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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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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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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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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Autonomous vessel operations in the Arctic: Lessons learned from the Summer 2020 Mapping Mission

On May 28, 2020, four uncrewed vessels departed Alameda, California, to begin their transit across the Pacific Ocean, through Unimak Pass, across the Bering Sea, and into the Arctic. These small, uncrewed vessels, powered only by wind and sun, arrived at Point Hope, Alaska, in early August to start an ambitious project acquiring new depth data along the 20 and 50 meter depth contours from Point Hope to the Canadian border. This was the start of a challenging Arctic project that would contend with weather, sea ice, and equipment failures, all while avoiding potential conflicts with indigenous subsistence hunting. 

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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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