Surveyor Spotlight: NOAA navigation response team member, Erin Diurba

Have you ever wondered what it is like to work on a NOAA navigation response team (NRT) or what makes our team members experts in their field?

The Office of Coast Survey deploys NRTs across the country to conduct emergency hydrographic surveys requested by the U.S. Coast Guard, port officials, and other first responders in the wake of accidents and natural events that create navigation hazards. In their day‐to‐day, non‐emergency role, the NRTs work in the nation’s busiest ports, surveying for dangers to navigation and updating nautical chart products.

Meet Erin Diurba, a NOAA navigation response team member homeported in Galveston, Texas. Her self-described “survey wanderlust” has taken her across the globe to gain hydrographic surveying expertise on diverse teams and in unique environments. She tells her story here in this story map.

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Erin Diurba, hydrographic surveyor on NOAA navigation response team 4, homeported in Galveston, Texas.

NOAA navigation response team responds after ferry strikes submerged object

By, LT. j.g. Dylan Kosten

On November 27, 2017, a New York City ferry departing from Pier 11 in the East River struck an underwater pylon, stranding over 100 passengers. The pylon was most likely from the remains of an old pier demolished several years earlier. At the request of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), NOAA’s navigation response team 5 (NRT 5), homeported in New London, Connecticut, assisted in the investigation.

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NRT 5 boat S3007 on trailer, with Eli Smith (left) and Lt. j.g. Dylan Kosten (right).

NRT 5 arrived in Jersey City, New Jersey, on December 4, to prepare for surveying. The following day, the team picked up an investigator from the USCG, deployed the boat, and headed towards Pier 11. Using the team’s multibeam echo sounder and with guidance from the investigator, the team surveyed the remains of the former pier.

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Multibeam echo sounder data of the submerged pier near Pier 11, East River, New York. A danger to navigation (DTON) report was submitted to the USCG for this area.

 

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NRT 5 surveying ruins of former pier, with USCG Chief Warrant Officer Leathers (left), Eli Smith (front right), and Lt. j.g. Dylan Kosten (back right).

With the pier investigation finished, the team received an additional request from the USCG to survey a wrecked sailboat in Raritan Bay, a water body between New York and New Jersey. The sailboat was quickly surveyed, allowing the team time for good training opportunities.

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Subset of water column data showing the top of the sailboat’s mast sitting at approximately 12.3 feet below the surface. A DTON report was submitted for this wreck.

 

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Lt. j.g. Dylan Dylan Kosten instructing Michael Bloom on proper navigation and “rules of the road.”

With the mission completed, NRT 5 headed back north to Connecticut, where the data will be processed and products created to help the USCG in their investigation.

NOAA Corps officers play important role in hydrography at NOAA

By, Nick Perugini

In 2017, we celebrated the NOAA Corps Centennial, marking 100 years of valued service to the nation. Today’s NOAA Corps officers play an important role in the Office of Coast Survey. Officers serve as field hydrographers, technical experts, and managers throughout the charting organization. There is a distinct career path for NOAA Corps officers in Coast Survey that provides the opportunity to develop technical expertise in hydrography and at the same time, advance in rank in the NOAA Corps.  

From a historical perspective, the Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps—the NOAA Corps predecessor—was created in 1917 primarily to conduct hydrographic and geodetic surveys in the coastal waters of the U.S. As NOAA was formed in 1970, NOAA Corps officers were afforded new opportunities in environmental programs, such as oceanographic, fisheries, weather, and other environmental activities.     

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The officers of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the NOAA Corps predecessor service, were world renowned for their expertise and accuracy in leveling and triangulation.

For an ensign who graduates from Basic Officer Training Class, a NOAA Corps officer’s first assignment is typically aboard a NOAA ship. New officers assigned to NOAA ships are expected to develop their seamanship skills on their way to becoming a qualified officer of the deck. Aboard hydrographic ships, there is also an expectation that junior officers will develop technical competency in the field of hydrography. This includes developing expertise in positioning equipment, sonar instrumentation, and computer systems that are used aboard ships and launches to acquire and process hydrographic data.

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ENS Michelle Levano helps guide a launch back to NOAA Ship Rainier during a hydrographic surveying project in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, California.

In addition to developing technical expertise, junior officers aboard hydro ships have the opportunity to develop supervisory and management skills. After becoming familiar with the ship’s operation, they can quickly become an officer in charge (OIC) of a survey launch. This entails being in charge of a 30-foot hydrographic launch with a crew of two or more people, whose job it is to collect hydrographic data. The OIC is ultimately responsible for the safety of the launch and its hydrographic production. Many officers enjoy the combination of working outside, battling the elements, managing people, and working with sophisticated data acquisition systems. For many, the work is challenging—but also very rewarding.

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Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan French, officer in charge of navigation response team 1, homeported in Stennis, Mississippi, adjusts a side scan sonar in preparation for surveying the Port of Miami following Hurricane Irma.

After a first tour aboard a hydro ship, many officers will look to other NOAA programs for a shore assignment. However, for those who have caught the “hydro bug,” there are many opportunities to continue a hydrographic career path within Coast Survey. For example, there are OIC and JOIC billets aboard the Bay Hydrographer II working in Chesapeake Bay; officer in charge of a navigation response team; Hydrographic Systems and Technology Programs field support liaison. All of these billets give NOAA Corps officers the ability to increase their technical prowess, sharpen their management and interpersonal skills, and develop a broad understanding of Coast Survey activities.

Officers who follow a career path within Coast Survey typically have an opportunity to become operations officer (Ops) aboard one of NOAA’s four hydrographic ships. As third officer (behind the commanding officer (CO) and executive officer (XO))—typically with a rank of lieutenant—the Ops is responsible for planning the details of day-to-day hydrographic operations. The Ops is required to be a competent hydrographer, as well as a skilled supervisor and manager. The Ops also has the opportunity to sharpen his or her public speaking and communications skills—often being called upon to give presentations to senior officials within the agency.     

As a NOAA Corps officer progresses in a Coast Survey career path, there are ample opportunities to gain valuable mid-level and upper management skills. Lieutenant commanders can occupy billets as navigational managers—positions where an officer is expected to communicate Coast Survey’s interests and activities to the public. Navigational managers interface with a wide variety of commercial, recreational, and military maritime interests. Other mid-level management positions are available in Coast Survey’s Navigational Services Division, Hydrographic Survey Division and the Coast Survey Development Lab.

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Lt. Cmdr. Meghan McGovern (left) presents NOAA navigation support capabilities to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Portsmouth, NH, during her position as northeast region navigation manager at Coast Survey. Credit: Mr. Montoya

As an officer’s career progresses, CO and XO billets are available for individuals at or nearing the 0-5 (commander) level. Commanding a hydrographic survey ship that performs combined operations is the penultimate experience for a field hydrographer. As senior officers come ashore, there are high level management opportunities available for captains in Coast Survey and throughout NOAA. In Coast Survey or example, NOAA Corps officers serve as division chiefs in the Coast Survey Development Lab, the Hydrographic Surveys Division, and the Navigation Services Division, as well as many senior level positions throughout NOAA.

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Cmdr. Ben Evans, commanding officer of NOAA Ship Rainier (right), and Peter Holmberg, physical scientist in Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Surveys Division (left), observe a launch deployment on Rainier.

While there are many challenging positions for NOAA Corps officers within Coast Survey, it is important to note that the organization also welcomes officers with experience outside the charting program. Individuals who have held positions in other parts of NOAA can readily contribute a fresh perspective to Coast Survey’s mission.  

NOAA Corps is currently accepting applications for Basic Officer Training Class 132, which will begin in July 2018. The application deadline is January 17, 2018.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey wraps up a busy 2017 hurricane season

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was powerful, with the strongest storms occurring consecutively from late August to early October. The sequential magnitude of four hurricanes in particular—Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate—made response efforts challenging for NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. Coast Survey summarized this season’s response efforts along with the efforts of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (operated by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations) in the following story map.

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NOAA completes multi-year ocean mapping project off the Olympic Coast

In September 2017, NOAA’s Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping Program completed a multi-year ocean mapping project off the coast of Washington in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. This project grew out of a seafloor mapping prioritization exercise led by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science on behalf of the State of Washington in May 2015. The prioritization exercise integrated the priorities of coastal stakeholders representing numerous federal and state (Oregon and Washington) agencies, coastal treaty tribes, and academic institutions to determine where to concentrate future survey efforts. One identified priority was the need for a better understanding of the bathymetry and habitats of Washington’s submarine canyons, particularly three offshore areas in need of enhanced data collection efforts.

Project area and data sources/years of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary ocean mapping project
Project area and data sources/years of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary ocean mapping project.

Since then, a scientific team of experts has contributed to NOAA-led multi-disciplinary surveys of the offshore priority areas, utilizing data collected by the NOAA ships Rainier and Okeanos Explorer, and E/V Nautilus and maximizing other ocean mapping data provided by external sources in an effort to meet mapping goals established during the prioritization exercise. The resulting survey efforts, which involved collection of swath bathymetry, acoustic backscatter, and water column data, will support coastal and ocean management activities as well as a wide variety of other applications, including to:

  • Inform regulatory decisions on coastal development
  • Provide benthic habitat mapping and seafloor characterization for sustainable fisheries initiatives, and to help assess fishery stocks and critical spawning aggregation locations
  • Better understand and manage shelf and canyon resources
  • Aid in resolving multiple-use conflicts
  • Advance research in determining chemical and biological contamination levels
  • Support upcoming efforts to locate, assess, and characterize deep sea corals and sponges
  • Locate and identify hundreds of previously unknown methane gas seeps along the shelf break
  • Update NOAA nautical charts and products off the coast of Washington

As part of the mission, NOAA Ship Rainier acquired depth measurements and other hydrographic data throughout the entire project to update NOAA nautical charts including chart 18500 off the coast of Washington with corresponding electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) US3WA03M and US3WA01M.

NOAA ships Rainier and Okeanos Explorer are part of the fleet of ships managed and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, and operated by commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps (one of seven uniformed services of the United States) and civilian wage mariners. The E/V Nautilus is owned and operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust.

NOAA Office of Coast Survey to launch redesigned website

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey will launch the newly redesigned website, nauticalcharts.noaa.gov, on November 14, 2017. The website will feature simplified navigation and a responsive layout for all platforms, making your favorite NOAA charting products easy and convenient to find.

We encourage everyone to visit and explore the site on or after November 14. Because of this redesign effort, many of the webpages within nauticalcharts.noaa.gov will have a new address. Please be prepared to update any bookmarks or links you may have.

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Mystery of Kitfield Ledge solved with a little nautical chart research

By Nick Perugini

Most NOAA Office of Coast Survey customers have a practical mariner’s bent—they are interested in up-to-date and accurate navigational products and services. However, an increasing number of customers are using Coast Survey online resources for historical research.

In May 2017, Coast Survey received an inquiry via the Inquiry and Discrepancy Management System (IDMS) that illustrates this point.

Original message: My dad is from Manchester-By-Sea, MA. There is a ledge on the NAUTICAL charts, “Kitfield Ledge”. Is there a place where we can get some history, when it was named, and how it came about. We have not been able to find any information on that. My dad was born in 1926, and he and his dad, used to lobster off of Black Beach in the 1930’s. We were back there 2 years ago and did some research at the Cape Ann Museum, but were not able to locate any information. Appreciate any help you may be able to provide. Thank you.

Left: Current edition of NOAA chart 13279. Right: 1912 edition of chart 243.
Left: Current edition of NOAA chart 13279. Right: 1912 edition of chart 243.

The first step in solving this mystery was to locate Kitfield Ledge on the current chart.  Using the “Place Names” search in the Chart Catalog, Kitfield Ledge was located on the current edition of chart 13279. Using the Historical Map & Chart Collection, I was able to trace the name back to Coast and Geodetic Survey Chart 243 published in 1912. Interesting….but where to go from here? I then accessed the hydrographic surveys archive maintained by NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI, formerly NGDC). Using the interactive map interface for bathymetric data, I was able to view and download an 1896 hydrographic survey that showed Kitfield Ledge.  Geographic name references are not always included in hydrographic survey descriptive reports, however to my surprise,the following note was discovered in the hand written descriptive report.

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(Transcription)

  1. “Kitfield’s Ledge.  This ledge lies SW of Crow Island with a least depth of 2 ½ fathoms.  It is covered with kelp and Crow Island Rock is situated on it. Its name was derived from the fact that at old woman, Granny Kitfield by name, used to fish for cod on it with much success.

Granny Kitfield must have been quite an angler to have a rocky ledge named after her!

The Granny Kitfield inquiry, and its resolution, illustrates that Coast Survey (and other organizations within the National Ocean Service) offer impressive online resources to assist in historical research. Many customers are interested in what shoreline or coastal features looked like a century ago. Others are interested in where a currently charted feature (like a wreck) originated. Resources that may help customers interested in historical research include:

So go ahead, check these resources out. Mysteries of the deep are waiting to be discovered—or maybe you’ll find another one of Granny Kitfield’s favorite fishing spots.