NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey wraps up a busy 2017 hurricane season

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was powerful, with the strongest storms occurring consecutively from late August to early October. The sequential magnitude of four hurricanes in particular—Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate—made response efforts challenging for NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. Coast Survey summarized this season’s response efforts along with the efforts of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (operated by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations) in the following story map.


NOAA completes multi-year ocean mapping project off the Olympic Coast

In September 2017, NOAA’s Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping Program completed a multi-year ocean mapping project off the coast of Washington in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. This project grew out of a seafloor mapping prioritization exercise led by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science on behalf of the State of Washington in May 2015. The prioritization exercise integrated the priorities of coastal stakeholders representing numerous federal and state (Oregon and Washington) agencies, coastal treaty tribes, and academic institutions to determine where to concentrate future survey efforts. One identified priority was the need for a better understanding of the bathymetry and habitats of Washington’s submarine canyons, particularly three offshore areas in need of enhanced data collection efforts.

Project area and data sources/years of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary ocean mapping project
Project area and data sources/years of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary ocean mapping project.

Since then, a scientific team of experts has contributed to NOAA-led multi-disciplinary surveys of the offshore priority areas, utilizing data collected by the NOAA ships Rainier and Okeanos Explorer, and E/V Nautilus and maximizing other ocean mapping data provided by external sources in an effort to meet mapping goals established during the prioritization exercise. The resulting survey efforts, which involved collection of swath bathymetry, acoustic backscatter, and water column data, will support coastal and ocean management activities as well as a wide variety of other applications, including to:

  • Inform regulatory decisions on coastal development
  • Provide benthic habitat mapping and seafloor characterization for sustainable fisheries initiatives, and to help assess fishery stocks and critical spawning aggregation locations
  • Better understand and manage shelf and canyon resources
  • Aid in resolving multiple-use conflicts
  • Advance research in determining chemical and biological contamination levels
  • Support upcoming efforts to locate, assess, and characterize deep sea corals and sponges
  • Locate and identify hundreds of previously unknown methane gas seeps along the shelf break
  • Update NOAA nautical charts and products off the coast of Washington

As part of the mission, NOAA Ship Rainier acquired depth measurements and other hydrographic data throughout the entire project to update NOAA nautical charts including chart 18500 off the coast of Washington with corresponding electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) US3WA03M and US3WA01M.

NOAA ships Rainier and Okeanos Explorer are part of the fleet of ships managed and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, and operated by commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps (one of seven uniformed services of the United States) and civilian wage mariners. The E/V Nautilus is owned and operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust.

NOAA Office of Coast Survey to launch redesigned website

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey will launch the newly redesigned website,, on November 14, 2017. The website will feature simplified navigation and a responsive layout for all platforms, making your favorite NOAA charting products easy and convenient to find.

We encourage everyone to visit and explore the site on or after November 14. Because of this redesign effort, many of the webpages within will have a new address. Please be prepared to update any bookmarks or links you may have.


Mystery of Kitfield Ledge solved with a little nautical chart research

By Nick Perugini

Most NOAA Office of Coast Survey customers have a practical mariner’s bent—they are interested in up-to-date and accurate navigational products and services. However, an increasing number of customers are using Coast Survey online resources for historical research.

In May 2017, Coast Survey received an inquiry via the Inquiry and Discrepancy Management System (IDMS) that illustrates this point.

Original message: My dad is from Manchester-By-Sea, MA. There is a ledge on the NAUTICAL charts, “Kitfield Ledge”. Is there a place where we can get some history, when it was named, and how it came about. We have not been able to find any information on that. My dad was born in 1926, and he and his dad, used to lobster off of Black Beach in the 1930’s. We were back there 2 years ago and did some research at the Cape Ann Museum, but were not able to locate any information. Appreciate any help you may be able to provide. Thank you.

Left: Current edition of NOAA chart 13279. Right: 1912 edition of chart 243.
Left: Current edition of NOAA chart 13279. Right: 1912 edition of chart 243.

The first step in solving this mystery was to locate Kitfield Ledge on the current chart.  Using the “Place Names” search in the Chart Catalog, Kitfield Ledge was located on the current edition of chart 13279. Using the Historical Map & Chart Collection, I was able to trace the name back to Coast and Geodetic Survey Chart 243 published in 1912. Interesting….but where to go from here? I then accessed the hydrographic surveys archive maintained by NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI, formerly NGDC). Using the interactive map interface for bathymetric data, I was able to view and download an 1896 hydrographic survey that showed Kitfield Ledge.  Geographic name references are not always included in hydrographic survey descriptive reports, however to my surprise,the following note was discovered in the hand written descriptive report.



  1. “Kitfield’s Ledge.  This ledge lies SW of Crow Island with a least depth of 2 ½ fathoms.  It is covered with kelp and Crow Island Rock is situated on it. Its name was derived from the fact that at old woman, Granny Kitfield by name, used to fish for cod on it with much success.

Granny Kitfield must have been quite an angler to have a rocky ledge named after her!

The Granny Kitfield inquiry, and its resolution, illustrates that Coast Survey (and other organizations within the National Ocean Service) offer impressive online resources to assist in historical research. Many customers are interested in what shoreline or coastal features looked like a century ago. Others are interested in where a currently charted feature (like a wreck) originated. Resources that may help customers interested in historical research include:

So go ahead, check these resources out. Mysteries of the deep are waiting to be discovered—or maybe you’ll find another one of Granny Kitfield’s favorite fishing spots.

NOAA launches new Nautical Chart Catalog

With NOAA’s new Nautical Chart Catalog, users can readily access raster data and charting products in list format. The website serves as a complement to the Chart Locator by providing search capability for any of NOAA’s thousand plus nautical charts.


The catalog redesign simplifies the user experience by reducing the number of clicks it takes to access a product. Legacy website data has been consolidated into a single page which makes the searching process a more intuitive user experience. Responsive design has been implemented making the site both desktop and mobile friendly.

Additional searching and sorting functionality has been added to the new catalog to increase product accessibility. The redesign provides the ability for users to find and download NOAA RNC®, full-sized nautical charts in PDF format, BookletCharts™, notice to mariners chart corrections, a list of chart agents, and the ability to view online images of raster (paper) charts. A quick search of the entire chart suite is available on the main page if the user knows the chart number, title, or scale.

Some aspects of the legacy catalog are retained, including the interactive map that separates the catalog into eight main regions. Each region contains several sub-regions derived from the catalog PDF tables and images. The new catalog design provides the flexibility to add more data in the tables in the future.

NOAA hosts Industry Day 2017

Recently, NOAA hosted it’s third NOAA Industry Day at the Annapolis Yacht Club, attracting over two dozen prominent maritime application and navigation system developers. This year’s event focused on NOAA’s extensive data and models that are freely available and of particular interest to the recreational boater community.

Rear Adm. Shepard Smith provides introductory remarks at NOAA Industry Day 2017.
Rear Adm. Shepard Smith provides introductory remarks at NOAA Industry Day 2017.

The morning session consisted of presentations by program leaders highlighting new data enhancements and models that can provide added-value to existing recreational navigation systems. NOAA experts also solicited feedback from industry members on how to improve the accessibility and distribution of NOAA data and encouraged future correspondence on development opportunities. The afternoon session allowed for individual consultations with all experts and included a high-level overview of NOAA’s National Charting Plan.

John Nyberg, chief of the Marine Chart Division, presents the National Charting Plan at NOAA Industry Day 2017.
John Nyberg, chief of the Marine Chart Division, presents the National Charting Plan at NOAA Industry Day 2017.

All presentations and presenter contact information are available on Coast Survey’s website.

Penobscot Bay survey focus of NOAA stakeholder meetings in Maine

By, Lt. David Vejar

Recently, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey hosted two stakeholder events in Belfast, Maine, to engage the local community on various NOAA products and updates in the region. Originally from Belfast himself, Rear Adm. Smith, director of the Office of Coast Survey, provided a warm introduction to both events. Dean Moyles, of Fugro, a NOAA hydrographic contractor, presented a summary of the hydrographic survey work being performed in Penobscot Bay. Lt. David Vejar, NOAA northeast navigation manager, highlighted various products and services, including how to access NOAA charts and data, the upcoming Gulf of Maine Operation Forecast System, nowCOAST, and various planning tools such as SeaSketch and Northeast Data Portal. Allison Wittrock, from Marine Charts Division, presented the National Charting Plan with a focus on how it will provide great benefit to stakeholders.

Mark Kontio, Maine staff assistant for Congressman Bruce  Poliquin, Lt. David Vejar, northeast navigation manager, Chris  Rector, regional representative for Senator Angus King,  Rear Adm. Shep Smith, director of Office of Coast Survey at the stakeholder meeting in Maine.
Mark Kontio, Maine staff assistant for Congressman Bruce Poliquin, Lt. David Vejar, northeast navigation manager, Chris Rector, regional representative for Senator Angus King, Rear Adm. Shep Smith, director of Office of Coast Survey, at the stakeholder meeting in Maine.

Various groups attended the event, including local harbor committees, regional U.S. Coast Guard, Maine Department of Marine Resources, NOAA Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, Maine Lobsterman’s Association, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and staff from Rep. Bruce Poliquin (ME) and Sen. Angus King, Jr.’s (ME) offices.

NOAA and Fugro received positive feedback from local stakeholders before and during the Penobscot Bay hydrographic survey. The state of Maine and NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management will also be working together to coordinate long-term projects in the area. NOAA was invited to return and present at both the Maine Fisherman’s Forum March 1-3, 2018, in Rockland, and at the annual Maine Harbormaster’s Association annual training in March 2018 at the Maine Maritime Academy. The stakeholder events were captured and published by the Republican Journal.