Archive for the ‘Hydrographic surveys’ Category

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

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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NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson celebrates survey success with maritime community   1 comment

by Ensign Diane Perry, onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

From 2005 through today, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has been surveying Long Island Sound, one project area at a time. Some of the area was last surveyed between the late 1800s and 1939. For the 2014 field season, Thomas Jefferson was assigned her final Long Island Sound project, 89 square nautical miles of Eastern Long Island Sound, Fisher Island Sound, and Western Block Island Sound. When this project is complete, we will have resurveyed over 95% of Long Island Sound and all of Block Island Sound with modern survey technology that allows for a complete picture of the seafloor and highly accurate soundings.

This image depicts Thomas Jefferson's bathymetry from eastern Long Island Sound to Gardiner's Bay.

This image depicts Thomas Jefferson‘s bathymetry from eastern Long Island Sound to Gardiner’s Bay.

Data acquired by the Thomas Jefferson will update the region’s nautical charts and will serve other users within NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and a New York and Connecticut Long Island Sound Seafloor mapping initiative. The mapping initiative creates products for habitat mapping and geological interpretation, and supports state planning and management of this vital resource.

Bringing the hydrography of this area into modern times has been a huge task, and we appreciate being welcomed as a part of the area’s maritime community! When Thomas Jefferson was asked to participate in the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival in New London this summer, the crew was excited for the opportunity to showcase the results of nearly a decade of surveying effort.

On September 12, Thomas Jefferson docked at City Pier, dressed in semaphore flags to welcome crowds lining the pier eager for guided tours. As the sun set, Thomas Jefferson hosted judges and the announcer during the festival’s lighted boat parade. The ship continued to provide tours the next day, and was the highlight of the event for many visitors. More than 500 visitors toured from fantail to bridge, learning about the ship’s mission and hydrographic survey operations, life at sea, and maritime heritage of NOAA and the Office of Coast Survey.

As the festival ended, Thomas Jefferson’s crew cast off from City Pier to return to their Long Island Sound working grounds and continue survey operations. We are excited to return to the survey area and complete the 2014 Long Island Sound mapping project.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson dressed in semaphore flags for Connecticut’s 2014 Maritime Heritage Festival. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Abigail Winz.

LCDR Jim Crocker and Alex Ligon wrestle with wayward semaphore flags

Cmdr. James Crocker and hydrographic assistant survey technician Alex Ligon wrestle with wayward semaphore flags to keep NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson looking her best for Connecticut’s 2014 Maritime Heritage Festival. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Abigail Winz.

Lt. Guberski talks to tour group

Lt. Megan Guberski greets a tour group about to board NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson during Connecticut’s 2014 Maritime Heritage Festival. American flags patriotically line New London train station in the background for the special event. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Abigail Winz.

Photo of Guertin, Stone, Moulton, and Johnson

From left to right, “Teacher at Sea” Dr. Laura Guertin, hydrographic survey technician Allison Stone, Ensign Stephen Moulton, and general vessel assistant James Johnson dedicated their time to spreading the word about NOAA’s hydrographic mission.

Correcting chart discrepancies at Alaska’s Whale Passage   1 comment

by Ensign Sarah Chappel, NOAA Ship Rainier

NOAA Ship Rainier recently surveyed Whale Passage, which separates Whale Island from Kodiak Island, Alaska. The area has never been surveyed with modern full bottom coverage methods, and some project areas were last surveyed by lead lines around a hundred years ago. The area frequently experiences 7 knot currents, making rocky or shoal areas particularly treacherous. Whale Passage is a high traffic area for fishing vessels, U.S. Coast Guard cutters, barges, ferries, and small boats, which is why updating the area’s nautical charts is so important.

entrance to Whale Passage

Strong currents push around Ilkognak Rock daymark at the entrance of Whale Passage. (Photo by LTJG Damian Manda)

The dynamics of the passage and surrounding area create several challenges for the hydrographic survey teams. The local tidal and current models are not well-known. To resolve this, Rainier was instructed to install four tide gauges in the greater project area, compared to a typical requirement for one gauge. Two of these gauges are a mere 4.5 nautical miles apart, in and just outside of Whale Passage itself. Some areas are so narrow and experience such high currents that it is only possible to survey in one direction in order to maintain control of the launch. The coxswain must plan each turn carefully, to avoid being pushed into dangerous areas. Ideally, these areas would be surveyed at or near slack tide. However, the slack in this survey area is incredibly brief and the predicted slack periods did not match what survey crews saw in the field.

The bathymetry is so dynamic that, even in relatively deep water, boat crews must remain alert for rocks and shoals. The survey teams found several large rocks in locations significantly different from where they were charted. Furthermore, the presence of large kelp beds increases the difficulty of surveying: they can foul the propellers on the launches, add noise to the sonar data, and can also obscure the presence of rocks.

While the work within Whale Passage, and the neighboring Afognak Strait on the north side of Whale Island, is challenging, it is also high-value. In addition to correcting the positions of known rocks and hazards, Rainier and her crew found a sunken vessel. Most importantly, though, they found areas that were charted twice as deep as they actually are. When the chart reads 8 fathoms (48 feet) and the actual depth is only 4 fathoms (24 feet), commercial traffic utilizing the passage could be in serious danger of running aground. Thus far, Rainier has submitted two DTON (danger to navigation) reports for depths significantly shoaler than charted. These new depths are already published on the latest version of chart 16594.

Rainier's multibeam sonar data shows a sunken fishing vessel in the vicinity of Whale Passage.

Rainier‘s multibeam sonar data shows a sunken fishing vessel in the vicinity of Whale Passage.

NOAA Ship Rainier will continue to survey the vicinity of Whale Passage, as well as the waters near Cold Bay out in the Alaskan Peninsula, for the remainder of the survey season before heading home to Newport, Oregon.

Rainier and launch

NOAA Ship Rainier recovers a survey launch after a morning of surveying and data collection. (Photo by LTJG Damian Manda)

 

Posted July 16, 2014 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Hydrographic surveys, Rainier

Tagged with ,

NOAA improves public access to hydrographic survey descriptive reports   1 comment

by Marcus Cole, Coast Survey’s Cartographic & Geospatial Technology Program

Many are familiar with hydrographic surveys used to update nautical charts.

It isn’t enough, however, to collect just bathymetry during a survey. Without the context, such as when the data was collected, what instrumentation was used, or which tide stations were used to adjust the bathymetry to a particular datum, the data can’t be compiled into a chart update. The data can’t be discovered for a fish habitat study, or an analysis of coastal erosion, or tsunami inundation modeling. And, until two years ago, this metadata (data about data) was collected in a paper document that hadn’t changed much during the last century.

Experts from NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) and Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Surveys Division recently ramped up the intensive process of overhauling their hydrographic survey metadata system ‒ an investment in resources that has increased efficiency, reduced errors, improved access, and enabled data discovery for anyone accessing the publicly available files.

Find descriptive reports from NGDC's interactive map.

Find descriptive reports from NGDC’s interactive map.

This particular effort centered on a new metadata format for descriptive reports (DR) that accompany every hydrographic survey. The report is a critical document that supplements and helps characterize the hydrographic data itself. For example, the DR lists the conditions under which the survey was performed, factors that might affect the survey’s adequacy and accuracy, who collected the data, how it was collected and processed, the equipment and procedures used, and the results. This metadata is essential for evaluating the survey, updating charts, and contributing to NOAA’s historical and legal archive.

Coast Survey’s new method of tracking metadata for DRs uses a format readable by both humans and computers: eXtensible markup language (XML). XML defines a set of rules for encoding documents that enables automation for many metadata-related processes:

  • producing, editing, and transferring survey metadata;
  • searching for text in a document;
  • transforming data formats; and
  • publishing standards-compliant metadata to multiple data warehouses from a single record.

Automation reduces the errors that may come from manual data entry, decreases the time needed to generate a DR, and enables data to be linked to other information pipelines. The biggest benefit from all these improvements in automation, however, is consistency. Just as datums are consistently defined and used in hydrographic surveys, metadata in the new XML DR architecture will be consistently generated and applied, leading to greater intercomparability between surveys. Furthermore, this change aligns with NGDC, where hydrographic survey data is archived. NGDC is adapting its data archiving and management infrastructure to take advantage of XML DR.

Not only does the new XML architecture make it easier to share data between Coast Survey and NGDC; it also helps integrate information from other branches of NOAA and the wider survey-interested community. Some of that information includes:

XML DR may also help Coast Survey integrate survey planning and ship resource management, extending its impact and utility even further.

A team of NOAA Corps officers, CIRES/University of Colorado contract staff, and Coast Survey experts worked together to foster these technology changes. As a result of their efforts to make data more consistent and accessible, it is as easy to learn something about H00001, the first survey conducted in 1837 in Long Island Sound, as it is to view H12381, a modern LIDAR survey from the Florida Keys.

NOAA hydro field season underway   1 comment

The 2014 hydrographic survey season is underway, with the NOAA fleet beginning its projects for this year.

Have you ever wondered how Coast Survey goes about determining where to survey and when? Several considerations go into prioritizing survey plans, which are laid out several years in advance. Coast Survey asks specific questions about each potential survey area.

  • Is it considered a critical area? If so, how old are the most current survey data?
  • Have local pilots or port authorities submitted reports of shoaling, obstructions or other concerns?
  • Does the U.S. Coast Guard or other stakeholders from the maritime community (e.g., fisheries, energy, pipelines) need surveys for economic development or ecological protection?

Coast Survey’s 2014 projects reflect these priorities.

Alaska

NOAA Ships Rainier and Fairweather will be surveying Kodiak Island, specifically Kupreanof Strait to the north and Sitinak Strait to the south. These are considered emerging critical areas, because of both old soundings (1900-1939 for North and 1900-1969 for South Kodiak Island) and increased demand from the tourism and commercial fishing industries to chart safe passages closer to shore.

Kodiak N and S_text_inlet

The Rainier will also continue her work in Cold Bay. The projects focus on charting potential areas of refuge for ships approaching the harbor, especially when currents are strong. Cold Bay is a very small harbor town on the Aleutian Peninsula. (You may recall that when the Rainier visited last year, all eight of the town’s school children came aboard to learn about driving the ship and making nautical charts!)

One of NOAA’s hydrographic services contractors will survey Bechevin Bay, a priority area because it constitutes the easternmost passage through the Aleutians from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Alaska. In addition, hydrographic surveys in this area will help validate an algorithm, being tested by NOAA’s Remote Sensing Division, that estimates water depth strictly from satellite imagery.

Bechivin Bay and Cold Bay_Aleutian_text

West Coast

Fairweather will survey south of the San Juan Islands, in the Straits of Juan de Fuca in Washington. The team will also investigate reported shoaling in Friday Harbor.

One of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams, NRT6, is surveying in San Francisco Bay, where the San Francisco Bay Pilot Association requested surveys in San Pablo Bay and Suisun Bay at the Reserve Fleet area, and in Richmond Harbor to address charting discrepancies and other concerns. The ship will then survey Anchorages 22 and 23 (Carquinez Strait, near Benicia, CA) to chart a shoal that has migrated toward the federal channel and caused a tug and barge to run aground.

Gulf of Mexico

Pilots and port authorities requested hydrographic surveys in Galveston Bay and the vicinity, and NRT4 is responding. Anchorages in this area are of particular interest; the team will survey Anchorage Basin A in Bolivar Roads and the newly charted barge channels and charted features along the main Houston Ship Channel.

A NOAA contractor will survey in Louisiana, offshore of Barataria Bay. About 5,000 deep-draft vessels transit the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River per year. Surveys will be looking for turnoffs and turning basins for large vessels. A re-survey of sandy, changeable bottoms in the areas of Mobile Bay, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida, will also be conducted to finish surveying approach lanes to these ports. A NOAA contractor will survey the approaches to Lake Borgne/Lake Ponchartrain in Louisiana, where charts still use data acquired by the U.S. Coast Survey in the 1800s.

NRT1 is surveying in Panama City, Florida, acquiring data in St. Andrews Bay and West Bay. The team will also investigate shoaling and a changing channel course in Grand Lagoon, depths and features in West Bay and West Bay Creek, and depths along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. After they finish up in Florida, NRT1 will continue the rest of the 2014 survey season in Louisiana.

Western GOM_text_inlet

East Coast

NRT2 will survey in the St. Johns River area near Jacksonville, Florida, in response to a request for support from the U.S. Coast Guard. The survey team will investigate hazards to navigation in the waters of a proposed anchorage area seven nautical miles northeast of St. Johns Point.

NRT5 will survey in the area of Eastern Long Island Sound. Along with providing contemporary hydrographic data, this survey will support the Long Island Sound Seafloor Mapping Initiative. NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson will also survey in Long Island Sound, performing essential habitat mapping in Fishers Island Sound, and continuing Post Tropical Cyclone Sandy surveys that were started in 2013.

LI Sound_Sandy_text

In central Chesapeake Bay, the research vessel Bay Hydro II  will survey critical areas, measuring depths where shifting sands and shoaling have been reported. NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler will survey a possible wind turbine site in the approaches to the Bay.

The Hassler will survey off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This data will contribute to habitat mapping and the state’s effort to locate sand resources for beach replenishment.

Finally, the Thomas Jefferson and Hassler will survey an area offshore of Rhode Island Sound to identify a safe route for deep draft oil tankers. The area is also a potential site for wind turbines.

Navigation Response Team 1 finds vehicle during survey of Intracoastal Waterway, assists sheriff’s office   Leave a comment

While surveying the approaches to Panama City (FL), St Andrews Bay, and West Bay, Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 1 recently made an unexpected find. When team members Mark McMann and Aurel Piantanida reviewed hydrographic data collected with their side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder, they discovered an upside-down vehicle in Panama City’s West Bay Creek, part of the Intracoastal Waterway (see chart 11385).

NRT 1's multibeam echo sounder captures the submerged car's image.

NRT1’s multibeam echo sounder captures the submerged car’s image.

The vehicle location was adjacent to the channel maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, and so it was not an obstruction to navigation. However, it was near a bulkhead where a local company loads gravel onto barges, and NRT1 was concerned about the safety of the barges.

NRT 1's side scan sonar shows the car adjacent to the channel in West Bay Creek.

NRT1’s side scan sonar shows the car adjacent to the channel in West Bay Creek.

The team relayed the information to Bay County’s sheriff who sent divers to the location. With the NRT’s assistance, the sheriff’s divers found the vehicle and called in heavy equipment from the local gravel company to remove it.

The Bay County Sheriff's office called in heavy equipment operators to remove the car found by NRT1.

The Bay County Sheriff’s office called in heavy equipment operators to remove the car found by NRT1.

Why was the 2007 Ford Escape in the creek? The investigation is in the able hands of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. In the meantime, thanks to the sheriff’s response, led by Sgt. William T. Brotherston, a risk to the barges was removed.

The star on West Bay Creek marks the location of the submerged car.

The star on West Bay Creek marks the location of the submerged car.

obstruction_West_Bay_Creek_Chart_Location

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