By Edward Owens
Coast Survey’s Edward Owens on the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Louis S. St.-Laurent as it approaches The Narrows near the city of St. John’s.
Hello to all from the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Louis S. St-Laurent (CCG LSSL), affectionately called the ‘Louis.’ She is an impressive 120 m long, 24.5 m wide with a cruising range of 23,000 nautical miles and carries two CCG helicopters. There are 86 cabins with 100 bunks and today she currently sails with 77 souls on board. I’ve gotten lost, turned around, and confused while navigating my way through the labyrinth of neat and tidy stairways, corridors, and doorways on numerous occasions. Luckily, I’m beginning to find my way around thanks to all the artwork and placards mounted on the walls which I’ve depended on as landmarks to help me get where I’m going. Everything is arranged on five main decks. I am berthed on the 300 level or the flight and boat deck conveniently near the acoustics science lab. The galley is three decks down and as long as I can find it, I’ll be just grand.
Today is Monday, the 27 of July, and it is 08:40 UTC (ship’s time), 06:10 St. John’s time (we are just off the Newfoundland coast), and 05:40 along the U.S. East Coast. Sunday afternoon we made a short stop at The Narrows, the entrance to Newfoundland’s city of St. John’s. There was a slight wind and low sky with temperatures in the refreshing low 50°’s F. The fast boat was deployed to make a few runs to the harbor to collect additional personnel waiting to join the ship along with many parcels and packages that made their way on board before we set off on the main leg of our journey. As a good omen, numerous species of whales fed, frolicked, and spouted into the cool air about the ship bidding us on our way.
We had left Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Friday from Canada’s impressive Bedford Institute of Oceanography, which sits nestled in the Bedford basin at the rear of Halifax harbor. Outside, the Coast Guard maintains a number of multi-purpose research vessels. I have been invited aboard on the first leg (Halifax – Tromsø, Norway) of a four-month Arctic voyage as part of an international scientific collaboration between Europe, Canada, and the U.S. to begin the long and complex task of mapping the seabed of the North Atlantic Ocean. The survey is the second to be launched by the alliance, formed in May 2013, following the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation (named such for the location of the documents signing in Ireland). The three signatories agreed to jointly undertake the challenge to better understand the North Atlantic Ocean, and to promote the sustainable management of its resources.
Canadian Coast Guard vessel Louis S. St.-Laurent, host of the four month Arctic voyage as part of an international scientific collaboration between Europe, Canada, and the U.S.
The first survey under these auspices was led by the INFOMAR team (integrated mapping for the sustainable development of Ireland’s marine resource) on the R. V. Celtic Explorer who were joined by representatives of each of the signatories of the Galway Statement: the Marine Institute (Canada), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (U.S.), and Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (Portugal) and Marine Institute (Ireland) representing the European Union. The international team transited from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Galway in June 2015.
The second survey is hosted in July by the Canadian Government aboard the Louis as we transit from Halifax to Tromsø in Norway. The team is led by Paola Travaglini of the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) with Shauna Neary (CHS), Dave Levy (CHS), Kirk Regular (Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University, Newfoundland), David O’Sullivan (Ireland’s Marine Institute and INFOMAR), and myself, Edward Owens, representing NOAA. The team is highly experienced and extremely enthusiastic about the mission at hand and the chance to collaborate with their international colleagues; speaking for myself, it’s an opportunity that is not only exciting but the outcomes are hugely beneficial to build relations, learn, and succeed with our partners as we cooperate in this effort. After the survey mission to Tromsø is complete (hopefully on August 4) the Louis will continue into the high Arctic after the international team departs and will re-enter Canadian waters in November via the Northwest Passage after sailing to the North Pole. Incidentally, the Louis was one of two surface vessels that were the first to cross the Arctic Ocean via the geographical North Pole in 1994. I find after a taste of the open ocean, the prospect of making another of these crossings tempts me as we are heading into the deep water for this transit north.
Route the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Louis S. St.-Laurent will be taking during its second survey mission from Halifax, Canada, to Tromsø, Norway.
The journey until now has been relatively uneventful as the team orientates itself and begins to acclimate to a daily survey routine. As we make our way off the Nova Scotian shelf, where ocean depths are not much greater than 200 meters deep, the sonar depths decline gradually down the Orphan Knoll Slump and into thousandths of meters of ocean water. We are operating an EM122 multibeam echo sounder which sends and receives acoustic signals to/from the seabed giving accurate depth readings and also an indication of seafloor type. Additionally, we are logging sub-bottom and mid-water bathymetry data to take full advantage of this crossing and provide data to a larger audience in the scientific and commercial community. The EM122 is a deep-water echo sounder and will really come into its own in deeper waters off the edge of the shelf and return detailed, high-resolution imagery of the seabed. Here we expect to chart the deep ocean waters of the Atlantic Basin and up and over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
During the cruise I intend to describe life aboard a Canadian Coast Guard vessel and share the thoughts of the officers and the crew of the Louis as it crosses into the Arctic Circle. There is a strong community spirit already evident. A ship’s announcement has just said there is a ‘ceremony’ later for those who have never crossed into the Arctic Circle before…stories of reverse Mohawk haircuts and the like abound. There are nine new CCG cadets on board, so hopefully they’ll attract the most attention, but for once I’m quite content to be in the left lane on the freeway to baldness already! I’ll try and report on what could be dangerously interpreted as a kind of initiation of sorts…
…farewell from the Louis for now…
The international team about to embark on the second leg of the Arctic survey mission, Kirk Regular (Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University, Newfoundland), David O’Sullivan (Ireland’s Marine Institute and INFOMAR), Dave Levy (CHS), Edward Owens (NOAA), Shauna Neary (CHS), and Paola Travaglini (CHS).
Hydrographers from 11 different countries attended a workshop on nautical chart adequacy in Silver Spring, Maryland.
This week, hydrographers from 11 different countries traveled to Silver Spring, Maryland, to attend a workshop on nautical chart adequacy. Workshop participants included scholar students from the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans Organization, and participants from Israel, Malaysia, South Korea and United Kingdom. The workshop, developed and hosted by Coast Survey and the Joint Hydrographic Center, University of New Hampshire, trained the hydrographers on procedures to assess the adequacy of their respective nautical charts using publicly-available information.
This workshop was developed in part to address the International Hydrographic Office C-55 publication recognizing the need to improve the collection, quality, and availability of hydrographic data world-wide. Evaluating the adequacy of charts can be challenging to many national hydrographic offices given the lack of reliable vessel traffic data and minimal resources to survey and assess the changing nature of the seafloor and shoreline.
During the workshop trainers incorporated the latest techniques, using data from the maritime automatic identification system (AIS) that displays actual vessel traffic, as well as depth measurements deduced from satellite images. The Silver Spring workshop is the first of several U.S.-planned training activities that will facilitate a global standardized procedure for assessing the adequacy of nautical charts used by mariners around the world.
Dr. Shachak Pe’eri, from the University of New Hampshire’s Joint Hydrographic Center, assists Limor Gur-Arie from Israel, during the nautical chart adequacy workshop.
Lt.j.g. Anthony Klemm, from Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division, provides a demonstration on the use of marine automatic identification system (AIS) data in determining nautical chart adequacy.
Coast Survey attended the first meeting of the Nautical Information Provisions Working Group (NIPWG) held at the International Hydrographic Organization in Monaco.
During the meeting, Coast Survey’s Tom Loeper, chief of Navigation Services Division’s Coast Pilot branch and Great Lakes navigation manager, was reappointed as the secretary for the working group, a position he has held for 2 years. Two other working group members from the United States also attended the meeting, Briana Sullivan from the University of New Hampshire, and Mike Kushla from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
While in Monaco, the NIPWG had the opportunity to visit the training ship Kojima of Japan Coast Guard moored at Port Hercule in Monaco Harbor. While onboard the Kojima, Robert Ward, President of the IHO, spoke about the importance of hydrography worldwide and of the long relationship between the IHO and the Grimaldi family of Monaco, dating back nearly 100 years. Representing the Grimaldi family at the event was His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco. To conclude the ceremony, crew members of the Kojima demonstrated a mock sword fight and the traditional method of making rice cakes.
NIPWG meets regularly to develop and maintain guidance, standards, and other supplemental information for charts, much like U.S. Coast Pilot. This information is typically presented as an overlay for electronic navigational charts and are often used for voyage planning by the mariner.
Formerly the Standardization of Nautical Publications Working Group, NIPWG was established by the Hydrographic Services and Standards Committee as part of a restructuring effort to change its focus from paper-based to digital products and services.
His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco and Captain Tetsushi Mitsuya, commanding officer of the training ship Kojima of Japan Coast Guard, stand alongside Robert Ward, President of the IHO, during his remarks onboard the Kojima.
Crew members of the training ship Kojima of Japan Coast Guard demonstrate a traditional method of making rice cakes.
Coast Survey’s Tom Loeper and Captain Tetsushi Mitsuya, commanding officer of the training ship Kojima of Japan Coast Guard, attend the IHO event onboard the Kojima.
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.
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.
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.
UPDATE (July 9, 2015)
The U.S. Coast Guard Ship Aspen successfully recovered the sunken Sausalito mooring buoy last week. They were able to hook onto the chain on the second attempt with the aid of NRT6’s images.
“Knowing exactly where to drag our grappling hook really helped, and made what could have been a day-long, frustrating, and risky evolution relatively quick and painless,” said LTJG Sarah Jane Sapiano, Aspen operations officer.
U.S. Coast Guard Ship Aspen successfully recovers lost mooring buoy. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Absecon Lighthouse Executive Director Jean Muchanic welcomed the crowd of 50 people to the Walker memorial dedication. Photo by David Hall
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 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 Captain Melissa Rivera, commanding officer of the USCG air station in Kodiak, Alaska.
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.