By Andrew Kampia, chief of Products Branch A, Marine Chart Division, Office of Coast Survey
When we say that many Arctic charts are lacking information critical to navigation, we’re not overstating the issue. A case in point was the 2005 edition of Chart 16304, depicting the mouth of Kuskokwim River to the City of Bethel, in Alaska. This was a preliminary chart with no hydrography, no depth measurements whatsoever.
Preliminary Chart 16304, issued in 2005
Coast Survey just released updated NOAA Chart 16304, which now includes contemporary shoreline and hydrography. (The NOAA ENC® equivalent — US4AK85M — will be available in a month or two.)
New edition of Chart 16304 has depth measurements and other charted features.
Bethel is the supply hub for this region of Alaska and the river is essential for transporting petroleum products, commercial salmon, supplies, and other cargo during limited ice season (generally June through September). However, navigating the Kuskokwim River is a unique and risky experience. As you can see from the nautical chart, the 40-mile approach to Bethel is a maze of shifting sandbars, both visible and covered, and blind channels. The channels in the river undergo constant change from year to year, because of the action of the sea, currents, and ice. A small pilot boat often precedes the vessel through these waters, constantly feeling out the channels and monitoring soundings.
Vitus Marine serves Western Alaska Coast villages and interior river ports with bulk fuel and freight transport. Mark Smith, their chief executive officer, applauded Coast Survey for mapping the Lower Kuskokwim and releasing Chart 16304, noting that “mapping greatly reduces the risk of grounding and facilitates safe and efficient marine traffic.”
“All petroleum and other critical bulk cargoes are transported via watercraft to Western Alaska ports through similar river entrances,” observed CEO Mark Smith. “Along with all navigators, Vitus encourages NOAA to aggressively address the many other, yet uncharted river entrances, where commerce regularly transits dynamic areas to reach each community.”
The Kuskokwim River forms a portion of the “Arctic” border, as provided in the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984.
By Linda Joy, NOAA Communications and External Affairs
In April 1935, George Marsh, an unassuming engineer employed by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, took a photo in the course of his work during a Texas surveying mission. Not having Facebook or other social media tools at hand, he put the photo in an album and stored it away. He could not have known that many decades later, thanks to the NOAA Library and the Internet, his photo would eventually reach millions of people around the globe.
The now famous photo captured boiling dust clouds about to swallow a homestead during the Dust Bowl’s infamous Black Sunday storm.
USC&GS engineer George Marsh took this photo of a Texas dust storm in 1935.
Upon Marsh’s death in 1955, relatives gave his album to the Coast and Geodetic Survey, which in 1970 became part of NOAA. There it remained in a file cabinet until 1994 when slides of the original photo were created. Three years later, the slides were digitized. Then the inevitable happened. The NOAA Library made the image freely available over the Internet through its online NOAA Photo Library where publishers, news outlets, historians, educators, students and many others discovered it.
A recent NOAA Library analysis shows that the photo has been published in works in 25 languages, 39 countries, and on more than 1,000 websites. It also blasted into space on a communications satellite on Nov. 12, 2012, along with 99 other photos selected by artist Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures project. Paglen intends the images, etched on a disc, to serve as a cultural archive and to last well longer than human civilization.
Marsh’s photo was one of three that Paglen selected from the NOAA Photo Library. The space project prompted NOAA librarian Albert “Skip” Theberge to do an analysis of the Photo Library’s reach.
“I selected Marsh’s photograph for tracking as its use emanated from only one possible root – that being its digitization and posting to the Internet in the very first version of the NOAA Photo Library in late 1997,” Theberge explains. It had never been published in either a scientific journal or any book, popular magazine, or other media prior to its posting on the Internet via the NOAA Photo Library.
“Fortunately, Marsh was a keen observer of the world about him and on Black Sunday, April 14, 1935, he took a photo of a dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas. A white house is seen on the right of the image and two people stand in the middle distance, seemingly mesmerized by the boiling mass of dust and sand approaching their little town. I felt that the photo had historical significance and merited further preservation.” Theberge says. The image is actually labeled April 18, but Theberge believes Marsh erred in labeling the date.
Theberge devoted about 80 hours of detective work last November to finding how many times and where the image has been used. Among his findings:
- USA Today has used the image four times.
- It has been published in 24 books.
- Among the more than 1,000 websites that have posted the image are 214 blogs, 134 news sites, 129 photo sites, 91 educational sites, 67 political sites, 41 government sites, 20 sites on religion, philosophy and self-help, and 17 music sites.
- The photo has been shared on social media, including 51 posts on Pinterest.
“Although you would predict that the photo would be used primarily for either climate discussions or Dust Bowl history sites, what I discovered was an astounding variety of uses of the image,” Theberge says. Since he concluded his analysis last year, he has found the Marsh image posted on even more sites. “It will never be possible to state definitively how many times it has been used or how many people have seen it.”
Besides the Marsh dust bowl photo, the NOAA Photo Library and its sister site on the social media photo sharing website Flickr today have nearly 60,000 images online. These resources and the power of imagery have helped spread NOAA’s work, discoveries and heritage worldwide.
By Lucy Hick, physical scientist, Hydrographic Surveys Division
Maintaining documentation for features depicted on nautical charts is more complicated than you probably imagine. For instance, Coast Survey maintains information on more than 10,000 submerged wrecks and obstructions in U.S. coastal waters – and it just got easier for the public to access that free information.
Coast Survey uses our Automated Wreck and Obstruction Information System (AWOIS) to help plan hydrographic survey operations and to catalog the many reported wrecks and obstructions considered navigational hazards within U.S. coastal waters. The public also has access to this rich information source. Marine archaeologists and historians, fishermen, divers, salvage operators, and others in the marine community find AWOIS valuable as an historical record of selected wrecks and obstructions.
Information contained in the database includes latitude and longitude of each feature, along with brief historic and descriptive details. Until recently, that information was available for download in Microsoft Access MDB and Adobe PDF format. However, these formats were difficult to search.
As of today, AWOIS information will no longer be available in MDB or PDF format. Instead, users can download AWOIS files in the more useful Google Earth Keyhole Markup Language (KML) format. KML is an XML grammar and file format for modeling and storing geographic features such as points, lines, images, polygons, and models for display in Google Earth, Google Maps, and other applications. (KML is an international standard, maintained by Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc.)
Once you download an AWOIS file, you can open that file directly in a mapping application, such as Google Earth or Google Maps. You can then navigate directly to your area of interest and obtain information about individual features. Clicking on any AWOIS item will bring up additional information, such feature type, position, and history.
I’ve provided an example, below, of an AWOIS file opened in Google Earth. On the right is an example of the information that will be displayed by clicking on a AWOIS item.
Questions? Just ask them in the comments section or send an email to Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Surveys Division at HSD.Inquiries@noaa.gov.
AWOIS in Google Earth
NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard recently released the Cooperative Maritime Strategy developed by the two agencies. The introduction to the document, signed by Admiral Papp and Dr. Lubchenco, is a stirring testament to our shared legacy and commitment. We reprint that introduction here.
25 February 2013
We are pleased to promulgate our Nation’s first-ever Cooperative Maritime Strategy between the United States Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For over 200 years, our Services have stood in partnership on maritime resilience, environmental sustainability, and scientific research. Indeed, America is a maritime nation, and the oceans, coasts, rivers and Great Lakes are the lifeblood of our economy. The maritime commons promote economic growth, advance technology, and challenge the human spirit. Our Services share a legacy and are committed to a future that honors our responsibilities as stewards of the oceans.
The Father of the Revenue Marine, Secretary Alexander Hamilton once said, “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” Not only is our shared legacy marked in a vision for maritime excellence, but also in front-line acts of courage and inspiration. From rescuing survivors in unforgiving regions like the Arctic since the mid-1800s, to flying through hurricanes today to collect data, our men and women have served America with distinction for over two centuries.
This strategy builds on our legacy and establishes an integrated and coherent course for the future. Moving forward, we will continue partnering to promote a safe and sustainable marine environment, enhance collaboration in the Arctic and Gulf Coast regions, and foster innovation in science and technology. Perhaps most strategic, our Services will build on existing programs to inspire our Nation’s youth academically in the areas of science, technology, mathematics, and marine environmental protection. We will implement this strategy pragmatically and mindful of the fiscal challenges we currently face. It provides a solid vision and is the North Star for our future.
Robert J. Papp, Jr.
Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard
Commandant of the Coast Guard
Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans
and Atmosphere, and NOAA Administrator
As the nation’s nautical chartmaker, Coast Survey produces the country’s traditional paper charts for coastal waters, territorial waters, and the Great Lakes. We maintain the Print-on-Demand charts that you can purchase from OceanGraphix and East View Geospatial. We make the nation’s raster navigational charts (NOAA RNC®) and electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®). And the free downloadable BookletCharts. But did you know we produce international charts, too? NOAA has five international charts covering the Northeastern Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea… and we just published our sixth, for the opposite coast.
International mariners entering U.S. waters around southwestern Florida now have a new international (INT) nautical chart to help ease their transit. The new chart, INT 4148, has the same information as Chart 11420, Havana to Tampa Bay, but the depictions are converted to the metric system. (Most U.S. charts use either feet or fathoms for depth measurements). INT charts also use some different symbology, so Coast Survey makes those modifications as well.
The image on the left is a close-up of Dry Tortugas on NOAA Chart 11420. The image on the right is the same area on INT 4148. Note that converting fathoms to meters results in different contour lines for the same area.
Starting in April, INT 4148 will be printed on the reverse side of Chart 11420. The new chart will soon be available as a print-on-demand chart.
In 1971, the International Hydrographic Organization adopted the idea of a common, worldwide chart series (INT Charts) produced to a single set of agreed specifications. IHO encourages countries to publish INT charts, and to make them available to hydrographic offices from neighboring countries, so they can use them for comparison or compilation with their domestic charts. Regional Hydrographic Commissions coordinate the production of INT charts. This particular chart was coordinated by the Meso-American and Caribbean Sea Hydrographic Commission – where NOAA experts are committed to supporting international hydrographic cooperation.
Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division is responsible for updating the nation’s 1022 nautical charts. INT 4148 was compiled by Christie Ence and reviewed by Brian Martinez, under the management of Mark Griffin.
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.
Last week we blogged about the Civil War sailors whose remains were being interred at Arlington National Cemetery on March 8. The funeral, for unknown sailors who were lost when the USS Monitor capsized, was solemn and stirring, and reflected the nation’s great esteem for our fallen patriots. The unknown sailors were lost along with 14 of their shipmates when Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., on Dec. 31, 1862.
All 16 sailors will be memorialized on a group marker in section 46 of the cemetery, which is between the amphitheater and the USS Maine Mast memorial.
Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, Coast Survey’s director, was honored to represent NOAA in the officer escort for the caissons. Glang and Rear Admiral Anthony Kurta (USN) served as Escort Commanders, and were joined by Capt. Gary Clore (Navy Chaplain) and Cmdr. Nathaniel Standquist (U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard), as the nation paid a final tribute.
Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, acting NOAA administrator, spoke at the chapel service preceding the procession and burial. (See NOAA: Remains of USS Monitor sailors interred for highlights of Dr. Sullivan’s remarks.)
Thanks to public affairs officers David Hall (NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations) and Lt. Lauryn Dempsey (U.S. Navy), we are able to provide a photographic montage of the burial ceremony.
After a moving memorial service in the Fort Meyer Chapel, the caskets are transferred for the funeral procession. (Photo: Lt. Lauryn Dempsey, U.S. Navy)
Casket teams position the caskets on the caissons, while the escort team salutes. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
Members of the elite Caisson platoon at Fort Myer draw the caissons to the burial site. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
Capt. Gary Clore (Navy Chaplain); Rear Admiral Anthony Kurta (USN); Rear Admiral Gerd Glang (NOAA); and Cmdr. Nathaniel Standquist (U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard). (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
- The funeral procession arrives at the burial site. (Photo credit: David Hall, NOAA)
After the graveside religious service, casket teams remove the flags from the coffins. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
Folding the flags. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)
A final moment. (Photo: David Hall, NOAA)