NOAA Ship Rainier surveys for the safety of Alaskan fishermen

“But more wonderful than the lore of old men and the lore of books is the secret lore of ocean.”

H.P. Lovecraft, author

The Rainier crew sees the morning fog start to lift from the ship’s anchorage site.

Working on a NOAA ship, discovering ocean secrets, is an enviable job as well as an essential one. One can’t help but envy the scientists and crew of NOAA Ship Rainier as they conduct their hydrographic survey around the Shumagin Islands this month. Their pictures are hauntingly beautiful. And their mission in the midst of the beauty will help to protect the lives of Alaskan fishermen.
This area is experiencing increasing fishing vessel traffic, and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation has asked NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey to improve charts used by longline and pot fisheries. Much of the project area has never been adequately surveyed, and large portions of NOAA Chart 16540 have no soundings at all. Fishing vessels need to know ocean depths, and the presence of underwater rocks and other hazards, to stay safe during operations.
In response to the need of local fisheries, Coast Survey will use Rainier’s modern multibeam echo sounder bathymetry to create accurate charts. In addition to acquiring new bathymetry data, Rainier is verifying 2009 data acquired by airborne bathymetric LiDAR from near shore areas around the islands.
Rainier’s survey boats set out at first light to take advantage of a “negative tide” to map the shoreline and its many rocks and hazards. Many rocks that would lie just below the surface during a normal tide range will be exposed and visible during a negative tide.

Rainier is currently surveying the areas outlined in blue. Note the lack of charted soundings (water depth measurements) in the survey area.

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