Captain Brucks & Surveying the Gulf

Biddah_Doha 1823-01

Doha and Biddah in 1823

One of the earliest known surveys of the Gulf was conducted by Captain George Barnes Brucks of the East India Company’s Bombay Marine between 1820 and 1830. He’s an interesting character; he had been a sailor since the age of eleven and at the time of the survey was commanding the ship Psyche, a 10 gun brig of 180 tons. Brucks was called a “hardy seaman of the old school, in whose vocabulary ‘impossible’ was an unknown term.”

While Brucks was “an excellent sailor” he was not a surveyor but employed several men with “scientific and literary attainments”. In addition to conducting the survey, the purpose of the presence of the English in the Gulf was as stated to “suppress piracy and extend commerce, to maintain the status quo of the chiefs, to exclude foreign influence (!), and to root out the slave trade.” After conducting the survey, Brucks continued to observe and report on the clandestine slave trade moving between India and Africa in the 1830s. He was promoted to Commodore and was involved in bringing steamboats to the Gulf. Commodore Brucks and Sir Frederick Maitland were expelled from Bushehr, Iran in 1839 over a conflict regarding the British occupation of Kharrack.

Commodore Brucks retired to Plympton St. Mary in Devon, UK in 1842 and died in 1850. His wife, daughter and son George Alexander (a poet who died young) survived him. Brucks’ will is on file with the National Archive, and we have a copy of it here.

Bruck’s survey is useful to the Origins of Doha project as it documents the tribes, towns, villages, and resources of Qatar, providing information that we can confirm or refute with the archaeological record. Knowing more about the person behind the survey allows us to better establish the context in which the survey was made.


Dawson, L. S. (1883). Memoirs of hydrography: Including brief biographies of the principal officers who have served in H.M. Naval Surveying Service between the years 1750 and 1885. Eastbourne England: H.W. Keay.

Low, C. R. (1877). History of the Indian navy: (1613-1863). London: R. Bentley and son.

Rahman, H. (2012). The Emergence Of Qatar. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.


One response to “Captain Brucks & Surveying the Gulf

  1. I understand that Brucks was allowed to resume duties of his station in the Gulf (probably on Kharrack) on 1 June 1840. I have unpublished material about him during November and/or December 1840. It is from the Journal of William Schaw Lindsay which is at the Caird Library of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. If you are interested I could email it to you.

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