Archive for November 2012

New (terrific) movie “Lincoln” showcases U.S. Coast Survey Civil War maps   5 comments

As the scientific federal office that has provided the nation’s navigational charts and services for two centuries, we probably shouldn’t offer (strictly personal) reviews of the (absolutely phenomenal and deeply moving) movie, “Lincoln.” However, after seeing the movie this weekend, we would be remiss if we failed to note the (gorgeous) set designs that show the walls of the White House Cabinet Room and war offices covered with U.S. Coast Survey maps.

Especially prominent, over the shoulder of (marvelous) actor Daniel Day-Lewis, playing the (brilliant and compassionate) Lincoln, was the slave density map that influenced public opinion in the North and guided many of Lincoln’s military decisions, and the map of the State of Virginia.

Those maps, and hundreds more, can be explored in the special historical collection of maps, charts, and documents prepared by the U.S. Coast Survey during the war years. The collection, “Charting a More Perfect Union,” contains over 400 documents and is available free to the public.

U.S. Coast Survey was essential to the Union cause

President Thomas Jefferson established the Survey of the Coast in 1807 to produce the nautical charts necessary for maritime safety, defense, and the establishment of national boundaries. By 1860, the United States Coast Survey was the government’s leading scientific agency. Teams of men were surveying coastlines, determining land elevations, and producing maps and nautical charts for an expanding nation experiencing growing trade relationships between states and with other countries.

Under Coast Survey Superintendent Alexander Bache, the agency was quick to apply its resources to the war effort. In addition to setting up additional lithographic presses to produce the thousands of charts required by the Navy and other vessels in government service, Bache made a critical decision to send Coast Survey parties to work with blockading squadrons and Armies in the field. Bache detailed these activities in his annual reports to Congress.

U.S. Coast Survey cartographer Edwin Hergesheimer created the 1861 map showing the density of slave population in the Southern states.

Bache was also one of four members of the Union’s blockade board, planning strategy to essentially strangle the South, economically and militarily. On April 16, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring the blockade of ports from South Carolina to Texas. Bache’s Notes on the Coast provided valuable information for Union naval forces.

In the centuries before Google Earth, maps in wartime had special military significance. As Bache pointed out in his annual report, on Nov 7, 1862:

“It is certain that accurate maps must form the basis of well-conducted military operations, and that the best time to procure them is not when an attack is impending, or when the army waits, but when there is no hindrance to, or pressure upon, the surveyors. That no coast can be effectively attacked, defended, or blockaded without accurate maps and charts, has been fully proved by the events of the last two years, if, indeed, such a proposition required practical proof.”

Today, the Office of Coast Survey still meets its maritime responsibilities as a part of NOAA, surveying America’s coast and producing the nation’s nautical charts. To honor its legacy and to inform the public, Coast Survey maintains a digital Historical Map & Chart Collection, with over 30,000 maps and charts from 1747 to 2009. The collection also maintains historical Coast Pilots.

The “Charting a More Perfect Union” project was supported by the NOAA Preserve America Initiative, part of Preserve America, a federal initiative to preserve, protect and promote our nation’s rich heritage.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson returns to homeport   Leave a comment

by Ensign Brittany Anderson, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson wrapped up her field season last week.

After 193 days away from home, the hydrographic survey vessel completed 14, 768.9 linear nautical miles of survey. This covered 352 square nautical miles of area in Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound. Due to this work, 38 dangers to navigation (DTONs) were issued, protecting maritime traffic in the area.

Additionally, the Thomas Jefferson was in prime position to respond to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in October and November. The U.S. Coast Guard requested assistance from NOAA after New York Harbor was closed to all traffic, preventing crucial goods and services from reaching the citizens of New York City. The Thomas Jefferson and her two launches ran 170.74 linear nautical miles of side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder operations (MBES), while also surveying 53.82 linear nautical miles of object detection MBES.

Thomas Jefferson has returned to homeport for the winter. On November 9, after an exceedingly successful field season, the ship and her crew arrived at NOAA’s Marine Operation Center – Atlantic in Norfolk.

See WAVY-10 TV coverage of the Thomas Jefferson arrival at Norfolk, with some great explanations of their work responding to requests for help following Hurricane Sandy.

Also see earlier posts, Thomas Jefferson finds two divers in Block Island Sound and Thomas Jefferson mapping Long Island Sound.

The Ferdinand R. Hassler and Thomas Jefferson are rafted together at NOAA’s Marine Operation Center – Atlantic.

NOAA’s navigation assets complete primary post-Sandy assignments, remain available to assist   Leave a comment

NOAA continues to work in partnership with other federal, state, and local partners in response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. NOAA’s efforts are focused on navigation surveys to restore maritime commerce; aerial surveys to assist in those efforts and to aid on-the-ground responders from FEMA and local authorities; and in oil spill cleanup and damage assessment.  NOAA’s National Weather Service is also keeping authorities aware of changing weather conditions that could impact recovery and response efforts.

NOAA’s hydrographic survey vessels, including two three-person navigation response teams (NRTs) and the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson with her two survey launches, have completed surveys of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Working over the past five days, the high-tech vessels searched approximately 20 square nautical miles of shipping lanes, channels, and terminals to search for dangers to navigation.

Coast Survey navigation managers were embedded with the Coast Guard Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit for the Port of NY/NJ, coordinating NOAA’s survey response. Lt. Brent Pounds, NOAA, explains ongoing survey operations to one of the port’s terminal operators during the height of operations.

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit, NOAA surveyors provided near-real time updates on underwater object detection (including debris and shipping containers) that allowed the USCG Captain of the Port to make decisions on  port status. (Note: Follow the status of port conditions at U.S. Coast Guard Digital News.)

In addition to aiding in the gradual reopening of the New York City-area port to shipping, including special emergency deliveries of needed petroleum fuels products, NOAA navigation survey response teams also provided valuable data to allow for: the reopening of the port at Hampton Roads, Virginia, home of the largest naval base in the world and one of the nation’s leading ports for the shipping of coal; the reopening of the ports of Baltimore and Philadelphia; and the resumption of the ferry that connects Lewes, Del., and Cape May, N.J.— an important access route to bring aid to stricken New Jersey and Delaware shore communities.

While NOAA’s navigation assets have completed their primary assignments, they remain available to continue to assist the U.S. Coast Guard, as needed, and will be conducting additional surveys in smaller navigational areas of South Jersey and Delaware in coming days.

The NRTs’ work helps speed the re-opening of ports and waterways, allowing the flow of relief supplies, and enabling the resumption of ocean commerce — valued at more than $1 trillion annually to the nation’s economy — to resume.

The processed images from multibeam echosounders provide critical images of the seafloor. This image of a sunken container was acquired during the post-Sandy survey of the Port of NY/NJ, processed by a survey technician on the Thomas Jefferson.

NOAA hydrographers and survey technicians will continue to process the billions of points of data collected by the five NOAA vessels since Sandy response operations began on Oct. 30 at the Port of New York and New Jersey. While initial assessments are based off on-scene observations, additional image processing may reveal further details.

Once processed, Sandy response hydrographic data collected by all NOAA survey vessels in N.Y., N.J., Delaware Bay, and Chesapeake Bay will be available from the National Geophysical Data Center. This data is valuable for contemporary use—but also for reference if NOAA vessels need to re-survey the same areas in future years.

The National Ocean Service has more information on the status of post-Sandy operations for damage assessment, pollution response, and weather reporting.

Example of depth measurements of Sandy Hook Channel from one of NOAA’s post-Sandy surveys.

Surveys continue in Port of New York / New Jersey, completed in Virginia   3 comments

Coast Survey’s major survey operations in response to Sandy are completed in Port of Virginia, allowing port operations to resume. That timely resumption is proving to be vital for East Coast shipping, as the port is now receiving cargo diverted from the Port of New York and New Jersey. Associated Press is reporting that more than a thousand containers were offloaded in Virginia yesterday, with more on the way.

Meanwhile, critical survey work continues in the Port of New York and New Jersey, with two of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams (NRT) and two of the Thomas Jefferson launches continuing their search for dangers to navigation in shipping channels and terminals. Today, the high tech survey boats attached to the Thomas Jefferson surveyed the East River, as the ship processes data for delivery to the Coast Guard. One of the boats then went to survey Church Hill Channel this afternoon, while the other went to Gravesend Bay. NRT 2 is surveying Port Elizabeth and Port Newark in Newark Bay. NRT 5 surveyed Kill Van Kull and then proceeded to Author Kill.

(Note: Follow the status of port conditions at U.S. Coast Guard Digital News.)

Getting the surveys done, quickly but thoroughly, is extremely important to the nation’s economy. Over $200 billion of imports and exports moved through the Port of NY/NJ in 2011. It is the country’s third largest port, by value of cargo (fourth largest, by volume). The flow of trade at the port reaches from America’s heartland, with exports like automobiles and meat, in addition to many other commodities. (See PANYNJ Trade Statistics.)

This graphic, compiled by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, Navigation Services Division, depicts the surveys at the Port of NY/NJ. NOAA’s planned and completed surveys (shown in blue) are 82% of the total survey requests for the port.

Bonus photo for the day: Ensign Brittany Anderson, onboard the Thomas Jefferson, captured this picture of one of the TJ’s high-tech survey boats (called a “launch”), as they left to survey the East River this morning.

A Thomas Jefferson launch heads out to survey the East River. Photo by Ensign Brittany Anderson, NOAA

Thomas Jefferson night work gives go-ahead for fuel barge delivery into New York – New Jersey   6 comments

As the sun comes up in New York this morning, Ensign Lindsey Norman retrieves the side scan sonar that NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson used to survey the Hudson River, so fuel barge traffic could resume.  Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Denise Gruccio, NOAA

Even before Sandy hit the New Jersey shore, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey was mobilizing to respond to the emergency, preparing vessels, personnel, and equipment to conduct hydrographic surveys of hard-hit areas, searching for the underwater debris and shoaling that can paralyze shipping at the nation’s ports.

Restoring fuel flow into the New York area has been a top priority — but barge deliveries have been hampered by water borne obstructions that forced a partial closure of the port. NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson mobilized through the night to New York Harbor (see NOAA Chart 12327), where they began surveying at 3:12 this morning, looking for the sunken containers, debris, and shoaling that pose dangers to ships and lives. In the darkness, using high tech side scan sonar equipment, Thomas Jefferson conducted the hydrographic survey of the designated areas on the Hudson River. With the information provided by the Thomas Jefferson’s survey, combined with earlier work conducted by Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 5, the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port was able to open the port to fuel barge traffic this morning.

Tank barges and tank ships carries tens of millions of tons of petroleum products through the Port of New York and New Jersey. According to a report by the American Waterways Operators, the barges carry the product throughout the state, from Buffalo to Long Island. “Specific petroleum products transported by barge include gasoline, kerosene, asphalt, lube oil and greases, distillate fuel, and residual fuel. These and other products are used by both consumers and industry to keep New York’s economy moving and growing.”

Thomas Jefferson has now moved to the Anchorage Channel, and two of her smaller vessels – also equipped with high-tech survey equipment – started surveying at daybreak; one conducting a reconnaissance survey in the Buttermilk Channel, to locate sunken containers; and the other checking for shoaling in Sandy Hook Channel.

Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 5 got in a full day of surveying yesterday, on the Anchorage Channel. They processed their data overnight, for early delivery to the Captain of the Port, and have started their second day of surveying. Their work will help open the deep draft channel.

Navigation Response Team 2, mobilized from Florida, arrived at the New York Coast Guard station last night, and started their first surveying at daybreak this morning. They will be searching for dangers to navigation between Global Marine Terminal and Port Newark.

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