NOAA’s 2020 Hydrographic Survey Projects

June 2, 2020

Back in January, NOAA announced its hydrographic survey plans for 2020. Now, as we enter into this year’s survey season, the Coast Survey will begin its fieldwork on this year’s priority projects—which have been years in the planning.

The Coast Survey is responsible for creating and maintaining more than 1,000 nautical charts—covering 95,000 miles of shoreline and 3.4 million square nautical miles of water along U.S. coasts and the Great Lakes. As you might imagine, deciding which areas to survey each year is not easy. In addition to reviewing requests from a range of stakeholders—from the U.S. Coast Guard to the boating community—survey planners must take a lot of factors into consideration when selecting the year’s most critical projects.

Here are the areas that made this year’s list . . .

ALASKA

  • Norton Sound – This survey will improve the safety of maritime traffic and services available to remote coastal communities by reducing the current risk of unknown water depths.
  • Newenham – This survey will improve the safety of maritime traffic and services available to Bethel and communities around Goodnews Bay by reducing the current navigation risk due to unknown hazards.
  • Glacier Bay – Modern surveys will increase maritime safety and address uncharted areas exposed by receding glaciers in this area.
  • Southeast Alaska – This new data will identify hazards and changes to the seafloor, provide data for nautical charting products, and improve maritime safety.
  • Herendeen Bay – This was deemed high priority survey area following a request from the Alaska Marine Pilots.

To see more project details and prioritization factors, see NOAA’s Alaska story map.

GREAT LAKES

  • Chicago, IL: This 371-square-nautical-mile survey area includes the Chicago Harbor and portions of the Indiana and Michigan shorelines.

To see more project details and prioritization factors, see NOAA’s Great Lakes story map.

ATLANTIC COAST

  • Gardiners Bay, NY – This bay is home to recreational, tourism, and ferry vessels transiting from Long Island Sound to the north and south sides of Shelter Island.
  • Long Island Sound, NY – This project encompasses a large area of shoreline that is home to almost eight million people and includes the highly trafficked lower Hudson River and Green River.
  • Central Chesapeake Bay, VA – This survey will close a critical gap in existing modern hydrographic data between the entrance to Chesapeake Bay up through Baltimore.
  • Onslow Bay, NC – This project covers 362 square nautical miles in an area of shifting shoals.
  • Cape Canaveral, FL – This project, which covers 376 square nautical miles, is approximately six nautical miles southeast of Cape Canaveral and includes a very busy cruise port.

To see more project details and prioritization factors, see NOAA’s Atlantic Coast story map.

GULF OF MEXICO

  • Apalachicola, FL – The survey will provide updated bathymetry and feature data to address concerns of migrating shoals.
  • Approaches to Houston, TX – Modern surveys in this area are important for navigational safety and as a tool to help planners and researchers model and manage issues as diverse as floodwater movement and oyster reef restoration.
  • Approaches to Galveston, TX – This survey will identify changes to the bathymetry and aid in the reduction of risks to marine traffic.
  • Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary – This project will support efforts to protect ecologically sensitive and important areas within the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico, which have not been surveyed to modern standards.

To see more project details and prioritization factors, visit NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico story map.

SOUTH PACIFIC

  • Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands: This survey project—which brings together a unique, multidisciplinary NOAA team to map the waters around Guam, Saipan, Rota, Tinian, and other islands in the northern part of the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands—aims to broaden Coast Survey’s ocean mapping skills and to support a diverse scientific community both inside and outside of NOAA.

To learn more details, visit NOAA’s Mariana Islands story map

 

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Boating Safety for COVID-19

May 14, 2020

Getting out on the open water, especially if you’ve been cooped up for a while, can feel exhilarating and refreshing. Now more than ever, though, boating safety remains paramount. There are plenty of standard boating safety tips you should always practice: wear a life vest, take a boating safety course, check the weather and beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. With extra measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, boaters have even more safety precautions to take into consideration when out on the water. Here are additional tips to keep you safe and healthy while boating.

Keep Your Distance

Even outdoors, it’s important to keep a minimum distance of six feet from others. For boaters, this means at a dock or ramp as well as out on the water. In order to help prevent bottlenecks on-ramps, try to depart as quickly as possible. You don’t want to raft up with other boats or congregate near anyone else. You might try boating at less crowded destinations or during off-hours like early mornings or midweek. If an area looks crowded, try another spot or come back another day. This could be a great opportunity to find a new favorite, undiscovered spot.

Keep It in the Household

Only boat with people you live with. While it’s tempting to think you may be safe outdoors and can be around others, boats are more similar to an indoor space with their limited footprint. It’s better to not expose others or yourself. It’s also best to limit the number of people on board and keep it at five or less.

Stay Home If You Feel Sick

Take stock of how you and anyone who plans to boat with you feels before heading out. Just like checking the weather, it’s important to check how you’re feeling before you head to the dock so as not to cause undue stress on coastal patrols and emergency responders if you or someone in your party falls ill.

Respect Closures

Don’t try to use a beach, dock, or marina that is closed. It’s likely closed for a reason. Check with your local authorities in advance to confirm accessibility and hours. As with feeling sick, you don’t want to be a burden on rescue teams or local resources if something goes wrong.

Be Conscientious

You’ll want to avoid coming into contact with high-touch objects like rails, tie-offs, fuel pumps, and posts. If you have to touch them, you can use gloves and immediately discard them or disinfectant the surface. You can also use hand sanitizer afterwards but still refrain from touching your face afterwards.

 

 

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Hurricane Preparedness Week

May 12, 2020

Hurricane Preparedness Week was May 3-9, 2020 and is a public awareness campaign from the National Weather Service to help prepare for the Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 through November 30. Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science predicts 16 tropical storms will turn into eight hurricanes, four of which will be considered major. Here’s how you can prepare.

Determine Your Risk & Plan Ahead

Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone and create an evacuation plan with multiple options in case routes close or circumstances change. The closer you live to the coast, the more likely you will need to evacuate. You won’t need to travel hundreds of miles away; just get outside the danger zone. Have multiple routes planned to avoid traffic delays. Be sure to leave when asked to. Relay your plan to someone outside the evacuation zone and make sure everyone in your household understands the plan. (As a side note: don’t forget about your pets. Most local shelters will not permit them.)

Stock Up

Make a list of supplies of emergency items. Not sure where to start? Check out this list from the Department of Homeland Security that includes bottled water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, flashlights and batteries. With COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders, you may need extra time to find in-demand items like masks or moist towelettes. Be sure to keep your kit stored in an easily accessible area and to maintain it over time and replace expired items.

Review or Update Policies

Review your insurance policies well in advance of any storm to see what’s covered and what isn’t. You can visit floodsmart.gov to determine your flood risk and see flood zone maps. Be sure you properly prepare your home, vehicles and boats so that they are covered in case of damage.

Check out our hurricane preparation post for boats to get additional tips and ideas.

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Maritime Commerce in San Francisco Bay Could See $400M Boost

April 14, 2020

Bulk carriers, tankers, and other deep draft vessels depend greatly on electronic navigational charts (ENC) to safely traverse busy shipping channels and inland waterways. But not all ENCs are created equal. Specifically, the reliability of these nautical charts can vary widely, depending on the quality and accuracy of the hydrographic survey data.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for conducting the hydrographic surveys for many U.S. waterways. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey then adds a quality rating or Category Zone of Confidence (CATZOC) classification. The classifications—ranging from A1 to D—are displayed on the charts to indicate the quality of the survey data, based on criteria such as depth accuracy, feature detection, and seafloor coverage.

Recently, NOAA assigned a CATZOC A1 classification to USACE’s survey data for the Pinole Shoal Channel in the San Francisco Bay—making it the first federally maintained channel to achieve this top rating.

The improvement is good news for the many ships that traverse the Pinole Shoal Channel—which provides critical access to and from the ports of Sacramento, Stockton, Martinez, and Benicia. Deep draft operators will be able to navigate more safely and efficiently through the channel, resulting in a boost for the area’s maritime commerce. According to NOAA, CATZOC A1 classification means ships can safely maximize inbound and outbound cargo loads for significant economic impact:

“A CATZOC B rating requires an additional five percent under keel clearance, when compared to a CATZOC A1 rating. This five percent increase on a tanker with a 10-meter draft, is 5,000 metric tons of product, worth almost $2 million. At almost 200 transits per year, the change in CATZOC rating can have an economic impact of almost $400 million in this channel.

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Adventure & Intrigue: 7 Recent Shipwreck Discoveries

March 24, 2020

Looking for a bit of armchair adventure? We’ve curated a list of seven articles about recent shipwreck discoveries to help tide you over until you can get back out on the water yourself. Enjoy!

#1: A Fabled Vessel, Frozen in Time 

The wreck of H.M.S. Terror, one of the long lost ships from Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage, is astonishingly well preserved, say Parks Canada archaeologists, who recently used small remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to peer deep inside the historic vessel’s interior.

What they saw astonished and delighted them: dinner plates and glasses still on shelves, beds and desks in order, scientific instruments in their cases—and hints that journals, charts, and perhaps even early photographs may be preserved under drifts of sediment that cover much of the interior.

Read the full article

#2:  An Ancient Shipwreck with Guns at the Ready

An incredibly well-preserved ancient shipwreck has been uncovered in the Baltic Sea. Though it likely dates back to 500 to 600 years ago, “it’s almost like it sank yesterday,” Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, a maritime archeologist with the survey specialists MMT, said in a statement. 

On the main deck, leaning against the mainmast, the scientists found a small boat that was likely used to transport the crew to and from the ship. They also found swivel guns on the main deck, some still neatly packed away in gun ports. Two swivel guns were still aimed in the firing position.

Read the article 

#3: A Royal Navy Sub That Went Mysteriously Missing

The wreck of a Royal Navy submarine that mysteriously disappeared with 44 people on board during World War II has been discovered off the Mediterranean island of Malta.

The discovery of HMS Urge suggests it sank in 1942 after hitting an explosive marine mine placed by an enemy German warship.

The wreck was found beneath 430 feet (130 meters) of water by researchers from the University of Malta, who have been working on an underwater survey of the island’s territorial waters since the late 1990s.

Read the full article

#4:  A 1917 Ship with 900 Bottles of Well-Preserved Booze  

Hundreds of bottles of cognac and Benedictine liqueur have been salvaged from a ship sunk by a German U-boat in the Baltic Sea in 1917.

Scientists suspect the bottles were part of one of the last cargos of luxuries en route to the high-living aristocracy of Russia — and perhaps for the czar of Russia himself, Nicholas II, who was executed with his family by the Communist government in 1918.

The dark and cold waters of the Baltic provide excellent conditions for storing spirits, and Lindberg hopes that tests will show many of the 900 or so bottles they collected, including 50 cases of cognac and 15 cases of Benedictine, are still drinkable — and that they will fetch a high price at auction. 

Read the full article

#5: A Famous German Battlecruiser of WWI

The wreck of one of the most famous German warships of World War I has been located on the seafloor near the Falkland Islands, where it sank in a battle with British warships more than 100 years ago…

“We sent down an ROV to explore, and almost straight away, we were into a debris field that said ‘battle,'” [marine archaeologist Mensun Bound] said.

Read the full article

#6:  A History-Making Roman Shipwreck 

Archaeologists diving off the southeastern coast of Cyprus just discovered an ancient treasure: the first known “undisturbed Roman shipwreck” in the country’s history…

Not too far from sunbathing tourists rest the remains of the ancient ship’s cargo — transport amphorae, or ancient jugs that have handles and narrow necks and often held precious liquids, such as oil and wine.

Read the article

#7:  The Deepest Sunken Ship Ever Discovered

The wreck of a U.S. World War II destroyer was found resting at a depth of 20,406 feet by experts on the Research Vessel Petrel. Explorers used an undersea drone to locate the mysterious ship, which is believed to be the USS Johnston, a Fletcher-class destroyer sunk during the Battle off Samar, a key action in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944. Eerie footage captured by the drone shows the mangled wreckage of the ship lying on the seabed.

The USS Johnston sank on Oct. 25, 1944, after a fierce battle with Japanese forces, for which she was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Read the article

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Great Lakes Day 2020

March 4, 2020

March 5th is Great Lakes Day, and the Great Lakes Commission is heading to Capitol Hill for the Great Lakes Day Congressional Breakfast. The annual event, which is open to the public, brings together Commission leaders with members of Congress for critical discussions that can help shape federal policy. Each year, the Commission establishes a clear set of priorities in its quest to “create economic opportunities, protect public health and revitalize communities across the Great Lakes Basin.”

Improving Navigation in the Great Lakes

This year, the Commission is focusing on seven priorities, one of which is to strengthen the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River navigation system. In particular, it is asking Congress and the Administration to:

  • Provide funding to ensure continued, efficient construction of a new Soo Lock, as well as critically needed maintenance and rehabilitation of the existing Poe and MacArthur locks. 
  • Fully appropriate funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund—including dedicated funding for the Great Lakes Navigation System—to support dredging and maintenance of Great Lakes harbors, channels, and navigation infrastructure. In addition, disperse previously collected but unspent trust funds to address the more than half-billion-dollar backlog in dredging and maintenance of navigation infrastructure in the Great Lakes maritime transportation system, including maintaining harbors and channels at their fully authorized dimensions, as appropriate to maintain commerce.
  • Reform the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to require that all revenues collected are appropriated annually for their intended purpose—maintaining our nation’s commercial navigation system.
  • Provide funding for construction of a new heavy icebreaker for the Great Lakes and maintenance of existing icebreaking vessels to ensure the U.S. Coast Guard can remove ice jams, minimize flood hazards, and maintain federal navigation channels in the Great Lakes Navigation System.
  • Provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with the resources needed to facilitate crossborder movement of cargo and passengers, including a growing cruise tourism economy in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence navigation system. Congress should direct CBP to establish flexible specifications for cargo and cruise facilities to fit the Great Lakes market, and to provide reasonable time to demonstrate market potential for specific activities.

A Wide Range of Priorities

The remaining six priorities under discussion at this year’s Congressional Breakfast are to: fully fund and reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; safeguard drinking water and modernize clean water infrastructure; protect against invasive species; promote agricultural conservation; build a resilient Great Lakes Basin environment and economy; and invest in a collaborative, data-driven approach to Basinwide decision making.

“Addressing current and future challenges including safe drinking water, invasive species, and harmful algae blooms requires close coordination across the Great Lakes Basin,” said Commission Chair Sharon Jackson. “Moving forward, the Commission looks forward to helping the Basin take real, concrete action on urgent issues of regional concern.”

In addition to the Congressional Breakfast, the Great Lakes Commission also invites the public to join its semiannual meeting May 19-21 in Wisconsin and its annual meeting September 15-17 in Pennsylvania.

 

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Measuring Ocean Depth

February 25, 2020

Seafloor mapping has been around for centuries, yet it’s estimated we still only know about 20% of the ocean floor. Just as on land, the ocean floor varies widely between vast trenches and canyons as well as underwater mountain ranges taller than Mount Everest. Charting underwater terrain with ocean depth charts allows for safe navigation for any boater.

Bathymetry 101

The practice of measuring the depth of oceans, lakes, and rivers is called bathymetry. Bath comes from the Old English for “body of water” and metry means the science or process of measuring. Bathymetric maps are similar to topographical maps on land and show the changing size, shape, and features of the submerged landscape.

History of Bathymetry

The history of measuring ocean depth dates back to ancient Egypt with the use of sounding poles. Sounding comes from the Old English for “swimming, water, sea” rather than noise. To measure the ocean depth, a heavy rope was tied to a long slender pole and would be dropped in the water to measure. While inaccurate due to currents, this was the beginning of understanding the ocean depths. A millennia later, heavy weights were tied to the end of the rope for increased accuracy. The weight, called a lead, was swung overboard by a leadsman. By the 1800s and 1900s, these became increasingly mechanized.

Contemporary Bathymetry

Echo sounding has displaced lead-and-line technology, though many boaters continue to use lead-and-line as a backup. Echo sounders send out a pulse of sound from a ship’s hull (bottom) to the ocean floor and the sound waves bounce back to the ship. This is a similar concept to a bat’s sonar. The longer the sound takes to echo back, the deeper the ocean floor. Several other factors contribute to the speed of sound underwater, including the water’s temperature, salinity, and pressure. Scientists use multibeam echo sounders to get more accurate data.

Fathoming the Depths

Fathom comes from the Old English meaning “embracing arms or a pair of outstretched arms.” It was originally the length of a man’s outstretched arms. Today it’s measured as six feet or two yards. NOAA charts indicate what unit of measure they are in, so be sure to understand what unit the bathymetric numbers are in. You could be floating in deeper or shallower water than you think.

Try your skills at reading ocean depth on OceanGrafix’s NOAA charts. With these charts, even when you’re in deep water, you won’t be in over your head.

 

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