Coast Survey helps communities prepare for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season   1 comment

June 1 marks the beginning of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. Although NOAA projects it to be a below normal season, it doesn’t mean coastal areas will have it easy. In the wake of a hurricane, Coast Survey plays a critical role in NOAA’s response efforts. But what about before the storm? In addition to building relationships and coordinating emergency response capabilities with agencies such as  U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and port authorities, Coast Survey focuses on local community preparedness meetings and outreach events throughout the month of May.

Recently, Coast Survey’s navigation manager for the central Gulf Coast, in partnership with The National Weather Service Lake Charles and the Port of Morgan City, Louisiana, conducted public preparedness forums in Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Morgan City. One meeting featured U.S. Representative Charles W. Boustany, Jr., as the speaker. Approximately 90 people attended, including the congressman’s constituents, and local, state, and federal agencies and responders. The information provided was of vital interest given the upcoming start of hurricane season and the 10th anniversary of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“As the 10th anniversary for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita approach, our coastal region is reminded of the need to be ever-ready for storms of every category,” said Joan Finley, district director for Rep. Boustany. “Our office appreciates the working relationship we have with NOAA, is reassured by the expertise of those working for NOAA, and is always available to provide assistance to ensure NOAA carries out its mission.”

Public preparedness meeting at Port Morgan City, Louisiana.

Public preparedness meeting at Port Morgan City, Louisiana.

Over on the southeast Atlantic coast, Coast Survey’s navigation response team 2 participated in the hurricane awareness tour when it stopped in St. Augustine, Florida. This outreach event provided Coast Survey the opportunity to communicate to the public, school children, and local dignitaries about its role in hurricane response.

Kyle Ward is ready to greet the crowd during the Hurricane Awareness Tour in St. Augustine, Florida.

Kyle Ward sits alongside the NRT2 vessel and is ready to greet the crowd during the Hurricane Awareness Tour in St. Augustine, Florida.

During the outreach event, the navigation response team gave tours of the vessel and answered questions from the public. Students visited the booth, listened to a brief about Coast Survey, and received “honorary junior hydrographer” stickers to remind them of Coast Survey’s important mission.

Coast Survey’s navigation managers and response teams have spread awareness and helped communities prepare for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. At the start of the season, we may not know exactly when and where a hurricane will strike or how extensive the damage will be, but we are aware of the threat and are prepared to respond.

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

All aboard! NOAA’s Bay Hydro II opens its doors to the public at the Port of Baltimore’s National Maritime Day Event   Leave a comment

What better way to recognize National Maritime Day than to spend a day at the Port of Baltimore talking with the public about NOAA’s hydrographic survey work.  Coast Survey’s research vessel Bay Hydro II, moored at pier 13 Canton Marine Terminal across from the NS Savannah, participated in the Port of Baltimore’s National Maritime Day celebration on Sunday, May 17.

A great cross-section of visitors came on board throughout the day. From students and families with small children to retired Navy sonar operators, there was no shortage of enthusiastic people to talk to.

“I was really impressed that so many people made the trek all the way out to the industrial sector in order to see the event.” said, Lt.j.g. Bart Buesseler, the vessel’s officer in charge. “You could look out from the pier and see container ships loading and unloading, and activity happening all around. We weren’t sure what to expect going in, but were very happy we made the trip. It was great!”

By the end of the day, over 215 people came aboard the Bay Hydro II. A great turnout for a quick visit to Charm City.

Matt Carter, Survey Technician,  answers questions about surveying and charting aboard the Bay Hydro II.

Matt Carter, survey technician, answers questions about surveying and charting aboard the Bay Hydro II.

Lt.j.g. Bart Buesseler, the Officer in Charge of Bay Hydro II, answers questions along side Bay Hydro II during the Port of Baltimore's National Maritime Day event.

Lt.j.g. Bart Buesseler answers questions alongside Bay Hydro II during the Port of Baltimore’s National Maritime Day event.

Posted May 19, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Coast Survey improves the U.S. Coast Pilot by providing geotags   1 comment

The U.S. Coast Pilot, the supplement to raster navigational charts (NOAA RNC®) and electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®), now provides geotagged reference points. A geotag is simply geographical location information assigned to a type of media. In this case, a geotag conveniently assists mariners with landmark positions and displays the associated nautical chart inset in the HTML version of Coast Pilot. Currently, 75 percent of the nine Coast Pilot volumes have been geotagged, with more points available each week to the mariner. Coast Pilot is updated and available for download weekly, and can easily be used on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. To access the geotags, select a Coast Pilot book and click the HTML hyperlink adjacent to each individual chapter of the book.

Access to the HTML version of Coast Pilot, where the geotags are located, can be found within each Coast Pilot Book webpage.  This image shows the location of the HTML link for Coast Pilot Book 2.

Access to the HTML version of Coast Pilot, where the geotags are located, can be found within each Coast Pilot Book webpage. This image shows the location of the HTML link for Coast Pilot Book 2.

Geotagged places will appear in bold green within the HTML version of the chapters.

Portion of the HTML Coast Pilot chapter and geotagged features in bold green.

Portion of the HTML Coast Pilot 2 (Chapter 4) and geotagged features in bold green.

Clicking on a geotag will prompt a small window with an appropriate interactive chart (RNC or ENC) along with a blue dot indicating the geotagged point with its latitude and longitude.

Chartlet with geotagged feature (includes zooming capabilities).

Chartlet with geotagged feature (includes zooming capabilities)

Also conveniently available to the mariner in the HTML version of Coast Pilot is the Code of Federal Regulations (text highlighted in dark blue) and the entire nautical chart (chart heading of each paragraph in royal blue). The geotagged Coast Pilot project is a collaborative effort between Coast Survey and the USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). The GNIS is the official database of geographic names used by the federal government as well as information regarding specific geographical positions. As digital cartography evolves, having geotagged products opens up the door for potential future uses.

Posted May 7, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in U.S. Coast Pilot

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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.


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