Deep fiords and hydrographic history in Glacier Bay National Park

NOAA Ship Rainier at anchor in Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park.
By Ensign Alice Beittel and Ensign Karl Wagner

Throughout the spring and summer of 2021, NOAA Ship Rainier surveyed numerous bays and inlets of Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. As one of the largest national wilderness systems and a United Nations designated World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay National Park includes over 2.7 million acres of marine, terrestrial, and freshwater ecosystems. This dynamic landscape is a living example of a never-ending cycle of geological and ecological change and adaptation. With up to 20-foot tide ranges, seasonal migrations of humpback whales and salmon, and glaciers in flux, the resilient ecosystem attracts millions of visitors each year. This year, Rainier surveyed the Beardslee Islands, Geikie Inlet, Berg Bay, Muir Inlet, Bartlett Cove, Pleasant Island, Taylor Bay, and Dundas Bay. Each survey area revealing several changes in seafloor bathymetry and bottom type. High-resolution seafloor bathymetry will be used to update nautical charts for safe navigation and serve as baseline data to support further research of this culturally and ecologically significant marine environment.

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Captain Benjamin Evans selected as next Coast Survey Director

Image of NOAA Ship Rainier

We are pleased to announce that Capt. Benjamin Evans has been selected to serve as the next Director of the Office of Coast Survey. In this capacity, Capt. Evans will lead NOAA’s ocean mapping and nautical charting program, continuing the transformation of the agency’s navigation services to meet the needs of twenty first century mariners and apply Coast Survey’s technical expertise to meet a broad range of requirements for authoritative ocean mapping data. The Director of the Office of Coast Survey also represents NOAA and the United States as the “National Hydrographer” on interagency and international engagements.

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The Kodiak archipelago – whales, foxes, and bears, oh my!

An image showing the mountainous shoreline of Kodiak Island
By Simon Swart and Adriana Varchetta

Between April and August of 2021, NOAA Ship Fairweather visited the southern part of the Kodiak archipelago to survey and provide updated bathymetry for a remote, yet important area that sorely needed new chart data. Early in the year, abundant wildlife and the sparse population meant the ship’s crew only had to contend with spritely weather patterns. But as spring turned to summer and the weather improved, the village of Akhiok became a hive of activity. Many types of fishing vessels began plying the waters around Alitak Bay, dropping crab pots and casting nets as they went. The increase in sunlight also transformed the landscape from brown, barren hills into a lush green canvas. Quick waves hello and calls from locals to not run over their crab pots, kept the importance of the mission at the forefront of the crews mind, with an occasional aircraft sighting jolting them back to the 21st century. 

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Alaska to Greenland via the Northwest Passage

Coast Guard Cutter Healy conducts Arctic patrol in support of the Office of Naval Research
By Lt. Patrick Debroisse

In August and September 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy transited through the Northwest Passage, from Alaska to Greenland. This voyage provided members of the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center (CCOM/JHC) the opportunity to collect data, helping to fill gaps in current hydrographic coverage in the passage and in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Data in the Arctic where sea ice impedes ships is sparse. This is concerning as the Arctic nations, especially the United States, Canada, and Greenland evaluate both extended continental shelf claims and the potential for shipping routes through the Northwest Passage.

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New NOAA website provides marine navigation resources in a central location

Commercial vessels navigating in the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach

A recently launched website from NOAA’s Precision Marine Navigation (PMN) program will improve the use and accessibility of NOAA’s marine navigation products and services. The website, Marine Navigation, includes links and short descriptions to NOAA’s various navigation resources, providing a one-stop shop that mariners can visit to get the data they need. Designed for shipping professionals and recreational boaters alike, the PMN program hopes the website will become a valuable tool to support all mariners in their navigation planning and decision making processes.

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Surveying the waters of Prince William Sound, Alaska

NOAA Ship Fairweather in College Fiord, Alaska

By Matt Canning and Ensign Carly Robbins, NOAA Ship Fairweather

Sheets of ice stretch for miles and miles. Mountains and peaks reach with jagged arms straight for the heavens. Snowmounds inoffensively deafening visitors in the winter months with a quiet like no other. Glacier walls and their child icebergs bobbing in the deep, cold water at every turn. Wildlife of the sky and sea of every shape and size, from Tufted Puffins and Kittlitz’s Murrelets to harbor seals and orcas – this is Prince William Sound.

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Model Upgrade: Global Extratropical Surge and Tide Operational Forecast System Upgraded to Version Two

Screen captures of two new implementations of version two; federal levees along the Mississippi and flood plain inclusion for Puerto Rico.

In late July 2021, the Global Extratropical Surge and Tide Operational Forecast System (Global ESTOFS) upgrade to version two was implemented into operations on the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System (WCOSS). The modeling system provides forecast guidance for combined water levels caused by storm surge and tides globally, and is to our knowledge the highest resolution global operational storm surge modeling system available today. The forecast guidance from the model is used by forecasters at NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) and the Ocean Prediction Center to generate their storm surge and flood forecasts during storms, including Nor’easters along the U.S. East Coast.

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Aids to navigation recovery operations with NOAA’s Navigation Response Branch and the U.S. Coast Guard

Flushing Bay Channel Lighted Buoy 3 was struck by a tug and barge in late July, and was reported sunk immediately following the strike. The buoy marks the entrance to a channel frequented by commercial barge traffic, specifically, loaded fuel barges bound for LaGuardia International Airport. The Navigation Response Branch (NRB) was called upon in early August to assist United States Coast Guard (USCG) Sector New York in locating the sunken buoy in Flushing Bay, New York.

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Learning the ropes aboard a NOAA hydrographic survey vessel

By Natalie Cook

Natalie Cook aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping and NOAA are giving undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in seafloor mapping and associated exercises aboard a survey vessel this summer. Natalie Cook, a junior in the Ocean Engineering program, is spending eight weeks aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, a 208-foot hydrographic survey vessel, experiencing all aspects of hydrography. Natalie is standing survey watch, processing data, working on survey launches, and serving as an active member of the hydrographic survey team.

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Collecting aerial images on the Chesapeake’s Western Shore

U.S. Naval Academy bridge crossing the Severn River

By Tom Loeper

Early in the morning of June 15, John Doroba and Tom Loeper met with Anne Arundel Park Ranger Adam Smith to collect aerial oblique images of several rivers on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. These images will be used to update existing content in the United States Coast Pilot 3, Atlantic Coast: Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Cape Henry, Virginia. In addition to acquiring images, experience gained during the field exercise will be used to update aerial photography specifications in the Coast Pilot manual.

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