The U.S. has over three million square nautical miles of coastal ocean floor in a constant state of change. Constantly surveying that seabed, to maintain safe navigation and protect coastal areas, is a huge challenge. Charts for some areas still rely on water depth measurements taken 70 years ago – or even earlier. Fortunately, a new vessel is a major step closer to helping NOAA meet the challenges.
NOAA's newest ocean and coastal mapping vessel, Ferdinand R Hassler, was lowered into the water in Moss Point, Mississippi, on September 19. After a winter of customizing with hydrographic equipment, Hassler will be ready for action in early 2010.
Named after one of history's greatest surveyors and first superintendent of Coast Survey, Hassler will collect hydrographic data used to update NOAA's suite of nautical charts --"road maps" for mariners. Hassler will also collect additional data to support federal, state, and local efforts in habitat characterization and in coastal and marine planning.
Hassler will be homeported in New Hampshire. She joins three large survey ships, a Chesapeake Bay research vessel, and six navigation response teams in charting America's oceans coasts and the Great Lakes. Together, the crews support a marine transportation system that contributes billions of dollars annually to the nation’s economy. The survey data also provides an essential foundation in the global discussion over climate change mitigation and adaption.