Archive for the ‘Hydrographic surveys’ Category
By Ensign Brittany Anderson, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
After a quiet winter at home port, the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson completed her sea trials this week in preparation for the 2013 field season.
Each year, prior to departing for working grounds, the Thomas Jefferson transits to the Chesapeake Bay to perform tests on the ship’s and launches’ systems and hydrographic survey equipment. Crews conduct numerous tests to check the accuracy and precision of multibeam echosounders, side scan sonar, and the sophisticated suite of programs that process all the data. Additionally, this is an opportunity to ensure the safety of the vessel and her crew by performing numerous safety drills and readdressing safety standards and operating procedures.
This is a screen capture of the simultaneous multibeam and side scan coverage of an obstruction used to verify the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson’s imaging and bathymetric sonars.
But it wasn’t all just tests and drills. During her transit, the Thomas Jefferson also deployed a GPS tide buoy to make real-time tides more accurate and efficient for the region.
Jack Riley and Brian Murray from Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Systems and Technology Programs Branch assist with GPS tide buoy deployment.
Now that the vessels and equipment are ready for the season and the crew has their sea legs back, the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson will be returning to the Northeast this year to further update nautical charts for critical shipping and transportation regions.
Survey ships and contractors are preparing for NOAA’s 2013 hydrographic survey season. Operations are tentatively scheduled for maritime priority areas from Maine’s Penobscot Bay, down the coast to New York and Rhode Island, and further south to coastal Virginia and approaches to Chesapeake Bay. In the Gulf, current plans are for surveying approaches to Mississippi Sound, Barataria Bay, and the Louisiana coast. Pacific Northwest surveys include Strait of Juan De Fuca and offshore Oregon and Washington. Alaskan survey plans include numerous locations, from the extreme southeastern canals, through the islands, and up to Port Clarence, Red Dog Mine, and Point Barrow.
Additionally, Coast Survey’s navigation response teams are lined up to survey in Panama City, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine, Florida; Galveston and Sabine Pass, Texas; Eastern Long Island Sound; and San Francisco Bay.
The preliminary stages of preparations remain flexible as NOAA analyzes recently budgeted post-Sandy survey needs along the NY/NJ coastline.
A Coast Survey hydrographic team recently found a special holiday wish during their survey of the seafloor. We share it with you, along with our sincere hopes for a spectacular 2013!
(To play video, click button in middle of image)
This video was created by Ian Colvert, a survey technician with Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 6.
(Who can guess why he added a “smiley face” at the end of the greeting? Leave your answer in the comments.)
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 Ship Rainier is due to arrive at its homeport in Newport, Ore., on November 1, completing the ship’s 2012 hydrographic survey season. (Watch Rainier’s progress on NOAA’s Ship Tracker.) This survey season, Rainier departed Newport on May 17 and spent her summer mapping 604 square nautical miles of the ocean floor in Alaska, stretching from Kodiak to the Shumagin Islands, along the Alaskan archipelago.
Rainier has a long 1,769 nautical mile trip back to homeport in Newport, Oregon.
“We completed our last survey on October 24, and began the long 1,769 nautical mile trip back to Oregon,” said Rainier’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Richard Brennan. “The crew put a lot of great effort into their work, some of it under challenging weather conditions.”
Rainier and her four smaller survey vessels use multibeam echo-sounders to measure the depth of the ocean along her path, collecting millions of measurements. More than half of the area surveyed by Rainier this summer had never been surveyed before, leaving large sections of nautical charts void of ocean depth measurements. Commercial shippers, passenger vessels, and fishing fleets need updated charts, which NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey will produce with the multibeam’s precise and accurate measurements.
“Simply put, we have better maps of the moon than of our oceans,” said Rear Adm. Gerd Glang, director of Coast Survey. “Much of our knowledge of U.S. coastal seafloors dates from eras when ocean commerce was more limited, especially in Alaska.”
“At a time when Alaskan waterways are facing unprecedented demands from maritime commerce, Rainier is acquiring the data for navigational charts that are the foundation of the marine transportation system,” Glang explained.
The 231-foot Rainier, one of the most modern and productive hydrographic survey platforms of its type in the world, is named for Mount Rainier, a massive volcanic cone rising 14,410 feet above sea level in Washington. At the time the ship was commissioned, in 1968, vessels of this class were named for geological features. Rainier underwent a major repair period from Nov. 2009 to Jan. 2011, when new systems and equipment were installed.
The ship’s sophisticated seafloor mapping systems allow researchers to acquire hydrographic data that is used to update the nation’s nautical charts. Rainier carries four survey launches that survey shallow, near-shore waters.
Rainier’s scientists, survey technicians, NOAA Corps officers, and crew bring a wide range of navigational and hydrographical expertise to the mission. Rainier has a total complement of 52 people: 12 NOAA Corps commissioned officers, 11 engineers, 14 deck/boatswains, 9 hydrographic survey technicians (in addition to the officers, who are all hydrographers), four stewards, and two electronic technicians.
The ship is part of NOAA’s fleet of research and survey ships operated by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.
One of Rainier’s projects for 2012 was four surveys in the Shumagin Islands, constituting 2083.2 linear nautical miles of survey lines, and 112.85 square nautical miles of seafloor – most which were never surveyed before.
NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler departed from NOAA’s Marine Operation Center in Norfolk this morning, to start post-SANDY surveys of critical deep water channels.
NOAA’s newest survey ship, the Ferdinand R. Hassler, began survey operations today in support of the U.S. Coast Guard efforts to re-open the Port of Virginia. Hassler was in port at NOAA’s Marine Operations Center – Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia, for maintenance when Hurricane Sandy affected the area. The ship’s crew spent Monday completing the work and system tests necessary to get underway once the storm passed, and has now been returned to limited operational status.
Lt. Cmdr. Ben Evans, Hassler’s commanding officer, got the ship underway today (Tuesday), and will return Wednesday evening. The Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Hampton Roads requested that the ship survey critical portions of Thimble Shoal Channel and Chesapeake Channel, the deep draft routes to the ports of Hampton Roads and Baltimore.
“Surveying the deepest draft channels will allow the Coast Guard to decide when to re-open the port to unrestricted traffic without unnecessary delay,” Evans explained. “The ports of the Chesapeake Bay are critical to the U.S. economy and national security, so we need to make this effort as soon as the ship is ready to sail.”
The need for hydrographic surveying is critical. There are 78 large vessels, including portions of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, waiting to transit through the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.
The Hassler was also a pivotal survey asset last year, as Hampton Roads resumed operations after Hurricane Irene. At that time, Hassler was one of the three NOAA survey vessels used to clear the port from dangers caused by underwater debris or shoaling. Their work enabled a rapid resumption of shipping and port operations in 2011.
“Delays in shipping, even minor ones, cost the economy millions each year,” explained Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “After Hurricane Irene last year, NOAA’s rapid maritime response paid dividends in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, where an average of $5 million worth of cargo is shipped in or out, every hour. This year, rapid response is just as critical.”
The Norfolk Custom District is the country’s 9th largest in terms of the value of total imports and exports moving through the port, with nearly $55 billion in total trade in 2011.
*** Learn more about how NOAA’s National Ocean Service responds to hurricanes.
Today’s post is written by a guest blogger, Dr. Bob McConnaughey. Bob is the FISHPAC project chief scientist, with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center.
Fishery biologists and hydrographers in NOAA are working together to solve two very important problems in the eastern Bering Sea. This area is one of the richest and most productive fishing grounds in the world. Careful management of harvest levels is one part of the effort to sustain these populations into the future. However, it is also important to understand the habitat requirements of the managed species so we can protect the foundation for these high levels of production.
To this end, a team of scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) is developing mathematical models to explain the distribution and abundance of groundfish, such as pollock and cod, and benthic invertebrates, such as red king crab, in order to determine their essential habitats. The research team gathers new environmental data at locations where other AFSC scientists sample fish populations during annual bottom-trawl surveys. In many cases, existing habitat information is very limited, but studies will identify useful variables and the best tools for measuring them over large areas of the continental shelf.
NOAA hydrographers working in Alaska are likewise challenged by the sheer size of the offshore areas and the dearth of recent depth measurements. This region includes over 47,000 miles of coastline and roughly 70% of the nation’s continental shelf. Soundings data for nautical charts are usually quite old and coverage is incomplete. Similar to the habitat studies, there is a great need to gather new data, efficiently and cost-effectively.
A diverse team of NOAA personnel and external partners are collaborating to address the critical need for new habitat data and new hydrographic data from the eastern Bering Sea. Beginning in 2006, NOAA Ship Fairweather has conducted multi-mission cruises to simultaneously achieve these two objectives. The so-called FISHPAC project has developed procedures to collect acoustic backscatter data to characterize seafloor habitats while also collecting high-quality bathymetric data for updating nautical charts.
This joint effort has been a great challenge for two groups that have typically worked alone, generally focusing on a single specialized activity. The successful integration of these activities makes efficient use of valuable ship time and will ultimately increase the amount of data collected for both purposes in a single survey season.
The prototype long-range side scan sonar is prepared for deployment. An emergency locator beacon is activated to help locate the towfish if it becomes detached from the double armored tow cable.
The AFSC scientists have introduced new types of equipment on Fairweather for this work, including a prototype side scan sonar capable of very broad coverage (up to 1 km) at a fast tow speed (up to 12 kts), an acoustic underwater tracking system that provides accurate positions for towed instruments, and several “groundtruthing” instruments to help interpret the backscatter data for habitat purposes. The partners have worked out safety and deployment details, and now the ship can simultaneously acquire acoustic data from the ship’s two multibeam echosounders and a towed side scan sonar, while underway and collecting sound velocity profiles and geotechnical data from the seafloor with a free-fall cone penetrometer! Operating this way, the ship does not need to stop; they can conduct survey operations around the clock during the entire time at sea.
Fairweather hosted a major FISHPAC cruise during July-August 2012. A team of 12 scientists joined the Fairweather’s standard crew of officers, physical scientists and seamen to conduct a combined fish-habitat and hydrographic-survey effort in the eastern Bering Sea. The group worked together ‒ night and day ‒ to acquire the multi-purpose data. They tested five different sonar systems in an experiment designed to identify the most cost-effective system for characterizing the seafloor and improving the existing fish-habitat models. At the same time, the ship collected over 1,000 nautical miles of hydrographic data in an area with outdated or non-existent information.
Technicians from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (Keyport, Washington) and a retired NOAA engineer and hydrographer provided valuable assistance.
Neither high seas, nor fatigue, nor equipment problems stopped the intrepid group. The project was fully successful in the end and Fairweather safely returned to port in Dutch Harbor, Alaska to discharge some scientists and then head back out on her Arctic Reconnaissance voyage.
The towed auto-compensating optical system (TACOS) is a two-part towed video system consisting of a weight sled connected to the ship’s fiber optic winch, with a camera sled trailing approximately 20 meters behind the weight sled. The camera sled includes an analog video camera, a digital video camera, six high intensity discharge lights as well as an acoustic release/buoy for emergency recovery. TACOS creates high-quality downward-looking video mosaics.
“But more wonderful than the lore of old men and the lore of books is the secret lore of ocean.”
H.P. Lovecraft, author
The Rainier crew sees the morning fog start to lift from the ship’s anchorage site.
Working on a NOAA ship, discovering ocean secrets, is an enviable job as well as an essential one. One can’t help but envy the scientists and crew of NOAA Ship Rainier as they conduct their hydrographic survey around the Shumagin Islands this month. Their pictures are hauntingly beautiful. And their mission in the midst of the beauty will help to protect the lives of Alaskan fishermen.
This area is experiencing increasing fishing vessel traffic, and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation has asked NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey to improve charts used by longline and pot fisheries. Much of the project area has never been adequately surveyed, and large portions of NOAA Chart 16540 have no soundings at all. Fishing vessels need to know ocean depths, and the presence of underwater rocks and other hazards, to stay safe during operations.
In response to the need of local fisheries, Coast Survey will use Rainier’s modern multibeam echo sounder bathymetry to create accurate charts. In addition to acquiring new bathymetry data, Rainier is verifying 2009 data acquired by airborne bathymetric LiDAR from near shore areas around the islands.
Rainier’s survey boats set out at first light to take advantage of a “negative tide” to map the shoreline and its many rocks and hazards. Many rocks that would lie just below the surface during a normal tide range will be exposed and visible during a negative tide.
Rainier is currently surveying the areas outlined in blue. Note the lack of charted soundings (water depth measurements) in the survey area.
UNOLS Research Vessel Atlantis, operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, transits to a joint Canada-U.S. survey location in the North Atlantic.
The U.S. and Canada have been surveying in the northern Atlantic Ocean this summer, gathering data to support both countries’ territorial claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The survey project started on August 15, and the ship is scheduled to return to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on September 10.
Lt. Briana Welton, a NOAA Corps officer, is representing the Office of Coast Survey and the NOAA-University of New Hampshire Joint Hydrographic Center, as the team of eight Canadian and U.S. hydrographers and geologists work onboard the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System’s Research Vessel Atlantis. (The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution operates the Atlantis).
This image shows the multibeam sonar coverage of 116,600 square kilometers, as of noon 4 September 2012, overlaid on a Canadian nautical chart. (Red dashed line shows where the foot of the slope was originally thought to be located.)
The survey team has been mapping the North Atlantic Continental Slope on the Canadian side of the Hague Line, acquiring multibeam, sub-bottom profiler, magnetic, and gravity data. (Check out Where is Atlantis Now?, for a great map of their cruise.)
The national effort to establish the full extent of the continental shelf is vital to the U.S. economy, as the ocean shelf has energy and mineral resources likely worth many billions of dollars. The process for extending the shelf is outlined by the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project:
Under international law, as reflected in the Convention on the Law of the Sea, every coastal State [country] automatically has a continental shelf out to 200 nautical miles (nm) from its coastal baselines, or out to a maritime boundary with another coastal State. However, a coastal State may define a continental shelf beyond 200 nm (called an extended continental shelf), if it meets the criteria outlined in Article 76 of the Convention. The process requires the collection and analysis of data that documents the natural prolongation of the continental landmass beyond 200 nm as determined by the formulae and limit lines in Article 76.
NOAA is one of the U.S. agencies leading the effort to collect the data that would allow our Nation to extend the shelf.
The crew of RV Atlantis deploys equipment to measure the conductivity, temperature and density of water, to correct for oceanographic characteristics when measuring water depths with sonar.
This week the NOAA Ship Fairweather is completing her 30-day hydrographic reconnaissance survey in the Arctic. The crew’s personal observations during this successful cruise brings home the importance of measuring ocean depths and updating nautical charts with precise and accurate modern data. Ensign Owen provides Fairweather’s last blog post for this project. - DF
by Ensign Hadley Owen, NOAA, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Fairweather (S-220)
1200 hours, Sunday, August 26, 2012:55°57.2’N 166°01.2’W, Bering Sea, approximately 100 nautical miles north of Unimak Pass
We are back in the Bering Sea, sloshing around amongst multiple low pressure systems on our way back south to finish out the Fairweather’s 30-day Arctic recon. While it has appeared a lonely transit at times, our AIS (Automatic Identification System) has proved that there are others along this Bering/Chukchi/Beaufort Seas route who will benefit from the updated hydrographic data we are recording.
We have seen more than 50 vessels over the past few weeks, including tugs and towing vessels; cargo ships; fishing vessels; tankers; research ships; U.S Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels; and even a couple of small passenger vessels. The ships have ranged from 12 meters to over 200 meters, with drafts of up to 15 meters.
We met mariners with a boat – essential to the region’s economy – whose crew has had frustrations with inaccurate charted soundings. The Greta Akpik is a lightering vessel operated by Bowhead Transport Company. The Fairweather stopped mid-trip outside of Barrow in order to disembark three scientists who were returning home, as well as to pick up stores to provide the remaining crew with food and supplies for the second half of our trip. As the town of Barrow does not have pier facilities, residents depend on the services of shallow-draft lightering vessels to transfer supplies between ships and shore. In casual conversation, the crew of the Greta reported soundings on a chart marked at 30 feet which in actuality read 5 feet on their depth-sounder – a somewhat nerve-wracking discrepancy but not impossible for their shallow-draft vessel. However, this kind of variation can prove a significant deterrent to other maritime traffic looking to enter the region.
Two examples of this “other” traffic that we encountered near Barrow were the 194-passenger Hanseatic and the 165-stateroom The World. Both vessels are considered luxury expedition cruise ships, offering their patrons unique opportunities to visit the world’s last remote outposts. The Hanseatic was on a 27-day trip from Nome, Alaska, to Reykjavik, Iceland. The World is a “privately-owned, residential yacht” for 130 families who collectively chose their vessel’s annual destinations. Both were traveling along the North Slope of Alaska, preparing to transit the Northwest Passage en route to the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to bringing a modest level of tourism to the area, these expedition cruise ships also serve to increase the world’s awareness of the rarity of these remote Arctic Alaskan communities. They mark the beginning of increased and wider interest in the accessibility of the area and the ease with which services can be obtained.
Even with this level of traffic, we are quickly reminded of how much the area’s nautical charts need to be updated, as we transit across a 28 nautical mile square region, south of St Lawrence Island in the Bering — which is totally lacking in soundings. To date, vessels have operated safely by relying on a great degree of local knowledge and nautical good sense. Our recent transit, however, has not only emphasized the degree to which our charts of the area need to be updated, but reminded us of the range of traffic that will benefit from these corrections and additions.
by Lt. Madeleine Adler, NOAA, Navigation Officer, NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler
Three-dimensional model of the seabed in the vicinity of USS New Jersey (north) and USS Virginia (south) created with Hassler multibeam echo sounder data.
NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler recently submitted a multibeam echo sounder survey of two sunken World War I era battleships to the Office of Coast Survey. Hassler, which was commissioned earlier this summer, surveyed the site of these two wrecks while transiting through the area during test and evaluation operations in 2011, and has been using the resulting dataset for calibration purposes since then. Although the wreck locations were well known, they had never been surveyed with modern techniques.
The ships are USS New Jersey and USS Virginia, which were intentionally sunk during aerial bombing experiments in 1923. U.S. Army Colonel Billy Mitchell, a pioneer of military aviation, urged the Navy to investigate the effectiveness of aerial bombing against surface vessels. As part of a series of tests, the Navy anchored the two obsolete “White Fleet” battleships off Cape Hatteras in September 1923 to serve as targets. Bombers under Mitchell’s direction sank both ships in short order. The success of these tests had a significant influence on subsequent development of U.S. air power and air defense for naval vessels.
Hydrographic survey systems require thorough calibration and testing before data can be accepted for application to NOAA nautical charts. New Jersey and Virginia rest in water approximately 100 meters deep, making them excellent test targets for Hassler’s Reson 7111 mid-water depth multibeam echo sounder system. Hassler surveyed the wrecks during a trial voyage from Pascagoula, Miss., to Norfolk, Va., in 2011, and the crew used this dataset and others to calibrate the echo sounder. Hassler’s survey systems are now fully operational, and the survey is ready for submission.
Coast Survey will use the survey of USS New Jersey and USS Virginia to update nautical charts of the area, and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries personnel will study it to further their understanding of marine archeology and the seafloor in the vicinity of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler was commissioned on 8 June 2012, and continues to survey mid-Atlantic coastal waters for charting, fisheries and ocean exploration.
Surveyed wreck site (lower right corner) overlaid on Chart 11555. Site is 16 nautical miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.