NOAA Ship Rainier surveys the waters around Kodiak Island

Concentration of automatic identification system (AIS) traffic around Kodiak Island. Green is a low concentration, yellow is medium concentration, red is high concentration. Notice the approaches to Port of Kodiak show high traffic.
by ENS Michelle Levano

Kodiak Island is the 2nd largest island in the United States; it is part of the Kodiak Island Archipelago, a group of islands roughly the size of Connecticut. Due to the island’s location in the Gulf of Alaska and North Pacific Ocean, Kodiak is ranked as third in commercial fishing ports in the U.S. in terms of value of seafood landed. In 2015, the Port of Kodiak was responsible for 514 million pounds of fish and $138 million of product. More than one-third of the jobs in Kodiak are related to the fishing industry.

The Port of Kodiak is home to more than 700 commercial fishing vessels, and has more than 650 boat slips and three commercial piers that can dock vessels up to 1,000 feet. In addition to fishing, Kodiak is the hub of the Gulf of Alaska container logistics system, serving the southwest Alaskan communities with consumer goods and outbound access to the world’s fish markets.

In order to access all the Port of Kodiak has to offer, vessels must first travel through Chiniak Bay, which was last surveyed as far back as 1933 via wire drag (see details in the Descriptive Report for the Wire Drag survey of Women’s Bay and St. Paul Harbor).

Today, we are going over the same areas and surveying them utilizing multibeam echo sounders to collect bathymetric soundings that measure the depth of the seafloor.

This year, Rainier is surveying the approaches to Chiniak Bay, covering the following areas: South of Spruce Island, Long Island, Middle Bay, Kalsin Bay, Isthmus Bay, Cape Chiniak, and offshore of Cape Chiniak.

Since arriving on project, Rainier has been busy surveying these areas, confirming what has already been charted, updating with more accurate depths, and finding some new features for the charts along the way!  So far Rainier has patch-tested her launches to ensure survey accuracy, started work on Long Island and Kalsin Bay surveys, and established a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) base station to gain a higher positioning accuracy.

Rainier will continue to survey this area of Kodiak until mid-June. Check back on the Coast Survey blog for more status updates. Interested in visiting the ship? Rainier‘s crew will be offering tours on May 27, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and May 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the city pier in downtown Kodiak.

Please contact NOAA Ship Rainier’s public relations officer at for more information.

Rainier‘s bathymetric survey coverage since March 29, 2017. The multicolored areas show where Rainer surveyed using multibeam bathymetry. The blue dashed areas show where Rainier intends to survey this year.

Introducing NOAA’s new ENC Direct to GIS

ENCDirectFeatures in an electronic navigational chart represent thousands of pieces of data describing the coastal and marine environment. This data includes coastal topography, bathymetry, landmarks, geographic place names, and marine boundaries for the specific geographic region encompassed by the chart. What if we could aggregate the ENC features into a geospatial database? Such a product would provide a continuous depiction of the U.S coastal and marine environment.

Well, welcome to that product. Coast Survey now translates NOAA ENC® data into a GIS-friendly format, expanding uses of ENC information beyond the traditional navigational purposes.

In November 2012, Coast Survey launched an experimental version of ENC Direct to GIS, using ESRI ArcGIS 10.0 technology, and we asked site users to provide feedback. We can now report that we listened to your suggestions and made several new enhancements, using the 10.1 version of ESRI ArcGIS. With these changes, we have removed the “experimental” tag and can now provide an official NOAA product.

Those of you who have been using the experimental version will appreciate several new features.

  • Additional scale bands (4 to 6) keep each scale band seamless
  • A note on the bottom of the screen reminds viewers that all soundings are in meters
  • Improved functionality identifies features when users point and click on the features
  • Search functionality is improved
  • Measurement tool now includes “nautical miles”
  • Improved visualization reduces clutter
  • Additional base maps have been added
  • Textual extraction form has been updated for easier access
  • Metadata records are streamlined, with multiple records for a single item compressed into a single record
  • More information is available in the “frequently asked questions”

This video provides an explanation of many of the enhancements, as well as an overview on how to use various layers of the electronic navigation chart.

The ENCDirect team thanks everyone who provided feedback on the experimental site. They will continue to take your comments and suggestions through Coast Survey’s online inquiry system, continually working to meet the needs of the user community.

The ENCDirect project manager is Mei-Ling Freeman.