Coast Survey adds historical publications to online collection   5 comments

by Melissa Volkert, Coast Survey communications associate

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has added a wide range of publications to our Historical Map and Chart Collection. The collection of publications consists of annual reports, catalogs, United States Coast Pilot, Notes on the Coast, and special reports.

Collection logo

The collection contains over 35,000 documents from the earliest days of the U.S. Coast Survey.

  • Annual Reports are yearly publications, from 1837 to 1965, that detail the many scientific and technological activities of Coast Survey.
  • Aeronautical charts, U.S. nautical charts, charts of the Philippines, and the old U.S. Lake Survey charts are detailed in Catalogs.
  • The Coast Pilot collection carries two centuries of volumes, from a 1796 version of the American Coast Pilot, through the 1800s and 1900s, until the 2012 versions of the U.S. Coast Pilot.
  • Written in 1861 by the Coast Survey while Superintendent Alexander Bache served on the Blockade Strategy Board, Notes on the Coast were instrumental in the Union naval strategy during the Civil War.
  • When geodetic, hydrographic, geophysical, and oceanographic methods were hard to find in annual reports, over 400 Special Reports, issued between 1898 and 1956, made the information easier to disseminate.

These publications provide context to the tens of thousands of maps and charts in the collection. Use the “Search Images” and “Search Publications” pages to explore the historic documents.

As an example, consider the great naturalist John Muir, whose 179th birthday is this month. He was a guide and artist on the Survey of the 39th Parallel across the Great Basin of Nevada and Utah from 1874 to 1877.

One result emerges: the 1875 Annual Report. This report notes, on page 62, that John Muir recorded the geological and botanical characteristics of Mount Shasta in Northern California. A “related maps” option, showing maps and other images mentioned in the publication, will be to the left of this result. In this case, the related maps include a map titled “Sketch Showing the Progress of the Survey on the Atlantic Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Coast of the United States with Sub Sketch Showing the Progress on the Pacific Coast.” This particular map was continually updated as new areas were surveyed and discovered. 1875 was the first year that Mt. Shasta was recorded on it.

You can also use the information from an image to locate a publication. This month marks the 99th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Using Search Images on the Historical Map and Chart Collection:

Since this map is from 1907 and there are no images from 1906, assume findings after the earthquakes were not published until 1907.

  • Search publications for the Annual Report of 1907.
  • When the report is opened, use the “Ctrl+F” search function (press Ctrl & F together)
    • Type California in the search bar that appears at the top right.
    •  California will be highlighted every time it is stated in the document.

On page 67, there is a section entitled “Earth Movements in the California Earthquake of 1906.” This section ‒ that highlights new vs. old triangulation, and the permanent displacements of the areas affected ‒ states, “…the effects of the earthquake of April 18, 1906, indicated that there had been relative displacements of the earth’s surface from 2 meters (7 feet) to 6 meters (20 feet) at various points near the great fault accompanying the earthquake.”

chart 1

chart 1 Continued

The tables indicate the permanent displacements of various points caused by the earthquake of 1906. These permanent displacements were determined by comparing the positions of identical points upon the earth’s surface as determined by triangulation before and after the earthquakes in question. (Discover how the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey aided the recovery of the San Francisco earthquakes of 1906 by reading the 1907 Annual Report.)

The Historical Map and Chart Collection documents Coast Survey’s discoveries throughout history. Make your own discoveries in the collection, and let us know if you have any comments, questions, or concerns.

Coast Survey assists pilots in efforts to “see” dredging operations on laptop displays   Leave a comment

What do pilots see on the navigation laptop displays of their portable pilot units (PPUs) when they guide deep-draft ships to dock? Often, they aren’t seeing all that is actually out there in the navigation channel.

NOAA Coast Survey’s navigation manager Tim Osborn recently observed the problem when he accompanied one of the pilots from the New Orleans Baton Rouge Pilots Association in a ship transit on the Mississippi River.

Ships near dredging

This dredge is working in the Mississippi River without an AIS device, as two ships meet in the same area of the river.

As demonstrated by the pilots, some of the dredges working on the river ‒ in and adjacent to the very busy navigation channel ‒ had no automatic identification system (AIS) units onboard, so they weren’t showing up on the pilot’s navigation laptop display.

Without an AIS, dredging operations did not appear on navigation laptop. We clearly see two ships are transiting close to the operations.

Without an AIS device, dredging operations did not appear on navigation laptops, while two ships transit in the channel close to the operations.

“Many of these dredges on the river are hard to see with radar, and it’s very difficult to see them at night or in bad weather,” Osborn says. “With the Mississippi River experiencing more ship traffic and more terminals on and along the river, the risks of moving ships safely are growing each year.”

Osborn worked with the pilots and the U.S. Coast Guard in support of the Coast Guard’s new rule requiring dredges, working on and around navigation channels, to start carrying and operating AIS devices.

“This added safety measure is an example of the continuing collaboration between the nation’s pilots and NOAA Coast Survey, as we work together to improve the safety of vessels moving throughout the marine transportation system,” Osborn observes.

The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 33, 164.46, now provides that “a self-propelled vessel engaged in dredging operations in or near a commercial channel or shipping fairway in a manner likely to restrict or affect navigation of other vessels” must have an AIS Class A device on board.

Posted April 17, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in navigation managers

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Coast Survey helps scientists sharpen hydrographic skills   Leave a comment

By Lt.j.g. Eric Younkin

For four weeks in February, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey offers formal hydrographic training to newly hired survey technicians and physical scientists, using the beautiful campus at the United States Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia. This year, dozens of NOAA employees and others took the extensive training, covering everything from acoustics and statistics to the processing of hydrographic survey data within the CARIS software package.

Two dozen people attended in person. They came from a wide range of duty assignments: NOAA ships Rainier, Fairweather, Thomas Jefferson, Pisces, and Oscar Dyson; Coast Survey’s R/V Bay Hydro II, Navigation Response Team 1, and the Atlantic Hydrographic Branch; NOAA’s National Geospatial Data Center; and the Washington State Energy Office. In addition, we had “virtual” attendance from the NOAA ships as well as from the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping Center, Washington State Energy Office, and United States Coast Guard District 17.

NOAA hydro class at USCG Training Center

NOAA Hydrographic Training course at U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown, Feb. 27, 2015. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth.

During the last two weeks, we experienced a severe winter storm. The training facility and the surrounding roads and schools closed – but we still held classes, even though some of the commuting students had to join the ranks of the remote attendees.

POS MV demo

Training class participants enjoy a mobile demonstration of the POS MV.

First on the agenda, attendees received on-the-job training on board R/V Bay Hydro II, thanks to the officer-in-charge, Lt.j.g. Bart Buesseler, and physical scientist technician Rob Mowery. Students also set up a horizontal control base station, performed leveling runs, simulated shoreline feature acquisition and calibrated an Applanix POS MV system. Capt. Shep Smith, Lt. Cmdr. Olivia Hauser, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Gonsalves, physical scientist Glen Rice, and others offered their expertise on a variety of topics, including statistics and the organizational structure of Coast Survey.

Students learned about field operations and sonar theory, with classes offered by Lt. Megan Guberski from the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, physical scientist Matt Wilson from Coast Survey’s Atlantic Hydrographic Branch, and physical scientist Mashkoor Malik from Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Systems and Technology Programs. Lt.j.g. Matthew Forrest from NOAA Ship Rainier, and Keith Brkich and David Wolcott from NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services covered vertical control and tidal theory.

We also appreciated the participation from CARIS’ Josh Mode and Tami Beduhn, as they explained the CARIS processing workflow.

To cap off the training, Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of Coast Survey, talked about the future of hydrography and – importantly – awarded training completion certificates to the students.

RDML Gerd Glang awarded training completion certificates. Here, Danielle Power receives her certificate. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth.

RDML Gerd Glang awarded training completion certificates. Here, NOAA survey technician Danielle Power receives her certificate. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth.

Posted April 7, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Education

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Developing products for “precision navigation”   1 comment

Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are first up

by Capt. Richard Brennan, chief, Coast Survey Development Lab

The increased size of vessels entering U. S. ports, coupled with the diminishing margins that must be navigated with reference to the seafloor, provides NOAA with the opportunity to develop new products to support precision navigation. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are testing grounds for current product development, since developing products for these ports will allow us to examine the value of precision navigation products under actual at-sea conditions. The channel leading to the Port of Long Beach has an authorized depth of 76 feet, allowing drafts of 69 feet. A major concern for this port is high sea swell conditions that can be present when ultra large crude carriers enter port. These large swells can cause vessels to pitch, which results in a significant change in their draft.

As a point of reference, a 1,000-foot vessel pitching just 1 degree will experience a draft increase of over 10 feet. Due to these conditions, the captain of the port has limited vessel drafts to 65 feet. This may sound like no big deal, but it means that ultra-large crude carriers must wait outside of the sea buoy until conditions become favorable for them to enter or they must lighten their load to another vessel in order to reduce their draft. Both of these options are expensive delays, costing a lot of time and money.

ship clearance at 1 degree pitch

A pitch of 1 degree can significantly increase draft.

While the Office of Coast Survey is primarily focused on navigational charts, we are also working with other NOAA programs to bring all NOAA data to the mariner where it’s needed most: the ship’s bridge. We plan to expand partnerships with the commercial chart system industry and mobile app developers so we can deliver a data stream that is unified and intuitive, requiring little intervention from the mariner.

In order for this to work, soundings must be more closely spaced for a higher resolution. Along with that, each measurement must have an associated uncertainty value and some estimate of the geologic composition of the seafloor ‒ that our modern multibeam echo sounders can provide in great detail. Decidedly, the final inland electronic navigational chart product should include half-meter spaced contours and group soundings at a 25-meter radius, keeping the final electronic chart product size under the 5MB size limit. With this, as the navigation community begins to rely on – and demand – higher accuracy data, we will need more periodic surveys.

sounding and contour overlay

Close-up of the final overlay density of 25-meter radius sounding selection and half-meter contour interval

This project presents us with the opportunity to talk to the mariner about the possibilities that various NOAA data holds for navigation. To illustrate these possibilities, we will demonstrate how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A ship master has always intuitively understood the motion characteristics of their vessels, but knowing this intuitively is no longer good enough; we must know them exactly. High-resolution bathymetry is useful but, when paired with both real-time and forecast water levels, we are left with a much stronger decision support tool than either product used independently.

Chart of tidal prediction and actual observation

This chart shows the drastic fluctuation between tidal prediction and actual observation in the Port of Baltimore, February 2015.

These products should not only account for the astronomic factors (tides) affecting water levels, but also the meteorological and hydrological effects. For example, in February 2015, the Port of Baltimore saw a four-and-a-half foot, non-tidal water level variation in 19 hours due to the passage of a strong winter frontal system. In a wide, shallow embayment such as this, it is not uncommon for strong meteorological fronts to drive significant non-tidal water level fluctuations. The mariner must be able to account for these kinds of factors.

The NOAA products under development will encourage industry to lean forward into this new technology, and provide a vehicle to engage the mariner in a discussion about the possibilities of high-resolution data fusion for precision navigation. Whether it is a high-current situation, planning a passage, or laying out the approach to anchorage, the mariner will have all this data at their disposal to assist them with any navigation issues that may surface. With this data, the mariner has the information needed to make the best possible decision.

Coast Survey announces plans for 2015 NOAA survey projects   1 comment

In 2015, NOAA survey ships Thomas Jefferson and Ferdinand R. Hassler are scheduled to survey nearly 1,800 square nautical miles in the U.S. coastal waters of the lower 48 states, collecting data that will update nautical charts for navigation and other uses. In Alaska, NOAA ships Fairweather and Rainier will increase their Arctic operations, planning to acquire 12,000 nautical miles of “trackline” depth measurements of the U.S. Coast Guard’s proposed shipping route. (See this NOAA article.) The ships will also conduct several “full bottom” hydrographic survey projects, acquiring data from over 2,800 square nautical miles in survey areas along the Alaskan coastline.

We are also planning several projects for our contractual private sector survey partners, and those projects will be announced after work orders are finalized.

The Office of Coast Survey will manage the surveys that measure water depths and collect ocean floor data for charting, identifying navigational hazards, informing wind farm decisions, mapping fish habitats, and assisting with coastal resilience. Check the useful story map, 2015 Hydrographic Survey projects, for the survey outlines and more information. Coast Survey will update the map as weather and operational constraints dictate.

2015 survey plan outlines

See the story map for all 2015 in-house projects.

Briefly, this year’s NOAA survey projects include:

1. Gulf of Maine, where chart soundings in heavily trafficked and fished areas are decades old and need updating for navigational safety

2. Buzzards Bay (Massachusetts and Rhode Island), where increased use of deeper-draft double-hull barges – and possible installation of marine transmission cable routes and wind energy development — requires updated soundings

3. Rhode Island Sound, where the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has identified a wind energy lease area

4. Approaches to Chesapeake (North Carolina), where charts of critical navigational areas need updating for navigation and to assist the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management manage windfarm activity.

5. Approaches to Charleston (South Carolina), where updated soundings will provide the correct under-keel clearance information for the expected transit of larger and deeper-draft ships

6. Approaches to Savannah (Georgia), where the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will increase the authorized depth of the harbor from 42 to 47 feet and updated soundings will provide the correct under-keel clearance information for the expected transit of larger and deeper-draft ships

7. Chatham Strait (Alaska), where charts need to be updated for cruise liners, ferries, Coast Guard cutters, Navy vessels, tugs, and barges that use this waterway on a regular basis or when avoiding storms in the Gulf of Alaska

8. Approaches to Kotzebue (Alaska), where deep-draft vessels have their cargo lightered to shore by shallow draft barges

9. Point Hope (Alaska), where shipping traffic is increasing due to receding ice but charted soundings are sparse and date back to the 1960s

10. West Prince of Wales Island (Alaska), where updated charts are needed by smaller vessels that use Televak Narrows as an alternate passage during foul weather

11. Shumagin Islands (Alaska), where Coast Survey needs data to create a new, larger scale, nautical chart

12. Port Clarence (Alaska), where Coast Survey needs data to create a new, larger scale, nautical chart

13. South Arctic Reconnaissance Route, where trackline data will assist consideration of the U.S. Coast Guard’s proposed Bering Strait Port Access Route Study

14. North Coast of Kodiak Island (Alaska), where we need to update charts for Kodiak’s large fishing fleet and increasing levels of passenger vessel traffic

Explore once, use many times   1 comment

This post is adapted from a poster at the U.S. Hydro 2015 conference, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Pilot project shows nautical charting applications using NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer data

James J. Miller and Tyanne Faulkes, physical scientists, NOAA Office of Coast Survey, Atlantic Hydrographic Branch
Lindsay McKenna, physical scientist, ERT Inc. contractor with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Mapping is the foundation of ocean exploration and marine spatial planning. In its mission to explore and broaden our knowledge of the oceans, the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer has collected high-resolution multibeam data as an integral part of its operations around the globe. Since 2013, the Office of Coast Survey has collaborated with the Okeanos Explorer during their expeditions, to improve hydrographic acquisition and processing methods and expand multibeam coverage in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. The resulting bathymetry has supported a diverse array of oceanic research and contributed to the protection of ecologically critical habitats in U.S. waters.

A new initiative between the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and Coast Survey has opened the door to further maximizing the data’s usefulness. In alignment with NOAA’s integrated ocean and coastal mapping program’s philosophy of “map once, use many times,” this pilot project will integrate Okeanos Explorer multibeam data from the Gulf of Mexico into NOAA’s nautical chart update pipeline, and will expand in the future to incorporate data from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Pilot Project

Two surveys were identified during the Okeanos Explorer’s 2014 field season for a pilot project.

OE Survey W00286The focus of expedition EX1402L1 (Survey W00286) was to test the vessel’s operational equipment and map the Florida Escarpment west of the Florida Keys.

OE Survey W00285The primary goal of expedition EX1402L2 (Survey W00285) was to map the region southwest of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and provide details to the scientific community about biological habitats in the area.

Office of Coast Survey personnel provided field support and assisted with data analysis and documentation during these expeditions. Although it was not the original intent of these two surveys, Coast Survey assessed the data to determine whether it would improve the nautical charts in the project area. The source diagrams for the affected charts (11340, 11420, 11006, and 11013) showed that the sparsely charted soundings were based on partial coverage surveys dating from pre-1900 to 1939. In contrast, the Okeanos Explorer used a modern multibeam echo sounder (Kongsberg EM302) to acquire data with nearly complete coverage. Further analysis indicated that the Okeanos Explorer soundings were generally shallower than the charted soundings, in some instances by greater than 500 meters.

Once it was demonstrated that the Okeanos Explorer’s multibeam bathymetry would significantly improve the charts, the Atlantic Hydrographic Branch incorporated the data into Coast Survey’s chart update pipeline. Branch personnel have applied uncertainty to the data, created CUBE surfaces, written descriptive reports to document the acquisition and processing methods, and conducted a survey acceptance review to ensure that the data meets the relevant NOAA specifications for nautical charting. Coast Survey is currently compiling the data to update the affected charts.

Remaining Challenges

The various sources of the Okeanos Explorer’s vertical uncertainty need to be better accounted for within the CARIS total propagated uncertainty computation. These include tide uncertainty and sound velocity corrections (expendable bathythermographs).

In addition to the surveys already being evaluated, there is an additional 60,000 square nautical miles of Okeanos Explorer data along the Pacific Coast and Hawaii that can potentially be used for nautical charting.

Beyond the pilot: applying more Okeanos Explorer data to charts

The Atlantic Hydrographic Branch is evaluating Okeanos Explorer data that covers over 62,000 square nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. (The surveyed area is larger than the land area of Kansas!) Coast Survey would like to use the data to update over 30 nautical charts.

Atlantic Hydrographic Branch’s physical scientists will continue to collaborate with the Okeanos Explorer and the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research to provide support, improve data acquisition and processing methods, and transfer data from the ship for chart compilation.

About the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

Commissioned in August 2008, the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is the nation’s only federal vessel dedicated to ocean exploration. With 95% of the world’s oceans left unexplored, the ship’s unique combination of scientific and technological tools positions it to explore new areas of our largely unknown ocean. These explorations will generate scientific questions leading to further scientific inquiries.

Through the Okeanos Explorer Program, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research provides the nation with important capabilities to discover and investigate new ocean areas and phenomena, conduct the basic research required to document discoveries, and seamlessly disseminate data and information-rich products to a multitude of users. The program strives to develop technological solutions and innovative applications to critical problems in undersea exploration and to provide resources for developing, testing, and transitioning solutions to meet these needs.

NOAA hydro officers honored   Leave a comment

Each year, the NOAA Association of Commissioned Officers recognizes NOAA Corps officers for their extraordinary accomplishments and contributions. This year, three of the four awards went to officers supporting Coast Survey’s hydrographic program. Congratulations to the officers honored with Junior Officer of the Year, Engineering, and Science awards. Coast Survey applauds your accomplishments!

Megan Guberski

Lt. Megan Guberski, NOAA

Lieutenant Megan Guberski was awarded the “Junior Officer of the Year” award for her outstanding performance as operations officer on the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. Lt. Guberski successfully submitted 13 hydrographic projects, ensuring mariners received critical safety of navigation data in a timely manner. Undeterred by challenges outside of her control, she developed a creative staffing and logistics plan to ensure Thomas Jefferson continued its primary data acquisition mission with survey launches even when the ship lost days at sea. This added over 390 acquisition hours, which would have otherwise gone unrealized. Lt. Guberski also made certain that data processing and survey delivery was not delayed due to server shutdown during drydock, by managing the move of the data servers, survey department, and part of the wardroom into Coast Survey’s Atlantic Hydrographic Branch to continue hydrographic data processing. Finally, Lt. Guberski seamlessly stepped into the role of acting executive officer with less than 24 hours notice, managing all aspects of the ship budget, personnel, and logistics in addition to her primary duties.

Lt. Cmdr. Briana Welton

Lt. Cmdr. Briana Welton

Lieutenant Commander Briana Welton was awarded the “Science Award” for her thesis work “A Field Method for Backscatter Calibration Applied to NOAA’s Reson 7125 Multibeam Echo-Sounder.” Seafloor acoustic backscatter is a valuable measurement for characterizing the marine environment and has been used in such diverse fields as geology, habitat mapping, and marine construction. Lt. Cmdr. Welton’s contribution to this field allows a more seamless integration of multi-sensor data sets and improves the utility of the environmental mapping data acquired by NOAA’s fleet.

Lt.j.g. Eric Younkin, NOAA

Lt.j.g. Eric Younkin, NOAA

Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Eric Younkin was awarded an “Engineering Award” for his innovative and comprehensive analysis, design, and implementation of shipboard data management infrastructure, including remote processing, data archival, and network optimization. This resulted in government cost savings of over $400K while improving performance and maintaining data integrity.

Job well done!


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