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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New NOAA website provides marine navigation resources in a central location

Commercial vessels navigating in the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach

A recently launched website from NOAA’s Precision Marine Navigation (PMN) program will improve the use and accessibility of NOAA’s marine navigation products and services. The website, Marine Navigation, includes links and short descriptions to NOAA’s various navigation resources, providing a one-stop shop that mariners can visit to get the data they need. Designed for shipping professionals and recreational boaters alike, the PMN program hopes the website will become a valuable tool to support all mariners in their navigation planning and decision making processes.

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Aids 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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Learning the ropes aboard a NOAA hydrographic survey vessel

By Natalie Cook

Natalie Cook aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

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.

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Coast Survey to shut down the Raster Navigational Chart Tile Service and other related services

NOAA will shut down its Raster Navigational Chart (RNC) Tile Service and the online RNC Viewer on October 1, 2021. The NOAA Seamless Raster Navigational Chart Services will be shut down on January 1, 2022. This is part of a larger NOAA program to end production and maintenance of all NOAA traditional paper and raster nautical charts that was announced in the Federal Register in November 2019.

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NOAA’s Precision Marine Navigation data service receives first major update

The Precision Marine Navigation (PMN) program has completed the first update of its prototype navigation data service – the PMN data processing and dissemination system and PMN Data Gateway viewer. The data processing and dissemination system provides surface current forecast guidance from NOAA’s forecast systems, in a prototype marine navigation data format. The viewer allows users to visualize the predictions and discover where they are. Both the system and the viewer were updated to include data from the recently upgraded Northern Gulf of Mexico Operational Forecast System (NGOFS2).

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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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The Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping announces progress report on mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters

The Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IWG-OCM) released the second annual report on the progress made in mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters. The depth, shape, and composition of the seafloor are foundational data elements that we need to understand in order to explore, sustainably develop, conserve, and manage our coastal and offshore ocean resources. The 2020 National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone and the global Seabed 2030 initiative make comprehensive ocean mapping a priority for the coming decade. The Unmapped U.S. Waters report tracks progress toward these important goals.

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