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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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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Surveying in the Strait of Juan de Fuca during a global pandemic

By Ensign Jessie Spruill and Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician Simon Swart, NOAA Ship Fairweather

Last Thanksgiving, the crew of NOAA Ship Fairweather were busy surveying in one of the country’s busiest waterways. A global maritime entryway to the Pacific Northwest, the Strait of Juan de Fuca sees over 8,000 transits of deep-draft container ships, cargo and chemical carriers, oil tankers, and barges coming to and from Puget Sound and Canada. In addition to industrial shipping, the Strait of Juan de Fuca also supports over 200,000 transits of recreational vessels and Washington State Ferries. Located north of the Olympic Peninsula, the Strait forms the northwestern most border between the contiguous U.S. and Canada. On the American side, the region is home to eight million people including 50 First Nation communities with centuries old cultural ties to traditional fishing.

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The Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping announces progress report on mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters

The Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IWG-OCM) released the second annual report on the progress made in mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters. The depth, shape, and composition of the seafloor are foundational data elements that we need to understand in order to explore, sustainably develop, conserve, and manage our coastal and offshore ocean resources. The 2020 National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone and the global Seabed 2030 initiative make comprehensive ocean mapping a priority for the coming decade. The Unmapped U.S. Waters report tracks progress toward these important goals.

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NOAA bathymetric data helps scientists more accurately model tsunami risk within Barry Arm

Barry Glacier, Alaska.

In May of 2020, local geologists identified a steep, unstable slope that has the potential to become a tsunami-generating landslide in Barry Arm, a glacial fjord 60 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska. With documented cases of tsunami-generating landslides in Alaska including Lituya Bay in 1958 and Taan Fjord in 2015, this new hazard immediately caught the attention of state and federal partners who quickly joined forces to quantify the risk to those living and boating in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, specifically the communities of Whittier, Valdez, Cordova, Tatitlek, and Chenega.

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NOAA announces new progress report on mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters

Map showing the geographic distribution and extent of the unmapped areas within U.S. waters. Analysis conducted in January 2020.

NOAA released the first annual report on the progress made in mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters. The depth, shape, and composition of the seafloor are foundational data elements that we need to understand in order to explore, sustainably develop, conserve, and manage our coastal and offshore ocean resources. The 2019 Presidential Memorandum on Ocean Mapping of the United States Exclusive Economic Zone and the Shoreline and Nearshore of Alaska and the global Seabed 2030 initiative make comprehensive ocean mapping a priority for the coming decade. The Unmapped U.S. Waters report tracks progress toward these important goals.

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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 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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