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(To be sung to the College Air, “I’m the Son of a Gambolier.”)
Composed by Adam Goodfellow, 1925. Originally Published in the column “Vagrant Thoughts over the Sounding Machine” in the December 1, 195? Issue of The BUZZARD with slight modification by the editor of the NOAA History Pages.

1. Coast Survey was Coast Survey when science was a pup,
Coast Survey is Coast Survey whatever may come up;
From Eastport to Manila, from Alaska to Cebu,
We chart the ocean deeps with a Yankee Doodle Doo.

2. If you want to gear the planets that revolve about the sun,
We can rig the cogs and belting and only call it fun;
We can build a road to Jupiter, and a ten-foot shaft to H___,
We’re the engineers to do it, and do it mighty well.

3. Hydrography, geodesy, and all that sort of stuff,
Topography while good enough, yet much of it is bluff,
But “bluff” may mean a hill, and perchance my tale is true,
For we chart the ocean deeps with a Yankee Doodle Doo.

4. We’re all well up in calculus, from it we do not shirk,
We swear by conic sections, and finish up our work;
We have learned to carry the ball, in things that no one knew,
So our ships will go a-charting with a Yankee Doodle Doo.

5. From Eastport to San Diego, Key West to Kotzebue,
We play with trigonometry and make positions true;
With gravity’s anomalies of isostatic hue,
And we chart the ocean deeps with a Yankee Doodle Doo.

6. From Polaris in the heavens down to the river Styx,
We calculate our bearings with astronomic fix;
Don’t think that we’re conceited, for there’s nothing we can’t do,
So we’ll chart the ocean deeps with a Yankee Doodle Doo.

7. We have caught the modern manner, and know just what to do,
In questions or suggestions of anything that’s new;
By Heck! * We have a leader in this hydrographic crew,
To chart the ocean deeps with a Yankee Doodle Doo.

8. “It can’t be done, but here it is”, let’s pass the toast around,
dy/dx = P D Q, the solution has been found;
Then yell this song with three times three, and yell it without fear,
With the spirit of the Coast Survey and the son of a Gambolier.

9. Coast Survey was Coast Survey when science was a pup,
And Coast Survey is Coast Survey when any question’s up;
Let us drink a royal bumper and stand by colors true,
As we chart the ocean deeps with a Yankee Doodle Doo.


* “By Heck!” is a reference to Captain Nicholas Heck of the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. He was a leader in both the development of hydrographic survey systems and in early Twentieth Century geophysics.

Editor’s Note: The old English ( or by some accounts Scottish) drinking song, “The Son of a Gambolier” has inspired a number of American college songs throughout the years as well as a number of more ribald versions. The song began as a lament by the poor ruined son of a “gambolier”( a worthless individual given to carousing, gambling, and general moral depravity.) The son was “a rambling wretch of poverty and the son of a gambolier” who drank his lager beer and took his whiskey clear. In the 1850’s, Dickinson College in southern Pennsylvania modified this song to include a reference to its college bell:

“I wish I had a barrel of rum,
And sugar three hundred pounds,
The college bell to mix it in,
The clapper to stir it round:”

and substituted the word “rake” for “wretch”. Concerning the bell, it is possible that earlier folk versions referred to a chapel bell. The next evolution of this song occurred in the late 1870’s when the Colorado School of Mines at Golden, Colorado, adapted this song as its school song and the “rambling rake” became a “rambling wreck from Golden Tech, a helluva engineer.” The song was renamed “The Mining Engineer.” It was at Mines that the association of this song with engineering schools began. In 1895, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institution published a version called “A Son of Old R.P.I.” that sung of being “….a moral wreck from the Polytech And a hell of an engineer. Fifteen years later, Georgia Tech adapted the song as its school fight song and sung of being “a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer”.

The Coast Survey version of this song most closely follows the version as sung at Colorado School of Mines. The second stanza of “The Coast Survey Song” is only a slightly modified version of the fifth stanza of “The Mining Engineer.” More importantly, the concept of unbridled confidence in the ability to get the job done as engineers no matter the odds comes through loud and clear in both versions. In both instances, the songs are statements of the values of the respective organizations in the rough and tumble world of field engineering on a grand scale.



Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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