapter V: Gulf of Ornan. Maskat; directions for entering port. Matreh. Fahil island. Batneh coast. Sib. Birkeh. Sawadi islands. Deimaniyeh islands. Sohar. Sheras. Khor Fakan. Dibba bay. The Ruweis al Jebal.
Chapter VI: Quoins to Abu Thabi. Cape Musendam. Kumzar. Jeziret Ghanarn. Khor Ghub Ali. Khor as Shem. Khasab bay. Ras Sheikh Masaud. Sh´am point. Ras al Kheimeh. Jeziret al Hamrah. Umm al Kuwein. Ajman. Shargeh. Debay. Abu Thabi.
Chapter VII: Aba Thabi to Ras Rekken. Desolate coast. Pearl banks. Khor al Bezm. Sir Beni Yas, Zirkuh and other islands. Khor al Adeid. Gatr. Ras Laffan. Ras Rekken. Halul island.
Chapter VIII: Ras Rekken to Bubiyan island. Villages S.W. of Ras Rekken. The Dibal reef. Bahrein. Maharag island. Khor al Bab. Demmam. Al Katif. Ras Tanureh. Burr al Adan. Jinnah, Farsi, Arabi and other islands. Bandar Mushab. Koweit. Khor Abdallah.
Chapter IX: Ras Jasak to Ras Bostaneh. Ras Jashk. Kuh i Mubarak. Khor Minab. Hormuz. Bandar Abbas. Kesm. Henjam. Basiduh. Tumbs islands and Bu Musa. Lingeh.
Chapter X: Ras Bostaneh to Abu-Shehr. Bold, mountainous coast. Various islands.
Chapter XI: Bu-Shehr to the Shatt al Arab. Bu-Shehr. Khareg and Khargu islands. Coast of Fars. Tab river. Khor Musa. Meidan Ali. The Shatt al Arab. Passage to Basrah. Tide table and memorandum on surveying operations.


The Pilots are full of the most interesting details. Naturally the prevailing wind in the Gulf, the nor´wester known as the shamal, is described. There is much detail on creeks and beaches and landings, and the occasional observation such as "fine oysters can be obtained" (a propos of Jezirat Tunb in 1915). The following references give a taste of the contents.
From the First Edition (1870):
Jeziret Khargu, a very low white sandy island, visible only 6 miles by day, and very difficult to see at night...barren and uninhabited...East India Company brig of war Euphrates ran on this island at night in December 1848,... it not being seen at all.
From the Third Edition (1890):
Dabai is a large town under an independent chief, and it contains, with the suburb of Deira, 5,000 or 6,000 inhabitants; the tribe is the Abu Felasa, a branch of the Beni Yas. A few Hindus reside here.
The town stands a little back from the shore; there is a date-grove behind it...It is recognizable as being the last town on the coast, there being not a single date tree or house from this all the way to Abu Thabi...The highest building is the shaikh´s house, a high square castle, with a full round tower at the south-west corner...
From the Fifth Edition (1908):
Maskat 71/2 cables long north- north-west and south-south-east and nearly 5 cables wide at the entrance; halfway in it is contracted to 23/4 cables by a projecting point running out from its western side, on which stands the Sira al Gharbi, a fort...Harbour light. - A small fixed blue light is shown from the Sultan´s palace, which, in clear weather, may be seen about 4 miles distant.
From the Sixth Edition (1915):
Katar (Al Bida or Gutteh on plan) is the name of the combined three towns in Al Bida harbour, viz., Doha, Al Bida, and Little Doha. Doha, the eastern town, half a mile south-westward of Ras Nessa, is partly walled, with several towers. The Shaikh´s house is a large round tower with a flagstaff, on the beach, about the middle of the town, westward of this tower is a small bight, where boats are hauled up for repair. The reef dries 21/2 cables off.
From the Eighth Edition (1932):
Kuwait town. This town, the capital of the Principality of Kuwait, is one of the most important in the Persian gulf; it is built on a considerable slope, the houses behind are about 50 feet (15m²) above those on the sea front. It is surrounded, on its landward side, by a wall in which are 38 towers and 4 gates.