NOAA’S 2015 FLEET-ALLOCATION PLAN lists 17 vessels with 3,135 days at sea, covering waters from Kure Island, Hawaii, to West Quoddy Head, Maine. Along with hydrographic surveys, these vessels are charged with fisheries management, oceanographic research, and a litany of other responsibilities. Given that
there are three million square nautical miles of U.S. waters and 500,000
square nautical miles considered to be “navigationally significant,”
depending on this comparatively microscopic fleet to keep our charts up
to date is akin to charging the Sputnik probes with mapping the Milky Way.
Our cartography isn’t as bad as it might be, only because NOAA has both time
and money on its side. Time, because they’ve been working up a database since
Thomas Jefferson mandated nautical surveys beginning in 1807. And money, because
today NOAA spends up to $50 million a year hiring private survey companies to
gather hydrographic data in addition to
the data they collect. But, as you probably
know already, much of the old data still
used to create “modern” charts is no longer
accurate. Channels change. Sand bars shift.
And you might not find out
about it until your bow plows
into something a whole lot
harder than H2O.
HOT NEW EQUIPMENT UPGRADES BY LENNY RUDOW
A new age of digital cartography is dawning, and you could help make it happen –
whether you know you’re doing it or not
No chart is 100-percent
accurate. Keep an eye
out for changes in the
water that could indicate shoaling. If you’re
unsure, slow down.