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NOAA Ship will
Sonar Map Lake Erie
Parts of Lake Erie’s lakebed haven’t been surveyed since the 1940s and nautical charts that both commercial ships and recreational boaters rely on are long overdue for an update.
Because of that, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is sending one of its four deep-water hydrographic survey ships, the Thomas Jefferson, to Lake Erie this summer to sonar-map the lakebed under heavily trafficked areas.
This is the Jefferson’s first visit to the Great Lakes. The last time NOAA sent a ship of the Jefferson’s size and capability to the Great Lakes was the early 1990s.
The Jefferson’s mission is part of a stepped-up effort to map the Great Lakes in recent years and survey parts of the Detroit River and Lake Michigan off Wisconsin.
Once in Lake Erie, the Jefferson will use multi-beam sonar to create 3D images of the lakebed. The focus is around the Cleveland Harbor approaches, as well as around South Bass Island, which is home to the Put-In-Bay village, a tourist hotspot that gets visitors by ferry.
In Lake Erie, the Jefferson will be docked in Cleveland when not working offshore. The 208-foot-long ship, launched in 1991 as the U.S. Navy ship Littlehales, carries a crew of 35 and can be deployed for weeks at a time.
The mapping work employs a performing a scanning technique known commonly as “mowing the lawn,” in which wide swaths of lakebed are surveyed in a grid pattern. The work often ends up locating undiscovered shipwrecks, new obstructions and things on the bottom changed by nature.
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