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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Saildrone launched with seafloor mapping capabilities in the Gulf of Mexico shows promise for remote Arctic mapping

Rear Adm. Shep Smith, Richard Jenkins, and Brian Connon in front of a Saildrone.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and Saildrone accomplished a key milestone in the research and testing of unmanned technology that can lead to enhanced seafloor mapping capabilities with the launch of the first Saildrone — a wind-driven and solar-powered unmanned surface vehicle (USV) — equipped with multibeam echo sounder technology in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA anticipates the success of this mission and technical achievement will lead to mapping projects in the Arctic.

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NOAA hosts 2019 Nautical Cartography Open House and Chart Adequacy Workshop

Sean Legeer shows a digital cartography display to visiting students.

Last week, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey held its third annual Nautical Cartography Open House welcoming over 250 attendees from the U.S. and abroad. Government agencies, industry and academic partners, and members of the public attended. The open house featured posters, presentations, tours, and exhibits centered around four themes: Bathymetric Databases, Custom Charting, Innovative Cartography, and Precision Navigation. Dr. Shachak Pe’eri, organizer of the event and chief of the Cartographic Support Branch in the Marine Chart Division, welcomed attendees in the morning and John Nyberg, chief of the Marine Chart Division, gave the keynote speech.

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Coast Survey spotlight: Meet Kurt Mueller

Kurt Mueller and survey technicians

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.


Kurt Mueller, physical scientist

“The hydrographic data we acquire and review adds to the scientific knowledge of the seafloor and is valuable to other agencies to simulate sea level effects on coasts, identify sensitive marine habitats, and select alternative energy sites, among many other uses.”

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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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Coast Survey spotlight: Meet Tim Wilkinson

As a navigation response team member, Tim conducts hydrographic surveys on one of several small survey vessels to help make our coastlines safer for navigation. His normal area of operation is Washington and Oregon but will be called to assist with emergency response all across the country.

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.


Tim Wilkinson, navigation response team member

“Our nation’s waterways are constantly changing and the technology we’re using to chart them is becoming increasingly more accurate. My position and my counterparts on the other teams are integral to developing accurate charts to ensure safer navigation. We also act as emergency responders to situations such as hurricanes and ship groundings.”

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