Cassie Kautzer: Survey Methods! August 22, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of Survey: Woody Island Channel, Kodiak, Alaska
Date: August 22, 2014

Temperature & Weather:  11.5° C  (53° F), Cloudy, Rainy

Science & Technology Log

Today was ‘Day 4’ of surveying in the Woody Island Channel next to Kodiak, Alaska.  The Woody Island Channel is a very busy waterway leading ships, boats, and vessels of all sizes into Kodiak.  The problem at the moment is that much of the Woody Island Channel has shoals (shallow areas) and rocks.  This can be very dangerous, especially since the channel has not been surveyed or mapped since the 1940’s!  At that, in the 40s, surveyors were using Lead Lines to map the ocean floor.  Lead Lines were long ropes, marked with measurements, and with a weight at the end, that were thrown out to measure the depth of the water.  Lead Lines were considered very accurate for their time.  The problem with Lead Lines is that there was no way for surveyors to map the entire ocean floor–the lead line only gave a measurement of depth in one location (point) at a time.

Drawing of Lead Line Survey, formerly used to survey water depths one point at a time.
Drawing of Lead Line Survey, formerly used to survey water depths one point at a time.

Today, NOAA Hydrographers use Multibeam Echosounders.  A Multibeam Echosounder uses sonar to send out hundreds of sound pulses and measures how long it takes for those pulses to come back.  The multibeam echosounder is attached to the hull, or bottom, of the survey launches.  To find out how deep the ocean floor is in an area, depths are generated by measuring how much time it takes for each of hundreds of sound pulses to be sent out from the echosounder, through the water to the ocean floor and back again.  The sound pulses are sent out from the echosounder in an array almost like that of a flashlight.

Image shows swath of echosounding from the hull of the launch.  Different colora represent different depths. (Courtesy of NOAA)
Image shows swath of echosounding from the hull of the launch. Different colors represent different depths. (Courtesy of NOAA)

The deeper the water, the wider the swath (band of sound pulses).  The more shoal (shallow) the water, the smaller the swath.  Basically, a wider area can be surveyed when the water is deeper.  This means that surveying near shore, near rocky areas, and near harbors can be very time consuming.  These surveys do need to be completed, however, if they are in navigationally significant areas, like the Woody Island Channel that Rainier is surveying right now.

Image of hydrographic survey methods as they've changed over time.
Image of hydrographic survey methods as they’ve changed over time.

Technological advances over the years have made it more efficient and more accurate to survey the oceans.

Using multibeam sonar, the Rainier has surveyed thousands of linear nautical miles of ocean in the past couple of years.  In 2012 the Rainier was away from its home port in Newport, Oregon for 179 days–surveying 605 square nautical miles and 9,040 liner nautical miles.  In 2013 Rainier was away from its home port for 169 days – surveying 640 square nautical miles and 7,400 linear nautical miles.  It is NOAA’s goal to get 10,000 linear nautical miles surveyed each field season between all four of its Hydro ships: Rainier, Fairweather, Thomas Jefferson, and Ferdinand R. Hassler.  Several years, the Rainier has come close to this on its own!

Personal Log

I have spent the last four days out on the survey launches, gathering data, with a bunch of amazing people.  I have had the opportunity to drive a launch several times, with skilled Coxwain and Able Seaman Jeff Mays supervising me and helping me adjust to the differences in driving/steering a heavy boat versus driving my car at home.  Jeff always took back over when we got to a rocky area or area that was shoaling up quickly.  I am grateful to him, however, for the opportunity.  As with any skill that needs to be practiced, I got a little better each time I drove.  (Trying to steer in a straight line/path on the water when dealing with wind, water currents, waves, wakes from other boats, and the boats themselves is tough! At least for me.  Coxwains Dennis Brooks and Jeff Mays make it look easy, and always kept me feeling safe aboard the launch boats!)

Me, at the wheel of a survey launch.  (Photo courtesy of HST Jackson Barry)
Me, at the wheel of a survey launch. (Photo courtesy of HSST Barry Jackson )

For My Students

Below is an update on my Alaskan Wildlife sightings.  Remember, these are all animals I have been within 20 feet of (except for the bear).  Along with the wildlife in the graph below, I have also seen hundreds of birds from a distance and several romp of otter (large groups).

Wildlife I have seen thus far, graphed using Create A Graph (
Wildlife I have seen thus far, graphed using Create A Graph (

Can you help me identify the pictures below?  It can be quite difficult to identify creatures and “stuff” in the dark ocean waters.


What is it?
What is it?

37 Replies to “Cassie Kautzer: Survey Methods! August 22, 2014”

  1. Are comment to you is that we have both seen deer. Mostly in the woods. Are question to you is have you ever seen those animals before other than Alaska.
    Kaylie clark and sarahi serrato.

    1. Hi girls! I have seen a lot of wildlife over the years, but until I came to Alaska, I have never seen a bear, jellyfish, or otter before. Also, I had only seen Harbor Seals in a zoo setting, never in their natural habitat.

  2. We think it is a Jelly Fish
    Do you like the animals you have seen?
    Estefani Zambrano Yailen Arias

  3. Hello Mrs.Kautzer I hope you are having a great time i can’t beleive all the animals you are see. I can’t beleive you saw a bear.

    from: keyana and alexa

  4. its victor Torres and a logan we wanted cremeen to answer the pictures we thought the first one was a jellyfish Victor thought the second picture was a plant im not sure what it is the third one was a romp of otters

  5. was the first picture was a squid and the second was a plant maybe third were otters. question, what was that green stuff in the second picture. sincerly , ryan brooks and fabian martinez

  6. Hi it is kearstin orme and daniela valladares.We thought the 1 picture is a jellyfish.
    What things have you learned so far?

  7. 1. Jellyfish 2. A plant 3. A romp of otters
    Our ideas of what were in the pictures were

    Our question is, is it easy driving a launch boat?
    Myia Taylor and Roselyn Castrellon

  8. what is a puffin can you send us a pictrue? I think that the first picture is a otter and the rest of them.

    Oscar Garcia and
    Brian Munden

  9. Is it a puffin fish or puffin bird can u send a picture.We learned that you use echo loction. Douglas Matthew Richardson,Elias Montejo

  10. Hope you are having a good time.
    How does it feel to be in a launch boat?
    – Maria Lopez & Joshua Leon

  11. you have seen a lot of animals. what is a puffin? by austin musser &landon ingram

  12. i think you should put more pictures of animals that you saw.
    what is your favorite animal. Dameon Mahki

  13. Pictures of animals!!
    1. Stingray
    2. An Eagle
    3. Otters

    are youe afraid when driving the boat?!?!
    Amethyst price & Atison Timos

  14. I think the first peacher is a puffin or a Jellfish. Miss.kautzer are you having fun ?
    Luzelena Morales
    Abbi Garcia

  15. A jelly fish mabye or a coupie of otter. they were cool. Do you like the cold in your trip.
    Anibal umana Lanta wiliam

  16. Bj and Jimmy want to know that have you seen anything dangerous?
    The vote B .J and Jimmy pick otter. and have a safe trip. love B.J and Jimmy.

  17. hi miss kautzer its me jazmine r u doing a good job on your trip.Hi its shaun have u seen a tiger yet.

  18. was it hard to clim up the moutin. I love alll the picture you send use of you climing the moutin and all th animal. By Alyssa snyder Katie Ruth

  19. what is a puffin and can you send a picture of it.and i think the 2 pictures 1 is a jellyfish and the other is a octopuse eating fruit. and the 3 picture is otters. sincerly matthew clark and Austin roberts.

  20. hi miss kautzer how does a otter looks like p. cateanhave a nice day what tempeter is in alaska how dose a gaint jelly fish looks like p.s send us a picter about your self by:princess.cabrales and caden mckinney have a nice day and see you later!!

  21. Dear Mis.kautzer why are scienceest in the ship and also rembber you toched the water and you said it was frezzing coold but why is it coold in the water than out of the water? p.s can you send our hole call” lots of pictures about you and also lot of pictures about bird diffrint kind of birds please!!!!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: