World Hydrography Day

US Navy hdrographers assisting the government of Micronesia to map harbors (photo by US Navy)

You know that sonar thingee on your bass boat that you use to find structure where the big ones hang out? There is a day for that—World Hydrography Day, celebrated annually on June 21. The date, chosen by the United Nations in 2005, honors the establishment of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) on June 21, 1921.

Hydrography, according to the NOAA Office of Coast Survey, “is the science that measures and describes the physical features of bodies of water and the land areas adjacent to those bodies of water.” In other words, hydrography maps the bottom of navigable waters to make sure that ships and boats know what is under them (sorry, they don’t do the work to help you find big bass).

The IHO was started as an attempt among leading coastal nations to develop tools and standards for mapping oceanic features. A primary goal has been to assure the “greatest uniformity in nautical charts and documents,” so navigation is not dependent on differences in techniques, languages or quality of information. The IHO has also led in the development of modern mapping and measurement techniques, including satellite and other remote-sensing methods (but the standard method still involves “multibeam echosounding”—like the thingee on your bass boat). Most of the major maritime nations, 89 at the present, are parties to the international agreement that governs the IHO.

            And it’s a big job.  In the U.S., NOAA(the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) maintains more than 1,000 nautical charts that cover 3.6 million square nautical miles of U.S. waters and 95,000 miles of shoreline.  And because storms, tides, waves, plate tectonics and other natural and human-caused disturbances keep moving the bottom around, NOAA needs to conduct 2,000-3,000 square miles of surveys annually.

The conservation mission of IHO focuses on providing physical descriptions for protected and sensitive marine areas. Accurate, uniform and accessible maps are essential for understanding the relationship between the distribution and abundance of living creatures and the condition of their environments. Because the uses of the ocean are moving to deeper areas farther offshore, improved capacity to understand and monitor deep waters—one of the least understood parts of our earth—becomes increasingly important. And with more development of coastal areas and the specter of sea-level rise and more frequent, stronger storms, the importance of hydrography for public safety also increases.

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This Month in Conservation

June 1
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June 2
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June 2
Rodne Galicha, Philippine Environmentalist, Born (1979)
June 3
The World’s First Wilderness Area Established (1924)
June 4
Gaylord Nelson, Politician and Conservationist, Born (1916)
June 5
World Environment Day
June 6
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June 7
Thomas Malthus Published His Famous Essay (1798)
June 8
Bryce Canyon National Park Created (1923)
June 9
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June 10
E. O. Wilson, Father of Biodiversity, Born (1929)
June 11
Jacques Cousteau, Ocean Explorer, Born (1910)
June 12
Frank Chapman, Creator of the Christmas Bird Count, Born (1864)
June 13
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, Born (1944)
June 14
Bramble Cay Melomys Went Extinct (2016)
June 15
Global Wind Day
June 16
Gray Whale Delisted (1994)
June 17
World Day to Combat Desertification
June 18
Alexander Wetmore, Ornithologist and Smithsonian Leader, Born (1866)
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June 20
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June 21
World Hydrography Day
June 22
Cuyahoga River Burst into Flames (1969)
June 23
Antarctic Treaty Implemented (1961)
June 24
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June 25
David Douglas, Pioneering Botanist, Born (1799)
June 26
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June 27
Tajik National Park Added to World Heritage List (2013)
June 28
Mark Shand, Asian Elephant Conservationist, Born (1951)
June 29
Mesa Verde National Park Created (1906)
June 30
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Created (1940)
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