By ACHST Simon Swart, Operations Officer Lt. Shelley Devereaux, and HST Adriana Varchetta
After six months of surveying in Alaska, NOAA Ship Fairweather was ready to point the bow south and set sail for San Francisco Bay. However, an unforeseen circumstance stymied the planned underway date. Although we eagerly anticipated the warmer waters of San Francisco Bay, this delay was well received by the hydrographers in the survey department and amongst the NOAA Corps officers. Our work had begun stacking up due to an extremely busy season, coupled with the fact that for most of us, this was our first time working on hydrographic project sheets. Therefore, we happily used this week of “down-time” to complete previous project sheets and plan for the upcoming survey. Those of us as sheet managers focused on cleaning multibeam data, processing backscatter mosaics, attributing features, conducting quality control checks, and writing descriptive reports. This process was greatly assisted with the help of augmenting physical scientists Pete Holmberg and Janet Hsiao. In the end, we were able to finish processing a number of sheets and reach a comfortable place on all the others. After a week of long hours, we were finally ready to toss lines and say “see you next year Alaska.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a busy winter in port, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson started the 2021 field season in familiar waters, returning to survey the approaches of the Chesapeake Bay. Towards the end of the 2020 field season, the crew of the Thomas Jefferson spent their first 45-day “COVID-19 bubble” on this project. A bubble is formed when crew quarantine and test for COVID-19 prior to crewing the ship, staying isolated onboard until the end of the 45-day period. This protocol is part of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) COVID-19 mitigation strategy. In April and May of 2021 Thomas Jefferson spent an additional 28 days surveying an area approximately 40 nautical miles east of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
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.
Update (2/19/21) – Notes and slides from the January 28, 2021, webinar on the NOAA Coast Survey Matching Fund Opportunity are now available.
NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey recently announced a new pilot program for a Hydrographic Surveying Matching Fund opportunity through a Federal Register Notice. The purpose of this notice is to encourage non-federal entities to partner with NOAA on jointly-funded hydrographic surveying, mapping, and related activities of mutual interest. The pilot program relates directly to Coast Survey’s Ocean Mapping Plan and a goal to expand U.S. EEZ mapping by also expanding use of Coast Survey’s hydrographic services contract vehicle.
The concept behind the pilot is that NOAA and partner(s) will match funds using a memorandum of agreement for NOAA to receive the funds. Coast Survey will rely on its existing contract arrangements to conduct the actual surveying and mapping activities. We expect this unique fund matching opportunity to expand our collaborative partnerships and mapping efforts while also serving to increase funds available for NOAA hydrographic contracts. Further details may be obtained in the federal register notice, but we encourage any additional questions to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for follow-up.
Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IOCM) is the practice of planning, acquiring, integrating, and sharing ocean and coastal data and related products so that people who need the data can find it and use it easily: Map Once, Use Many Times. Coast Survey is committed to IOCM principles, coordinating and collaborating with NOAA and external partners on mapping wherever it can.