Fifteen years later: Remembering a beloved crew member

The date, August 13, 2002, stands out in the memory of many Coast Survey employees, but most poignantly for the crew of NOAA Ship Rainier. It was this day in Prince William Sound, Alaska, when NOAA Ship Rainier’s survey launch capsized after being struck by high waves, killing Eric Koss, one of their beloved crewman and coxswain. The small launch was conducting nearshore surveys off Point Elrington in Prince William Sound. The seas were rough, but typical for the area. When the launch capsized, two of the crew members, David Fischman and NOAA Corps Ensign Jennifer Johnson, swam to safety, but Eric perished in the accident.

Wreckage of Rainier launch washed ashore in Resurrection Bay, Alaska.
Wreckage of the Rainier launch washed ashore in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
Eric Koss on NOAA Ship Rainier.
Eric Koss on NOAA Ship Rainier.

The echos of this accident still reverberate through the NOAA community, and particularly the hydrographic ships that work in Alaska. Nearshore operations are planned and executed with this event in mind. Limits for inshore work are now set a project level and laser scanners are being employed specifically to move crew members out of the dangerous nearshore environment.

Memorials to Eric can be found on NOAA Ship Rainier, the Pacific Hydrographic Branch in Seattle, and at Coast Survey headquarters in Silver Spring, MD. But perhaps the most important memorial can be found on chart 16702, where Koss Cove is located just west of Point Elrington.

Koss Cove in Resurrection Bay as seen on chart 16702. Commemorative survey marker honoring Eric Koss (right).
Koss Cove in Prince William Sound, Alaska, as seen on chart 16702 (left). Commemorative survey marker located near Koss Cove honoring Eric Koss (right).

NOAA participates in the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) invited NOAA to participate in a joint task force at the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree. Volunteer representatives from USCG active and reserve, USCG Auxiliary, USCG civilian workforce, and NOAA Corps created a large-scale exhibit to inform young men, young women, and adult leaders about the services that USCG and NOAA provide to the nation.

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Aerial view of the USCG/NOAA joint exhibit at the Boys Scouts of America National Jamboree.

Office of Coast Survey’s Lt. Matt Forney and National Marine Fisheries Service’s Lt. Cmdr. Chris Skapin represented NOAA Corps, and Cmdr. Ed Martin (NOAA ret.) former Office of Coast Survey Customer Affairs Branch chief, represented the USCG Auxillary. The discussions with visiting scouts focused fisheries management and enforcement; nautical charting, navigation, and buoy deployment; and oil spill response and clean-up.  Coast Survey provided their augmented reality sandbox to provide the scouts with an interactive experience while learning the basics of bathymetric surveying.

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Volunteer Lt. Matt Forney explains bathymetric surveying with the aid of Coast Survey’s augmented reality sandbox to boy scouts visiting the USCG/NOAA exhibit.

The joint task force reached approximately 24,000 scouts with approximately 8,000 specifically coming to see the USCG/NOAA joint exhibit. With the jamboree only occuring every 4 years, it was a great opportunity to highlight the collaborative missions of the USCG Guard and NOAA. Overall, the jamboree was attended by more than 30,000 scouts, leaders, and staff, with 59 countries represented.

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Volunteer Cmdr. Ed Martin (NOAA ret.) gives visiting boys scouts a quick tutorial on how the augmented reality sandbox works.

NOAA Ship Rainier holds change of command ceremony

by ENS Michelle Levano

On July 22, 2017, the crew of NOAA Ship Rainier hosted a change of command while at United States Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska.

Commander Benjamin Evans accepted command of Rainier, relieving Commander John Lomnicky in a ceremony led by Captain Keith Roberts, commanding officer of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) Marine Operations Center-Pacific. Distinguished guests included Captain Richard Brennan, chief of NOAA Office of Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Surveys Division, Mr. Greg Kaplan, Military and Veterans Affairs liaison for Senator Lisa Murkowski, Captain Jeffery Good, commanding officer United States Coast Guard (USCG) Base Kodiak, Commander Michael Levine, commanding officer of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, and Commander Daniel Rogers, executive officer of United States Coast Guard Base Kodiak.

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Captain Keith Roberts, commanding officer of OMAO Marine Operations Center-Pacific, addresses the audience.

The commanding officer of a NOAA ship has ultimate responsibility for the ship, her activities, and the safety of all aboard. On board NOAA Ship Rainier, the commanding officer is also the chief scientist with responsibility for the execution and success of the ship’s assigned hydrographic survey operations.

Commander Lomnicky served as Rainier’s executive officer for two years prior to taking command in January 2017. During his tenure, Commander Lomnicky got the ship underway from her winter repair period in Newport, Oregon, successfully transited the Inside Passage of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, and arrived in the Kodiak area on schedule. The ship immediately commenced assigned survey operations in Chiniak Bay, outside of Kodiak. Additionally, during his last leg as commanding officer, Commander Lomnicky initiated survey operations outside of King Cove, Alaska, in the Cold Bay vicinity. Although Commander Lomnicky led Rainier for only six months, the ship’s crew completed 25 percent of the total survey mileage from the last four years while under his command. Commander Lomnicky’s next assignment will be as chief of Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Branch, where he will lead NOAA’s mobile hydrographic survey teams.

Commander Evans’ career to date has focused primarily on NOAA’s ocean mapping and nautical charting mission. At sea, he has served as operations officer of NOAA ships Rude and Rainier, and plankowning commanding officer of NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler. His shore assignments have included technical and management roles in Coast Survey, service on the staff of the NOAA administrator, and several detail assignments and special projects. Commander Evans is reporting to Rainier from Coast Survey’s Pacific Hydrographic Branch in Seattle, Washington, where he led NOAA’s hydrographic data quality review and chart update compilation for the west coast. Commander Evans holds a bachelor of arts in physics from Williams College and an oceanographic engineer degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. Commander Evans’ wife Kimberly and two children reside in Seattle.

CG CO, XO, and CDR Levine
From left to right, Commander Benjamin Evans (incoming commanding officer NOAA Ship Rainier), Captain Jeffery Good (commanding officer USCG Base Kodiak), Commander Daniel Rogers (executive officer USCG Base Kodiak), Commander John Lomnicky (outgoing commanding officer NOAA Ship Rainier), and Commander Michael Levine (commanding officer NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson), together after the ceremony.

“I wish Commander Lomnicky all the best as NOAA’s chief of their Navigation Response Branch,” Mr. Kaplan read in a letter from Senator Murkowski. “I also want to welcome Commander Evans to his new post. I look forward to the great work that he and his crew will continue to do to promote Alaska and the United States.”

NOAA Ship Rainier is one of the most productive hydrographic survey platforms of its type in the world. The ship is named for Mount Rainier, located in Washington state. NOAA Ship Rainier’s officers, technicians, scientists and crew acquire and process the hydrographic data that NOAA cartographers use to create and update the nation’s nautical charts with ever-increasing data richness and precision.

 

NOAA hosts third annual workshop on nautical chart adequacy

Nautical Chart Adequacy Workshop 2017 participants and instructors.
Nautical Chart Adequacy Workshop 2017 participants, representing 12 countries, and their instructors.

This week, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey hosted its third annual workshop on nautical chart adequacy. Twelve students participated in the training and learned techniques to evaluate the suitability of nautical chart products using chart quality and publicly available information. This year’s workshop emphasized cartography and the ability to transfer NOAA procedures to the students’ charting products. The workshop provided a theoretical background on:

  • Chart production at NOAA
  • Review of NOAA charted symbols and abbreviations
  • Review of automatic identification systems (AIS) and satellite-derived bathymetry (SDB)
  • Overview of the chart adequacy procedure

In addition, participants had a hands on experience (in the ArcGIS environment) on:

  • Land/water separation using satellite imagery
  • Identifying navigationally significant areas based on AIS
  • Deriving near-shore bathymetry using SDB
  • Conducting chart adequacy evaluation

Participants came from Egypt, Israel, Japan, Madagascar, Mauritius, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, and Thailand. The workshop followed NOAA’s open house on nautical cartography on July 7, an event held in conjunction with the 28th annual International Cartographic Conference 2017 (ICC) in Washington, D.C.

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Workshop participants attend a session in Coast Survey’s computer lab.

Next year’s nautical chart adequacy workshop is scheduled for July 2018. Individuals interested in attending should be nominated by their home hydrographic office, have previous experience in ocean bathymetry (minimum two years in hydrography or cartography), be proficient in the English language, and have future opportunities to work on bathymetric projects. Travel costs for the selected candidates will be covered by the GEBCO.

Rear Adm. Shepard M. Smith elected to chair the International Hydrographic Organization Council

Rear Adm. Shepard M. Smith, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and the U.S. national representative to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), was elected as the chair of the newly established IHO Council.

The council was established in November 2016 as a result of the adoption of amendments to the Convention on the International Hydrographic Organization. It is composed of 30 leading hydrographic nations from the membership of the IHO, and functions much like a corporate board of directors, overseeing performance management and the business side of the IHO.

One of the first tasks that the IHO assigned to the council at their meeting this spring was a comprehensive review of the organization’s strategic plan—its first thorough review since 2009. If warranted, the council will prepare a new strategic plan for the IHO. The first annual meeting of this council session is scheduled for October 2017.

The council will bring more regular executive-level focus to the needs of today’s changing global hydrographic environment. The global hydrographic community is addressing a rapid emergence of new technologies and techniques to collect and use hydrographic data as well as the application of that data to uses beyond “just charting.”  Satellites, autonomous vehicles, recreational and other maritime stakeholders all promise to play increasing roles making navigation safer.

“I am humbled to have been selected by so many of our international peers. It speaks well for NOAA and the nation that we are looked upon to provide the leadership to help the global community realize its goals in a new era in navigation and to help demonstrate hydrography’s critical role in national development,” said Admiral Smith.

The 30 members of the council are selected from among the 87 member states of the IHO and represent the world’s leading national hydrographic authorities. According to the IHO, among its membership, the U.S. maritime tonnage ranks 7th in the world.  According to the NOAA Report on the U.S. Ocean and Great Lakes Economy, marine transportation contributes 17.8% to the U.S. gross domestic product annually and provides 13.9% employment. NOAA is a global leader in hydrography, cartography, and nautical charting standards and processes. The worldwide maritime transportation system depends on nations issuing up-to-date nautical charts compiled to common standards. This is accomplished through the IHO and through participation in its Regional Hydrographic Commissions and numerous technical committees.

RDML Smith (fifth from left) with the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (October 2016, Iqaluit, Canada).
RDML Smith (fifth from left) with the IHO Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (October 2016, Iqaluit, Canada).

NOAA hosts first open house on nautical cartography

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey hosted the first NOAA open house on nautical cartography on Friday, July 7th. The event featured posters, presentations, and tours focusing on nautical cartography, highlighting the field of charting and GIS. Industry partners such as ESRI, CARIS, Fugro Palegos, Inc., and IIC Technologies, international mapping groups such as Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) and General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), government agencies such as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy, and many international charting offices were in attendance. The open house welcomed a total of 200 visitors, representing 24 countries.

Karen Marks, a geophysicist with NOAA’s Center for Satellite Applications and Research, and Rochelle Wigley, project manager for the GEBCO at the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center, kicked off the event with an overview on current and future ocean mapping projects. Sessions that followed fell within four main themes: From Hydrography to Cartography, Nautical Products, Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure and Databases, and Innovative Cartography. Sessions provided a forum to report on current and future activities within these themes. A highlight of the day was the lightening round poster sessions where participants had the opportunity to present their projects as well as establish connections with other cartographers in the field of nautical charting.

John Nyberg (right), acting director of Coast Survey and Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division chief, fields questions with Robert Greer (left), U.S. Navy, and Denise LaDue (center), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, during the From Hydrography to Cartography session.
John Nyberg (right), acting director of Coast Survey and Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division chief, fields questions with Robert Greer (left), U.S. Navy, and Denise LaDue (center), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, during the From Hydrography to Cartography session.
Over 25 posters were displayed along with NOAA current and historical nautical charts, and NOAA Chart Tile Service in NOAA’s Science Center.
Over 25 posters were displayed along with NOAA current and historical nautical charts, and NOAA Chart Tile Service in NOAA’s Science Center.

Coast Survey values the work being done through our private sector partners, other government agencies, and international counterparts,” said John Nyberg, acting director of Coast Survey and Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division chief. “It is events like these that allow us to share ideas, learn from each other, and better prepare for the future.”

NOAA Administrator, Ben Friedman, was also in attendance and noted to Dr. Shachak Pe’eri, chief of Marine Chart Division’s Chart Standards Branch and organizer of the event, that the open house was a great way to bring international colleagues together and he hoped to see this for years to come.

Dr. Shachak Pe’eri guides Ben Friedman, NOAA Administrator, through the poster session.
Dr. Shachak Pe’eri guides Ben Friedman, NOAA administrator, through the poster session.
Sean Legeer talks about NOAA nautical charts past, present, and future with Ben Friedman, NOAA Administrator.
Sean Legeer talks about NOAA nautical charts past, present, and future with Ben Friedman, NOAA administrator.
Dr. Shachak Pe’eri, Sladjana Maksimovic, and Megan Bartlett of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division, demonstrate Coast Survey data on Science on a Sphere.
Dr. Shachak Pe’eri, Sladjana Maksimovic, and Megan Bartlett of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division demonstrate Coast Survey data on Science on a Sphere.

This one-day event, held in the Science Center on NOAA’s Silver Spring, MD, campus, was planned in conjunction with with the 28th annual International Cartographic Conference 2017 (ICC) in Washington, D.C. where NOAA also had a presence with an exhibit booth and presentations. Following the open house, many international participants plan to stay for a 3-day chart adequacy workshop similar to the workshop held at this time last year.

 

 

 

Surveying, rescue drills, and an open house—NOAA Ship Rainier has been busy!

by ENS Michelle Levano

NOAA Ship Rainier continues hydrographic survey operations in Chiniak Bay, near Kodiak, Alaska. As of June 1, 2017, Rainier and her survey launches have surveyed 2,025 nautical miles in the Spruce Island, Long Island, Middle Bay, Kalsin Bay, Isthmus Bay, and offshore Cape Chiniak areas. The total distance surveyed is about as long as the Mississippi River.

Rainier took advantage of its proximity to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Air Station Kodiak and performed two days of helicopter evacuation drills, while simultaneously conducting survey operations.

The drills were performed with the USCG’s MH-60T Jayhawk and a MH-65 Dolphin helicopters. Each helicopter practiced dropping and lifting a rescue basket, or litter, onto Rainier’s bow. Upon arrival, the MH-60T Jayhawk lowered a rescue swimmer aboard who held a safety briefing, and then demonstrated how to maneuver the tether and basket to the deck. Crew members rotated through to manage the tether and retrieve the basket. These drills provided the Coast Guard and Rainier’s crew with a valuable opportunity to practice rescue techniques.

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NOAA Ship Rainier and USCG Air Station Kodiak performed rescue drills off the bow of the ship.

Additionally, Rainier held a two-day open house as part of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce’s yearly Memorial Day Crab Festival celebration. The ship was alongside in downtown Kodiak offering public tours, with over 300 individuals attending. This was a great opportunity for the public to see what the large white vessel in Chiniak Bay has been doing.

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ENS Levano provided a tour for members from the local Kodiak community.

As the season pushes on, so does the ship. Rainier has plans to open more survey areas around Cape Chiniak and William’s Reef area. So 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. Rainier monitors VHF channels 13 and 16.

Please contact NOAA Ship Rainier’s public relations officer at michelle.levano@noaa.gov for more information.

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Surveys completed by Rainier and Fairweather from the 1960-present around Kodiak, Alaska (left). Rainier’s updated coverage as of June 10, 2017 (right).