Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NOAA ship Fairweather maps aid shipping through Bering Straits

Date:
July 21, 2010
Source:
NOAA
Summary:
As Arctic ice recedes, countries are looking forward to faster, safer and more efficient sea routes across the top of the world. Responding to a request from the US Navy, US Coast Guard, Alaska Maritime Pilots and the commercial shipping industry, NOAA sent one of its premier surveying vessels, NOAA Ship Fairweather, to detect navigational dangers in critical Arctic waters that have not been charted for more than 50 years.

Using state-of-the-art echo sounding technology, NOAA Ship Fairweather is detecting navigational dangers in critical Arctic waterways.
Credit: NOAA

As Arctic ice recedes, countries are looking forward to faster, safer and more efficient sea routes across the top of the world. Responding to a request from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Maritime Pilots and the commercial shipping industry, NOAA sent one of its premier surveying vessels, NOAA Ship Fairweather, to detect navigational dangers in critical Arctic waters that have not been charted for more than 50 years.

Fairweather, whose homeport is Ketchikan, Alaska, will spend July and August examining seafloor features, measuring ocean depths and supplying data for updating NOAA's nautical charts spanning 350 square nautical miles in the Bering Straits around Cape Prince of Wales. The data will also support scientific research on essential fish habitat and will establish new tidal datums in the region.

Just as the growing numbers of cars on the road cause traffic "chokepoints," more ships traversing northern passageways can choke maritime traffic. These maritime traffic snarls occur when nautical charts are outdated, ships do not have sufficient information for navigation or changing maritime conditions -- like sea level rise or movements of the seafloor -- are not tracked.

"We have seen a substantial increase in activity in the region and ships are operating with woefully outdated charts," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. "I have introduced legislation that authorizes a significant increase in funding for mapping the Arctic, and I am pleased to see NOAA beginning the process. While this is a good start, we still need more resources to adequately map this region."

"Commercial shippers aren't the only ones needing assurances of safety in new trade routes," notes Captain John Lowell, director of NOAA's Office of Coast Survey. "The additional potential for passenger cruises, commercial fishing and other economic activities add to pressures for adequate response to navigational risks."

The U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone includes 568,000 square nautical miles of U.S. Arctic waters. The majority of charted Arctic waters were surveyed with obsolete technology dating back to the 1800s. Most of the shoreline along Alaska's northern and western coasts has not been mapped since 1960, if ever, and confidence in the region's nautical charts is extremely low.

"In Alaska we are seeing the effects of climate change more rapidly than anywhere else in the U.S.," said Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska. "As Arctic sea ice recedes, economic activity in the region is going to expand dramatically. Alaskans rely on NOAA to help us make sure that things like oil and gas development and marine transportation are done safely and responsibly. The 21st century mapping technology the Ketchikan-based Fairweather brings to this important charting mission is a great example of what the federal government needs to do as activity in the Arctic grows."

About a third of U.S. Arctic waters are considered navigationally significant. Of that area, NOAA's Office of Coast Survey has identified 38,000 square nautical miles as survey priorities. NOAA estimates that it will take well more than 25 years to map the prioritized areas of the Arctic seafloor.

"President Thomas Jefferson ordered a survey of the East Coast in 1807, when our country was losing more ships to unsafe navigation than to war," explains Capt. David Neander, commanding officer of the Fairweather. "Today, we have better maps of the moon than of our own oceans. Our46-person crew is amassing ocean data that directly affects our economy and our ecosystems."

The vessel is equipped with the latest in hydrographic survey technology -- multi-beam survey systems; high-speed, high-resolution side-scan sonar; position and orientation systems; hydrographic survey launches; and an on-board data-processing server.

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 commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilian wage mariners.

Updated charts for commercial and recreational navigation are available on Coast Survey's Web site, http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NOAA. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NOAA. "NOAA ship Fairweather maps aid shipping through Bering Straits." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100720152254.htm>.
NOAA. (2010, July 21). NOAA ship Fairweather maps aid shipping through Bering Straits. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100720152254.htm
NOAA. "NOAA ship Fairweather maps aid shipping through Bering Straits." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100720152254.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) An Austrian balloon pilot has succeeded in taking a balloon deep underground, a feat which he believes is a world first. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Rescue crews finished recovering the remaining 27 bodies from atop Japan's Mount Ontake Monday. At least 31 people were killed Saturday in the mountain's first fatal volcanic event in modern history. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan's Mount Ontake Erupts

Raw: Japan's Mount Ontake Erupts

AP (Sep. 27, 2014) A volcano erupted in central Japan on Saturday, sending a large plume of ash high into the sky and prompting a warning to climbers and others to avoid the area. (Sept. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins