New data will update nautical charts around the country
As sure as spring arrives, NOAA vessels and independent contractors are hitting the seas for the nation’s 182nd hydrographic surveying season, collecting data for over two thousand square nautical miles in high-traffic U.S. coastal waters.
NOAA Ship Ferdinand Hassler heads out to survey.
“Nautical charts are the foundation for the nation’s maritime economy, and NOAA hydrographers spend months at sea, surveying critical areas to ensure safe navigation for the shipping, fishing, and boating communities,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of the Office of Coast Survey.
“Spring is the traditional beginning of the survey season,” Glang explained. “After a winter of data processing, ship maintenance, and personnel refresher training, the NOAA survey ships and Coast Survey navigation response teams are anxious to get to their survey assignments.”
U.S. waters cover 3.4 million square nautical miles, including a seafloor that is constantly changing due to storms, erosion, and development. To keep the nation’s suite of over a thousand nautical charts up to date, the Office of Coast Survey annually plans hydrographic survey projects to measure water depths and identify new navigational hazards. Survey planners consider requests by marine pilots, port authorities, the Coast Guard, the boating community and others when setting the year’s schedule.
Planned 2016 survey projects
- Penobscot Bay, Maine, most of which hasn’t been surveyed since the 1950s, will get its first modern NOAA multibeam echo sounder survey, to acquire data for needed chart updates.
- Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, is the subject of a multiyear project for updating charts. 2016 is the third year, and the survey ship will validate U.S. Geological Survey interferometric survey data for charting, and will align with NOAA’s Remote Sensing Division lidar data.
- Chesapeake Bay is also the subject of a multiyear survey project for updating charts. NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler will work offshore, while launches from NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson will survey in the vicinity of Hampton Roads concurrent to the ship’s maintenance period in drydock.
- Wilmington, North Carolina, survey project will support the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study.
- Savannah, Georgia, needs hydrographic survey data for the port deepening project in preparation for post-Panamax ships.
- Sabine, Louisiana, will have a continuation of last year’s project to survey part of the approaches to Port Arthur and Calcasieu.
- Atchafalaya, Louisiana, will have a continuation of last year’s project to survey part of the approaches to Morgan City.
- Approaches to SW Pass, Louisiana, will be surveyed at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, to provide new chart data for consideration of a proposed anchorage area near Port Fourchon.
- Chandeleur Sound, Mississippi, will have surveys to acquire critical updates since Hurricane Katrina.
- Yukon River, Alaska, will be partially surveyed to validate a new charting approach using satellite-derived bathymetry.
- Etolin Strait, Alaska, will also validate satellite-derived bathymetry data, as well as establish a survey corridor between Nunivak Island and mainland Alaska. This project will provide data for some of the new charts identified in the U.S. Arctic Nautical Charting Plan.
- Dutch Harbor, Alaska, will benefit from a shore-based survey operation simultaneous with a NOAA Fishpac project, as the ship’s smaller launches will acquire more data at the site of the 2015 M/V Fennica grounding.
- Kodiak Island, Alaska, will have another year of a multi-year surveying campaign in this critical area for increasing fishing and tourism.
- Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, needs updated survey data to improve charts to Tlevak Strait, expanding to Sukkwan Strait and Howkan Narrows.
- Behm Canal, Alaska, will get its third (and final) year of survey work to circumnavigate Revillagigedo Island as well as George and Carol Inlet, Alaska.
The surveys will be conducted by NOAA’s four dedicated survey ships ‒ Thomas Jefferson, Ferdinand Hassler, Rainier, and Fairweather ‒ and private companies that survey on a contract basis with NOAA. The NOAA ships are operated and maintained by the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, with hydrographic survey projects managed by the Office of Coast Survey.
The schedule for Coast Survey’s navigation response teams (NRTs), 3-person boats that work closer in shore to acquire data for nautical chart updates, was announced earlier.
As a responsible boater, you examine your nautical chart before sailing, determined to avoid problems during a nice trip along the coast. Charts are packed with symbols and abbreviations, so you might refer to the free copy of U.S. Chart No. 1, which lists all of the symbols used on NOAA nautical charts. It is an excellent quick reference for identifying unfamiliar symbols.
However, sometimes mariners need a deeper understanding…
Coast Survey is now providing additional information about complex or particularly confusing chart symbols to augment what is available in U.S. Chart No. 1. The first two tip sheets are available now. Coast Survey will add more chart symbology tip sheets to the U.S. Chart No. 1 webpage as the need arises.
Understanding NOAA chart symbology
Fish havens: The typical U.S. Chart No. 1 entry, such as this one for fish haven, lists only the name and the symbols. The tip sheet explains what fish havens are, what they look like in context with other charted features, and what restrictions may apply to them.
Anchorages and harbors of refuge: The anchor symbol has been used for decades to represent an anchorage on U.S. nautical charts, but the specific meaning of the symbol has evolved over the years. The tip sheet explains what the symbol means now – and, perhaps more importantly, what it doesn’t mean.
Questions or suggestions? Email USChart1@noaa.gov.
The Office of Coast Survey dates from 1807, when much of the commerce between the states was by coastal shipping. And all foreign trade, especially critical to our prosperity, had to come by ship. With so many ships coming into our ports and harbors, shipwrecks were common, and it was clear the young maritime nation needed accurate nautical charts.
NINTH CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
At the Second Session,
Begun and held at the city of Washington, in the territory of Columbia,
on Monday the first of December, one thousand eight
hundred and six.
AN ACT to provide for surveying the coasts of the United States.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that the president of the United States shall be, and he is hereby authorized and requested, to cause a survey to be taken of the coasts of the United States, in which shall be designated the islands and shoals, with the roads or places of anchorage, within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States; and also the respective courses and distances between the principal capes, or head lands, together with such other matters as he may deem proper for completing an accurate chart of every part of the coasts within the extent aforesaid.
Sec.2. And be it further enacted, that it shall be lawful for the president of the United States, to cause such examinations and observations to be made, with respect to St. George’s bank, and any other bank or shoal, and the soundings and currents beyond the distance aforesaid to the gulph stream, as in his opinion may be especially subservient to the commercial interests of the United States.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted that the president of the United States shall be, and he is hereby authorized and requested, for any of the purposes aforesaid, to cause proper and intelligent persons to be employed, and also such of the public vessels in actual services, as he may judge expedient, and to give such instructions for regulating their conduct as to him may appear proper, according to the tenor of this act.
Sec. 4. And be further enacted, that for carrying this act into effect there shall be, and hereby is appropriated, a sum not exceeding fifty thousand dollars, to be paid out of any monies in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.
[signed] Nathan Macon, Speaker of the House of Representative
[signed] Geo. Clinton, Vice President of the United States, and President of the Senate
I certify that this act did originate in the House of Representatives.
[signed] John Beckley, Clerk
February 10, 1807
[signed] Thomas Jefferson
See the NOAA library for more resources on Coast Survey heritage
NOAA runs operational forecast modeling systems that provide users with forecast guidance of water levels, currents, and water temperatures for the next 60 hours. The Extratropical Surge and Tide Operational Forecast System (ESTOFS), a storm surge model developed by Coast Survey in 2012, is a vital source of information for forecasting coastal flood events during this weekend’s blizzard.
See the ESTOFS output here, or check nowCOAST for model output integrated with other data.
ESTOFS storm surge forecast guidance valid 2 p.m. EST Jan. 23, overlaid with National Weather Service surface wind forecast (depicted using curved wind barbs)
ESTOFS storm surge forecast guidance valid 1 p.m. EST Jan 23, for New Jersey coast, overlaid on NOAA’s nautical chart
These kids had a great time getting their hands on science at last year’s Open House.
Explore your world and learn how NOAA takes the pulse of the planet every day and protects and manages ocean and coastal resources. Join us on NOAA’s Silver Spring, Maryland, campus for a series of free activities, including engaging talks by NOAA experts, interactive exhibits, special tours, and hands-on activities for ages 5 and up. Meet and talk with cartographers, scientists, weather forecasters, hurricane hunters, and others who work to understand our environment, protect life and property, and conserve and protect natural resources. Learn some of Coast Survey’s heritage and see a historic printing press that we actually used to print charts in the 1800s.
Visit www.noaa.gov/openhouse for details or call 240-533-0710 for more information.
Saturday, February 6
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Located near Silver Spring Metro Station
Public parking available
Free and open to the public
Note: A government-issued photo ID is required for adults. Check www.noaa.gov/openhouse for a list of acceptable forms of ID.