Archive for the ‘Nautical charts’ Category

Coast Survey announces surveys by navigation response teams   1 comment

NRT data will be used to update nautical charts

(NOTE: This post was corrected from the original version.)

Coast Survey’s navigation response teams have proven their value, time and again, especially after hurricanes when ports suspend operations, and shipping (or naval movements) cease until Coast Survey’s small boats can locate underwater dangers to navigation. But what do the six navigation response teams (NRTs) do during those long periods between deployments for maritime emergencies? They are busy, mostly year-round, collecting hydrographic data for updating nautical charts.


Navigation response teams survey for chart updates, emergency response, and homeland security.

Plans for 2016

Responding to requests from mariners around the country, Coast Survey has set some aggressive projects for the NRTs this year. Starting from Northeast and working our way around the coasts…


Beginning in June and throughout the summer, NRT5 will survey the Hudson River, with a focus on the area from Albany to Kingston. This is a continuation of the project started at the request of the Hudson River Pilots (as reported in NOAA plans multiyear project to update Hudson River charts). We are planning to have Coast Survey research vessel Bay Hydro II join the NRT for most of the summer, to get as much new charting data as possible. In October, NRT5 will move to Eastern Long Island Sound, to finish up some shallow survey work adjacent to recent NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson’s extensive survey project. The officer-in-charge of NRT5 is NOAA Lt. Andrew Clos. The officer-in-charge of Bay Hydro II will be NOAA Ensign Sarah Chappel.


In March, NRT2 starts a 16-month survey project in Saint Andrew Sound. The area, which has significant traffic from small boats, tugs, and barges, is reportedly experiencing small boat groundings, and Coast Survey’s navigation manager in the area has received several requests for a modern survey. Coast Survey will use the data to update NOAA chart 11504 and ENC US5GA12M, as well as other charts covering portions of the specific surveyed areas. The existing charted soundings are from partial bottom coverage surveys dating back to the early 1900s. NRT2 is led by Erik Anderson.


NOAA Chart - 11376_Public

NRT1 will check out the 18-yr-old reported depths to update chart 11376 inset.

NRT1 will spend March and April acquiring data off the coast of Biloxi, Mississippi, to update the Intracoastal Waterway chart 11372. They will then move to Alabama for some long-overdue “chart clean up” work at the northern end of the Mobile Ship Channel, outside of the area controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Mobile project will investigate charted items, verify reported depths, and update older NOAA bathymetry (vintage 1961) that is depicted in the inset area of NOAA chart 11376. Since the Mobile survey probably will not take the entire rest of the season, depending on interruptions for hurricane response, we are assessing additional survey needs in the area. NRT1 is led by Mark McMann.


NRT4 will spend all of 2016 surveying in Galveston Bay, including the bay entrance and newly charted barge channels along the Houston Ship Channel. The team is working with Coast Survey’s navigation manager for Texas to identify additional charted features that require investigation to reduce localized chart clutter and improve chart adequacy.  NRT4 is led by Dan Jacobs.


NRT6 is slated to survey the Suisun Bay anchorage used by MARAD’s National Defense Reserve Fleet, to acquire updated depths. Afterwards, NRT6 will move throughout the bay area to address charting concerns reported by the San Francisco Bar Pilot Association near Pittsburg, Antioch, San Joaquin River, and Redwood City. Coast Survey will use the data to generally update NOAA chart 18652 and ENC US5CA43M, as well as larger scale charts of the specific surveyed areas. NRT6 is led by Laura Pagano.


It has been a while since Coast Survey has had an operational NRT presence for Oregon and Washington, but this is the year we are bringing NRT3 back on line. Team lead Ian Colvert is shaking the dust off NRT3 and preparing to restart survey operations. He is working with the Coast Survey navigation manager to develop survey priorities for this summer and fall.


Team leads for Coast Survey’s navigation response teams

Charting the data

Once the navigation response teams process and submit the data acquired during the surveys, the information is further processed in Coast Survey’s Atlantic and Pacific hydrographic branches, and then submitted to our cartographers for application to the charts. The turnaround time for updating the chart depends on the update calendars for each regional cartographic branch. If the NRTs find any dangers to navigation, the information will be relayed to mariners through the Local Notice to Mariners postings and will be applied to NOAA’s electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®), online products, and print-on-demand paper charts. Critical updates will be applied to charts more quickly than normal depth adjustments.

Wishes for fair skies and following seas in 2016   3 comments


NOAA Winter Coast w Masefield quoteSeason’s greetings from everyone at NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey!

Posted December 22, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

NOAA and Cuban chartmakers working together to improve maritime safety   1 comment

Callender, Gomez, and Glang

NOS Acting Assistant Administrator Russ Callender (left) and Coast Survey Director Rear Adm. Gerd Glang (right) welcome Colonel Candido Regalado Gomez, chief of Cuba’s Office of Hydrography and Geodesy.

Following up on Coast Survey’s visit to Havana last spring, Cuban hydrographic officials traveled to Maryland on December 15-17, to meet with NOAA National Ocean Service leaders for discussions about potential future collaboration. High on the agenda for Coast Survey is improving nautical charts for maritime traffic transiting the increasingly busy Straits of Florida.

The historic meeting began with Dr. Russell Callender, NOS acting assistant administrator, welcoming the Cuban delegation, led by Colonel Candido Regalado Gomez, chief of Cuba’s National Office of Hydrography and Geodesy.

“You will receive briefings today as a backdrop to the hydrographic collaboration we are pursuing to make maritime navigation safer in the transboundary waters our nations share,” Callender told the group. “I hope your meetings this week in Silver Spring will contribute to your understanding of the breadth and work of NOAA firsthand, and strengthen our work together.”

The five Cuban officials and representatives from NOAA’s navigation services and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency worked through the day, explaining the ins-and-outs of each other’s responsibilities and processes. The teams were ready, by the end of the jam-packed agenda, to resolve charting challenges that interfere with smooth navigational transitions from Cuban waters to U.S. waters in the busy Straits of Florida.


This heat density map of maritime traffic illustrates the high volume of traffic (the brown area south of Florida) needing seamless chart coverage.

First, Cuba’s Office of National Hydrography and Geodesy and Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division confirmed the division of responsibilities and updated each other on the progress for collaborating on international charts (known in mariner’s parlance as “INT Charts”) 4148, 4149, 4017, and 4021. Then, in a technical move sure to please recreational boaters and commercial mariners alike, the two countries conferred on adjusting Cuba and U.S. electronic navigational charts to eliminate overlaps and gaps in coverage.

U.S. and Cuban officials

U.S. and Cuban officials met at NOAA Coast Survey offices in Silver Spring, Maryland, for an intensive day of reports and collaboration. From left to right, Dr. Russell Callender, acting assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service; Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of Coast Survey; Richard Edwing, director of CO-OPS; John Lowell, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s chief hydrographer; Tim Wiley, environmental engagement officer, Office of the Coordinator for Cuban Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Captain Richard Brennan, chief of Coast Survey Development Laboratory; Sladjana Maksimovic, Coast Survey cartographer; Edenia Machin Gonzalez, scientist, Cuba’s National Cartographic Agency; Ramon Padron Diaz, frigate captain and chief of Hydrographic Department, Cuba’s National Office of Hydrography; Colonel Candido Regalado Gomez, chief of Cuba’s National Office of Hydrography and Geodesy; and Victor E. Aluija Urgell, lieutenant/general director, GEOCUBA Marine Studies.

By examining adjacent and adjoining ENCs, both sides were able to confer on ways to improve chart coverage in the busy Straits of Florida, where chart misalignments can play havoc with navigational systems as a vessel moves across maritime borders. Countries around the world regularly resolve these issues, as the U.S. does with Canada and Mexico, through regional consultations hosted by the International Hydrographic Organization but, until now, the U.S. and Cuba were unable to work together on their common set of challenges.

Coast Survey initiated the charting discussions earlier this year, when a team of cartographic professionals traveled to Havana in February for three days of meetings with Cuban officials from the Office of National Hydrography and Geodesy and GEOCUBA. During the visit, the Americans and Cubans agreed to work together on a new international paper chart, INT Chart 4149, which will cover south Florida, the Bahamas, and north Cuba. The Office of Coast Survey is now creating the chart, using data supplied by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office and the Cubans in addition to U.S. data, and plans to publish the new chart in 2016.

This week’s charting progress follows closely on another major accomplishment. Last month, NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan and Dr. Holly Bamford, acting assistant secretary of conservation and management, traveled to Havana to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Marine Protected Area cooperation between our two countries. The agreement provides an opportunity for the U.S and Cuba to develop science, education, and management programs between sister sites in both countries, and will strengthen our collaborative relationship.

“The Cuban maritime industry, like many U.S. ports, is building new infrastructure to support commerce and tourism,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of Coast Survey. “Like us, they are improving their charts as port and coastal uses evolve, to support expanding maritime commerce.”

“We are now able to work together, as we do with other nations, to coordinate chart coverage and data acquisition.”

Katie Ries with Cuban delegation

In addition to hours of indoor meetings, the Cuban delegation was able to spend some time discussing data acquisition onboard Coast Survey’s research vessel, Bay Hydro II, homeported in Solomons, Maryland. Kathryn Ries (in blue jacket), deputy director of Coast Survey, hosted Ramon Padron Diaz, frigate captain and chief of the Hydrographic Department, Cuba’s National Office of Hydrography; Victor E. Aluija Urgell, lieutenant/general director, GEOCUBA Marine Studies; Edenia Machin Gonzalez, scientist, National Cartographic Agency – Cuba; Yanet Stable Cardenas, first secretary, Embassy of the Republic of Cuba; and Colonel Candido Regalado Gomez, chief of Cuba’s National Office of Hydrography and Geodesy.


Upgrading Great Lakes operational forecast systems   Leave a comment

by Thomas Loeper, Coast Survey navigation manager for the Great Lakes

Have you ever wondered how scientists make short-term forecast water levels, currents, and water temperature for the Great Lakes? They use the National Ocean Service’s operational forecast systems. There are now five different computer forecast modeling systems running for the Great Lakes — one for each lake. The forecast guidance from these forecast systems supports a variety of activities, including environmental management, emergency response for incidents like hazardous materials spills, homeland security, and search and rescue, as well as safe and efficient navigation of recreational and commercial vessels along the entire Great Lakes system.

The current operational forecast systems have been operational since 2005/2006, and Coast Survey is planning upgrades in the coming years. The original forecast systems were developed in the early 1990s as a collaborative effort between NOAA’s National Ocean Service, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the National Weather Service, and the Ohio State University. They were the first civilian coastal ocean systems to produce regularly scheduled predictions for the U.S.

The new forecast systems will have double the forecast horizon, from 60 to 120 hours, and provide higher horizontal and vertical resolution predictions.


Model inputs include currents, winds, and temperatures

The inputs to the forecast systems include atmospheric forecasts and observations such as surface winds, cloud cover, air temperature, and dew point temperature, along with water levels, water temperatures, and tributary flows along its grid boundaries. To model the lake, scientists use an unstructured 3-D grid of points that extend from the surface to the bottom of the lake. The grid provides more detail in areas of great concern, i.e., in harbors or in chokepoints like the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. NOAA feeds this information into a 3-D oceanographic circulation model to generate the forecast guidance.


Lakes Michigan and Huron operational forecast system grid detail in the Straits of Mackinac

Upgrades to the Great Lakes operational forecast systems

First, NOAA will update the forecast system for Lake Erie. The Lake Erie Operational Forecast System is expected to be operational by March 2016. By 2017, the upgraded system will help scientists forecast harmful algal bloom. Additionally, NOAA is developing an ice module to incorporate into the forecast systems for all the Great Lakes.


Upgraded Lake Erie operational forecast system grid with horizonal spacing from 400m to 3.5km

Second, we are developing a new combined forecast system: the Lakes Michigan and Huron Operational Forecast System. This model upgrade combines both lakes since they act — hydraulically — as one giant lake, essentially forming the largest lake in the world by surface area. This system is scheduled for operations sometime in 2018.

Nowcast/forecast graphics are available as map views from the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) Operational Forecast System site. To view real-time and forecast conditions as web map services, use the recently upgraded nowCOAST. NowCOAST is a GIS-based webmap service providing more frequently updated observations for coastal and Great Lakes regions along with coastal and marine weather forecasts now available 24 hours a day.


nowCOAST image of surface water currents prediction from Lake Erie operational forecast system

Posted December 11, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

NOAA National Ocean Service honors Coast Survey employees   1 comment

NOAA’s National Ocean Service had a ceremony for its honorees for 2015, and we are so pleased that several Coast Survey employees were recognized for their contributions.

Glang Fleisher Peeri Ries Ward Lanerolle

From left, Rear Admiral Gerd Glang and Coast Survey awardees: Teresa Fleisher, Shachak Pe’eri, Katie Ries, Kyle Ward, and Lyon Lanerolle

Congratulations to deputy director Katie Ries, who was selected as a 2015 Employee of the Year! This award recognizes significant contributions to NOS programs and the demonstration of exceptional and sustained effort toward the accomplishment of NOS missions. Katie is being honored for many things, chief among them “for being the indefatigable force driving Coast Survey’s crucial improvements in quality management, strategic planning, and employee support.”

Congratulations to Lyon Lanerolle (Coast Survey Development Lab) and Kyle Ward (Navigation Services Division, Southeast navigation manager). They both received a NOS Rafting Award, which recognizes coordination among NOS offices and provides NOS employees the opportunity to express their appreciation to another NOS or NOAA colleague who has helped them in some unique way.

  • The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science nominated Lyon for working with the NCCOS/Oxford Lab and the National Weather Service’s Ocean Prediction Center to enable the use of Coast Survey-developed Operational Forecast Systems data to predict the probability of pathogens in various U.S. bays and estuaries.
  • The Office of Coastal Management nominated Kyle for his collaboration on ocean mapping projects. The nomination explained that Kyle “has a positive, can-do attitude and is always willing to extend his role as navigation manager,” citing (among other collaborative projects) his willingness to use his AIS expertise for offshore renewable energy projects, his collaboration on establishing new and safer anchorage areas, and his assistance in standing up web map services for regional marine planning.

Congratulations to Shachak Pe’eri (research associate professor at Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping University of New Hampshire) and Teresa Fleisher (Coast Survey Development Lab, administrative assistant), who were selected as NOS Team Members of the Year. This award is presented to members of the workforce who are not NOAA federal employees, for their contributions as recognized by their NOS peers.

  • Teresa is recognized for her outstanding achievement in assisting with Coast Survey’s property management. “Teresa went far above the usual effort to help ensure that the inventory was up-to-date and correct, with all items found… Her efforts helped free up additional office space and resources that would not have been available otherwise.”
  • Professor Pe’eri is honored for his development of innovative techniques and policies in the use of satellite-derived bathymetry to analyze nautical chart adequacy and the remote determination of water depth for updating NOAA nautical charts; in particular his methods for integrating SDB into Coast Survey’s chart production process.

Posted December 1, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Awards, Nautical charts

NOAA begins multiyear project to update Hudson River charts   4 comments

NOAA sets charting priorities by considering a range of factors. Some of the most important factors include requests by the maritime industry. So when the Hudson River Pilots asked a Coast Survey navigation manager to accompany them on a transit down the Hudson River for a first-hand look at the problems caused by out-of-date soundings, our Northeast navigation manager jumped at the opportunity. Coast Survey understood the pilots’ concerns, especially since the charts in areas outside the federal channel have not been surveyed since 1939, and in some areas the soundings are pre-1900.

MeghanMcGovern w CAPT Scott Ireland - Hudson River Pilot

Lt. Cmdr. Meghan McGovern, NOAA navigation manager for the Northeast, rode with Capt. Scott Ireland on a salt ship down the the Hudson River in October 2014, learning about the concerns of the Hudson River Pilots.

Late this last summer, Coast Survey started a multi-year effort to update the nautical charts of the Hudson River. The project, which involves collecting new hydrographic data and creating larger scale electronic navigational charts, began with an initial survey by one of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams, from August 14 to September 10.

The graphics below display the areas surveyed by NOAA’s Navigation Response Team 5 in August and September, 2015. The red color indicates where the team surveyed.

Hudson River_chart12347

Hudson River_chart12348

The age of the data on the Hudson River charts is, unfortunately, not a rare instance. If you examine any one of our 1000+ charts, you may find depths that originated from pre-1920 lead line and sextant surveys; some have been measured with single beam echo sounders, while others were measured by state-of-the-art multibeam echo sounders. You may find all of this information on a single chart, and it is a challenge that NOAA faces with many charts covering the 95,000 nautical miles of U.S. coastline.

Rear Adm. Gerd Glang, Coast Survey director, recently informed Capt. Ireland of our determination to fix the Hudson River charts. We hope to complete data collection by the end of 2017, and to produce larger scale electronic charts by 2019.

Ireland sent his appreciation to Coast Survey.

“I’m very grateful to Rear Admiral Glang and his staff at NOAA for recognizing the importance of accurate soundings on Hudson River,” Ireland wrote on Oct 28.

“The effort to update 75+ year old data began a year ago with a phone call to Lt. Cmdr. Meghan McGovern, NOAA’s Northeast Navigation Manager. Lt. Cmdr. McGovern recognized the problem and moved quickly to help, sending a survey team to ‘spot survey’ some vital areas that will make commercial traffic markedly safer. Her encouragement then led me to lobby NOAA for a full-scale resurvey of the river and a re-scheming of the charts.”

“I recognize that this will be an expensive multiyear effort and applaud NOAA for their decision. When completed, the new soundings and navigational charts will result in a safer river environment for boaters of all sizes.”

“Thanks to all who supported this effort. While long overdue, it seems that the Hudson River now has NOAA’s attention.”

On November 16, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) sent a letter to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, emphasizing the importance of the project and calling for an immediate update of the charts.

For more information, see the letters exchanged between Capt. Scott Ireland (sent on Sept. 1, 2015) and Rear Adm. Gerd Glang (sent on October 9, 2015).

Posted November 17, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Happy birthday to the man whose scientific integrity laid NOAA’s cornerstone   1 comment


Ferdinand R. Hassler

Today, October 7, Coast Survey celebrates the 245th anniversary of the birth of Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, the Swiss immigrant whose plan to survey the U.S. coast was selected as the basis for the federal government’s first scientific foray, and who was to become the first superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey. Hassler’s determination and uncompromising adherence to accuracy, precision, and scientific integrity during the decades-long struggle to establish the nation’s charting agency is a cornerstone of the NOAA of today.

Retired NOAA Captain Albert “Skip” Theberge, the noted NOAA historian, has written THE definitive paper on “The Hassler Legacy,” available online at the NOAA Library website. Theberge notes the formal biographical details, but then he goes beyond that, explaining how Hassler’s training and temperament contrasted with – and perhaps played into – the political machinations that resulted in a decades-long delay in the effort to create the young nation’s nautical charts.

On March 25, 1807 (after Congress passed “an act to provide for surveying the coasts of the United States”), Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin issued a notice to all interested scientific men in the United States, asking for plans to conduct the coastal survey. Hassler responded to Gallatin’s letter less than a week later, and his proposal for a trigonometrically-based survey was accepted in July. And then it gets really interesting. From Theberge’s article:

“However, no action was taken to begin the survey until 1811 because of the unsettled international political climate. Although Jefferson was among the most scientific of United States presidents, it was odd that he was instrumental in passing a law for the Survey of the Coast in early 1807; just three months before he had instituted an economic embargo against both England and France because of their depredations against American ships and seamen. This embargo resulted in the recall of over 20,000 American seamen on the high seas and effectively terminated the American merchant marine and international trade. The embargo continued until the end of his administration.”

“Jefferson’s successor, James Madison, reinstituted the Survey and sent Hassler to Great Britain in late 1811 to procure survey instruments. Because of continuing difficulties between the two nations, Madison declared war on Great Britain eight months after Hassler’s arrival in London.”

The inconvenience of being in England (and later, France) during the War of 1812 doesn’t come close to the inconvenience caused by “those penurious keepers of the public monies,” according to Theberge. Hassler went for long periods of not being paid, his purchase of survey instruments cost more than he was authorized (so he paid the difference out of his own pocket), and then the government refused to provide for his transportation home.

Florian Cajori, Hassler’s biographer, wrote:

“… A country of almost unlimited resources permitted this able scientist, who was giving his thoughts day after day to the advancement of science and to the glory of his adopted country, to return to America at his own expense and under financial embarrassment. The Government… permitted Hassler to be personally considerably poorer than he was before he undertook his mission to Europe.”

Despite the bad treatment, Hassler accepted the appointment as Superintendent of the Survey of the Coast on August 3, 1816, and he was soon on survey reconnaissance in New Jersey, accompanied by his son. In January 1817, after just a few months of work, the Treasury Secretary asked him to “state the probable time which will be required for the execution of this Survey.”

Theberge expounds nicely on the situation:

“Consider for a moment the utter lack of understanding by the national leaders of the nature of the task of charting the coast of the United States. There was a naivete, indicative of the state of scientific and engineering knowledge in the United States during the early nineteenth century, when Secretary Crawford asked a man, who had to construct his own measuring instruments, had no vessels, and had only his son for help, how long it would take to complete the Survey of the Coast.”

The next spring, the Survey of the Coast – and Hassler – took a major hit. Congress decided that only “persons belonging to the army or navy” should be employed for the survey. Hassler was out, and 15 years of scientific debate and survey ineptitude followed. It was during this time, cast off from the government, when Hassler laid out his vision. The task, he explained, was to construct a great triangulation network that would serve as the control for all nautical surveys as well as all national land surveys. In addition to the geodetic foundation for mapping the land and charting the coasts, Hassler envisioned the establishment of a national mapping organization.

Hassler, at age 62, was reappointed as superintendent on August 9, 1832, when the Survey was transferred back into civilian control within the Treasury Department. In 1834, the Survey of the Coast finally took its first ocean soundings. In 1836, the Survey of the Coast was renamed U.S. Coast Survey. Hassler served as superintendent until his death on November 20, 1843.

Ferdinand R. Hassler’s scientific achievements had laid the foundation for much of today’s NOAA.

Hassler's first triangulation diagram

Diagram of Hassler’s original triangulation from 1817 and 1833-1834. Library of Congress, “A collection of maps, charts, drawings, surveys, etc, published from time to time, by order of the two houses of Congress.”


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