Capturing scenes from hydrographic surveying

NOAA Ship Rainier kayak in Holkham Bay, Alaska

There are many benefits to working on a hydrographic survey project for NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. Some would say having the opportunity to visit amazing landscapes, work with talented people, and collect important environmental data are just a few of them. Recently, Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Surveys Division hosted an internal photo contest inviting employees and contractors to submit images in the categories of Ships and Boats, Landscapes, People, and Data. On this Earth Day 2020, we thought we would share our contest winners with you.

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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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From NOAA Ship Fairweather to Mt. Fairweather: Commanding officer summits ship’s namesake

The high camp, at an elevation of 10,400 feet on the Grand Plateau Glacier.

By Cmdr. Mark Van Waes, former commanding officer of NOAA Ship Fairweather

Mount Fairweather stands tall above Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, dominating the skyline for miles around (when weather permits visibility). Only about 12 miles inshore from the Gulf of Alaska and soaring to 15,325 feet, it is one of the highest coastal peaks in the world.

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NOAA researches autonomous survey system in the Arctic

The unmanned surface vehicle BEN launched from NOAA Ship Fairweather. Photo by Christina Belton, NOAA.

By Rob Downs, Office of Coast Survey unmanned systems projects lead

A team composed of research engineers and a graduate student from the University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center (UNH CCOM/JHC) and personnel from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey are aboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather to test UNH’s BEN (Bathymetric Explorer and Navigator) unmanned surface vehicle (USV). On Saturday, July 28, the Fairweather made the first successful launch of a USV for an operational hydrographic survey from a NOAA vessel in the Arctic. The team conducted four additional deployments, including an extended overnight survey made in coordination with the ship.

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NOAA surveys the unsurveyed, leading the way in the U.S. Arctic

President Thomas Jefferson, who founded Coast Survey in 1807, commissioned Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1803, the first American expedition to cross the western portion of the contiguous United States. Today there remains a vast western America territory that is largely unknown and unexplored – the U.S. waters off the coast of Alaska. As a leader in ocean mapping, NOAA Coast Survey launches hydrographic expeditions to discover what lies underneath the waves.

Alaska is one-fifth the size of the contiguous United States, and has more than 33,000 miles of shoreline. In fact, the Alaskan coast comprises 57 percent of the United States’ navigationally significant waters and all of the United States’ Arctic territory. Alaskan and Arctic waters are largely uncharted with modern surveys, and many areas that have soundings were surveyed using early lead line technology from the time of Capt. Cook, before the region was part of the United States. Currently only 4.1 percent of the U.S. maritime Arctic has been charted to modern international navigation standards. Continue reading “NOAA surveys the unsurveyed, leading the way in the U.S. Arctic”

NOAA Ship Rainier concludes it’s 2017 survey of Deer Passage, Alaska

The total area surveyed by Rainier in the Cold Bay and King Cove Vicinity during the 2017 Field Season, complied by Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician Gahlinger.

NOAA Ship Rainier has been diligently surveying Deer Passage in the vicinity of Cold Bay and King Cove, Alaska, for the past month.

This navigationally significant area between Unga Strait and Sanak Island provides the only protected route for vessels transiting between the Gulf of Alaska, the very busy Unimak Passage, and the Bering Sea beyond. Deer Passage is heavily trafficked by fishing vessels, coastal freight traffic, and Alaska Marine Highway System ferries, and serves as an alternate route for deep-draft vessels on Trans-Pacific routes between North America and Asia. While in the area, Rainier observed particularly heavy use of the waterway by vessels engaged in local and Bering Sea fisheries, and towing vessels supporting remote Alaskan communities with barge service.

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Surveying, rescue drills, and an open house—NOAA Ship Rainier has been busy!

by ENS Michelle Levano

NOAA Ship Rainier continues hydrographic survey operations in Chiniak Bay, near Kodiak, Alaska. As of June 1, 2017, Rainier and her survey launches have surveyed 2,025 nautical miles in the Spruce Island, Long Island, Middle Bay, Kalsin Bay, Isthmus Bay, and offshore Cape Chiniak areas. The total distance surveyed is about as long as the Mississippi River. Continue reading “Surveying, rescue drills, and an open house—NOAA Ship Rainier has been busy!”

NOAA Ship Fairweather uses new technology to improve survey efficiency

Area surveyed by Fairweather May 30- June 10, 2017.
By ENS Peter Siegenthaler

Following the scheduled winter repair period, Fairweather is kicking off the 2017 field season in Tlevak Strait; the waterway between Dall Island and Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. This area was last surveyed between 1900 and 1939, and the lead-lines used at the time to determine depths were susceptible to omission of rocks and other features in an area. Using the latest innovations in hydrographic technology, Fairweather will be resurveying these areas with complete coverage multibeam echo sounder bathymetry. This allows Fairweather to identify any rocks or shoal features missed in prior surveys, increasing the safety for local communities, whose economies and livelihoods are dependent on maritime transportation of goods. Continue reading “NOAA Ship Fairweather uses new technology to improve survey efficiency”

NOAA Ship Rainier surveys the waters around Kodiak Island

by ENS Michelle Levano

Kodiak Island is the 2nd largest island in the United States; it is part of the Kodiak Island Archipelago, a group of islands roughly the size of Connecticut. Due to the island’s location in the Gulf of Alaska and North Pacific Ocean, Kodiak is ranked as third in commercial fishing ports in the U.S. in terms of value of seafood landed. In 2015, the Port of Kodiak was responsible for 514 million pounds of fish and $138 million of product. More than one-third of the jobs in Kodiak are related to the fishing industry.

The Port of Kodiak is home to more than 700 commercial fishing vessels, and has more than 650 boat slips and three commercial piers that can dock vessels up to 1,000 feet. In addition to fishing, Kodiak is the hub of the Gulf of Alaska container logistics system, serving the southwest Alaskan communities with consumer goods and outbound access to the world’s fish markets. Continue reading “NOAA Ship Rainier surveys the waters around Kodiak Island”