The Nauticapedia Project Report for 2017

by John M. MacFarlane 2017


The Nauticapedia Project (Photo from the John MacFarlane collection.)

The Nauticapedia Project is now 44 years old. It is an encyclopedic nautical heritage reference for casual and serious researchers and inquirers focusing on the nautical history of British Columbia and western and northern Canada and also Canada’s naval forces. The related subject matter is diverse and multifaceted.

We use two Facebook Groups (The Nauticapedia and the British Columbia Nautical Heritage groups) as social media to publicize new articles. This reaches more than 3,400 members for each post – and there is a lively posting community who contribute their images and stories as well.

Who Are We?

We are a team of 3 core volunteers who keep the Nauticapedia operating: a curator, an IT specialist and an editor. We are all volunteers – we provide all our own equipment and software and we pay all the out of pocket operating expenses (Internet Provider, Server costs, software etc.) We are: John MacFarlane; Lynn Salmon and Dan Salmon.

Additionally there are six senior contributors who each have a subject specialty focus – they check factual accuracy, and contribute significant content and images and there are almost 500 contributors of images and articles.

Our Values

We seek to freely make available all the databases, articles and images. We focus primarily on British Columbia and surrounding Canadian areas of western Canada. We try to be non-commercial (currently no advertising or access fees).

The Databases

Our two main databases (Vessels and Biographies) are searchable and maintain a high standard of rigour and standardization. They are fully searchable and are often linked to an image.

The Biography Database

The biography database contains 57,400 names and includes people, companies, organizations, agencies, units

The Vessels Database

The vessel database contains more than 50,000 vessel names and life histories

Featured Articles

On our Home Page we show links to the latest 20 most recently published feature articles; There is an archive of almost 900 previously published articles. These contain more than 2,000 images and originate from more than 100 contributors.

How It All Started

In 1974 the list of vessels was created to track artifacts in my personal collection at home. When I went to the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in 1988 I found I needed to expand my database. We were constantly in need of an easy reference to facts related to mariners and vessels – and the library and archive resources were time consuming to search.

I started with file cards – one for each person or vessel – but this became physically unsustainable very quickly. This was abandoned in favour of a computer generated text document which was updated by inserting new text in the manuscript. Periodically I printed the file out for use offline in three–ring binders. By 1998 this had become unsustainable – it took more than 2,000 pages of 10 point type to print it out – a costly and time consuming activity.

At this time I switched to using a relational database software program – and manually moved the text file contents into a database structure. This took about two years of mind numbing manual actions. There were several false starts as the weaknesses of database structures became apparent. By 2002 the current structure was put in place and only minor tweaks have been necessary since that time. We went online in 2003 and evolved into The Nauticapedia in 2010.

Each individual entry in the database takes some time to create. There are 100 fields of information available in each record and if the information exists I take advantage to capture it. It is all inserted by manual typing. (So there are more than 5 million fields of information in each of the two databases.)

Each photograph goes through more than 25 steps to acquire, file, format and place on the server - and there are more than 10,000 images on the site. You can guess how long that takes.

Current Operations 2017

  • We have access to large bandwidth and use an increasing part of our contracted limits each month;

  • In 2017 we had 3.2 million hits on the site;

  • We update the online databases about 6 times per year;

  • We have created specialized input ‘tools’ for adding or correcting data;

  • Every day we are adding, correcting and amending entries offline and then upload;

  • We use a range of software packages (it takes more than 8 different software packages to service and operate the site. We create the code for all the pages by hand, from scratch (The only way to go!).

Our efforts seem to be paying off. Participation in and interest in British Columbia nautical history is definitely on an up–tick. The Nauticapedia aims to continue to provide a reference point to all who are interested. It is also a venue for engagement - more than 500 people have contributed images to illustrate people and vessels. More than 100 people have been helped to create an article and have it published online (many for the first time in their lives).

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2017) The Nauticapedia Project Report for 2017. 2016.

New Nauticapedia Book Just Published!

Volume Four in series

The Nauticapedia List of British Columbia's Floating Heritage Volume Four

Book — British Columbia's Floating Heritage
For more information …

Site News: March2nd, 2019

Databases have been updated and are now holding 56,584 vessel histories (with 5,550 images) and 58,184 mariner biographies (with 3,673 images).

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