From historic air disasters to hurricane response, NOAA uses cutting edge science to survey the seafloor

NOAA ships Rude and Whiting's search limits off Martha’s Vineyard.

By Christine Burns

Hydrographic surveying continually evolves to improve safety, efficiency, and accuracy in data collection. From using side scan sonar equipment during hydrographic survey response efforts following air disasters in the late 1990s, to recent hurricane response efforts to re-open ports to maritime commerce, our science always strives to be cutting edge.

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NOAA releases 2019 hydrographic survey plans

NOAA Hydrographic Survey Projects 2019 story map cover

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is the nation’s nautical chartmaker, and maintains a suite of more than a thousand nautical charts. Coast Survey is responsible for charting U.S. waters and Great Lakes covering 3.4 million square nautical miles (SNM) of water and 95,000 miles of coastline.

NOAA’s hydrographic survey ships along with hydrographic contractor vessels, recently kicked off the 2019 hydrographic survey season. These surveys not only update the suite of nautical charts, but also help to maintain the safety of maritime commerce, recreational boaters, natural ecosystems, and much more. Operations are scheduled for maritime priority areas around the country and are outlined in Coast Survey’s “living” story map. Here is a list of where they are headed this year:

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NOAA releases new edition of nautical chart symbol guide

U.S. Chart No. 1 booklet covers

Edition 13 of U.S. Chart No. 1 is now available to download for free on Coast Survey’s website. Paper copies may also be purchased from any of four NOAA Chart No. 1 publishing agents.

This 130-page book describes the symbols, abbreviations, and terms used on paper  NOAA nautical charts and for displaying NOAA electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) data on Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS). The document also shows paper chart symbols used by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and symbols specified by the International Hydrographic Organization.

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NOAA encourages all mariners to use NOAA ENC® for latest updates and other advantages

ECDIS display on the bridge of a tanker ship.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey maintains a suite of over 1,000 NOAA electronic navigational charts (ENC) and paper nautical charts, and like many other chart producing nations, maintains an ENC focused production process called “ENC-first.” That is, ENCs are the “first” or primary nautical product, and new data is compiled onto ENCs before all other products.

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Change of command for NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

Capt. Chris van Westendorp and Cmdr. Briana Welton Hillstrom salute with Capt. Zezula looking on.

On April 12, 2019, the crew of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson hosted a change of command in Brooklyn, NY. Cmdr. Briana Welton Hillstrom accepted command of Thomas Jefferson, relieving Capt. Christiaan van Westendorp in a ceremony led by Capt. David Zezula, commanding officer of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) Marine Operations Center-Atlantic.

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U.S. Coast Pilot® now contains Coast Guard navigation rules

NOAA recently announced that all nine United States Coast Pilot®  volumes now contain the U.S. Coast Guard International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (72 COLREGS) and the Inland Navigation Rules — commonly known as the “Rules of the Road.” The navigation rules are similar to rules on the highway as they present a consistent way to navigate safely and avoid collisions. Having the newly published Coast Pilot now fulfills the legal requirement for mariners to maintain a copy of these regulations on board.

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Tankers, Freighters, and….Kayaks?

From tankers to kayaks, NOAA nautical chart products offer something for all types of users.

By Nick Perugini

It is not an exaggeration to say that ALL types of vessels use NOAA charts.  We know that large commercial ships, such as tankers and freighters, rely on NOAA charts in U.S. waters, and for that matter, so do recreational boaters. But kayakers? Some of the most enthusiastic and appreciative comments we receive are sent to us by kayakers. The following are a few examples. Continue reading “Tankers, Freighters, and….Kayaks?”

NOAA Improves Etolin Strait Data with New NOAA ENC® Layout

Etolin Strait survey area and reschemed grid

NOAA recently released 13 new large-scale electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) of Etolin Strait, Alaska. These charts provide a nearly twenty-fold increase in scale over the previous ENC coverage. New Etolin Strait hydrographic surveys and the resulting ENCs served as a pilot project for the overall rescheming of the entire NOAA ENC suite with a regular, gridded layout for ENC charts, as outlined in NOAA’s National Charting Plan. No corresponding NOAA raster nautical chart products in Etolin Strait will be produced. This is in keeping with Coast Survey’s “ENC-only” production concept, which generally maintains the current raster chart product coverage, but only creates new larger scale coverage in the ENC product line.

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NOAA announces change in channel depths on raster nautical chart products

Ships passing on the lower Mississippi River.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey recently announced plans to change the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) maintained channel depth values on raster nautical chart products, which include paper nautical charts and the corresponding digital raster navigational charts (NOAA RNC®). Minimum depths (also called controlling depths) are collected during periodic USACE sonar surveys of channels. In the past, these depths were provided on raster charts, but controlling depths will now be replaced with the original channel design dredging depths used by the USACE (called project depths). Standardizing depth presentation on these products will improve data consistency and overall safety. Implementation begins in early 2019.

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nowCOAST® offers new Gulf of Maine, Chesapeake Bay forecast services

Depiction of NOS Vv probability of occurrence forecast guidance for Chesapeake Bay on nowCOAST map viewer.

NOAA’s nowCOAST®, a GIS-based online web mapping service that provides frequently updated weather and ocean observations, analyses, imagery, and ocean model forecast guidance, along with weather watches and warnings and forecasts, now provides maps of oceanographic forecast guidance from the National Ocean Service (NOS) 3-D operational forecast modeling system for the Gulf of Maine (GoMOFS) and NOS forecast guidance of the marine pathogen, Vibrio Vulnificus (Vv), for the Chesapeake Bay via two new map services and map viewer. Continue reading “nowCOAST® offers new Gulf of Maine, Chesapeake Bay forecast services”