Happy holidays from NOAA Coast Survey!   2 comments

One of the best things about this time of year is creating a holiday greeting for our friends around the world. Sometimes we take a serious look at the past year, and other times we have some fun with technology. This year, we dove deep into whimsy, with a parody of the lovely traditional poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” by Clement Clarke Moore.

We hope this lighthearted greeting adds a bit of cheer to the season, as we extend our sincere wishes for a safe new year across the world’s oceans. THANK YOU to all who contribute to that effort.

Posted December 18, 2014 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Coast Survey wants your thoughts about chart catalogs   5 comments

Regular blog readers are aware of NOAA chart transformations over the last year, as we transition our nautical products to a wide range of paper and digital formats, print-on-demand services, and web mapping ‒ providing updated information that is easy to access. Next up for consideration is the traditional chart catalog. In a Federal Register Notice published on November 28, we ask for your opinion.

Until April 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration had printed NOAA’s nautical chart catalogs on oversized paper sheets (up to 35 inches by 55 inches), folded them, and made them available to the public for free. Since the printing was done in bulk, and stored prior to distribution, the information on the reverse side of the catalogs was often out of date by the time catalogs reached customers. When the FAA ceased printing NOAA nautical charts in April, they also stopped printing the catalogs.

Since then, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has privatized paper chart production by expanding the number of chart printing agents through the NOAA “print-on-demand” program. Questions remain on whether to transition the catalogs to a similar paper “print-on-demand” system where customers would pay for the catalogs.

We have now transformed the chart catalogs into letter-sized PDF documents that users can print at home. Produced with digital technology, the catalogs are easy-to-see, easy-to-use, easy-to-print, and are updated as changes occur. The new format has a higher resolution and more geographic names than the large-format catalog, and heavily trafficked waterways covered by multiple charts have their own dedicated pages.

So. Florida chart catalog

The new PDF chart catalogs are letter-sized and can be printed at home.

 

If users prefer a web-based search for charts, the interactive chart catalog, established in early 2014, lets you point, choose, and download.

Even with the two new catalog products, however, we understand some people may still prefer the big traditional catalog ‒ and so we’re considering a reinstatement of the front page. We could re-start the updating process if there is a market demand and if commercial printing firms decide to carry the catalogs as for-sale products. The updated chart catalogs would only have the front side showing the areas covered by the catalog, with chart outlines and their corresponding chart numbers. They would not show anything on the reverse side. (We consider the reverse side, which lists chart agents, as obsolete and will not continue it. The Coast Survey website now carries regularly updated information about NOAA-certified chart printers.)

Before making the decision, we want to know if demand remains for the large-format chart catalogs, and if users are willing to purchase these from commercial providers, such as NOAA-certified printing companies, subject to their decision on whether to carry the product. Tell us what you think. Comments about the new letter-sized PDF catalogs and the interactive web catalog are also welcome.

Written, faxed, or emailed comments are due by midnight, April 30, 2015. You can email comments to frank.powers@noaa.gov, or fax to 301-713-9312. Written comments may be mailed to Frank Powers, Office of Coast Survey, 1315 East-West Highway, #6254, Silver Spring MD 20906.

By the way, you will always have digital access to the chart catalogs of 2014 and earlier, as we are archiving current and historical chart catalogs in Coast Survey’s Historical Map & Chart Collection.

Read the full Federal Register Notice here.

 

Posted December 1, 2014 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Chart catalogs

Public has new web access to NOAA hydro survey plans   4 comments

With over 3.4 million square nautical miles of U.S. waters to chart, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is constantly evaluating long-term hydrographic survey priorities. Now, for the first time, Coast Survey is posting its three-year survey plans and making them publicly available at the Planned NOAA Hydrographic Survey Areas (2015-2017) in ArcGIS Online. In addition to seeing the outlines of planned survey areas for the next three years, users can obtain additional metadata (project name, calendar year, and area in square nautical miles) for each survey by simply clicking on the outlines. Other features display the survey area information in a tabular format, and can filter the information using metadata fields.

The new Planned NOAA Hydro Survey map color codes project areas by year. Clicking on the outline gives additional information.

The new Planned NOAA Hydro Survey Area map color codes project areas by year. Clicking on the outline gives additional information.

The Hydrographic Survey Division is Coast Survey’s primary data acquisition arm. They plan and manage the large survey ships’ hydrographic operations. (The Navigation Services Division manages the smaller survey boats used by the navigation response teams. Their survey plans will soon be added to this webmap.)

Because of the enormousness of our area of responsibility and limited resources, Coast Survey develops long-term survey priorities using a number of parameters, including navigational significance, survey vintage (when the area was last surveyed), vessel usage, and potential for unknown dangers to navigation. Coast Survey then culls the long-term priorities for annual survey plans using other factors such as urgent needs (recent grounding, accidents, etc.), compelling requests from the maritime industry and U.S. Coast Guard, traffic volume, and identified chart discrepancies.

While Coast Survey tries to consider operational constraints, ice coverage, and weather patterns while making plans, sometimes the unexpected does occur. We have to emphasize that these are plans, subject to reevaluations, operational constraints, weather, and resource allocation. Because plans often change, people should bookmark the site and check back often. This is an operational site, and we will update plans as they change.

For more information about specific survey areas or to request a survey, please submit an inquiry through NOAA’s Nautical Inquiry & Comment System or contact the regional navigation manager for your area.

The Planned NOAA Hydrographic Survey Areas webmap is powered by Esri’s ArcGIS Online technology.

Posted November 20, 2014 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Hydrographic surveys

Coast Survey’s little known role in the case of the Amistad   1 comment

Coast Survey Brig Washington

Coast Survey Brig Washington

Lt. Thomas R. Gedney, a U.S. Navy officer commanding the U.S. Coast Survey Brig Washington on August 20, 1839, was surveying the area between New York’s Montauk Point and Gardiner’s Island. He “discovered a strange and suspicious looking vessel off Culloden Point, near said Montauk Point,” according to his statement to Connecticut District Court Judge Andrew T. Judson. Gedney and his officers took possession of the vessel. The ship captured by the Washington proved to be the Spanish schooner called L’Amistad – the ship carrying Africans who revolted against their captors and tried to sail back to Africa… Thus began a little known piece of U.S. Coast Survey history. (It is so little known, in fact, that the 1997 movie Amistad did not mention Coast Survey.)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is presenting a new exhibit of six murals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College, portrays the heroic resistance to slavery. Three of the six historic murals on exhibition refer to the slave ship Amistad.

Gedney’s capture of the Amistad was very early in Coast Survey’s history, when naval officers were assigned to command Coast Survey vessels. Gedney was one of the two first senior naval officers attached to the Coast Survey. (The other was George S. Blake.) In 1834, Gedney commanded the Coast Survey’s first hydrographic vessel, the Jersey, and in 1835 discovered the Gedney Channel into New York Harbor. Gedney is also known for tackling the would-be assassin of President Andrew Jackson on January 31, 1835, after the gunman’s pistol(s) had misfired ‒ twice. He reportedly protected the gunman, Richard Lawrence, from the wrath of the crowd so Lawrence could be brought to justice. Gedney joined the Navy in 1815, and died in 1857.

There were two trials on the Amistad: one criminal, for the mutiny; the other was a civil trial, where Gedney et.al. libeled (claimed) as “salvage” the cargo, provisions, cash, and “fifty-four slaves, to wit, fifty-one male slaves, and three young female slaves, who were worth twenty-five thousand dollars.” (See the copies of original documents at the National Archives.)

There were several competing claims for the Africans, involving Queen Isabella of Spain and the two men who said they owned the slaves. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the case pivoted on the status of the men and women captured on the Amistad. The District Court ruled that the Africans were free individuals; kidnapped and transported illegally, they had never been slaves. Therefore, the court allowed salvage to Lieutenant Gedney and others, on the vessel and cargo, of one-third of the value thereof, “but not on the negroes…”

Amistad mural: the Court Scene

The Amistad Murals consists of three panels: The Revolt, The Court Scene (pictured here), and Back to Africa. They are normally housed in Talladega College’s Savery Library and are some of artist Hale Aspacio Woodruff’s best known works.

 

The court ordered President Martin Van Buren to have them transported back to Africa. After going through the appeal process, President Van Buren ordered government lawyers to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court heard the case, with former president John Quincy Adams arguing against the government and on behalf of the Africans. On March 9, 1841, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Africans. They also provided a note on Gedney:

“As to the claim of Lieutenant Gedney for the salvage service, it is understood that the United States do not now desire to interpose any obstacle to the allowance of it, if it is deemed reasonable by the Court. It was a highly meritorious and useful service to the proprietors of the ship and cargo; and such as, by the general principles of maritime law, is always deemed a just foundation for salvage. The rate allowed by the Court, does not seem to us to have been beyond the exercise of a sound discretion, under the very peculiar and embarrassing circumstances of the case.”

In other words, Gedney got his share of the cargo, but not the “slaves” he had also claimed as prizes.

(Read the full Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Joseph Story.)

The Amistad murals will be on view at the National Museum of Natural History until March 2015.

Posted November 12, 2014 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in History

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NOAA Ship Rainier surveying the waters off Washington   2 comments

A NOAA ship plying the waters off the coast often inspires public curiosity. This is especially true when boaters and others see the ship or her launches just go back and forth, back and forth, all day. It’s not a surprise, then, that NOAA Ship Rainier’s latest project is generating questions from the areas around Protection Island and Lopez Island, Washington.

Don’t worry, there is no problem! NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is collecting bathymetric data to update nautical charts that are currently displaying depth measurements acquired from surveys conducted from 1940 to 1969. Survey vessels go back and forth, in a maneuver that is similar to mowing the lawn, as they use multibeam echo sounders to measure the depths and to “see” the ocean floor. If any of the vessels discover a danger to navigation – an uncharted wreck or other obstruction, for instance – Coast Survey will immediately inform the U.S. Coast Guard and the information will be relayed to ships and boaters through a Local Notice to Mariners.

NOAA Ship Rainer with her launches aboard

NOAA Ship Rainer with her launches aboard

 

Rainier is one of the NOAA ships dedicated to hydrographic surveys for updating the nation’s nautical charts and other uses. During this project, the ship is using her survey launches to conduct the majority of the survey. Rainier has four 29-foot aluminum boats – each equipped with a high-resolution multibeam echo sounder – that they carry aboard ship. Rainier deploys the launches in the morning to survey, and retrieves them in the evening.

Data acquired by Rainier and her launches will be used to update charts 18465, 1843418471, and others, as well as the corresponding electronic navigational charts. (See the full array of charts covering this and other areas, here.) This particular hydrographic survey project, which covers approximately 22 square nautical miles in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is part of a multi-year project to conduct modern hydrographic surveys and completely update the nautical charts of the waters from Port Angeles to Port Townsend and north to Bellingham, including the San Juan Islands.

This survey project area is a critical priority for updating the charts, since it is near three high-density traffic lanes separated by shoal areas and is frequently transited by large commercial vessels traveling both north to Cherry Point and Vancouver, British Columbia and south to Tacoma and Seattle. The waterways of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which have pristine environments, are important for marine transportation, recreation, and national security and defense.

Rainier, with her 50-person crew, commanded by NOAA Commander Edward J. Van Den Ameele, is expected to wrap up the project by late November.

NOAA Ship Rainier will survey these areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca during November.

NOAA Ship Rainier will survey these areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca during November. (This image is generated from ArcGIS Planned NOAA Hydrographic Surveys.)

Posted November 1, 2014 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts, Rainier

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New private hydro vessel adds to nation’s capabilities   1 comment

Under beautiful blue skies yesterday in Gulfport, Mississippi, David Evans and Associates, Inc. commissioned its new 82-foot hydrographic survey and scientific vessel Blake. Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, Coast Survey’s director, welcomed the addition to the nation’s hydrographic surveying assets. DEA is under contract to NOAA to provide critical hydrographic data for updating the nation’s nautical charts.

At the Blake's commissioning ceremony were (left to right) Mayor William Gardner Hewes, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, and Jon Dasler.

Speaking at the Blake‘s commissioning ceremony were (left to right) Mayor William Gardner Hewes, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, and Jon Dasler, director of Marine Services, David Evans and Associates, Inc.  Photo by Tim Osborn, NOAA.

 

Glang pointed out that, for the past 15 years, NOAA has fulfilled its charting mission through a successful partnership with private sector surveying firms.

“David Evans and Associates, who owns and will operate the Blake, has been an important partner in that effort,” Glang said. “They conducted their first survey for Coast Survey in 1999.  In the last 15 years, they have completed 72 hydrographic surveys – nearly 1200 square nautical miles – in the coastal waters and bays of seven different states.”

“David Evans and Associates consistently produces outstanding hydrographic surveys for NOAA.  And, they are pioneers in applying new surveying technologies and methods.”

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, who did the honor of breaking a Champagne bottle across the Blake‘s bow, spoke of the vessel’s value to the nation.

“The survey vessel Blake is an example of the skilled workmanship of our Gulf Coast shipbuilding industry. This vessel will provide an important national seagoing capability to perform valuable research for our state and nation,” Cochran said. “I commend David Evans and Associates, Inc. for its hard work in constructing a world-class research vessel that can serve our nation for decades to come.”

The custom-built Blake is an aluminum catamaran. The vessel is designed to be a stable, efficient and cost-effective survey platform with wave-piercing bows, tier-3 diesel engines, twin 50-kilowatt generators, and a full suite of state-of-the-art survey instrumentation. Built by Geo Shipyard, Inc. in New Iberia, Louisiana, the new vessel will complement the firm’s national operations and expand DEA’s hydrographic and geophysical survey and marine science capabilities in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

The new vessel is named after the 19th century U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey steamer George S. Blake, an oceanographic and hydrographic vessel renowned for testing innovative technologies such as the Pillsbury current meter, which was the first deep-sea current meter, and the Sigbee deep-sea sounding machine. The federal Blake was commissioned in 1874, operated in the Gulf of Maine, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. The Blake’s accomplishments are documented in Three Cruises of the BLAKE, by Alexander Agassiz. The vessel had numerous seafloor features named after her, including the Blake Abyssal Plain, Blake Plateau, Blake Canyon and Blake Ridge, all of which are off the southeastern coast of the U.S.

Noting the advanced technologies onboard the S/V Blake, that were not even imagined 140 years ago when the USC&GS steamer Blake did it’s innovative work, Glang congratulated the firm on its significant contribution to the survey mission.

“I look forward to the legacy of accomplishment and innovation that the S/V Blake begins today,” Glang said, “and to a sustained partnership between David Evans and Associates and NOAA.”

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For more, see this news report from WLOX TV.

Posted October 28, 2014 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Contractors

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Survey helps ensure safe “parking” for deep-draft vessel in SF   Leave a comment

In preparation for the M/V TERN’s anticipated arrival this week in San Francisco Bay, the Coast Guard and Port of San Francisco asked Coast Survey for a bathymetric survey of the proposed anchorage site. TERN is a semi-submersible vessel with a 60-foot draft, and the proposed anchorage site has charted depths of 62 feet and 63 feet ‒ leaving no room for error, to say the least. The question was whether there are any spots shoaler than 62 feet.

This isn’t your everyday anchorage.

“This vessel floods ballast tanks and partially sinks, putting the main deck below water. Items can then be floated onto the ship, and then water is pumped out of the ballast tanks to bring the main deck back above water level,” explains Lt. Michael Davidson, chief of Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Branch. “TERN won’t actually be anchoring in the anchorage, but rather will be held in place with tugs while cranes are transferred. When she submerges during the operation, her submerged depth is 60 feet.”

Coast Survey assigned Navigation Response Team 6 to investigate the depths with its multibeam echo sounder, to ensure that the TERN will have the under keel clearance she needs. Last week, as requested by the Coast Guard, NRT 6 conducted an investigative survey around Whiskey 2, Anchorage 9. (Whiskey 2, depicted on the survey chart as W2, is a “bucket” that resides within Anchorage 9. A bucket is where they usually park a ship.) Of the many small, pocked features, the team found six that exhibit a height above bottom. Most notable of these features is a 60’ shoalest sounding near a 63’ charted depth – near the location where TERN was supposed to submerge.

After the Coast Guard received the team’s report of obstructions, they asked Coast Survey to investigate an additional area. They were looking for a spot that was at least 62′ deep, free of any features.

“In our area of survey near W1, there were no features that exhibited a height above bottom or showed any significant scour,” reports Ian Colvert, acting team lead of Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 6. “The area near W1 is a much more promising place to park the TERN, versus W2 which had a few features and depths not as deep.”

Coast Survey has a proud 200-year history of protecting ships from accidents. NRT6 gives us a very real example of how that mission continues today.

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