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Ketchikan based NOAA Ship Fairweather pings ground for new charts from Dutch Harbor to the Arctic

Scroll down for comments from Senator Murkowski

Mission to update measurements dating to the 18th century

July 30, 2012
NOAA Ship Fairweather.
Using state-of-the-art technology, NOAA Ship Fairweatherdetects navigational dangers in critical Arctic waterways.
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)
NOAA Ship Fairweather begins a 30-day survey mission in the Arctic this week, scheduled to check a sparsely measured 1,500-nautical mile coastal corridor from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, north through the Bering Strait and east to the Canadian border.
The mission will collect needed information to determine NOAA’s future charting survey projects in the Arctic and will cover sea lanes that were last measured by Captain James Cook in 1778.
“Much of Alaska’s coastal area has never had full bottom surveys to measure water depths,” said Cmdr. James Crocker, commanding officer ofFairweather, and chief scientist of the party. “A tanker, carrying millions of gallons of oil, should not be asked to rely on measurements gathered in the 19th century. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what navigators have to do, in too many cases. NOAA is changing that.”
NOAA has made it a priority to update the nautical charts needed by commercial shippers, tankers, passenger vessels, and fishing fleets transiting the Alaskan coastline in ever-greater numbers. In June 2011, Coast Survey issued the Arctic Nautical Charting Plan, a major effort to update Arctic nautical charts for the shipping lanes, approaches, and ports along the Alaskan coast.
Fairweather will take sample depth measurements along the trackline corridor (pictured in green).
Fairweather will take sample depth measurements along the trackline corridor (pictured in green), to validate earlier data collected by non-NOAA ships. The new measurements will guide charting decisions: what earlier data can be used to update charts, and where does NOAA have to conduct new hydrographic surveys?
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)
“We expect more increases of Arctic maritime traffic due to melting sea ice, which will require accurate and precise navigational data,” said Kathryn Ries, acting director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “The sheer size of the task -- the coast length of 921 nautical miles is really 2,191 miles of low tidal shoreline once you figure in the bays and inlets --- requires that NOAA increase its charting efforts.”
Before NOAA cartographers can update the charts, however, they need the depth measurements and other data gathered by NOAA’s survey vessels like Fairweather.
Many of today’s Alaskan coastal nautical charts, created by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, use sporadic depth readings reported by private vessels, some decades or centuries old. Those vessels lacked the ability to report their exact positions to enable them to gather data accurate enough to ensure quality measurements.
NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is the nation’s chartmaker. Continuing a heritage of service to the maritime transportation system, Coast Survey has been America’s trusted source of navigational charts, data, and services for two centuries.
NOAA Ship Fairweather is part of the NOAA fleet of ships and aircraft operated, managed and maintained by NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes both civilians and the commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The ship is homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitter and our other social media channels..


July 30, 2012
Murkowski: Alaska’s Mariners Need 21st Century Data

Senator Lauds Fairweather Research Vessel Updating Nautical Information

US Navy 060824-N-7676W-157 U.S. Senator from A...
US Navy 060824-N-7676W-157 U.S. Senator from Alaska, the Honorable Lisa Murkowski, shows off a piece of steel with her welded name during a keel laying ceremony at Alaska Ship and Drydock (Photo credit: Wikipedia) - WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski welcomed the beginning of the NOAA Fairweather’s 30-day mission in the Arctic today, as a crucial step forward in using 21st century technology to map some nautical routes last measured during the Revolutionary War – and collect data on some areas that have never been fully charted for depth levels.

“We are living in an age of sophisticated navigational software and significant investments in fisheries, resource development and tourism,” said Murkowski, co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus.   “We need our men and women out on the waters to have access to comprehensive, accurate information – not data collected by Captain James Cook in 1778.”

USS Fairweather in front of Mount Fairweather, Alaska
Courtesy NOAA
Today, the Ketchikan-based Fairweather embarked on a monthlong mission to survey a sparsely-measured 1,500-nautical mile coastal corridor from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, north through the Bering Strait and east to the Canadian border. Senator Murkowski has placed a high priority on such Arctic research, pushing for additional resources through her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee.