Archive for the ‘Nautical charts’ Category

NOAA announces open house on nautical cartography   Leave a comment

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is pleased to announce its first one-day open house in conjunction with the International Cartographic Conference (held this year in Washington, DC, at Marriott Wardman Park). This one-day event will focus on nautical cartography, highlighting the field of charting and GIS. It will offer nautical cartography-themed posters, presentations, tours, and exhibits. Participants will include industry partners, government agencies, and charting offices from around the world. This event is open to the public.

The four main themes for this year’s open house include: From Hydrography to Cartography, Nautical Products, Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure and Databases, and Innovative Cartography.

 Date: Friday, July 7, 2017

Time: 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Location: NOAA’s Science Center (1301 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910)

Registration: Send your name and organization to to expedite entry into the NOAA building.

For further details about the open house, please click here.

Posted May 15, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

NOAA Ship Rainier surveys the waters around Kodiak Island   Leave a comment


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.

Teaming up with small business to expand hydrographic technology   1 comment

Sandy shoals in certain near shore areas shift continuously and present a danger to navigation. It is logistically impossible to keep nautical charts current using the traditional survey methods when the bottom contours change so rapidly. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey leverages remote sensing data in new ways to derive bathymetry for the purposes of updating nautical charts in dynamic coastal areas. An exciting new method Coast Survey is exploring is X-band radar wave imaging. Marine radar is not a new technology, however, there are advantages to exploring old technology for new purposes. Many NOAA vessels and other coastal installations are already equipped with the hardware to facilitate this type of data acquisition.

Radar wave imaging uses backscattered radar intensity to create remotely sensed images of waves. So how do we derive bathymetry from wave images? The shape and depth of the seafloor—whether rocky or sandy, shoal or deep—influences surface currents, as well as the character and speed of waves, and swell. Radar backscatter processing over time yields a series of coherent images of the wave field. By simply averaging the images of waves over a period, it is possible to depict the general shape of the seafloor bathymetry. Additional processing of the coherent wave-speed images produces derived depths.

To determine the value of using radar as a method for deriving water depths in near shore areas, NOAA teamed up with the Korean Hydrographic and Oceanographic Agency (KHOA), Oregon State University, and the private company Areté Associates. NOAA contracts awarded through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program funded Areté Associates for the research and development of X-band radar bathymetery technology. SBIR is a competitive program that enables domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and development that has the potential for commercialization.

NOAA conducted radar bathymetry activities in two locations, the Oregon coast using Oregon State University’s X-band radar installed atop the U.S. Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay tower; and Beaufort, North Carolina, using a temporary X-band radar installation at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Macon near the Beaufort Inlet.

To explore the potential for wide-use and commercialization of the radar data, Areté created a real-time cloud service to automatically process regular uploads of nonproprietary radar data to produce raw and time-averaged radar images and movies, bathymetry and uncertainty grids, and water levels. This method presents potential for planning with regional navigation services field teams because they can easily collect radar data and process it in the cloud, eliminating the need for extra software, a technician, or even training requirements. Further, using the cloud service makes subsequent commercialization of the data easier for third-party developers.

The following is a video of time averaged X-band radar of Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina. This video is a product of Areté’s cloud-based processing service.  Each frame of the movie represents a 15-minute average of the radar backscatter (or images of waves). Notice the evidence of shoaling just outside the entrance to the inlet. Additional processing of the coherent wave-speed images produces derived depths.


Posted May 4, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Coast Survey in World War 1: “an instant and eager response to the country’s call for help”   Leave a comment

On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, in the World War that began three years earlier, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. By 1918, over 30 percent of Coast and Geodetic Survey personnel were on active duty with the Army and Navy. With 272 members of the C&GS in active military service, and 5 survey vessels transferred into naval service, the Survey curtailed much of their regularly scheduled hydrographic work. Instead, personnel directed most of their energies to the assistance of the military branches, with the remaining hydrographic parties conducting special confidential surveys for the Navy Department.

Military map 1918

In one example of support for the military, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey prepared this military map in 1918 for the U.S. Signal Corps.


The C&GS 1918 annual report briefly mentioned some of the hydrographic projects:

“Special hydrographic examinations were made by means of the wire drag at points designated by the Navy Department. Among such were the wire-drag surveys in Long Island Sound and in York River (Chesapeake Bay). Quite an extensive wire-drag examination was made of the waters in the vicinity of Eastport, Me. Initial surveys included such work as the location of points for naval fire-control experiments, the reestablishment of the speed-trial course at Lewes, Del., for torpedo-boat destroyers, the location of the Port Jefferson trial course in Long Island Sound, and the Block Island (Rhode Island) trial course.”

Wire drag 1917

This C&GS launch is involved in the wire drag survey off Block Island, 1917


Additional war projects included:

  • Survey of Hampton Roads naval base, for extensive improvements
  • Surveys around the coal piers at Newport News and in the Newport News dredged channel in Hampton Roads, to meet the needs of the Navy Department
  • Surveys of the approaches to Portsmouth Harbor NH, approaches to Narrangansett Bay, Long Island Sound, Florida reefs, Cape Cod Canal, and Plymouth Harbor, to “meet the needs of the Navy Department”
  • Layout of a one-mile trial course at Alexandria VA, for naval vessels

Additionally, the Navy asked for a survey of the Virgin Islands. In addition to the general survey for the Navy, local naval officials requested a number of small surveys. According to the Coast and Geodetic Survey Annual Report, 1918:

“One topographic party was started on the sheet embracing the town and harbor on April 22. The other party was started on the western sheet May 1. Both continued with only short interruptions for signal building and triangulation the balance of the fiscal year.

“Extreme care was taken to obtain accuracy on the sheet covering the town. An elaborate. control was furnished. The contours were determined with more than ordinary precision, due to the fact that the local government is contemplating installing a water system in the vicinity, and the Coast Survey chart would be studied for a waterworks site.

“At the request of the Navy Department particular stress was given the locating of old ruins, stone walls, boundary monuments, etc. All of this topography was done on a 1:10,000 scale. Twenty-foot contours were determined.

“At the request of the local authorities a special topographic survey was made of a piece of alien property which it was contemplated to seize for military purposes. This survey consisted in locating the shore line, docks, houses, and contours.”

(See chart 905, Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda to St Thomas and St Croix, 1921, and chart 906, Virgin Passage and Vieques Sound, 1922)

As happened during the Civil War, Coast and Geodetic Survey ramped up their chart production for the war effort – as well as for the United States Shipping Board, formed in 1917 to promote the development of an American merchant marine, and to address shipping problems during time of war.

Map and chart production in 1919 was 136 percent greater than for the year 1915.

In the annual report of 1919, Capt. E. Lester Jones, Coast and Geodetic Survey director from 1915 to 1929, paid tribute to the service of all C&GS personnel through the war:

“This service has 103 years of active history which show that it has never failed in loyalty, no matter what the call. Its members have always given the benefit of their trained thought and well-informed judgment whenever and wherever they were needed and however they could best be used.

“In the great conflict just ended these traditions have been upheld.

“Admiration is due the spirit that has animated each and every member of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. To a man there was an instant and eager response to the country’s call for help. At all times, a service which is laboring for the safety of mankind, it stood ready to undertake new work. The kind of work needed was varied-all could not go into battle. The men in the field would have been useless without the executive work behind them at home, and all honor is due them, who, showing a steady, uncompromising moral courage, unmoved by clamor and undisturbed by outer excitement, have kept steadily at their posts, carrying on most successfully the important and necessary work here.

“Those who were sent to the field were simply performing their duty in another way, and established an enviable and remarkable record, showing again their unusual adaptability and training.

“The Bureau was about equally represented in both Army and Navy and performed signal valuable service in each.”


“The 200th Anniversary of the Survey of the Coast,” Prologue Magazine, by John Cloud; National Archives, Spring 2007, Vol. 39, No. 1


Posted April 6, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in History, Nautical charts

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NOAA wants to learn from you   Leave a comment

Coast Survey is in a constant conversation with chart users, marine electronics firms, and maritime officials, listening to the ideas and observations of the people we serve. We want to hear from you!

There are several ways to make a request or suggest an improvement to Coast Survey’s navigational products. You can let us know about a chart discrepancy. You can ask a question online, or call us at 888-990-6622. You can meet with one of our regional navigation managers who are stationed around the U.S. coasts. Or, you can get involved through the Hydrographic Services Review Panel, a federal committee – with public members – who interact with NOAA experts and advise the NOAA administrator.

There are two opportunities coming up for HSRP involvement

JOIN US AT THE NEXT MEETING – The panel meets twice a year to examine navigational and geodetic challenges in specific U.S. regions. In April, they will meet in Seattle, and will hear directly from Pacific Northwest maritime industry representatives, governmental agencies, academics, and recreational boater groups. The two-day meeting will be held on April 18-20, and is open to the public.

The meeting agenda has time set aside every day for public comments in an open forum. If you cannot be there in person, you may sign up to participate in the webcast. You may want to provide written comments in advance (email to, or you can comment using the chat or questions function during the webinar.

APPLY TO JOIN THE PANEL – People who attend panel meetings, and particularly those who have worked with NOAA’s navigation products, know the importance of offering their expertise, time, and experience to discussions about product improvements. These people (and you!) can apply to join the Hydrographic Services Review Panel. Applications are being accepted until May 30. The Federal Register Notice tells you all about it.

Why get involved in the HSRP?

The perspectives of the people who depend on NOAA maritime products – especially for safety or commercial efficiency – are essential to planning improvements of NOAA’s navigational data, services, and products. As we determine future priorities, the Hydrographic Services Review Panel is a vital part of our information gathering process. Panel members have a wide range of expertise and experience, and so the HSRP can bring a diverse set of opinions to NOAA’s decision-making process.

We want to learn from you.

Maybe you would like to join the HSRP for an extended involvement in a range of issues. On the other hand, you may have a particular issue that you would like to bring to the panel’s attention, or you just have a question that one of Coast Survey’s experts can answer. We hope you’ll join in the HSRP’s conversation, in person or via the webinar, in April.

Whether your maritime experience comes from steering a vessel with a paper chart, or setting your course with the next generation of navigation products, we look forward to hearing from you.

Coast Survey joins Florida to survey sensitive site   Leave a comment

One of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams (NRT) recently responded to a request by the State of Florida, who needed help surveying a submerged prehistoric archaeological site located offshore of Sarasota County. Last week’s survey and investigation were necessary to map the full extent of the site and the surrounding area.

Florida’s Division of Historical Resources learned of the possible offshore site several months ago, and began working with their contacts at BOEM. The combined federal/state team, working with their resources and experts, then contacted NOAA for assistance. After a series of consultations, Coast Survey and the state’s team of archaeologists planned to use various imagery resources to look at the possible historical site. The NRT, which is conveniently based in Fernandina Beach, Florida, has multibeam and side scan sonar capabilities that could be deployed in the field effort.

The Florida and Coast Survey teams met last week in the Sarasota area. Working on the water for two long days, the NRT and the Historical Resources experts obtained high-resolution data and imagery across the site. With the data in hand, Florida can pursue future efforts to preserve the site and protect its artifacts.

NRT and FL team

The NRT and the State of Florida archaeologists depart for survey operations. Pictured in the NOAA boat are NRT members James Kirkpatrick (acting hydrographer-in-charge) and Lucas Blass. The archaeologists with the Florida Division of Historical Resources are Ryan Duggins, Melissa Price, and Tim Parsons, in the boat on the right.

“The collaboration between NOAA and the State of Florida was exemplary,” observed Tim Osborn, Coast Survey’s navigation manager who arranged NOAA’s resource allocation on the project. “For important endeavors like this, bringing experience and expertise together in a teamwork approach strengthens everyone’s ability to protect important cultural resources.”

Posted March 7, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Collaborative effort to create new nautical chart returns recreational boaters to Haverhill, Massachusetts   4 comments

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey released a new electronic navigation chart (NOAA ENC®) of Haverhill, Massachusetts, and the Merrimack River (US5MA1AM). With this new chart, recreational boaters now can safely navigate the Merrimack River from the entrance at Newburyport all the way to Haverhill, just in time for boating season.

Haverhill is a historic New England town that has recently undergone an urban renewal with new federal, state, and private investment in the downtown and waterfront areas. Until now, this area of the river was not depicted at an appropriate scale on a nautical chart for recreational boaters to navigate safely. The community of Haverhill recognized the importance of recreational boaters to their local economy and led a grassroots effort to have a new chart created.

“When NOAA laid out the previous chart of the Merrimack River in the early 1970s, the river did not attract much boating and recreation. I have seen the beauty of today’s river and the Haverhill community–the result of decades of hard work–and I am proud that NOAA can support the communities’ effort to restore the economic vitality of a working waterfront along the Merrimack.”


“This is a great example of public and private partners coming together to advance economic development goals for the region. I commend the Greater Haverhill Foundation for realizing the need for better navigational charts to encourage tourism and I was happy to bring this to the attention of NOAA,” said U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas. “I greatly appreciate NOAA’s responsiveness and dedication to Haverhill and communities all along the Merrimack River.”

Full ENC of the Merrimack River at 1:12,000 scale

Recreational boaters rely on nautical charts for safe navigation. Natural features, man-made objects, and the positions and descriptions of buoys, beacons, and lights are critical pieces of the chart. Nautical chart coverage of the Merrimack River from the Atlantic Ocean to just beyond the I-95 bridge was historically depicted at a 1:20,000 scale, while coverage west of this area was historically depicted at a 1:80,000 scale. Boaters had been reluctant to navigate beyond the I-95 bridge and travel up river to Haverhill because the chart did not depict a dense selection of soundings and features to safely navigate.


New 1:12,000 scale ENC coverage compared to existing smaller-scale coverage of the Merrimack River and nearby coast.

Recognizing the need for a more detailed chart of the area, the Greater Haverhill Foundation (GHF), a group of local and state stakeholders concerned with the economic revitalization of the area, contacted NOAA to create a new, larger-scale chart.

In order to address immediate concerns regarding safe navigation, the foundation held stakeholder meetings that included representatives from the River Cities Initiative, a multi-city effort led by Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives. The GHF also privately funded a hydrographic survey of the river using single beam and side scan sonar to collect data for the new chart.

Coast Survey used the privately funded survey data to provide a buoy relocation proposal to the U.S. Coast Guard who re-aligned multiple buoys in the navigation channel of the river. The new, larger-scale ENC was compiled using U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data, NOAA lidar data, and the privately funded survey data. When shown in detail, the combined data provides mariners with a clearer picture of the overall conditions and dangers to navigation.

The final product, a robust NOAA ENC® at a scale of 1:12,000 made from both federal and community data sources, will serve the recreational boaters on the Merrimack River and the community of Haverhill for years to come. The new ENC can be viewed in NOAA ENC® online.


New 1:12,000 scale ENC (a) compared to the existing 1:80,000 ENC (b) of the Haverhill area on the Merrimack River.

“The Merrimack River is an important asset to the region whose recreational potential has been relatively untapped. NOAA’s updated Electronic Navigation Chart (ENC) will allow recreational boaters to safely navigate the Merrimack River from Newburyport to Haverhill’s transforming downtown, fulfilling one of the important goals of the River Cities Initiative. This joint effort to update the chart, spearheaded by local stakeholders, will allow for greater connectivity between communities along the river, and encourage residents and tourists alike to explore the local businesses, eateries, and recreational attractions that dot the riverbanks between the two cities. Thank you to LCDR Meghan McGovern, NOAA’s Northeast Region Navigation Manager, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, the Greater Haverhill Foundation, Mark Cutter, Assistant Branch Chief, Waterways Management Division of the United States Coast Guard, Mass Development’s Transformative Development Fellow Noah Koretz, and business and community members for all of your efforts in creating this powerful resource,” said State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives.


New 1:12,000 scale ENC (a) compared to the existing 1:80,000 ENC (b) of the Rocks Village area on the Merrimack River.

“It is a great feeling of accomplishment to finally have a new chart of the river after the many years of work that have gone into its creation. I would like to thank you for all your support, work and time you have put in on this project. I also want the thank James Miller for the work he has done in buoy positioning, Rear Admiral Shepard Smith for approving the new chart and having the staff at NOAA Office of Coast Survey finishing the task. Thousands of boaters on the Merrimack River and visiting yachtsmen will be confident cruising the twenty miles of the Merrimack River from the mouth to downtown Haverhill,”  Said Dave Goodwin, Greater Haverhill Foundation’s River Committee.

The request to develop the Merrimack River electronic navigation chart was unique and was submitted with strong stakeholder support. Coast Survey receives multiple requests for new charts but is only able to produce an average of three new charts per year. Creating a new chart is a time intensive process and there is a backlog of dozens waiting to be created.

To address the backlog of new chart requests and prepare for future requests, Coast Survey developed the National Charting Plan. The plan explains the need to improve the way nautical charts are produced and distributed to keep up with modern methods of marine navigation. The plan also outlines Coast Survey’s approach to improve NOAA charts, including changes to chart formats, scales, data compilation, and symbology. Professional mariners, recreational boaters, data providers, navigational equipment manufacturers, and other users of NOAA charts are invited to review and comment plan.

Posted March 2, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

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