The most fundamental characteristic to ensure safety when sailing the oceans is knowing how deep the water is. Mapping the seafloor’s bathymetry is a critical key in safety and in scientific endeavors to understand ocean circulation, tides, tsunami forecasting, fishing resources, sediment transport, and environmental changes. It’s also important for commercial endeavors such as infrastructure construction, cable laying and pipeline routing.
Of course, knowing what’s underwater ahead of your vessel is also paramount to safe navigation. Even in well charted areas, you might think that everything you need to know is already on your nautical charts. If so, you would be mistaken. The US has some of the best charts in the world yet according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “about half of the depth information found on NOAA charts is based on hydrographic surveys conducted before 1940” and “in too many cases, the data is more than 150 years old. Sometimes, particularly in Alaska, the depth measurements are so old that they may have originated from Captain Cook in 1778.” Take a moment to think about the reliability of the chart data when you’re navigating in the “exotic” locations your guests’ itineraries demand.
Fortunately, yachts have a wide range of navigation sensors they can use, in conjunction with their charts, to help them navigate such waters more safely. While navigating in these locations, yachts are able to be a part of the solution through a worldwide crowdsourcing initiative. They have the opportunity to contribute to the global community by recording their depth and position observations along the way.
Jennifer Jencks, Director of the IHO Data Center for Digital Bathymetry (DCDB) at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, is the Chair of the IHO’s Crowdsourced Bathymetry Working Group (CSBWG). She shares that “measurements collected by the yachting community during the course of their normal operations are a valuable contribution to the IHO’s crowdsourced bathymetry efforts. Contributions to the IHO’s Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry are made available for public use and are included in the Seabed 2030 initiative.”
Participation in these types of initiatives is an easy way for the yachts to contribute to the wider, global community, while operating in their “typical” manner. One example of such industry participation is highlighted by a recent collaboration between the IHO and the Yacht Club de Monaco. Participating vessels are outfitted with a simple NMEA 2000 data logger which records the single beam echosounder measurements.