Archive for the ‘Contractors’ Category

Beyond the charts: geological highlights from NOAA’s 2013 hydrographic field season in Alaska   1 comment

–By Christy Fandel, Coast Survey physical scientist

Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the charted soundings on a nautical chart? While surveying Alaskan waters during the 2013 hydrographic field season, collecting bathymetry to update NOAA’s nautical charts, hydrographers revealed many interesting geologic features on the seafloor.

NOAA focuses a significant portion of our ocean mapping effort along the Alaskan coast. The Alaskan coastline represents over 50% of the United States coastline and dated nautical charts are inadequate for the increasing vessel traffic in this region. NOAA surveys are essential for providing reliable charts to the area’s commercial shippers, passenger vessels, and fishing fleets.

This past season, NOAA-funded hydrographic surveys in Alaska revealed many interesting geological features on the seafloor. Three surveys, in particular, took place in southeastern Alaska in the Behm Canal, along the Aleutian Chain within the coastal waters surrounding Akutan Island, and around Chirikof Island.

These three areas were surveyed by the NOAA Ship Rainier and surveying contractor Fugro-Pelagos during the 2013 field season.

These three areas were among the areas surveyed by the NOAA Ship Rainier and surveying contractor Fugro-Pelagos during the 2013 field season.

In May, hydrographic surveying conducted by NOAA Ship Rainier in the Behm Canal revealed two distinct geological features. In the northern region of the canal, scientists identified a long, meandering ancient river. This ancient submarine river is nearly 40 km in length with up to 50 m in relief. Further south, Rainier surveyed a large volcanic-like feature. The surveyed volcano appears to have a distinct caldera, or collapse-feature that most likely formed after the volcanic eruption.

Multibeam bathymetry of the northeastern portion of the Behm Canal shows a large, meandering submarine river. The cross-sectional inset highlights the relief of the channel, nearly 50 m, as shown by the red box.

Multibeam bathymetry of the northeastern portion of the Behm Canal shows a large, meandering submarine river. The cross-sectional inset highlights the relief of the channel, nearly 50 m, as shown by the red box.

Multibeam data acquired by NOAA Ship Rainier shows a large volcanic feature in the southern portion of the Behm Canal.

Multibeam data acquired by NOAA Ship Rainier shows a large volcanic feature in the southern portion of the Behm Canal.

Directly following the Behm Canal survey, Rainier transited west to survey the coastal waters surrounding Chirikof Island. The acquired bathymetric data revealed a stark northeast-trending fault in the southeastern portion of the survey area. This surveyed fault is distinguished by a clear misalignment across the fracture.

The red box outlines the northeast-trending fault along the coast of Chirikof Island, shown with bathymetry acquired by the Rainier.

The red box outlines the northeast-trending fault along the coast of Chirikof Island, shown with bathymetry acquired by the Rainier.

Concurrently, an Office of Coast Survey hydrographic surveying contractor – Fugro-Pelagos  – was surveying off the western coast of Akutan Island. Fugro’s hydrographers identified a large volcanic feature within the acquired bathymetric data. The surveyed volcanic feature is believed to be either a volcanic vent or cinder cone volcano. The multiple circular rings outlining this feature may represent the successive lava flows that formed the volcano.

Multibeam bathymetry acquired by Fugro, around Akutan Island, shows a large volcanic vent or cinder cone volcano, marked by multiple circular rings that represent the successive lava flows that formed the volcano.

Multibeam bathymetry acquired by Fugro, around Akutan Island, shows a large volcanic vent or cinder cone volcano, marked by multiple circular rings that represent the successive lava flows that formed the volcano.

With the upcoming 2014 hydrographic field season quickly approaching, the number of geologic discoveries will only increase. Extending all along the Aleutian Chain, from Kodiak Island to Bechevin Bay, the planned surveys for the 2014 field season will surely reveal many interesting and previously unknown geologic features.

NOAA hydro survey season underway   1 comment

Spring is always a noteworthy time at Coast Survey, as the hydrographic season gets underway. This year is no exception, with some neat projects ahead.

On the East Coast, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson continues her work with the multi-state, multi-agency Long Island Sound Seafloor Mapping Initiative, as well as acquiring data over 87 square nautical miles in the approaches to New York to update nautical charts. In June, Thomas Jefferson begins some of her summer-long extensive 2013 post-Sandy surveys in Delaware Bay (supported by Title X, Chapter 2, of H.R. 152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013).

As our newest survey vessel, NOAA Ship Ferdinand Hassler, prepares for a long survey career, the crew is taking her through final repairs, upgrades, training, and inspection this spring. If all goes well, Hassler will then survey approaches to Chesapeake Bay in July, before heading to her new homeport in New Castle, New Hampshire. Once there, Hassler plans to survey approaches to New Hampshire and conduct some tests and evaluations of a new autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) for surveying.

Rainier families send off

Families give the Rainier a heartfelt sendoff. (We’ve blocked the children’s faces to protect online identities.)

On the West Coast, NOAA Ship Rainier will spend part of her season in southeast Alaska, surveying numerous locations, and moving to the Southern Alaska Peninsula in late summer. Rainier will survey 183 SNM of Chatham Strait, which is used regularly by cruise liners, ferries, military vessels, and tugs and barges – and provides larger ships with refuge when they need to avoid storms in the Gulf of Alaska. Rainier also plans to survey 70 SNM at Behm Canal, and 165 SNM at Sumner Strait and Affleck Canal. Later in the summer, Rainier will survey around Cold Bay and the Shumagin Islands. During the transit from their homeport at Newport, Oregon, Rainier will also acquire multibeam backscatter data off the Washington and Oregon coast.

We had to change plans for NOAA Ship Fairweather, which was originally scheduled to tackle some work in the Arctic this summer. This 45-year-old ship needed repairs, and won’t be available for surveys until late August – which is too late for the long haul up to the Arctic. Instead, as soon as she gets underway, Fairweather will assist with an ocean acidification project along the California coast, which will help inform climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Fairweather may also survey around Los Angeles / Long Beach and San Diego.

Even though Fairweather won’t be headed north this year, we continue our commitment to the Arctic by using a commercial hydrographic contractor for the essential survey work needed in the approaches to Red Dog Mine and around Krenitzin Island. We are also planning for additional contractor surveys as part of our post-Sandy survey work in New York and New Jersey waters, and for chart updates in the approaches to Mississippi Sound, approaches to Barataria Bay, and along the Louisiana coast.

Additionally, Coast Survey’s navigation response teams are surveying this year in Panama City, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine, Florida; Galveston and Sabine Pass, Texas; Eastern Long Island Sound; and San Francisco Bay. Of course, prime survey season is also prime hurricane season, so the navigation response teams are also updating hurricane plans and performing preventive maintenance so they are ready to deploy as needed for post-hurricane rapid maritime response.

Update on Coast Survey pre-positioning for Rapid Maritime Response to Tropical Storm Isaac   Leave a comment

As NOAA’s National Weather Service adjusts the track of Tropical Storm Isaac, so Coast Survey adjusts pre-response planning and deployment. (BTW, the New Orleans/Baton Rouge NWS Tropical Weather Briefing is a great resource for maritime observations, as is nowCOAST.) Based on updates in the hurricane models, and after multiple briefings with Coast Guard officials, Coast Survey is moving to pre-position two of the navigation response teams closer to the expected impact areas. (See response asset graphic, below.)

Major ports along in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana will likely be closed later today, if they aren’t already. With over $153 billion in ocean-going trade through New Orleans annually, and another $31 billion a year in and out of Mobile, it is essential to get shipping channels cleared for the resumption of traffic as soon as possible after a storm. Just as important, the Gulf produces 23 percent of total U.S. crude oil production and 7 percent of natural gas production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  The resumption of operations at ports serving the energy industry is essential to keeping supplies flowing.

Several of Coast Survey’s regional navigation managers are gearing up coordination with state and port officials, and with the U.S. Coast Guard. Florida navigation manager Mike Henderson has been working since early Saturday morning at the State Emergency Center in Tallahassee. Gulf Coast (East) navigation manager Tim Osborn is relocating to the Louisiana emergency response center in Baton Rouge, and navigation liaison Patrick Fink will be working out of NOAA’s new Disaster Response Center in Mobile. Gulf Coast (West) navigation manager Alan Bunn, based in Texas, is moving to Lafayette to better handle on-the-ground logistics for the Rapid Maritime Response. The navigation managers coordinate requests for NOAA’s navigation response teams, as the NRTs are needed to help re-open shipping lanes and port areas by searching for underwater debris and shoaling.

Navigation response team 4, which is surveying off the coast of Galveston, will deploy to Lafayette, Louisiana, on Tuesday morning. NRT4 will survey in Louisiana, as needed according to priorities established by the Captain of the Port (COTP).

Also on Tuesday, NRT2 will join NRT1 in Panama City, Florida, to be ready for deployment as soon as Hurricane Isaac moves away from the coast. These teams will each survey areas in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana – again, as requested according to U.S. Coast Guard COTP priorities.

Some of NOAA’s major survey assets are the private contractors who conduct hydrographic surveys to acquire data necessary for nautical chart updates. Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Surveys Division is working with the contractors currently surveying in the Gulf, to ascertain their current locations, determine how they may be impacted by the storm, and their potential response capabilities.

Coast Survey’s Mobile Integrated Survey Team remains ready to move as necessary, once Isaac has made landfall and we have assessed the storm damage and navigational needs. When called to action, the MIST will mobilize on a vessel of opportunity.

Coast Survey is more than surveying, charting, and maritime response. The Coast Survey Development Lab is providing visualizations of experimental storm surge simulations to the National Hurricane Center for each forecast cycle of Hurricane Isaac. These simulations are being created in partnership with several federal agencies and research groups, and show the significant storm surge threat Isaac poses to the Gulf Coast.

Coast Survey Response Assets for Isaac

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