World Hydrography Day

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).

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

            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.

Portion of a navigational chart where Russia and Alaska almost touch (photo by US Defense Mapping Agency)

            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.

References:

International Hydrographic Organization.  About the IHO.  Available at:  https://iho.int/en/about-the-iho.  Accessed March 5, 2020.

NOAA National Ocean Service.  What is hydrography?  Available at:  https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/hydrography.html.  Accessed March 5, 2020.

This Month in Conservation

January 1
NEPA Enacted (1970)
January 2
Bob Marshall Born (1901)
January 3
Canaveral National Seashore Created (1975)
January 4
The Real James Bond Born (1900)
January 5
National Bird Day
January 6
Wild Kingdom First Airs (1963)
January 7
Gerald Durrell Born (1925)
January 8
Alfred Russel Wallace Born (1823)
January 9
Muir Woods National Monument Created (1908)
January 10
National Houseplant Appreciation Day
January 11
Aldo Leopold Born (1887)
January 12
National Trust of England Established (1895)
January 13
MaVynee Betsch, the Beach Lady, Born (1935)
January 14
Martin Holdgate Born (1931)
January 15
British Museum Opened (1795)
January 16
Dian Fossey Born (1932)
January 17
Benjamin Franklin, America’s First Environmentalist, Born (1706)
January 18
White Sands National Monument Created (1933)
January 19
Yul Choi, Korean Environmentalist, Born (1949)
January 19
Acadia National Park Established (1929)
January 20
Penguin Appreciation Day
January 21
The Wilderness Society Founded (1935)
January 22
Iraq Sabotages Kuwaiti Oil Fields (1991)
January 23
Sweden Bans CFCs in Aerosols (1978)
January 24
Baden-Powell Publishes “Scouting for Boys” (1908)
January 25
Badlands National Park Established (1939)
January 26
Benjamin Franklin Disses the Bald Eagle (1784)
January 27
National Geographic Society Incorporated (1888)
January 28
Bermuda Petrel, Thought Extinct for 300 Years, Re-discovered (1951)
January 29
Edward Abbey, author of “Desert Solitaire,” Born (1927)
January 30
England Claims Antarctica (1820)
January 31
Stewart Udall, Secretary of Interior, Born (1920)
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