Systematic ocean exploration in the United States began in 1807 when Thomas Jefferson authorized the Survey of the Coast, NOAA's earliest predecessor. Since then, NOAA and its ancestors have played a critical role in the evolution of ocean exploration in the United States and the world.

These pages offer a comprehensive look at NOAA's 200-year history of ocean exploration through a series of chronological essays. Also included is a rich selection of historical quotations, arranged thematically, that capture the many advances, challenges, and misunderstandings through the years as both early and modern explorers struggled to study the mysterious ocean realm.