NOAA Launches Broad Effort to Update Arctic Charts

With sea ice disappearing at a rapid rate and Arctic vessel traffic on the rise as a result, NOAA recently deployed ships to survey and chart more than 2,800 square nautical miles of the Arctic sea. The ships Rainer and Fairweather are part of an overall strategy to significantly improve chart coverage of the more than 12,000 linear nautical miles used for Arctic shipping.

“Most Arctic waters that are charted were surveyed with obsolete technology, with some of the information dating back to Captain Cook’s voyages, long before the region was part of the United States,” explains NOAA Vice Admiral Michael S. Devany. NOAA is also hoping that the information found in the survey will help them understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment.

The recent deployment is one component of NOAA’s U.S. Arctic Nautical Charting Plan. For the first time, the plan provides information about existing, recently added, and proposed new electronic navigational chart coverage in U.S. Arctic waters. Additionally, it provides information about progress on publishing new Arctic charts and specifications for 11 proposed new charts.

“Given the lack of emergency response infrastructure in remote Arctic waters, nautical charts are even more important to protect lives and fragile coastal areas,” says Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.

NOAA is seeking public comment on the recently released draft 2015 edition of the plan, which was originally released in 2011. Comments are due by midnight, October 1, 2015. For more information about how to provide written comments, visit


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