Early British Interest in the Chagos Archipelago and the Maldive Islands
As Britain expanded her trade routes in the 18th Century it was essential that, as a contribution to the security and prosperity of British India, seaways to the East were made safe. Originally ships heading to the Chagos Archipelago were using recommended procedures which directed them to non-existent islands, with disastrous consequences. It was only when Britain decided to occupy Diego Garcia in 1786 that the opportunity arose for a much needed survey to open up a safer Middle Passage route to India. Although the settlement proved a fiasco, as had an earlier French one, the survey redeemed the enterprise. Alexander Dalrymple, James Horsburgh and Archibald Blair all contributed, with the help of ship’s officers, to solving many complex problems, with Robert Moresby adding his survey of the Maldive Islands in 1837.