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NOAA survey ship provides new USS Monitor imagery

Data acquired during calibration testing in preparation for the 2015 survey season

Image of the USS Monitor, acquired by NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson using multibeam echo sounder on April 30, 2015.
Image of the USS Monitor, acquired by NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson using multibeam echo sounder on April 30, 2015.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, in transit to her survey project area off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, used its preparation schedule this week to assist with the management of the historic Civil War shipwreck, the USS Monitor.

Thomas Jefferson was conducting sea trials and sonar system calibrations, and they needed a deep site to perform a multibeam echo sounderpatch test.” They hit on the idea of using the Monitor site as an opportunity to share full multibeam bathymetry and side scan sonar imagery while, at the same time, calibrating the ship’s survey systems. The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary protects and preserves the remains of what has been called the most significant ship in American history, so clearance was essential prior to any survey operations.

This is the 40th anniversary year of the establishment of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.

“There was no guarantee of a successful test, given the time constraints and weather window,” explained LT Joe Carrier, the ship’s operations officer. “We needed to quickly access the Monitor’s location and depth data, ensure a clear path for our side scan sonar, and guarantee no interference with the site.”

It has been several years since the wreck was last surveyed, and so the sanctuary immediately accepted the offer, noting “the combined side scan and multibeam data will be extremely valuable to our management of the site.” Sanctuary staff assured Carrier that there were no obstructions that would prohibit a survey or endanger the equipment or the Monitor’s site.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

“The data acquired by NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson helps us manage this important site,” said David Alberg, superintendent of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, noting that the “long-standing relationship with NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operation’s fleet of ships provides valuable technological resources for the nation’s sanctuaries.”

“As we preserve the Monitor’s and Battle of Atlantic’s story, Thomas Jefferson’s imagery will help us share important historical data with the public,” Alberg said.

After finishing calibrations over the Monitor, Thomas Jefferson checked out several nearby wrecks as part of the ship’s sea trials. They arrive at their first 2015 hydrographic survey project area off the Carolina coast on Saturday, May 2. Captain Shep Smith, the ship’s commander, is planning for seven weeks of operations, with port calls in Wilmington, NC, and Charleston, SC. With the ship and her smaller boats running hydrographic operations for up to ten hours a day, the scientists and technicians will collect new depth measurements over approximately 120 square nautical miles.

NOAA's Office of Coast Survey, the nation's nautical chart maker, will use the Thomas Jefferson data to update chart 11528 and electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) US5SC25.

May 1, 2015

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