Help keep nautical charts up to date through citizen science

NOAA maintains a suite of nearly 2000 electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®), as well as the ten volume United States Coast Pilot®. The seafloor and coastline are dynamic environments, which means that our products are constantly scrutinized for possible changes. Each year we make thousands of updates to ENCs, ensuring we are providing the most accurate products possible. The source data for most of these updates comes from NOAA or contractor surveys or from our federal partners, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard. However, we also rely on many other data sources to help keep our ENCs up-to-date.

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Backscatter and oil platforms – a Channel Islands adventure

By HAST Bailey Schrader, Operations Officer Lt. Shelley Devereaux and HST Adriana Varchetta

After enjoying the California sunshine in San Francisco Bay, NOAA Ship Fairweather began its transit down the coast towards Santa Barbara, California. The ship would not anchor for the next sixteen days, leaving all crew on 24-hour rotations. Thankfully, the already attenuated crew was visited by augmenting scientists and hydrographers – Physical Scientist Devereaux from the Pacific Hydrographic Branch, HHST Arboleda from NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, and HAST Schrader from NOAA Ship Rainier. Together, they traveled south to complete one of the last projects of the season, the area in and around Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

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Collecting aerial images on the Chesapeake’s Western Shore

By Tom Loeper

Early in the morning of June 15, John Doroba and Tom Loeper met with Anne Arundel Park Ranger Adam Smith to collect aerial oblique images of several rivers on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. These images will be used to update existing content in the United States Coast Pilot 3, Atlantic Coast: Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Cape Henry, Virginia. In addition to acquiring images, experience gained during the field exercise will be used to update aerial photography specifications in the Coast Pilot manual.

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Remembering Rear Admiral Richard T. Brennan

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Richard “Rick” Brennan, Director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. Rick passed away the evening of Thursday, May 13, 2021. A loyal and deeply empathetic leader, Rick served the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and nautical charting community for nearly three decades. Rick will be remembered for his passion for NOAA’s mission, as a role model for countless employees, a talented and knowledgeable hydrographer, and a man dedicated to family and friendship.

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

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 electronic navigational charts reduce accidents and provide benefits, study finds

A nautical chart is one of the most fundamental tools available to the mariner. For nearly two centuries, they have provided the critical information for safe and efficient use of our nation’s waterways and for protection of our marine environment. Needless to say that most, if not all mariners have held a nautical chart in their hands, relying on the data to help them navigate safely. That confidence, the ability to avoid accidents, injury, and damage to property, has value, and this value provides the justification for chart production.

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NOAA releases prototype surface current forecast data for industry testing

Prototype data for surface current forecasts in the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) S-111 format is now available for testing through the NOAA Big Data Program. In June, NOAA announced that we were preparing surface current forecast data for dissemination trials. Now that these data are available, industry can integrate these prototype data into different types of navigation software systems such as portable pilot units and under keel clearance systems. By making these data more accessible, more machine-to-machine readable, and more integrated, NOAA aims to amplify the power of our navigation data for users across the maritime industry.    

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Coast Survey Spotlight: Meet Fernando Ortiz


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.


Fernando Ortiz, Physical Scientist

“It’s rewarding to be able to utilize new scientific technologies and processes to collect this necessary data.”

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United States Coast Pilot® covering the Pacific now in two volumes

What is currently known as United States Coast Pilot® 7 was first published in 1903. The official published name was United States Coast Pilot—Pacific Coast California, Oregon and Washington. Content and information was inclusive of those three states. After Hawaii became a state in 1959, information on the Hawaiian Islands—including the long string of islands and atolls out to Midway Island—was incorporated into the newly titled United States Coast Pilot 7—Pacific Coast California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. In 1988, information originally maintained by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency under Publication 126 on the remote Pacific Islands (American Samoa, Guam and the Marianas) was added as a new chapter.

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