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NOAA deploys survey ships for Arctic charting projects
NOAA ships Rainier and Fairweather will depart Kodiak, Alaska, to begin a summer of hydrographic surveying projects in the Arctic.
NOAA ships Rainier and Fairweather will depart Kodiak, Alaska, to begin a summer of hydrographic surveying projects in the Arctic.

In anticipation of growing vessel traffic in the Arctic, Coast Survey is increasing its charting services to help ensure navigation safety. This week, NOAA ships Rainier and Fairweather will depart Kodiak, Alaska, to begin a summer of hydrographic surveying projects in the Arctic. Coast Survey will use the surveys, which will measure ocean depths and search for dangers to navigation, to update nautical charts for Alaska’s waters.

This summer’s projects were the focus of a deployment ceremony in Kodiak today, attended by federal, state, and local dignitaries. The ceremony featured a performance by the Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers and a color guard from the U.S. Coast Guard.

"Most Arctic waters that are charted were surveyed with obsolete technology, with some of the information dating back to the 1800s, before the region was part of the United States," Vice Admiral Michael S. Devany, NOAA deputy under secretary for operations, told more than a hundred of the ships' crew members. "Your work this summer is a crucial start to our determination to make the Arctic seas safer for years to come."

For this year’s Arctic survey projects, the NOAA ships will collect new charting data for Port Clarence, approaches to Kotzebue, and Point Hope. The ships will also survey the seafloor as they transit to and from the project areas, collecting data along a potential Arctic shipping route from Unimak Island to the Chukchi Sea, as proposed in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Port Access Route Study for the region.

The Arctic projects are in addition to the ships’ non-Arctic Alaskan survey projects for Chatham Strait, Shumagin Islands, Kodiak, and west Prince of Wales Island.

Altogether, NOAA’s hydrographic project areas for Alaska cover 2,800 square nautical miles, plus the 12,000 linear nautical miles for the shipping route project.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, which manages the survey projects and creates the nation’s nautical charts, will also manage a survey project conducted by TerraSond under a federal contract. The private company will collect charting data and check for shoaling in waters adjacent to Cape Prince of Wales.

Coast Survey will use the data collected by the NOAA ships and TerraSond, as well as depth measurements taken by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, to update its navigational charts, as laid out in NOAA’s Arctic Nautical Charting Plan. The NOAA-led Arctic marine corridor project will also provide information to help the Coast Guard assess the safety of the proposed route.

June 8, 2015

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