Conducting survey operations with Coast Survey’s navigation response teams

An image showing the navigation response team retrieving the survey vessel from the water.

Strategically placed around the country, NOAA’s navigation response teams―30-foot survey vessels with a three-person survey team―maintain emergency readiness while checking chart accuracy in changing ports and harbors. Navigation response teams work day-to-day in ports and harbors, collecting data to update the nation’s nautical charts. They measure depths, locate obstructions, report dangers to navigation, and update features for safe navigation. Whether there is a need to investigate wrecks, check for suspected shoals, conduct surveys for coastal management, or work with other federal agencies to support homeland security, Coast Survey’s navigation response teams have the expertise to get the job done safely and efficiently.

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NOAA focuses on the Great Lakes for the 2022 field season

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson shown from the bridge wing of a passing ship outside of Montreal, Quebec.

In 2022, NOAA and NOAA contractors will survey U.S. coastal waters and beyond, including multiple missions in the Great Lakes. As the volume, value and size of marine vessels in U.S. waters continues to grow, it is essential that NOAA increase the accuracy and frequency of surveys. A great amount of data on nautical charts of the Great Lakes is more than 50 years old, and only about 5 to 15 percent of the Great Lakes are mapped to modern standards using remote sensing methods such as light detection and ranging and sound navigation and ranging.

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Coast Survey’s mobile integrated survey team goes to Antarctica

An image of the United States Coast Guard cutter Polar Star docked at McMurdo Station ice pier on a relatively ice free day for Winter Quarters Bay.
By, Annie Raymond

In 1959, following the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, scientists from twelve nations conducting active research in Antarctica came together and signed the Antarctic Treaty. In the years following, 42 additional countries acceded to the treaty. The treaty preserves the entire continent and surrounding waters solely for purposes of peaceful scientific collaboration and bans resource extraction and military activity. McMurdo Station on Ross Island, operated by the United States through the United States Antarctic Program, a branch of the National Science Foundation (NSF), has emerged as the largest year-round station and primary logistics hub for the region. The first U.S. Operation Deep Freeze happened prior to and in support of the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58. Since then, Operation Deep Freeze has continued annually and has become the name for supply sealift missions to McMurdo, delivering fuel, food, and supplies to scientists in Antarctica.

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Aid 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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By the Numbers: Coast Survey’s 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season

NOAA Office of Coast Survey 2020 hurricane season infographic

As the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season came to a close on November 30, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey tallied a few numbers to see what the combined response effort of the navigation response teams, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, and hydrographic survey contractor David Evans & Associates, Inc., looked like.  

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NOAA concludes hydrographic survey response following Hurricane Delta

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson Launch 2904 surveying the Bar Channel, Calcasieu, Louisiana Approach.

This week NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey concluded its hydrographic survey response following Hurricane Delta. At the immediate request of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), NOAA’s navigation response teams (NRTs) and NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson surveyed areas within the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), Calcasieu Ship Channel, and the entrance to the channel. With lessons learned from the response to Hurricane Laura — the first major hurricane of the 2020 season and the first hurricane response during a pandemic — the teams and Thomas Jefferson successfully collected, processed, and delivered data to the USACE, identifying significant hazards to navigation and helping to ensure the timely reopening of waterways.

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NOAA navigation response teams complete hydrographic surveys following Hurricane Laura

Lt. John Kidd operates the NRT-Stennis vessel in Devil's Elbow.

Hurricane Laura, the first major hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, made landfall over Louisiana in the early morning hours of Thursday, August 27. As a Category 4 storm and with maximum sustained winds reaching 150 miles per hour, it caused significant damage along the Gulf coasts of Louisiana and southeastern Texas. For NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey –  whose job it is to identify dangers to navigation and help speed the reopening of ports and waterways following severe storms – this marked the first hydrographic survey response effort of the hurricane season.

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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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NOAA joins federal and state partners in signing MOU on emergency maritime response in Hawaii

Coast Survey’s hydrographic survey experts along with the Office of National Marine Sanctuary staff are ready to survey Honolulu Channel following Hurricane Lane.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, United States Coast Guard (USCG) Sector Honolulu, State of Hawaii Department of Transportation and United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Honolulu Division established a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining each signatory’s area of responsibility in the event of a disaster in the Hawaii region. The intent of the MOU is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of response efforts and speed the reopening of the ports and waterways following an emergency. 

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NOAA hydrographic community prepares for field season at annual workshop

Attendees of the NOAA 2020 Field Procedures Workshop.

The field of hydrography, like most sciences, is comprised of experts honing their craft, improving their tools, building upon the successes of previous years, and learning from their mistakes. Hydrographers typically accomplish this iterative process in the field, publishing papers, presenting at industry conferences, and often through discussions over the phone or via email. However, once a year, the NOAA hydrographic community — those who measure and describe the features of the seafloor to update nautical charts and support a variety of sciences — meets at the Field Procedures Workshop to not only share information, but have frank discussions about their challenges and the path forward in preparation for the upcoming hydrographic field season.

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