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

NOAA’s paper nautical charts are here to stay   3 comments

New certified printing agents bring buying options

It won’t be long before mariners and the boating public will have a wider choice of options and special services when they purchase NOAA paper nautical charts, thanks to NOAA’s expanded “print-on-demand” chart production and distribution system, Coast Survey officials announced on April 4. Coast Survey recently certified new print-on-demand chart printing agents, and gave them the flexibility to offer different color palettes, various papers, a cleaner margin, and a range of services.

Rear Admiral Gerd Glang and Capt. Shep Smith inspect sample charts submitted by new print agents.

Rear Admiral Gerd Glang and Capt. Shep Smith inspect sample charts submitted by new print agents.

NOAA has now authorized seven companies to sell NOAA’s paper nautical charts that are printed when the customer orders them — or “on demand.” The information on the charts is still maintained by NOAA, and the charts are corrected with Notices to Mariners up to the week of purchase.

“Last October, we announced that NOAA would stop using the government printing and distribution system we originally adopted in 1861,” explained Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “We asked private companies to help us transition from the government-run system to a robust and competitive market for paper nautical charts, and we are pleased with the results.”

Five companies have now joined the original “print-on-demand” distributor OceanGrafix and the more recently certified East View Geospatial. The newly certified companies are Frugal Navigator, Marine Press, Paradise Cay Publications, The Map Shop, and Williams & Heintz Map Corporation.

Glang is confident that the expansion of the print-on-demand program will lead to new options for all who purchase U.S. nautical charts. As a premium service, for example, print agents are authorized to customize charts with user-specified overlays.

“With more chart printing agents, we hope to encourage competition and ensure fully up-to-date charts are widely available. Buyers can shop around and find different types of paper, or choose between traditional or new color palettes. Our printing agents can offer delivery or in-shop service, and customers can have their navigation track lines or other information printed as overlays on their chart,” Glang pointed out.

Rear Admiral Glang certified one of the new printing agents for NOAA's paper nautical charts.

Rear Admiral Glang certifies one of the new printing agents for NOAA’s paper nautical charts.

“All charts sold by NOAA-certified printing partners are NOAA charts and fully meet navigational requirements.”

For the last 150 years, the federal government produced nautical charts using lithographic printing presses. Although chart-making techniques advanced from the 19th century’s delicate hand-applied etchings on copper plates to a process that is now completely computer-based, the system remained based on printing large volumes of charts, then selling them from stock for years. Charts for sale were gradually more and more outdated until a new edition was printed. The print on demand system allows the changes made by Coast Survey cartographers to reach mariners much faster.

Coast Survey continues to examine applications from additional companies wishing to become certified as NOAA chart printing agents. The examination process includes testing of applicants’ sample charts, to make sure they stand up to normal onboard usage conditions.

The paper charts sold by the NOAA-certified printing agents meet carriage requirements for ships covered by Safety of Life at Sea regulations, specified in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

UPDATE (4/18/2014):

Coast Survey added three more printing companies to its roster of certified agents for paper charts, bringing the total to ten companies authorized to sell NOAA nautical charts that are printed when the customer orders them ‒ or “on demand.” Companies with histories going back decades, and even centuries, support a firm foundation for the continuing production and delivery of U.S. paper nautical charts. Iver C. Weilbach & Co. A/S, which became a certified printing agent this week, is one of oldest private owned companies in the maritime industry ‒ established in 1755 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Granville Printing has provided services since 1988, and East End Blueprint has also been in business for over 25 years.

Coast Survey unveils NOAA ENC Online enhancements   Leave a comment

In November 2013, we introduced NOAA ENC Online – a continuous viewer for our electronic navigational charts. You can click on the web map and zoom to selected features or locations, to see the information contained in over a thousand electronic charts of NOAA-charted waters. Each zoom moves you through an ENC depiction that takes into account the ENC scale and other attributes that are encoded in the ENC, allowing features to become visible or invisible as you seamlessly zoom in and out of the data.

NOAA ENC Online is based on Esri’s Maritime Chart Server.

Now this latest release of NOAA ENC Online lets you:

  • Set a shallow and deep depth contour, which changes the shading to those parameters
  • Set a safety contour (In electronic charting systems, the safety contour is set based on the ship’s draft changes the depiction of rocks, wrecks and obstructions to isolated dangers depending on if the water is “safe” or “unsafe” for vessel navigation.)

ENConline Safety contour

  • Change between S-52 simplified and S-52 traditional symbols

combined

  • Change the background colors of the display based on the S-52 color palette for different light conditions on the bridge of a ship

ENConline color palette

  • Turn off certain features based on different categories such as buoys and traffic routes

ENConline layers switching on and off

NOAA ENC Online is not certified for navigation. It does NOT fulfill chart carriage requirements for regulated commercial vessels under Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Geographic names disappear from charts, but not from history — #Data4Coasts   Leave a comment

by Meredith Westington, Coast Survey geographer

Good, informed decisions are often based on analyses of historic and present conditions. Researchers, decision-makers, and amateur history buffs find detailed documentation of past conditions in the thousands of Coast Survey charts, dating back to the mid-1800s, in our Historical Map and Chart Collection.

Just like present day nautical charts, historic charts contain a wealth of information about geographic features — including their names, shape, and condition. Geographic names are important locational references for today’s emergency responders, but current and historic names also convey important aspects of local people and culture, which may persist through time.

As Coast Survey’s nautical cartographers routinely apply new topographic and hydrographic data to improve decisions at-sea, a question arises about names when a geographic feature, such as an island, bay, or bayou, has changed: does the associated place name disappear when the geographic feature is no longer there, or does the local population still use the historic name to convey a shared sense of place?

Coast Survey cartographers raised this exact question after applying new shoreline information to charts covering Louisiana. When cartographers applied new shoreline data to charts 11358 and 11364 in 2011, they found that named features were no longer there (see the images below for a comparison of today’s landforms vs. the historic landforms in 1965). In early 2013, another new shoreline survey similarly affected fourteen geographic names on chart 11361. They removed these “dangling names” to reduce chart clutter, but are there new names for the areas where the features used to be?

chart comparisons

On the left is the area south of Buras, Louisiana, on Mississippi River chart 11364, 2012 edition. On the right is the same area shown on Mississippi River chart 1271, 1965 edition.

Losing places (and their names) may mean losing important locational references. Some of these places have appeared on NOAA’s nautical charts of Louisiana since the late 1800s, so their removal raises concerns about a loss of cultural identity on the landscape. For example, Cyprien Bay was named for longtime resident Cyprien Buras. The names live on, of course, on the historic maps and charts in Coast Survey’s Historical Map and Chart Collection. Importantly, they are also retained in the lesser-known U.S. Board on Geographic Names’ federal repository of place names, the Geographic Names Information System. The system’s current and historical records make a great starting point for finding names that you can use to locate relevant historical nautical charts in the Historical Map and Chart Collection. The collection has an easy-to-use geographic place name search function. Just type in a name, and start to explore our nation’s geographic changes…

Search over 35,000 historical maps and charts.

Search over 35,000 historical maps and charts, just using a geographical name.

Catch the digital wave in NOAA navigation products #Data4Coasts   1 comment

Navigation manager Kyle Ward explains some of Coast Survey's new products at the Savannah Boat Show.

Navigation manager Kyle Ward explains some of Coast Survey’s new products at the Savannah Boat Show.

This week, NOAA’s National Ocean Service is inviting you to explore #Data4Coasts that NOS provides to the public, to researchers and decision makers, and to the many industries involved in coastal resilience and maritime commerce. Much of Coast Survey’s data for the coasts is easily accessible by downloading or by using a web map. Other products, like our beautiful printed nautical charts, are available for purchase – as they have been since the mid-1800s – from chart agents.

We’ve been making charts for a long time – and we’ve never been more excited about it! A quickly evolving (r)evolution is transforming the way we plan voyages and navigate, and Coast Survey is reconstructing our nautical product line for the millions of boaters and commercial pilots who are catching the new digital wave.

IMPROVING NAUTICAL CHARTS

Keeping paper charts more up-to-date
Everyone recognizes the comfort of using paper charts. They are reliable, easy to use, and incredibly informative. They are undeniably beautiful. However, with the bulk printing process we’ve used for the last 150 years, paper charts were often out of date on the day you purchased them. Sometimes they were way out of date, and you would have to spend hours manually applying critical updates. With the vast improvements in digital technology, we can now offer paper charts that are printed-on-demand – delivered where and when you want them ‒ with the critical corrections already incorporated into the charts.

Improving shoreline and feature accuracy
The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, one of NOAA’s predecessor organizations, established the geospatial foundation of America, with surveyors setting the grid, so to speak, by triangulating their way down the coasts and across the continent. Now we have GPS. We find that although the manual positioning was incredibly accurate for its time, remote sensing by NOAA LiDAR systems can produce a correction of 10 meters or more for feature positions on charts at the 1:15,000 scale. Those are vital corrections for precision navigation by vessels that can exceed a thousand feet long. The National Geodetic Survey’s Remote Sensing Division is flying the missions and gathering the precise data that we apply to our charts, to improve chart accuracy and update the ever-changing coastline.

GETTING MORE NAVIGATION INFORMATION INTO BOATERS’ HANDS

Coast Survey's map-based interactive chart catalog makes it easy to find and download your pick of over a thousand charts.

Coast Survey’s map-based interactive chart catalog makes it easy to find and download your pick of over a thousand charts.

Adding free PDF charts to the product line
Nearly 2.3 million charts were downloaded within 90 days of last autumn’s beta release of NOAA’s new free PDF nautical charts. To us, that represents more than two million opportunities to avoid an accident at sea. So we decided to keep the thousand free PDFs as a permanent NOAA chart product. (Find and download your chart from Coast Survey’s interactive chart catalog.)

The PDF charts are exact images of NOAA’s traditional nautical charts. It’s important to remember, though, that printing PDFs may alter a chart’s scale, color, or legibility. Ships that are required to carry a navigational chart published by the National Ocean Service should obtain up-to-date printed charts from chart agents.

Providing format choices for the United States Coast Pilot
There are literally thousands of pages of navigation information that we can’t fit on to the charts. Nine volumes of the United States Coast Pilot® provide information on navigation regulations, facility locations, weather, and more – and now you have a choice of formats. If you need information for a specific bay or harbor, you might want to download a chapter. If you’re planning a longer voyage, you may want to keep an entire volume handy – so you should order it from a print-on-demand chart agent. Either way, with the U.S. Coast Pilot, you’ve got authoritative information.

MAKING DATA MORE ACCESSIBLE

More forecast information from nowCOAST
For the past 11 years, Coast Survey’s nowCOAST, a GIS-based web-mapping portal, has provided the coastal community with near-real-time surface observations, analyses, forecasts, model guidance, and selected warnings. Soon, nowCOAST will ask the public to test a new interactive map viewer that allows animation, and provides a suite of new “time-enabled” web map services.

NOAA ENC Online lets you see the ENC data without a specialized system.

NOAA ENC Online lets you see the ENC data without a specialized system.

ENC data available for viewing without a specialized system
Coast Survey provides free electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) to the public, but you need a specialized chart display system to use ENCs for navigation. Coast Survey recently introduced NOAA ENC Online, so you can view the data without the system. (IMMEDIATE CAVEAT FOR NAVIGATION: You still need a specialized display system to use the multi-layered functional data that makes ENCs so valuable.) Since NOAA ENC Online is web-based, there is nothing to download. Users can click on the web map and zoom to selected features or locations, to see the information contained in over a thousand ENCs of NOAA-charted waters.

ENC data available in GIS/CAD formats
While NOAA ENC Online lets you see the charted data and use it as a basemap, ENC Direct to GIS is a product for GIS experts who want to extract sets of features or themes for use in GIS analysis. Coast Survey has translated the electronic navigational chart data from S-57 format (the standard set by the International Hydrographic Organization) to a GIS-friendly format.

BUILDING ENCs FOR THE FUTURE

The International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires ships to carry to up-to-date nautical charts and publications for the intended voyage. Beginning in 2012, certain classes of vessels are required to use an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS). The adoption of ECDIS is on a transition schedule, under U.S. Coast Guard regulations for ships in U.S. waters. Coast Survey is aggressively enlarging our suite of over a thousand ENC charts, as indicated by the recent addition of ENCs for the St. Lawrence Seaway. Coast Survey also worked with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to make their digital Panama Canal charts available as ENCs.

Why ENCs? They are the chart of the future, giving ships real-time navigation tools to avoid collisions and groundings. The navigation system software can continuously monitor the ship’s position relative to all of the features contained in the NOAA ENC, whether displayed or not, and sound alarms if it detects a hazardous situation. Similarly, the software can check that planned routes will provide safe passage for the vessel by checking for proximity to dangers and crossing areas with insufficient depth.

WHAT’S NEXT?

MyNOAACharts app popularity leads to better charting service for private innovation
As good as current electronic charting systems are, future possibilities hold even greater promise. While Coast Survey looks inward to build better ENCs, faster, we also look to the innovative power of private enterprise. We learned some productive lessons during a recent beta test of a limited (and very popular!) mobile app, MyNOAACharts. Coast Survey is removing the app from the Google Play Store on March 29, but cartographers are already working on the next level of innovation in the private mobile app and chart plotter markets. Our goal is to provide all mariners with access to the most updated charts and publications.

Tile services coming to application developers
Coast Survey is planning several initiatives to improve interfaces between charts and mobile apps. This summer, we plan to announce a new raster tile service that will make it easier for app developers to use NOAA charts in their products. By providing tilesets (both single chart and quilted) and metadata, we will bolster the new wave of digital charting services and products. And it’s just the beginning…

Rainier beauty X 3   2 comments

NOAA Ship Rainier had the wonderful fortune of cool, clear weather on March 13 as they fueled at the Navy Fuel Depot in Manchester, WA.  This provided a clear view of Mount Rainier.  However, it is even more rare that you would have three “Rainiers” all in view at once!  At the pier you can see USNS RAINIER (on the left side of the pier), NOAA Ship Rainier (on the right side of the pier), and the iconic Mount Rainier in the background. Absolutely beautiful.

USNS Rainer and NOAA Ship Rainer, with Mount Rainier in the background. Photo compliments of NAVSUP-FLC Puget Sound.

USNS RAINIER and NOAA Ship Rainier, with Mount Rainier in the background. March 13, 2014, photo courtesy of NAVSUP-FLC Puget Sound.

Posted March 14, 2014 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Rainier

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,342 other followers