NOAA Ship Rainier surveys Uganik Bay

By Ensign Michelle Levano

NOAA Ship Rainier recently arrived in Uganik Bay, off of northwest Kodiak Island, to complete hydrographic survey operations in Uganik Passage and Uganik Bay, including the Northeast Arm, North Arm, and South Arm. Rainier has spent 2013 through 2016 surveying areas around North Kodiak Island, including Kizhuyak Bay, Whale and Afognak Passes, Kupreanof Strait, and Viekoda and Terror Bays. The ship will remain in Uganik Bay until the end of October.

Rainier completed project areas H12916, H12919, and H12848 in the spring. They are now surveying H12693 south through H12849 and H12918.
Rainier completed project areas H12916, H12919, and H12848 in the spring. They are now surveying H12693 south through H12849 and H12918.

Rainier is using multibeam sonar technology to acquire high-resolution seafloor mapping data to provide modern chart updates that support Kodiak’s large fishing fleet and higher volumes of passenger vessel traffic. Some of the data appearing on NOAA’s charts in this area are from surveys conducted between 1900 and 1939. (See the source diagram in the bottom left corner of NOAA chart 16597.) However, this is not Rainier’s first visit to Uganik Bay. In the early 1970s, Rainier was in the same vicinity performing survey operations and installing survey stations at Broken Point, Uganik Bay, and Shelikhof Strait.

Rainier crew at Broken Point, Uganik Bay, in the 1970s
Rainier crew at Broken Point, Uganik Bay, in the 1970s


Commissioned in 1968, NOAA Ship Rainier has a 48-year history in NOAA’s fleet of research ships and aircraft. Homeported at NOAA’s Marine Operations Center-Pacific in Newport, Oregon, she is operated and managed by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. The 231-foot Rainier is one of four hydrographic survey ships in the NOAA fleet that support the nautical charting mission of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey to keep mariners safe and maritime commerce flowing. The ship, her four aluminum survey launches, and other small boats collect data that is used to update nautical charts and inform decisions on coastal science and management.

NOAA Ship Rainier at anchor, in Uganik. Photo by Ensign Dylan Kosten
NOAA Ship Rainier at anchor, in Uganik. Photo by Ensign Dylan Kosten
One of Rainier's four launches at work in Uganik Bay.
One of Rainier‘s four launches at work in Uganik Bay.

Each of Rainier’s small boat launches has modern sonar systems that gather data nearshore as well as offshore. Additionally, the ship itself has a sonar system mounted to her hull for offshore operations. This information can provide bottom seafloor habitat characterization for sustainable fisheries initiatives, and provide data for ocean tourism and recreational fishing.

If you happen to be in the area, and see a white hull with S-221 painted on her bow, please do not hesitate to contact the ship to acquire more information regarding the ship and her mission. Rainier monitors VHF channels 13 and 16. Or, email Rainier’s public affairs officer at

4 thoughts on “NOAA Ship Rainier surveys Uganik Bay

  1. I saw the Rainier at the fuel dock in Kodiak yesterday, with three launches missing from their cradles. A crewman on deck told me that the launches were working while the big boat took fuel. Good! The approaches to Kodiak have been long overdue for a modern survey. Is there a layout sheet that I can view for current work, similar to the layout sheet posted above for Uganik?


  2. I’m probably your biggest fan, and I have the complete NOAA sounding database stored at home. I am often mystified by the decisions made in planning the annual surveys. High resolution re-survey of the north end of Kodiak began in 2011 around Spruce Island. Since then surveys have worked generally westward. Granted, the only survey of Kupreanof was a very rough one done in 1908, but overall, recent surveys have skipped the most heavily trafficked area of all, the northern and eastern approaches to the City of Kodiak. The area immediately south of St Paul harbor was done in 1999 and of course the Coast Guard base has been repeatedly surveyed more recently. Why then does such a gap in coverage exist north and east of the city? The notoriously rocky areas of Spruce Cape and the northern end of Long Island have been ignored. There is a large, shallow and very rocky area due east of Long Island that is screaming out to be charted.

    You have a total of five vessels capable of doing survey work, apparently all working together in Uganik. I do not object to accurately charting Uganik—I was there poking around in its many nooks and crannies only a few weeks ago—but there is a glaring deficiency in the survey data and you could probably work at fixing it right now. This has been an unusually calm September filled with rare opportunities to survey exposed waters and you are not properly taking advantage of that fact.


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