I am constantly in search of articles or stories that exemplify Knowledge Management, particularly if they have little to do with technology. I've offered a previous story in my post that discusses the US whaling industry.
Thanks to James Burke (author of The Day the Universe Changed and Connections - both of which were also produced as a television series), I have found another such story, taken word-for-word from another of his books, The Knowledge Web.
Matthew Maury, of the US Navy became interested in finding faster ways to cross the ocean during a voyage to South America. Maury had created several charts and books on the subject.
"At the instigation of the U.S. government, copies of the charts and [his book] Sailing Directions were distributed free to all masters of vessels on the understanding that they would keep a full log of journeys and forward these logs to Maury, in Washington. Logs were to include temperature of air and water, direction of wind and currents, and air pressure. Captains were also required to throw overboard (at given intervals) a bottle containing a piece of paper carrying the ship's position and date. They were also to pick up any such bottles they came across and note all details in their logs. In return for these services masters would receive free copies of Maury's further work. Over eight years, Maury collected and processed data on many millions of observations, as a result of which he was able to identify faster sailing routes. One ship's master following Maury's suggested route from New York to Rio de Janeiro halved the usual journey time. It was reckoned that Maury's "Path-of-Minimum-Time" routes saved American shipping forty million dollars a year."
NOTE: 40 million as calculated in dollars from the year the studies started, 1847.