Office of Coast Survey
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

April 10, 2019

Hi There,

My name is Cmdr. Briana Welton Hillstrom, the very recent former chief of the Hydrographic Surveys Division's (HSD) Atlantic Hydrographic Branch (AHB) in Norfolk, VA, and soon-to-be commanding officer of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. My last day at AHB was Friday, and as I cleaned out my desk and turned over the reins to acting chief Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Wartick, I reflected on the changes that HSD and Coast Survey have undergone in the last few years in how we acquire, assess, and chart bathymetry, as well as what NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson’s role is and will be within the perennial yet ever-evolving ocean mapping community.

My time at AHB has been marked by the rise in review and use of externally source data, the end of HCell production, and the [re]birth of the bathymetric database, National Bathymetric Source (NBS) — all in the name of efficiently and intelligently ensuring the best available bathymetry in its best possible form is available to chart for safe and precise navigation. All of this has been facilitated by automation.

Automation only works when you have the right information, so the sooner the right information is assembled in the right form, the easier automation becomes downstream. Automation has and will play a key role in similar changes at sea, from determining where we survey to begin with, all the way to data acquisition and processing, to quality control and delivery.

The authority, responsibility, and accountability of command at sea is great, and is the single prominent pinnacle of a sea service member’s career. And as a career hydrographer, to be the commanding officer of an ocean mapping platform is even sweeter. So as I transition from land back to sea, I look forward to the day when the two shall proverbially meet, when data from NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson go directly and seamlessly into NBS for integration and deconfliction with all adjacent and previously acquired data for automatic chart application.

Until then,

Cmdr. Briana Welton Hillstrom

Atlantic Hydrographic Branch staff