NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson returns to survey approaches to Chesapeake Bay during the 2020 field season

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

By Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician Sophia Tigges

For the first portion of the 2020 field season, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson surveyed approaches to Chesapeake Bay. Thomas Jefferson’s 2020 field season consisted of two 45-day “bubble” periods. A “bubble period” is the time a ship closes to personnel transfer while they shelter in place for seven days and undergo COVID-19 testing per NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operation’s COVID-19 protocol to mitigate exposure. The ship spent the entire first bubble working off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia for this project. These surveys served as a continuation of the ship’s work in the area in the 2019 season.  (To learn more about Thomas Jefferson’s work in this area last year, read the 2019 post titled, “NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson tests innovative DriX unmanned surface vehicle.”

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Coast Survey Spotlight: Meet James Moy

James Moy with chart in background

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.


James Moy, Cartographer

“As a cartographer, I consider it a success if the updates to a chart are accurate and justified, reviewed by another with little or no revisions, and is deemed useful and safe for the public.

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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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Nautical charts reflect alternate route along Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

Portion of Chandeleur Sound Gulf Intracoastal Waterway alternate route.

In anticipation of the temporary closure of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW)’s Inner Harbor Canal Lock, the Office of Coast Survey released three updated NOAA electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) reflecting the Chandeleur Sound Alternate Route and the addition of 97 Aids to Navigation (ATON). The updated charts include US5LA24M, US4LA34M, and US4MS12M and can be viewed in NOAA’s ENC Viewer or downloaded from NOAA’s Chart Locator.

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NOAA Coast Survey’s new strategy supports charting mandates and broader seafloor mapping

This week, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey released the Mapping U.S. Marine and Great Lakes Waters: Office of Coast Survey Contributions to a National Ocean Mapping Strategy. This report is part of NOAA’s ongoing commitment to meet core surveying and nautical charting mandates while supporting broader needs to fill gaps in seafloor mapping and environmental sciences.

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Nautical Chart Manual guides cartographers for 100 years

By John Macek

This July marks the 100th anniversary of the Office of Coast Survey’s Nautical Chart Manual. First published on July 10, 1920, as Special Publication No. 66, under the title “RULES AND PRACTICE RELATING TO CONSTRUCTION OF NAUTICAL CHARTS”, the 34- page pamphlet codified the essential guidelines to be used by cartographers of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.

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High-definition charts advance precision marine navigation

Vessel entering the port of Long Beach, California.

By Craig Winn, HD charting portfolio manager

For large vessels entering port where there is next to zero margin for error, pilots and shipmasters are looking for the highest resolution data available to help them navigate these tight spaces safely and efficiently. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey recently constructed and released 16 high-definition (HD), band 6 (or berthing scale) electronic navigational charts for Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor, providing mariners with the best charts available to do their job.

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A message to hydrographers: Your time is now

A global view of mapped and unmapped portions of the world ocean.

By Rear Adm. Shep Smith, Director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey

There has never been a better time to be a hydrographer. Our skills, data, and technology are in high demand globally, driven by an increased emphasis both on supporting the blue economy and of protecting the ocean upon which all life on earth depends. The UN declared this decade the “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development,” and that vision specifically calls out the need to map the world’s oceans. The Nippon Foundation has breathed new energy into the century-long project to create a General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) with a supporting campaign called Seabed 2030. Hydrography is now invaluable for habitat mapping, for mineral and energy exploration, for offshore wind development, and for ocean modeling supporting everything from predicting local harmful algal blooms to understanding the earth system itself at a global scale.

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Explore the refreshed ENC-based NOAA Custom Chart Tool

Updated user interface of the NOAA Custom Chart (NCC) prototype web application displaying the Cape Cod, Massachusetts, region.

Recently, NOAA released an improved user interface for the NOAA Custom Chart (NCC) prototype web application, a tool that allows users to create their own charts from the latest NOAA electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) data. In this refreshed version, NCC settings are simplified and more logically organized, appropriate default values for depth contour labels, depth shades, and compass roses are set, and the NOAA color palette from traditional NOAA paper charts is implemented.

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NOAA supports arrival of USNS Comfort to New York City

USNS Comfort

For more than 200 years, nautical cartographers have methodically charted our nation’s coastline, adding new features or hazards and updating meandering shorelines, all in an effort to aid safe navigation. However, occasions do arise that require immediate charting, particularly in response to national emergencies. Notable examples include charting the projected oil spill zone during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, as well as hazards during hurricane response efforts. Most recently, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey was called upon to support the arrival of USNS Comfort to New York City.

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