NOAA hydro survey season underway

Spring is always a noteworthy time at Coast Survey, as the hydrographic season gets underway. This year is no exception, with some neat projects ahead.

On the East Coast, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson continues her work with the multi-state, multi-agency Long Island Sound Seafloor Mapping Initiative, as well as acquiring data over 87 square nautical miles in the approaches to New York to update nautical charts. In June, Thomas Jefferson begins some of her summer-long extensive 2013 post-Sandy surveys in Delaware Bay (supported by Title X, Chapter 2, of H.R. 152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013).

As our newest survey vessel, NOAA Ship Ferdinand Hassler, prepares for a long survey career, the crew is taking her through final repairs, upgrades, training, and inspection this spring. If all goes well, Hassler will then survey approaches to Chesapeake Bay in July, before heading to her new homeport in New Castle, New Hampshire. Once there, Hassler plans to survey approaches to New Hampshire and conduct some tests and evaluations of a new autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) for surveying.

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NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson prepared for 2013 survey season

By Ensign Brittany Anderson, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

After a quiet winter at home port, the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson completed her sea trials this week in preparation for the 2013 field season.

Each year, prior to departing for working grounds, the Thomas Jefferson transits to the Chesapeake Bay to perform tests on the ship’s and launches’ systems and hydrographic survey equipment. Crews conduct numerous tests to check the accuracy and precision of multibeam echosounders, side scan sonar, and the sophisticated suite of programs that process all the data. Additionally, this is an opportunity to ensure the safety of the vessel and her crew by performing numerous safety drills and readdressing safety standards and operating procedures.

Screen grab of sonar images
This is a screen capture of the simultaneous multibeam and side scan coverage of an obstruction used to verify the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson’s imaging and bathymetric sonars.

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NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson returns to homeport

by Ensign Brittany Anderson, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson wrapped up her field season last week.

After 193 days away from home, the hydrographic survey vessel completed 14, 768.9 linear nautical miles of survey. This covered 352 square nautical miles of area in Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound. Due to this work, 38 dangers to navigation (DTONs) were issued, protecting maritime traffic in the area.

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NOAA’s navigation assets complete primary post-Sandy assignments, remain available to assist

NOAA continues to work in partnership with other federal, state, and local partners in response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. NOAA’s efforts are focused on navigation surveys to restore maritime commerce; aerial surveys to assist in those efforts and to aid on-the-ground responders from FEMA and local authorities; and in oil spill cleanup and damage assessment.  NOAA’s National Weather Service is also keeping authorities aware of changing weather conditions that could impact recovery and response efforts.

NOAA’s hydrographic survey vessels, including two three-person navigation response teams (NRTs) and the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson with her two survey launches, have completed surveys of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Working over the past five days, the high-tech vessels searched approximately 20 square nautical miles of shipping lanes, channels, and terminals to search for dangers to navigation.

Coast Survey navigation managers were embedded with the Coast Guard Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit for the Port of NY/NJ, coordinating NOAA’s survey response. Lt. Brent Pounds, NOAA, explains ongoing survey operations to one of the port’s terminal operators during the height of operations.

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Surveys continue in Port of New York / New Jersey, completed in Virginia

Coast Survey’s major survey operations in response to Sandy are completed in Port of Virginia, allowing port operations to resume. That timely resumption is proving to be vital for East Coast shipping, as the port is now receiving cargo diverted from the Port of New York and New Jersey. Associated Press is reporting that more than a thousand containers were offloaded in Virginia yesterday, with more on the way.

Meanwhile, critical survey work continues in the Port of New York and New Jersey, with two of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams (NRT) and two of the Thomas Jefferson launches continuing their search for dangers to navigation in shipping channels and terminals. Today, the high tech survey boats attached to the Thomas Jefferson surveyed the East River, as the ship processes data for delivery to the Coast Guard. One of the boats then went to survey Church Hill Channel this afternoon, while the other went to Gravesend Bay. NRT 2 is surveying Port Elizabeth and Port Newark in Newark Bay. NRT 5 surveyed Kill Van Kull and then proceeded to Author Kill.

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Thomas Jefferson night work gives go-ahead for fuel barge delivery into New York – New Jersey

As the sun comes up in New York this morning, Ensign Lindsey Norman retrieves the side scan sonar that NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson used to survey the Hudson River, so fuel barge traffic could resume.  Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Denise Gruccio, NOAA

Even before Sandy hit the New Jersey shore, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey was mobilizing to respond to the emergency, preparing vessels, personnel, and equipment to conduct hydrographic surveys of hard-hit areas, searching for the underwater debris and shoaling that can paralyze shipping at the nation’s ports.

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Post-SANDY navigation response in full swing

NOAA’s navigation response teams and other survey assets are in the water (or soon will be) as they respond to SANDY’s destruction, checking for underwater debris and shoaling that may pose a risk to navigation. Tasked by the U.S. Coast Guard Captains of the Port, NOAA vessels can use multibeam echo sounders or side scan sonar, as conditions warrant, to search for the answers that speed resumption of shipping and other vessel movements.

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NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson mapping Long Island Sound seafloor: contributing to multi-level collaboration

How many geospatial products can be developed by one seafloor mapping project? As a phased-in project for Long Island Sound shows, a strong collaboration among diverse groups of researchers and technology developers can integrate temporal and geospatial data sources to produce dozens of products. In addition to updating NOAA’s nautical charts, ongoing collaborations in Long Island Sound will create products that depict physical, geological, ecological, geomorphological, and biological conditions and processes – all to balance the development of new ocean uses while protecting and restoring essential habitats.

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NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson finds two divers in Block Island Sound

NOAA hydrographic survey vessels are valuable assets for search and rescue operations, as experienced crews use their knowledge of tides and ocean currents to develop science-based search patterns. Last month, two divers found out just how valuable NOAA’s expertise can be. — DF

Report submitted by Ensign Brittany Anderson, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

On the morning of August 26, 2012, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson was conducting routine hydrographic survey operations south of Block Island. At 0904 hours, a distress call was made on the very high frequency (VHF) radio to the Coast Guard Station. The caller reported two divers lost in the water at Southwest Ledge, a popular recreational point off Block Island. The coordinates were a mere seconds north of the Thomas Jefferson.

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