- The Hydrographic Society of America

Critical to the World Economy
Fulfilling as a Career
US Hydro 2011
The oldest scientific agency in the U.S., the
Coast Survey, was established in 1807 when
President Thomas Jefferson and Congress
authorized a “survey to be taken of coasts of
the United States".
The history of hydrography is nearly as old as
sailing, but that mandate from the President
and Congress really “put the boats in the
water”. The first Superintendent of the Coast
Survey was Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, who
brought together mathematicians,
cartographers, geodesists, meterologists,
hydrographers, topographers, sailors, laborers
and administrators with the goal of surveying
and charting the coast of the United States. By
the way, the job’s not finished!
What Is Hydrography?
As defined by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, hydrography is “the
science which deals with the measurement and description of the
physical features of bodies of water and their littoral land
areas. Special emphasis is usually placed on the elements that affect
safe navigation and the publication of such information in a suitable
form for use in navigation.”
It’s almost never this much Fun!
And luckily, it’s seldom this miserable!
Fortunately, Hydrography
can often involve some of
A hydrographic survey can provide
such descriptive information as
depth of water (also known as
bathymetry), the nature of the
seafloor material, and the
presence of objects or features on
the seafloor.
The first official hydrographic survey in the U.S.
was conducted along the south shore of Long
Island in 1834. In 1839, the U.S. government
produced its first nautical chart. Early
hydrographic surveys consisted of depths
measured by sounding pole and
hand lead line with positions
determined by three-point sextant fixes to
mapped reference points.
In 1904, weighted wire-drag
surveys were introduced into
hydrography. The basic principle
being to drag a wire attached to
two vessels. If the wire (set at a certain depth
by a system of weights and buoys) encountered
an obstruction it would become taut and form
a "V" revealing the depth and position of
submerged rocks and other obstructions.
The 1930’s saw the development and
implementation of single-beam echo
sounders using sound to measure the
distance of the sea floor directly below a
vessel. By running a series of lines at a
specified spacing, single beam echo
sounders and fathometers greatly increased
the speed of the survey process by allowing
more data points to be collected. However,
this method still yielded gaps in
quantitative depth information between
survey lines.
In the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's a number of
evolutionary concepts were advanced that
fundamentally changed how we look at and
map the seafloor. Side Scan Sonar technology
was developed as a qualitative means of
obtaining the sonar equivalent of an aerial
photograph and improving the ability to
identify submerged wrecks and obstructions..
We still go to where the data has to
be collected, no matter how
Current Technology:
Multibeam swath systems made it possible to obtain
quantitative depth information for 100% of the bottom in
a survey area.
Emerging Technology: Hydrographic surveying techniques and
procedures continue to evolve with both
academia and industry pushing the technology
envelope with new products in the search for
efficiency in data collection and processing.
Light Detection And Ranging
Huge areas of coastline can now be
surveyed at a rate never before
dreamed of using airborne LIDAR.
Despite the advances in technology,
opportunities for individuals with a love
The Human Element: of science, the outdoors, and a little
adventure can still find rewarding and
satisfying employment in all aspects of
Hydrography. Whether collecting data
in the field, processing data in the office
or planning surveys, hydrography is a
field with challenges for all!
What Bears?
The Job Ahead
More than a boat ride and a pay check?
The US Marine
Transportation System
Vital Statistics
• 1,000 harbor channels
• 326 ports
• over 3,700 terminals
• 238 lock chambers
• about 100,000 aids to navigation
• 25,000 miles of inland, intracoastal,
and coastal waterways
The MTS links:
• 174,000 miles of rail
• 460,000 miles of pipeline
• 45,000 miles of interstate highways
Each year the MTS:
• moves over 95 percent of the volume of
overseas trade
• transports 134 million ferry passengers, 5
million cruise ship passengers, and 70 million
recreational boaters
• contributes more than $742 billion to the
U.S. GDP and employs more than 13
Million people
• moves 720.2 million short tons of
commodities on lakes and internal
5,400 Passenger,
Oasis of the Seas at
Terminal 18 Port
Everglades, FL
Interestingly, U.S. coastal waters have never been completely
surveyed. In areas that have been surveyed, approximately 50 percent
of the sounding data shown on NOAA nautical charts is pre-1940,
collected by antiquated lead line soundings and wire drags.
NOAA’s priority
surveying focus,
500,000 square
nautical miles (SNM)
of navigationally
significant EEZ
waters deemed most
in need of survey
•NOAA has resources to accomplish roughly only 3000 SNM a year between
contract and in-house vessels. This equates to less than one percent of
navigationally significant area surveyed each year.
•At this rate, with three to four ships, plus current funding levels for
complementary contract efforts, it will take over 100 years to survey just the
areas routinely transited by commercial shipping, ferries, cruise ships, Navy
and Coast Guard vessels, and other ships with critical contributions to the
economy and defense.
If all that
was not
•Another of NOAA’s critical missions is to survey the 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline
and to provide the nation with accurate, consistent, up-to-date national shoreline.
•The national shoreline provides the baseline data for demarcating U.S. marine
territorial limits, including the Exclusive Economic Zone
The Bottom Line
•NOAA’s current Goal is to survey and
process the data for 10,000 SNM of seafloor
•NOAA must replace its aging hydrographic survey ships on
schedule to sustain current capability and avoid diminishing
critical expertise in a function so key to U.S. economic security.
•NOAA must build a seasoned staff of dedicated hydrographers competent
to not only conduct surveys and analyze tides, but also to provide oversight
of contract surveys, evaluate new equipment, and provide national and
international leadership.
•Equally important, NOAA must increase its capacity to contract for hydrographic
surveys. There is simply no way to survey 10,000 square nautical miles of
navigationally significant waters every year without contract support. Since 1994,
NOAA’s funding for survey contracts has risen from $0 to $30 million per year, roughly
half of its budget for hydrographic data collection.
•NOAA should take a more aggressive approach to shoreline and hydrographic
data collection and processing.
•We recognize that resources are scarce government-wide, but the cost of
adequately funding NOAA pales beside the costs of incident response, cleanup, environmental damage, litigation, and the lost lives, property, and revenues
that can result if a vessel grounds or strikes an obstruction.
•We strongly believe that the critical and growing national needs for updated
hydrographic surveys and shoreline maps demand an increase in productivity
and justify the necessary increase in public investment.
•In an ever-changing marine environment, modern and up-to-date
hydrographic products significantly reduce operational risk and improve safety
for users of NOAA navigation data.
Where does THSOA fit in this dilemma of too many miles to survey,
but not enough funds to pay for it?
Keynote Speaker 2007,
Dr. Robert Ballard
• THSOA is not a PAC, but it does provide a national forum for the
discussion of both the problem and possible solutions.
•Through the networking opportunities
provided by its national conference, held
every two years, members are able to
contact those directly involved with
contracting in both NOAA and the USACE.
•At each conference, the best available
technology for Hydrographic Survey is on
display by both vendors and users.
•Beyond presenting the Hydrographic
Conference, the national goals of THSOA
are primarily educational. Our Charter is
to foster the advance of hydrographic
science and to introduce the next
generation of hydrographers to the science
through student outreach programs and
scholarship awards.
Through Education there is hope!
B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees
Marine Science is a multidisciplinary field focusing on the study of oceanic
processes. Research and training in the Marine Science degree programs involves
physical, chemical, biological, and geological oceanography along with remote
sensing, ocean acoustics, and numerical modeling. We have active research
projects in coastal and open ocean, large lakes, and riverine and coastal wetland
settings, and those that focus on issues including climate change, biofuels
development, environmental quality, hypoxia and carbon cycling.
M.S. degree
Hydrographic Science is the science of measuring and depicting those parameters
necessary to describe the precise nature and configuration of the seabed, its geographical
relationship to the land mass, and the characteristics and dynamics of the sea. These
parameters include bathymetry, the precise location and identification of hazards to
navigation, tides, currents, waves, physical properties of sea water, geology and
The Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM)/ Joint Hydrographic Center (JHC)
is a recently established University of New Hampshire program aimed at creating a
national center for expertise in ocean mapping and hydrographic sciences. Guided by a
Memorandum of Understanding with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), the JHC operates in partnership with NOAA's National Ocean
Service. The CCOM is a University center that expands the scope of interaction and
cooperation with the private sector, other government agencies and universities. In
addition to NOAA support, CCOM currently has projects underway funded by the US
Geological Survey, the Office of Naval Research, the Naval Research Lab, DARPA,
NSF and several private sector partners. The centers focus their activities on two major
tasks, an educational task, aimed at creating a learning center that will promote and
foster the education of a new generation of hydrographers and ocean mapping scientists,
and a research task aimed at developing and evaluating a wide range of state-of-the-art
hydrographic and ocean mapping technologies and applications.
Contact: The Hydrographic Society of America (THSOA)
451 Hungerford Drive, Suite 119-360
Rockville, MD 20850-5148

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