The Great Lakes are getting a digital upgrade

Screenshot of an ENC for the Pelee Passage Southeast Shoal.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey collaborated with U.S. and Canadian mariners, the Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA), and the Canadian Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) to update the Recommend Courses in Lake Erie and transfer them from paper charts to NOAA electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®). This bi-national effort involved compiling and updating information for Lake Erie’s 75 routes which span both U.S. and Canadian waters. These routes cover 20 NOAA and five Canadian ENCs.

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NOAA ship readies for historic deployment to the Western Pacific to map the oceans

NOAA Ship Rainier in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

In three weeks, NOAA Ship Rainier will depart on the farthest journey of its 52-year history as it embarks on a multidisciplinary mapping trip to the Western Pacific. Rainier and a diverse team of scientists on board will map the waters from shore to almost 2000 meters deep around Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands including Saipan, Rota, and Tinian. The data and observations collected will support safe navigation, coral habitat and fisheries conservation, and storm surge and tsunamis modeling. The data will also be made available to those at the local level and contribute to the larger national and global initiatives regarding comprehensive seafloor mapping.

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NOAA releases 2020 hydrographic survey season plans

NOAA 2020 Hydrographic Survey Season Story Map Cover

NOAA hydrographic survey ships and contractors are preparing for the 2020 hydrographic survey season. The ships collect bathymetric data (i.e. map the seafloor) to support nautical charting, modeling, and research, but also collect other environmental data to support a variety of ecosystem sciences. NOAA considers hydrographic survey requests from stakeholders such as marine pilots, local port authorities, the Coast Guard, and the boating community, and also consider other hydrographic  and NOAA science priorities in determining where to survey and when. Visit our “living” story map to find out more about our mapping projects and if a hydrographic vessel will be in your area this year!

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Register for NOAA Nav-cast webinar: How to obtain NOAA ENC-based paper nautical charts

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

How to obtain NOAA ENC-based paper nautical charts after NOAA ends production of traditional paper charts

Recently, NOAA announced the start of a five-year process to end traditional paper nautical chart production.  While NOAA is sunsetting its traditional nautical chart products, it is undertaking a major effort to improve the data consistency and provide larger scale coverage within its electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) product suite. Over the next five years, NOAA will work to ease the transition to ENC-based products, such as providing access to paper chart products based on ENC data. The online NOAA Custom Chart prototype application enables users to create their own charts from the latest NOAA ENC data. Users may define the scale and paper size of custom-made nautical charts centered on a position of their choosing. Users may then download, view, and print the output. The application is an easy way to create a paper or digital backup for electronic chart systems.

This webcast will provide an overview of the sunsetting process and a live demonstration of the NOAA Custom Chart prototype, including a discussion of the improvements that are planned for the prototype.

Date and time: Thursday, January 9, 2020, at 2 p.m. (EST)
How to register:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7410207397804043779

Coast Survey Spotlight: Meet Rick Powell


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.


Rick Powell, cartographer

“The Coast Pilot is a supplement to the chart, and eventually the electronic navigational chart… This helps ensure that our knowledge of the subject is transferred to the navigator/mariners with little effort.”

Rick and Julia Powell in Shanghai, China.
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NOAA Ship Rainier returns to survey the Hawaiian coast, provides update on lava flow development

Rainier collects multibeam sonar data along Puna Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii.

By Ens. Harper Umfress

NOAA Ship Rainier’s four-decade tropical sonar silence is over and Hawaiian hydrography is back! The 2019 field season was productive, challenging, and geographically diverse. After starting the season with traditional hydrographic surveys in Alaska, Rainier was re-tasked to support science diving operations in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument that surrounds the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Though the primary purpose of this dispatch was to support coral reef research, the world’s most productive coastal hydrographic survey platform would have been remiss to forego this opportunity to ping new waters.

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NOAA seeks public comment on ending production of traditional paper nautical charts

NOAA cartographers review a traditional printed nautical chart.

NOAA is initiating a five-year process to end all traditional paper nautical chart production and is seeking the public’s feedback via a Federal Register Notice published on November 15, 2019. Chart users, companies that provide products and services based on NOAA raster and electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) products, and other stakeholders can help shape the manner and timing in which the product sunsetting process will proceed. Comments may be submitted through NOAA’s online ASSIST feedback tool.

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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