Coast Survey aids U.S. Coast Guard in recovering sunken buoy   Leave a comment

Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team (NRT) 6 responded to a request from the U.S. Coast Guard to locate and facilitate recovery of a sunken mooring buoy near Sausalito, California.

Although not a threat to surface navigation, there are two reasons for this recovery effort. The first is to protect mariners from getting their anchors caught on the buoy or tangled in the mooring chain. Recovery will also allow the U.S. Coast Guard to repair and possibly reuse the buoy.

A mooring buoy is an anchored buoy fitted to receive a ship’s mooring chain. It essentially allows mariners to secure their ships without the use of an anchor. The lost mooring buoy is four feet in diameter connected to a chain 117 feet in length.

Using sonar, NRT6 created a ten centimeter resolution grid (a network of horizontal and vertical lines superimposed over a chart) and located five features on the seafloor that could be the lost mooring buoy.

This is a chartlet showing the location as well as measurements of the five different features found through multibeam sonar surveys of the NRT6.

Chartlet showing the locations and measurements of five features found through multibeam sonar surveys of the NRT6. These five features are potentially the lost mooring buoy.

The first feature is the strongest candidate. Its length, width, and height appear similar to that of the lost buoy and there is a notable lack of scouring. Scouring occurs when swift moving water flows over submerged objects over time. The lack of scouring on feature one indicates that it has not been underwater for long.

This is a chartlet showing images and information about feature one

Chartlet displaying feature one, the feature most likely to be the lost mooring buoy.

Features two and three appear to be the two buoy blocks that are square in nature and and have established scouring. Feature three also has what appears to be a mound of rubble resting next to it which is thought to be a mooring chain. Features four and five are merely curiosities that are being considered. The following video tour further illustrates and explains these five features.

Although we have not yet concluded which (if any) of the five features is the lost buoy, the U.S. Coast Guard has recovery operations planned for July 1st. We will then know for sure if NRT6 indeed located the lost buoy.

Posted June 24, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

NOAA dedicates memorial at Absecon Lighthouse   Leave a comment

Sunday, June 21, was World Hydrography Day, a day set aside to recognize the important work of hydrographers.  Measuring and describing the physical features of oceans, seas, and coastal areas is essential not only to the safe navigation of the everyday mariner, but to our nation’s economic development, security and defense, scientific research, and environmental protection.

Absecon lighthouse with NOAA flag

The NOAA flag flies at the Absecon Lighthouse during the memorial dedication. Photo by David Hall

This year’s observation was particularly noteworthy for NOAA, as we honored the lost crew members of the U.S. Coast Survey Steamer Robert J. Walker, by dedicating a memorial at the Absecon Lighthouse in New Jersey.

On June 21, 1860, the Robert J. Walker was hit by a commercial schooner while transiting from Norfolk to New York after months of surveying in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship sank 12 miles offshore, as they were heading to the Absecon Lighthouse after they were hit. Coast Survey lost twenty crew members that night, and another man died from his injuries the next day, in the largest single loss of life in Coast Survey and NOAA history.

Dr. James Delgado, director of maritime heritage at NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, described the events of that long-ago day, and spoke of the partnership between NOAA and the New Jersey diving community in identifying the previously unidentified wreck.

Steve Nagiewicz, co-director of the Robert J. Walker Mapping Project, recognized a dozen private citizens who assisted with the project, as he talked about the importance of collaborative efforts in conserving the nation’s maritime history.

Recognizing private citizens

Steve Nagiewicz (center) and Dr. James Delgado (second from left) recognized the collaboration between NOAA and private citizens in identifying and conserving the Robert J. Walker wreck. Photo by Dawn Forsythe

Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, dedicated the memorial.

“With this memorial duly dedicated, we are assured that future generations will know what happened off these shores,” Glang said. “They will remember the sacrifices made to make our nation’s coasts safe.  And they will give these crew members a permanent honor that was so long denied.”

A historic hydrographer’s bell rang for every crew member that lost their life, similar to the memorial service held two years ago.

Glang, Delgado, and Oliver

Rear Admiral Gerd Glang dedicated the Walker memorial, with James Delgado and Cheryl Oliver. Photo by Dawn Forsythe

On the grounds of the Absecon Lighthouse you will now find a memorial consisting of a NOAA commemorative geodetic marker, as well as a plaque honoring the lost crew members, placed in a compass rose on the grounds outside the lighthouse entrance. The plaque is an iconic image that was proposed by NOAA Corps Basic Officer Training Class 102, in a design project headed by Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Shoup.

In expressing NOAA’s appreciation for all involved in the project, Glang thanked two people in particular. First, he noted the persistent efforts of Skip Theberge, our NOAA historian and a retired NOAA commissioned officer.

“I would dare say that very few people in NOAA even knew about the Robert J. Walker until Captain Theberge told us about this tragic event,” Glang said. “It is because of his knowledge — and especially his persistence in telling the story — that NOAA made the effort to find and identify the Walker.”

Glang also offered special appreciation to Cheryl Oliver, exhibit manager for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the senior program advisor for NOAA’s Preserve America Initiative. She is also the president of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Heritage Society. Cheryl was NOAA’s moving force behind the development of this memorial.

Cheryl Oliver and James Delgado

NOAA Preserve America Initiative advisor Cheryl Oliver and Maritime Heritage Program Director James Delgado at the Robert J. Walker interpretive sign at Absecon Lighthouse. Photo by David Hall

The Robert J. Walker was positively identified in 2013 after NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson set aside a day to survey the site while it was in the area conducting operations after post tropical storm Sandy. The ship’s physical scientists were guided by historical accounts in the 1860 Coast Survey Annual Report. Then, using the Thomas Jefferson data and armed with additional information from researchers and archaeological advisers, divers pinpointed the exact location and confirmed the ship’s identity.

NOAA would like to express our appreciation to U.S. Coast Guard Station Atlantic City (in particular, Seaman Philip Zinna and Fireman Apprentice Christopher Barreras) for presenting the colors at the event.

A color guard from U.S. Coast Guard Station Atlantic City presents the colors. Photo by David Hall

A color guard from U.S. Coast Guard Station Atlantic City presents the colors. Photo by David Hall

Jean Muchanic

Absecon Lighthouse Executive Director Jean Muchanic welcomed the crowd of 50 people to the Walker memorial dedication. Photo by David Hall

Over 35,000 conductivity, temperature, and depth profiles added to public oceanographic database   Leave a comment

Well before the invention of the computer and the following onslaught of digital data, S.R. Ranganathan in his 1939 book, “Theory of Library Catalogue,” described in detail how a library catalog should work and be prepared. Since then, the way we develop and maintain information databases and archives has dramatically changed. The format has morphed beyond traditional books and journals to large amounts of digital data.

The Office of Coast Survey alone produces digital data on order of several terabytes a year, and much of this data is collected by NOAA hydrographic survey vessels. In order to make the data easily accessible and available to the public, it is formatted and submitted to the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) ocean data archive. Here, the basic principles of library cataloging apply – find the appropriate information quickly and in the location it is supposed to be stored.

In 2014, while seeking oceanographic data profiles in the Arctic, Coast Survey made a discovery. Some of the data collected by NOAA hydrographic survey vessels were missing in the oceanographic database at the National Oceanographic Data Center, now the NCEI ocean data archive. A follow up investigation revealed a breakdown in data stewardship protocols and the oceanographic data were only stored in the multibeam sonar data archive, preventing direct access to the data by the general public.

Map showing locations of recovered oceanographic profiles

Locations of recovered oceanographic profiles.

An effort was initiated to recover the data and translate it into a format suitable for searchable databases. Data from a total of 466 hydrographic surveys (acquired from 2005 to 2013) were recovered. The recovered data were acquired by a host of sensors in various digital formats and varying stages of completeness of digital metadata, making the data validation a challenge.

Chen Zhang and Mashkoor Malik, along with two interns from the University of Maryland, Walther Rodriguez and Heather Lam, initially started processing the profiles manually, but soon developed several automated tools to validate and convert the data. Once complete, a total of 35,373 oceanographic profiles were sent to NCEI’s ocean data archive and cataloged appropriately, where researchers from all over the world can easily access this data for their specific scientific applications.

University of Maryland students, Walther Rodriguez and Heather

With the help of University of Maryland students, Walther Rodriguez and Heather Lam, over 35,000 oceanographic profiles were sent to NCEI’s ocean data archive.

Coast Survey is grateful to NCEI staff David Fischman, Thomas Carey, and Christopher Paver, in providing support to recover, process, and archive the oceanographic data.

Posted June 17, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Ceremony in Kodiak, Alaska, marks the deployment of NOAA ships Fairweather and Rainier   Leave a comment

To mark the deployment of NOAA ships Fairweather and Rainier as they begin a summer of hydrographic survey projects in the Arctic, NOAA hosted a ceremony at the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) base in Kodiak, Alaska.

The ceremony opened with a joint USCG and NOAA color guard while the national anthem was sung by retired USCG Chief Aviation Machinist Mate, Joe Symonoski. Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of the Office of Coast Survey, gave opening remarks.

Presentation of colors by a joint U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA color guard.

Presentation of colors by a joint U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA color guard.

“Characteristically, we are quite modest about the missions and accomplishments of our NOAA ships. But today, we are taking the time to recognize the planned deployment of both ships to undertake hydrographic surveys in the U.S. Arctic,” Glang said. “It is important for us because of the renewed investment NOAA is making in this region at a time when the Arctic has become more accessible to marine transportation.”

Vice Admiral Michael Devany, deputy under secretary for operations at NOAA, was the keynote speaker and provided comments on NOAA’s mission, the history of charting in the region, the importance of partnerships and safety, and directed inspirational words to the crew.

“At the end of the day, the Nation relies on the work you do, for protection of life, property, and livelihoods,” Devany said. “Many of you may have heard that we know more about the surface of the moon and have mapped more of the surface of Mars than our own planet. You are the ones who are going to change that.”

Four additional speakers were featured during the ceremony:

  • Captain Jeffrey Westling, commanding officer, USCG Base, Kodiak
  • Greg Kaplan, military and veterans liaison for Senator Murkowski
  • Commander Edward Van Den Ameele, commanding officer of NOAA Ship Rainier
  • Commander David Zezula, commanding officer of NOAA Ship Fairweather

To involve the local community in Kodiak, Coast Survey hosted an art contest at local elementary schools. Children were asked to illustrate what the ocean means to them or what they think it is like to be on a research vessel. The three winners from Kodiak Christian School were recognized at the ceremony. Their prize was a tour of NOAA Ship Rainier.

Art contest winners admire their artwork and are recognized by Rear Admiral Glang during the ceremony.

Art contest winners admire their artwork and are recognized by Rear Admiral Glang during the ceremony.

The ceremony was concluded with a performance by the Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers. Wearing beaded headdresses and clothing, the dancers told stories of fair weather, kayaking, and peace. The Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers, whose members range from toddlers to adults, traditionally pass on knowledge about their heritage and everyday life through dance and song. They have been performing since 1987.

Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers performed during the deployment ceremony.

Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers performed dances about fair weather, kayaking, and peace, during the deployment ceremony.

Following the ceremony, Captain Jeffrey Westling, commanding officer of USCG Base Kodiak, provided a tour of the base.

Rear Admiral Glang, Vice Admiral Devany, and Captain Todd Bridgeman speak with Melissa Rivera, commanding officer of the USCG air station in Kodiak, Alaska.

Rear Admiral Glang, Vice Admiral Devany, and Captain Todd Bridgeman speak with Captain Melissa Rivera, commanding officer of the USCG air station in Kodiak, Alaska.

Captain Jeffrey Westling, Commanding Officer of USCB Base Kodiak and Rear Admiral Glang exchange command coins following a tour of the base.

Captain Jeffrey Westling and Rear Admiral Gerd Glang stand alongside Vice Admiral Michael Devany as they exchange command coins following a tour of the base.

Posted June 10, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Coast Survey helps communities prepare for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season   1 comment

June 1 marks the beginning of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. Although NOAA projects it to be a below normal season, it doesn’t mean coastal areas will have it easy. In the wake of a hurricane, Coast Survey plays a critical role in NOAA’s response efforts. But what about before the storm? In addition to building relationships and coordinating emergency response capabilities with agencies such as  U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and port authorities, Coast Survey focuses on local community preparedness meetings and outreach events throughout the month of May.

Recently, Coast Survey’s navigation manager for the central Gulf Coast, in partnership with The National Weather Service Lake Charles and the Port of Morgan City, Louisiana, conducted public preparedness forums in Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Morgan City. One meeting featured U.S. Representative Charles W. Boustany, Jr., as the speaker. Approximately 90 people attended, including the congressman’s constituents, and local, state, and federal agencies and responders. The information provided was of vital interest given the upcoming start of hurricane season and the 10th anniversary of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“As the 10th anniversary for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita approach, our coastal region is reminded of the need to be ever-ready for storms of every category,” said Joan Finley, district director for Rep. Boustany. “Our office appreciates the working relationship we have with NOAA, is reassured by the expertise of those working for NOAA, and is always available to provide assistance to ensure NOAA carries out its mission.”

Public preparedness meeting at Port Morgan City, Louisiana.

Public preparedness meeting at Port Morgan City, Louisiana.

Over on the southeast Atlantic coast, Coast Survey’s navigation response team 2 participated in the hurricane awareness tour when it stopped in St. Augustine, Florida. This outreach event provided Coast Survey the opportunity to communicate to the public, school children, and local dignitaries about its role in hurricane response.

Kyle Ward is ready to greet the crowd during the Hurricane Awareness Tour in St. Augustine, Florida.

Kyle Ward sits alongside the NRT2 vessel and is ready to greet the crowd during the Hurricane Awareness Tour in St. Augustine, Florida.

During the outreach event, the navigation response team gave tours of the vessel and answered questions from the public. Students visited the booth, listened to a brief about Coast Survey, and received “honorary junior hydrographer” stickers to remind them of Coast Survey’s important mission.

Coast Survey’s navigation managers and response teams have spread awareness and helped communities prepare for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. At the start of the season, we may not know exactly when and where a hurricane will strike or how extensive the damage will be, but we are aware of the threat and are prepared to respond.

Posted June 1, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

All aboard! NOAA’s Bay Hydro II opens its doors to the public at the Port of Baltimore’s National Maritime Day Event   Leave a comment

What better way to recognize National Maritime Day than to spend a day at the Port of Baltimore talking with the public about NOAA’s hydrographic survey work.  Coast Survey’s research vessel Bay Hydro II, moored at pier 13 Canton Marine Terminal across from the NS Savannah, participated in the Port of Baltimore’s National Maritime Day celebration on Sunday, May 17.

A great cross-section of visitors came on board throughout the day. From students and families with small children to retired Navy sonar operators, there was no shortage of enthusiastic people to talk to.

“I was really impressed that so many people made the trek all the way out to the industrial sector in order to see the event.” said, Lt.j.g. Bart Buesseler, the vessel’s officer in charge. “You could look out from the pier and see container ships loading and unloading, and activity happening all around. We weren’t sure what to expect going in, but were very happy we made the trip. It was great!”

By the end of the day, over 215 people came aboard the Bay Hydro II. A great turnout for a quick visit to Charm City.

Matt Carter, Survey Technician,  answers questions about surveying and charting aboard the Bay Hydro II.

Matt Carter, survey technician, answers questions about surveying and charting aboard the Bay Hydro II.

Lt.j.g. Bart Buesseler, the Officer in Charge of Bay Hydro II, answers questions along side Bay Hydro II during the Port of Baltimore's National Maritime Day event.

Lt.j.g. Bart Buesseler answers questions alongside Bay Hydro II during the Port of Baltimore’s National Maritime Day event.

Posted May 19, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Coast Survey improves the U.S. Coast Pilot by providing geotags   1 comment

The U.S. Coast Pilot, the supplement to raster navigational charts (NOAA RNC®) and electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®), now provides geotagged reference points. A geotag is simply geographical location information assigned to a type of media. In this case, a geotag conveniently assists mariners with landmark positions and displays the associated nautical chart inset in the HTML version of Coast Pilot. Currently, 75 percent of the nine Coast Pilot volumes have been geotagged, with more points available each week to the mariner. Coast Pilot is updated and available for download weekly, and can easily be used on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. To access the geotags, select a Coast Pilot book and click the HTML hyperlink adjacent to each individual chapter of the book.

Access to the HTML version of Coast Pilot, where the geotags are located, can be found within each Coast Pilot Book webpage.  This image shows the location of the HTML link for Coast Pilot Book 2.

Access to the HTML version of Coast Pilot, where the geotags are located, can be found within each Coast Pilot Book webpage. This image shows the location of the HTML link for Coast Pilot Book 2.

Geotagged places will appear in bold green within the HTML version of the chapters.

Portion of the HTML Coast Pilot chapter and geotagged features in bold green.

Portion of the HTML Coast Pilot 2 (Chapter 4) and geotagged features in bold green.

Clicking on a geotag will prompt a small window with an appropriate interactive chart (RNC or ENC) along with a blue dot indicating the geotagged point with its latitude and longitude.

Chartlet with geotagged feature (includes zooming capabilities).

Chartlet with geotagged feature (includes zooming capabilities)

Also conveniently available to the mariner in the HTML version of Coast Pilot is the Code of Federal Regulations (text highlighted in dark blue) and the entire nautical chart (chart heading of each paragraph in royal blue). The geotagged Coast Pilot project is a collaborative effort between Coast Survey and the USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). The GNIS is the official database of geographic names used by the federal government as well as information regarding specific geographical positions. As digital cartography evolves, having geotagged products opens up the door for potential future uses.

Posted May 7, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in U.S. Coast Pilot

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