NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson presents survey work to Puerto Rico South Coast stakeholders

By Cmdr. Chris van Westendorp, Commanding Officer of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

Almost one year following the passage and destruction of Hurricane Maria, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has returned to Puerto Rico. Following the storm, Thomas Jefferson deployed in September 2017 for hydrographic hurricane response work in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (PR/USVI). The ship and crew surveyed 18 individual port facilities to ensure safety of navigation and help re-open the region for maritime commerce. Thomas Jefferson’s second major project of 2018 has brought the ship back to Puerto Rico from August to November, conducting follow-up survey work along the north and south coasts.

tj-pr3
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson recovering hydrographic survey launch 2904 on September 7, 2018, in Bahia de Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. The vast majority of Thomas Jefferson’s 2017 and 2018 survey work in and around Puerto Rico was completed with the ship’s survey launches.

While anchored in Bahia de Guayanilla, Cmdr. Chris van Westendorp, commanding officer of Thomas Jefferson, was invited by the Puerto Rico South Coast pilots to speak at a South Coast Harbor Safety & Security Committee meeting in Salinas. Attended quarterly by area commercial, federal, and local maritime stakeholders, each meeting features presentations on a variety of topics such as harbor safety and preparedness, maritime security, and relevant oceanographic research (e.g. PR SeaGrant, PR Climate Change Commission).

tj-pr1
Cmdr. van Westendorp presents preliminary survey results to the Puerto Rico South Coast Harbor Safety & Security Committee from Thomas Jefferson’s 2018 hydrographic survey project in San Juan, Ponce, and vicinities, Puerto Rico.

Several presentations discussed ongoing Hurricane Maria recovery efforts, and conversations with attendees emphasized that storm effects still permeate businesses and the island economy. The meeting also revealed the existence of strong interagency relationships in the group, reflective of South Coast culture. These connections enable close and effective collaboration of agencies such as NOAA, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and SeaGrant, in supporting the region’s environmental resources, economy, and security, as well as forming improved hurricane preparedness and response plans.

Accompanied by Coast Survey Atlantic Hydrographic Branch’s Julia Wallace (ERT), Cmdr. van Westendorp presented on nautical hydrography, including an outline of the ship’s 2017 post-Maria work, as well as current project plans and preliminary results. During and after the presentation, attendees showed particular interest in survey results in and around Guayanilla, Ponce, Jobos, Las Mareas, and Yabucoa; port areas previously identified by the South Coast pilots as critical for local and island-wide economies alike.  The Coast Guard Captain of the Port (based in San Juan) and his staff also engaged Cmdr. van Westendorp and Julia Wallace in conversations regarding the allocation and positioning of survey capabilities in preparation for major storm events in the PR/USVI region.

tj-pr2
From left to right: Capt. Alex Cruz (South Coast pilot and vice chairman, South Coast Harbor Safety & Security Committee [SCHSSC]), Cmdr. Chris van Westendorp (commanding officer, Thomas Jefferson), Capt. Eric King (Coast Guard Sector San Juan Captain of the Port), Mr. Luis Torres (Chairman, SCHSSC)
A year after the devastation of Maria, it is clear that Thomas Jefferson’s presence and ongoing work are gratefully received by and worthwhile to the people of Puerto Rico.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson completes 2018 survey work in the Approaches to Houston-Galveston

By Lt. Charles Wisotzkey

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson departed the western Gulf of Mexico in early August 2018 after completing scheduled survey operations on the Approaches to Houston project. Data collected for the project will update nautical charts for the approaches to the main shipping channel leading to the ports of Houston and Galveston.

tj-galveston1
Thomas Jefferson‘s project area located southeast of the entrance to Galveston Bay.

The Port of Houston is the largest U.S. port in terms of foreign trade and petroleum products. The main shipping channel extends from Houston, down the Buffalo Bayou, through Galveston Bay, and into the Gulf of Mexico at the pass between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula. The approaches to Galveston Bay are heavily trafficked by all manner of commercial vessels. In fact, the anchorages outside of the entrance to Galveston Bay were among the busiest traffic areas the ship’s command had experienced.

tj-galveston2
Automatic Identification System (AIS) traffic near the entrance to Galveston Bay. Each red, green, and blue symbol represents a separate vessel. Most of the offshore AIS symbols represent, in this instance, large commercial vessels (MarineTraffic 2018).
tj-galveston3
A closer look at Thomas Jefferson‘s project area highlights its navigational characteristics.

Multiple safety fairways and numerous oil platforms with pipeline infrastructure are shown in the image above. The safety fairways are kept clear of oil and gas infrastructure and are used by large commercial traffic to transit around the Gulf of Mexico; however, obstructions are sometimes reported and charted within the bounds of the safety fairways. 

tj-galveston4
An example of an abnormal traffic situation caused by the presence of position approximate (PA) obstructions in the safety fairway that leads into the entrance to Galveston Bay.

The image above shows two charted position approximate (PA) obstructions within the safety fairway to the south of Thomas Jefferson’s main project area. As seen in the image, two vessels favor the north side of the safety fairway in order to avoid the charted PA obstructions and passing nearer to each other than would otherwise be prudent. In this case, both PA obstructions were disproved by Thomas Jefferson and will be removed from the chart.

Overall, the Approaches to Houston project was highly successful. Thomas Jefferson was able to collect over 9,500 linear nautical miles and more than 500 square nautical miles of survey data. In addition to the two PA obstructions described previously, Thomas Jefferson corrected the position of five navigationally significant wrecks and obstructions, disproved the existence of one additional navigationally significant charted obstruction, identified two previously uncharted wrecks, provided updated Aid to Navigation data to the U.S. Coast Guard, and located numerous uncharted and/or exposed pipelines. This work will improve chart quality for an area of critical importance to our nation’s economy.

tj-galveston5
The crew of the Thomas Jefferson, along with local Houston/Galveston NOAA partners, shared the positive impact of the ship’s work at a successful public relations event in Galveston, Texas, in July. From left to right: Ensign Sydney Catoire (Thomas Jefferson), Charles Rowland (Navigation Response Branch (NRB)), Alan Bunn (NOAA navigation manager), Erin Diurba (NRB), Katie Magee (National Weather Service (NWS)), Sarah Randall (NWS), Dan Jacobs (NRB), and Cmdr. Chris Van Westendorp (CO Thomas Jefferson). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOAA 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.

hurricane-season-storymap

Nigerian naval officer augments on NOAA survey ship

by Ensign Kaitlyn Seberger, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

IMG_6480
Sub-Lt. Uchechukwu Erege deploys a conductivity-temperature-depth cast to obtain sound speed.

This fall, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has had the pleasure of hosting Sub-Lieutenant Uchechukwu Erege. Sub-Lieutenant Erege, known to the ship’s crew as “UK,” is a hydrographer in the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Office. The Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Office is the national hydrographic authority for the country and is responsible for conducting hydrographic surveys in territorial waters, ensuring nautical charts are up-to-date, processing bathymetric data, and providing Notice to Mariners for hazards to navigation.

UK joined the Nigerian Navy in 2012 after graduating with distinction from the University of Lagos with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geoinformatics. He then completed a 10-month training program at the Nigerian Defense Academy before transitioning to his current position in the hydrography branch.

“At the time, the Nigerian Navy was searching for graduates in various technical fields,” UK says, “and joining the Navy was a great opportunity to serve my country and secure a job in my field of study.”

The United States and Nigeria are both member States of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), whose primary aim is to ensure the world’s oceans and navigable waterways are surveyed and charted. Through a grant funded by IHO and the government of South Korea, members of developing countries are able to attain higher education in the field of hydrography. UK was awarded this grant in 2014 and used it to attend the University of Mississippi’s 12-month master’s program in hydrographic science.

“My wife, Ezinne, has been very supportive during my time in the U.S.,” UK explains. “I would not have had as much success here without her.”

During his time at the University of Mississippi, a professor put him in contact with Captain Shep Smith, commanding officer of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. Through a recommendation from the Nigerian Chief of Naval Staff and Capt. Smith, UK augmented for three months on Thomas Jefferson.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how hydrography is practiced outside of Africa,” UK says. “I wanted to develop new skills that would be an asset to my office. My experience at the University of Mississippi and on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has been a great way to network with other hydrographic entities and build international partnerships.”

While on Thomas Jefferson, UK gained hands-on experience as a sheet project manager, and in ship and hydrographic survey launch acquisition of multibeam and side scan sonar data, conductivity-temperature-depth casts, system integration, and troubleshooting.

“As a project manager, I was responsible for ensuring adequate data collection and maintaining good data management. The skills I gained on TJ will be a valuable asset when I return to Nigeria.”

UK proposes creating standard operating procedures in his office, for processing efficiency. An SOP for public affairs can also help inform the country of hydrographic survey projects. UK would also like to recommend more collaboration with international agencies, such as NOAA, and with Nigeria’s West African neighbors in regards to hydrography.

UK_Flag
Ensign Peter Gleichauf presents Sub-Lt. Uchechukwu Erege with the NOAA Corps flag that Thomas Jefferson sailed with during his time augmenting on the ship. The entire crew signed the flag.

Sub-Lieutenant Uchechukwu Erege has been a valuable asset to the Thomas Jefferson crew and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. Fair winds and following seas!

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson celebrates survey success with maritime community

by Ensign Diane Perry, onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

From 2005 through today, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has been surveying Long Island Sound, one project area at a time. Some of the area was last surveyed between the late 1800s and 1939. For the 2014 field season, Thomas Jefferson was assigned her final Long Island Sound project, 89 square nautical miles of Eastern Long Island Sound, Fisher Island Sound, and Western Block Island Sound. When this project is complete, we will have resurveyed over 95% of Long Island Sound and all of Block Island Sound with modern survey technology that allows for a complete picture of the seafloor and highly accurate soundings.

This image depicts Thomas Jefferson's bathymetry from eastern Long Island Sound to Gardiner's Bay.
This image depicts Thomas Jefferson‘s bathymetry from eastern Long Island Sound to Gardiner’s Bay.

Data acquired by the Thomas Jefferson will update the region’s nautical charts and will serve other users within NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and a New York and Connecticut Long Island Sound Seafloor mapping initiative. The mapping initiative creates products for habitat mapping and geological interpretation, and supports state planning and management of this vital resource.

Bringing the hydrography of this area into modern times has been a huge task, and we appreciate being welcomed as a part of the area’s maritime community! When Thomas Jefferson was asked to participate in the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival in New London this summer, the crew was excited for the opportunity to showcase the results of nearly a decade of surveying effort.

On September 12, Thomas Jefferson docked at City Pier, dressed in semaphore flags to welcome crowds lining the pier eager for guided tours. As the sun set, Thomas Jefferson hosted judges and the announcer during the festival’s lighted boat parade. The ship continued to provide tours the next day, and was the highlight of the event for many visitors. More than 500 visitors toured from fantail to bridge, learning about the ship’s mission and hydrographic survey operations, life at sea, and maritime heritage of NOAA and the Office of Coast Survey.

As the festival ended, Thomas Jefferson’s crew cast off from City Pier to return to their Long Island Sound working grounds and continue survey operations. We are excited to return to the survey area and complete the 2014 Long Island Sound mapping project.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson dressed in semaphore flags for Connecticut’s 2014 Maritime Heritage Festival. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Abigail Winz.
LCDR Jim Crocker and Alex Ligon wrestle with wayward semaphore flags
Cmdr. James Crocker and hydrographic assistant survey technician Alex Ligon wrestle with wayward semaphore flags to keep NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson looking her best for Connecticut’s 2014 Maritime Heritage Festival. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Abigail Winz.
Lt. Guberski talks to tour group
Lt. Megan Guberski greets a tour group about to board NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson during Connecticut’s 2014 Maritime Heritage Festival. American flags patriotically line New London train station in the background for the special event. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Abigail Winz.
Photo of Guertin, Stone, Moulton, and Johnson
From left to right, “Teacher at Sea” Dr. Laura Guertin, hydrographic survey technician Allison Stone, Ensign Stephen Moulton, and general vessel assistant James Johnson dedicated their time to spreading the word about NOAA’s hydrographic mission.