One year later – Coast Survey’s response to the Anchorage earthquake

Multibeam data acquired by eTrac in Knik Arm, offshore of Anchorage.

By Lt. Cmdr. Bart Buesseler

At 8:29, on the morning of Friday, November 30, 2018, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Anchorage, Alaska, for thirty stressful seconds. It was the largest earthquake in Anchorage since the Good Friday Quake of 1964, and brought Alaska’s most populated city to a standstill as residents evacuated buildings and came to terms with what they had just experienced.

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Coast Survey Spotlight: Meet Kolleen Mortimer

Kolleen Mortimer standing on the banks of the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a member of the NOAA Coast Survey team? We use the Coast Survey spotlight blog series as a way to periodically share the experiences of Coast Survey employees as they discuss their work, background, and advice.


Kolleen Mortimer, Physical Scientist

“Knowing the data we examine every day contributes to safe navigational products is greatly rewarding. It’s also rewarding to see the process come to life in a greater scope. When the data leaves my desk and makes it to a chart product, I can say that my work contributed to that.”

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Register for NOAA Nav-cast webinar: NOAA’s nowCOAST

Image announcing Nav-cast webinar.

UPDATE: The Nav-cast scheduled for 9/26 at 1 p.m. (EDT) is cancelled and will be rescheduled at a later date. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Join us for our next NOAA Nav-cast, a quarterly webinar series that highlights the tools and trends of NOAA navigation services.

NOAA’s nowCOAST: A one-stop-shop for coastal conditions before you head out on the water

NOAA’s nowCOAST (nowcoast.noaa.gov) — a free online interactive map viewer —provides situational awareness on present and future weather and oceanographic conditions for mariners and other coastal users by integrating data from across NOAA and regional observing systems. Users can assess present conditions by creating maps of the latest in-situ weather/marine weather observations, weather radar mosaics, cloud images from GOES weather satellites, and surface wind and sea-surface temperature analyses for the last few hours. Users can also obtain maps of critical weather/marine weather advisories, watches, and warnings, weather forecasts, tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts, and forecast guidance of water levels, water temperature, salinity, and currents from NOAA oceanographic forecast models.  Users can display these maps using the nowCOAST map viewer or by connecting to its map services. nowCOAST operates in a high-availability hosting facility and is monitored 24 x 7.

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NOAA supports safe ferry transit in Puget Sound

By Lt. j.g. Michelle Levano

If you have spent time on the water in Puget Sound, you have probably seen the large, distinct green and white vessels. These vessels move passengers, vehicles, and cargo across Puget Sound to the San Juan Islands and to Victoria, Canada, year round. They are a part of the Washington State Department of Transportation ferry system. The state has been operating ferries since 1951, and intended to run the ferry service until cross Sound bridges could be built.  These bridges were never built, and the state continues to operate the ferries to this day. As of last July, there are 22 state-operated ferries on Puget Sound, with the largest vessel able to carry 2500 passengers and 202 vehicles. 

One of these routes is a 30-minute transit from Coupeville, WA, to Port Townsend, WA, at the mouth of Puget Sound. This route carries roughly 820,000 passengers a year, and saves travelers from a five- hour drive around the Sound. n 2013 the Washington Department of Ecology and the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington installed instruments on board to measure the velocity of current at the entrance of the Sound. Due to the shallow depth of the ferry terminal at Coupeville, extreme (low) tidal conditions interrupt this ferry route up to three times a month. 

Ferry with navigation response vessel.
NRT-Seattle with the F/V Salish, one of the two ferries completing the Coupeville to Port Townsend route this summer. Credit: Adrian Biesel

NOAA’s Northwest and Pacific Islands Navigation Manager Crescent Moegling received a survey request from the Washington State Ferries in early summer of 2019 to survey this route. Following completion of a routine survey in Bellingham Bay, Navigation Response Team – Seattle (NRT-Seattle) along with augmenters Lt j.g. Joshua Fredrick, NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, and Adrian Biesel, an intern at NOAA Office of Coast Survey’s Pacific Hydrographic Branch, traveled to Oak Harbor, Washington, on August 14. After safety and familiarization briefings, NRT-Seattle got underway from the Fort Casey State Park boat ramp daily to collect multibeam data. The team completed this request on August 19.

Lt. j.g. Joshua Fredrick on trailered survey response vessel.
Lt. j.g. Joshua Fredrick following a fresh water rinse of the boat at the end of a survey day. Credit: Lt. j.g. Michelle Levano
Intern Adrian Biesel prepares the boat for daily operations by deploying the surface sound speed sensor.
Intern Adrian Biesel prepares the boat for daily operations by deploying the surface sound speed sensor. Credit: Lt. j.g. ichelle Levano

The density of the team’s data allows for confident detection of 1×1 meter objects on the seafloor. In addition to collecting information on the depth of the seafloor, the team also verified, investigated, and updated several features on the chart including but not limited to kelp beds, fog signals, and pier pilings.

NRT-Seattle truck and response vessel transiting from Mukilteo, Washington, to Clinton, Washington. Credit: Lt. j.g. Michelle Levano

Hawaiian island surveys will update nautical charts and support habitat mapping efforts

Three of Rainier’s hydrographic survey launches moored in Kahului Harbor, Maui.

By Ens. Lyle I. Robbins

For more than 50 years, NOAA Ship Rainier and its hydrographic survey launches have surveyed the Pacific seafloor. During this time, Rainier sailed thousands of miles, including the entire U.S. west coast, Alaska, and Hawaii. This year, Rainier expands on its traditional role of hydrographic survey and is supporting dive operations in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. While Rainier is sailing these remote coral atolls, the survey launches — that are usually in its davits and deployed directly from the ship — are tasked to their own surveys around the islands of Maui, Moloka’i, and O’ahu.

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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 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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