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Naval Oceanography, Google Share Information on the World’s Oceans

NGDC topography 15minThe National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) provides scientific stewardship, products and services for geophysical data describing the solid earth, marine, and solar-terrestrial environment, as well as earth observations from space. It is their work on the marine geophysical data or bathymetry that is of interest to me. Bathymetry is the study of underwater depth of the ocean floors. A bathymetric map or chart usually shows floor relief or terrain as contour lines (called depth contours or isobaths), and may additionally provide surface navigational information.

It is this information often shown in 3D that many of our marine chartplotter suppliers are using as a way of impressing us to buy their expensive chartplotters and other products. Of course the NGDC are not alone in adding value to all this data and the reason I started to look into the source and uses of this data was the announcement from Google of the extension of their Google Earth initiative to include bathymetric data

Most surveys of navigable waterways in the United States are performed or commissioned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, for inland waterways, and the National Oceanic andAtlantic-trench Atmospheric Administration for oceans.

Coastal bathymetry data is available from the National Geodetic Data Center. Bathymetry data is often referenced to tidal vertical datums of MSL or MLW.

The picture on the right shows a bathymetric chart for the North Atlantic trench for example. All thanks to the US Navy sonar surveys – and the US taxpayer of course:-)

I am very excited by the news that the US Navy will share information on the worlds oceans with Google.

“….From Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (NNS) — The Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC) entered a cooperative research agreement to share unclassified of information about the world’s oceans through the new version of Google Earth launched Feb. 2.

The unclassified bathymetric data sets, sea surface temperatures and ocean current US Navyinformation from NAVOCEANO are incorporated in the new version of Google Earth, launched today.

As part of the research and development agreement, the Navy has received Google Earth Enterprise licenses which provide for technical support that will enable the Navy to better search, view and prepare products from their extensive oceanographic data holdings…..”

This is one huge boost to the trend for many amateur and not so amateur people all over the world who have been laboriously trying to use a variety of data sources – and now Google Earth – to display bathymetric data for our ports and other areas of sailing interest.

People like Peter Minton who over the past year has mapped all the islands from Papua New Guinea to the west coast of South America. This is an enormous piece of voluntary effort that involved over 10,000 island polygons. For example, Ailuk Atoll is made up of 57 small islets or motus. To accomplish this Herculean task Peter used the software from Global Mapper and Landsat ETM+ as base imagery.

Have a look at Peter’s own web site here . I just love his slogan “Enhanced Vector Shorelines of the World – One Island, One Coastline, One River and One Lake at a time….”

People like Peter are not alone however …as this post from the Googleplex (Feb 2009) shows…

“…the latest release of Google Earth, making features like Ocean, Historical Imagery, and Touring available to Google Earth users everywhere.

We’re happy to open up these new worlds of exploration to our Enterprise customers, with new releases of Google Earth Pro and Google Earth Enterprise also available today. This is a tremendous advance for organizations who work on — or under — the Seven Seas, or who have archives of historical photos and data that they’d like to make more accessible to their employees.

People who use Google Earth Pro, the workplace edition of Google Earth, will see the new oceanographic data, historical imagery, and other features through their connection to Google’s public globe of satellite imagery, maps, terrain & 3D buildings. With today’s release of the Google Earth Enterprise 5.0 client, customers can start to realize the benefits by layering their own private data on top of the Google-hosted Ocean or Historical Imagery via KML. Google’s public data about the world’s oceans and images from the past should give a glimmer of what’s possible….”

This work is being master minded by Bryan Atwood, Product Manager, Google Earth Enterprise.

As you all know by now Google Earth provides a 3D view of earth that you can zoom in and out of, comprised of compositing satellite imagery into one skin. The counterpart to that product is the 2D Google Maps, which can be viewed from within a web browser. The KML specification developed by Keyhole, dubbed by Atwood “the HTML of the geographic web,” is an XML type format that describes geospatial data, which allows you to see your data on top of different platforms. Recently KML was submitted to OGC and will be approved in the next month or two.

Funded in 2000 by In-Q-Tel, a company that identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), Keyhole was a separate company, acquired by Google in 2004. As a result of that purchase, in 2005 Google Earth was released.

In-Q-Tel is a CIA funded agency..

“..Throughout much of the last fifty years, the CIA has operated at the cutting edge of science and technology. From the U-2 spy plane to the CORONA satellite, CIA’s “wizards of Langley” earned a reputation for bold innovation and risk taking, working in advance of the private sector and other branches of government. Much of CIA’s technology success was a result of identifying gaps and opportunities….”

Naturally IQT partners with many other US Government agencies such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and DoD’s Defense HUMINT Management Office (DHMO). now the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC).

This symbiotic relationship between the US Gov, Google and private enterprise is so interesting. And this post builds on my post that reminded us how dependant we are on the grace and favour of US Government agencies for good old HF radio…never mind GPS and the Internet itself !

I am not really that bothered that the US Govt is the funding source and the major source of the initiatives behind geospatial technology – combined with Google of course as a major channel to private enterprise and world wide adoption and, of course, dependence.

Have a look at the excellent work at this “visualize Singapore” blog called SinGeo. This just shows how data from Google Earth can be be used to greatly enhance many types of activity not only sailing using the coastal and bathymetric data now being made available.

Singapore marinachannelsc

The work being carried out by OGC to standardise the interfaces and KML scripting language and their strategic partner scheme that is helping to develop the businesses of companies such as PCI Geomatics will simply challenge the incumbents in our marine industry (yes, Raymarine! ) to up their game and also to reduce prices.

I am really just selfishly wondering how and when I will be able to get all this fantastic information on a device on my boat for Free…yes I am really that selfish…:-)


Is it time we did not have to depend on the “Grace and Favour” of the US Coast Guard and Dep of Defence?

It is just over a year ago that, thanks to the feedback of the cruising community around the world, the future of HF radio services was saved!

You may recall that the U.S. Coast Guard’s issued a notice dated April 18, 2007, soliciting public comment on the need to continue providing high frequency (HF) radio broadcasts of weather forecasts and warnings via:

(1) Radiofacsimile;
(2) voice; and,
(3) Simplex Teletype Over Radio (SITOR)

This was issued by C.S. Johnson, JR.,Captain, U.S. Coast Guard, Acting Assistant Commandant for Command, Control, Communications, computers and Information Technology – well that is one powerful CIO job!.

The notice stated that in summary:

“…The Coast Guard is soliciting public comment on the need to continue providing high frequency (HF) radio broadcasts of weather forecasts and warnings. Public comment is necessary in order to assess the demand for the HF radio broadcasts of weather forecasts in each of three forms: (1) Radiofacsimile;(2) voice; and, (3) Simplex Teletype Over Radio (SITOR), also known as Narrow Band Direct Printing (NBDP).

The infrastructure necessary to provide these services has exceeded its USCG HFlife expectancy; the equipment is no longer manufactured, repairs are difficult to accomplish, and spare parts generally are not available. Because of the very significant costs involved to continue these specific HF radio services, the Coast Guard requires information on the extent to which these services are used by the public and what alternative services are being used or are available to obtain weather forecasts and warnings.

Luckily after an outcry the US Coast Guard concluded that:

“The responding public collectively perceives that the USCG HF broadcasts are essential to their safety. There is no viable alternative to the USCG HF broadcasts because present alternatives are perceived by the public to be out of financial reach. Also, marine weather forecasts available through these alternative sources may not guarantee the same level of accuracy, timeliness, and/or sufficiency as provided by the USCG HF broadcasts…”

Should we not have a separate mandate for the sailing community that protects it’s interests on a formal basis rather than leave it to the discretion and judgement of professional staff who may have many other challenging objectives and other more powerful stakeholders to satisfy?

What about the US GPS network?…when will that run out of “grace and favour” ?


Zero to Open 60 in 18 months

I remember seeing Dee Caffari being given an Honorary Doctorate for her achievements dee2during my son’s graduation ceremony at Leeds Met . Dee herself graduated from Leeds Met in 1995, and she became a teacher, shortly after that she took up sailing…after only 10 years Dee set a world record in the Aviva Challenge 2006, for being the first woman to sail around the world single handed against the prevailing winds.

Then in February 2007, she went to work with a team of sports science experts from Leeds Met to shape her into the ultimate professional sailor. She was preparing to race the world’s ‘Open 60′ elite sailors in her Aviva Ocean Racing Campaign. She has set out on an accelerated learning curve to go from ‘zero to Open 60′ in under two years.

Sports science experts at the Carnegie Faculty of Sport & Education’s Centre for Performance Sport. set to work. The centre is one of the world’s leading sports development centres and has helped some of Britain’s best athletes including Dame Kelly Holmes and Tracey Morris.

The scientists regularly carried out measurements on her heart, body mass and the effects of the training programme. To assess her fitness levels, the Carnegie Centre for Performance Sport used state of the art finger-tip blood sampling technology to measure haemoglobin and blood lactate alongside monitoring heart rate response and blood pressure during incremental running on a treadmill.

Then after only 18 months experience with the open 60’s she came 6th in the Vendee Globe 2008 becoming the fist woman to sail singlehanded round the world in both directions

Elapsed time for course: 99 days 1 hours 10 mn. 57 sec.
Actual distance sailed: 27906.9 Nm.
Actual average speed: 11.7 KTS
Average speed over course: 10.45 KTS


Offbeat Charters from SuperYachtWorld

This is another great Google Map from Louise Busby..and in her own words “An increasing number of superyacht owners and charter operators are relocating their vessels to far-flung corners of the globe to entice the growing band of charter guests tired of cruising round the same old watering holes. We’ve searched the planet for the pick of these yachts and the experiences they offer, from sun bathing with iguanas in the Galapagos to snorkelling with elephants off those gems of the Indian Ocean. “….Great job Louise !

View Larger Map

..although sailors and power boaters dont always get along:-) – I have to take my hat off to Louise who is web editor of the Broom Users Club and who has also the author of Inland Waterways of the Netherlands.


New! Passage Plan Template

Phlat ChatThe owner of the pretty catamaran "Phlat Chat" has sent

in an updated copy of the passage plan

that I first posted here.









You can download the updated passage planner I have two different version:

1 – Word document that is like a checklist for the Skipper & Crew

2 – Excel spreadsheet

The update is a useful calculator for fuel consumption especially if you have two engines and anticipate motoring for any length of time.

So now you get the following displays inside the passage plan:





..or if the calculations shows you havn’t got enough fuel, then the display shows…





"Phlat Chat" will be cruising up the east coast of Australia over the Christmas period from Sydney to Lake Macquarie….am I envious?

….Oh no! …we love the rolling fog and bitter cold of the English Channel in December 🙂