Mariners have navigated the Chesapeake Bay since before the U.S. officially became a nation. In addition to its role as an ecological treasure, the Bay is a major transportation artery of the United States, containing some of the country’s busiest seaports.
Commercial shippers and recreational boaters use NOAA’s up to date navigational information in their efforts to avoid accidents and to ensure efficient transit. To supply that need, NOAA relies on its newest research vessel – Bay Hydro II – to scan the seafloor, identify navigation hazards, and to collect data that informs NOAA’s nautical charts and other mariner tools.
Searching the Bay’s bottom
If human eyes could see the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, they would find historic shipwrecks, fish habitats, and other wonders. Equipped with state-of-the-art hydrographic sonar technology that calculates water depths, Bay Hydro II locates sunken wrecks and debris, and characterizes the shape of an ever-changing seafloor.
Keeping the Bay open for business
At sea, accidents and natural disasters often occur with little or no advance warning. The Bay Hydro II serves as a navigation response unit, looking for submerged hazards near port entrances and critical shipping routes following an emergency. Delays in shipping can cost the economy billions of dollars and prevent supply delivery to hard-hit regions, so decisions to resume operations need to be made quickly – and safely. Bay area officials rely on NOAA’s data to make those essential decisions about resuming shipping operations.
Testing new technology
Before the development of “echo sounding” technology, early American surveyors used ropes and hand held lead weights to survey the Chesapeake Bay. Today, the Bay Hydro II is NOAA’s primary platform to test and evaluate new hydrographic survey technologies. One technology tested is the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) – a torpedo-shaped robot programmed to guide itself through the water and collect seafloor data. The AUV can multiply the amount of data NOAA’s survey fleet collects.
Providing critical information
Coastal managers, engineers, biologists, planners, and policymakers use the hydrographic data collected by Bay Hydro II to understand the formation and habitats of the Chesapeake. With this information, they are better equipped to make decisions about today’s critical issues, such as managing fisheries, regulating coastal development, and assessing coastal resources.
Are you interested in seeing the new vessel, meeting the crew, and checking out the survey equipment? To invite the Bay Hydro II to your event, please e-mail email@example.com.