Seafloor Mapping

Background Information

Below you will find a collection of fact sheets, content essays, and stories from our explorers on board seafloor mapping expeditions featured on the OceanExplorer.NOAA.gov website.

Sailing in the Cloud

Sailing in the Cloud

From the 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones: New England and Corner Rise Seamounts expedition. NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer has remote mapping capabilities which allows explorers to participate in expeditions from shore. Learn more from Explorer-in-Training intern Marcel Peliks about what it is like to participate in mapping operations from home!

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Introduction to Sonar and Multibeam Mapping

Introduction to Sonar and Multibeam Mapping

From the Exploring the Deep Ocean collection. This essay describes Sonar Systems, such as Multibeam sonar, use sound waves to map and identify seafloor features. En español: Introducción al sonar multihaz.

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What is the difference between a topographic map and a bathymetric map?

What is the difference between a topographic map and a bathymetric map?

Ocean Exploration Fact. Topographic maps show elevation of landforms above sea level; bathymetric maps show depths of landforms below sea level.

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How much of the ocean has been explored?

How much of the ocean has been explored?

Ocean Exploration Fact. While the entire seafloor has been mapped using data collected from satellites, these data provide only a general picture of what’s there. Seafloor mapping provides a detailed picture of features that lie deep below the ocean’s surface. A significant amount of the seafloor remains unmapped at high resolution.

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Expedition Hopes to Chart “Million Mounds” of Deep-Sea Coral off Southeast Coast

Expedition Hopes to Chart “Million Mounds” of Deep-Sea Coral off Southeast Coast

News Story. Using multibeam sonar, NOAA scientists and partners look for the geographic limits of the “Million Mounds” coral zone off the Southeast Coast of the United States in order to better protect it from things such as crab pots and bottom-trawling nets which could damage the coral.

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Importance of Mapping and Characterizing the Deepwaters of the United States

Importance of Mapping and Characterizing the Deepwaters of the United States

From the Windows to the Deep 2019 Expedition. NOAA Ocean Exploration is committed to mapping deep water areas of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Windows to the Deep 2019 expedition mapped several key areas off the southeastern coast of the United States in support of this mission.

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Sonar

Sonar

Exploration Tool. SONAR, short for SOund NAvigation and Ranging, is a tool that uses sound waves to explore the ocean. Sonar is used for oceanography because sound waves travel farther in the water than radar and light waves can.

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Multibeam Sonar

Multibeam Sonar

Exploration Tool. A multibeam sonar survey is often one of the first steps in exploring a new area. Multibeam sonar sends out multiple, simultaneous sonar beams (or sound waves) at once in a fan-shaped pattern to collect seafloor depth and backscatter measurements.

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Side Scan Sonar

Side Scan Sonar

Exploration Tool. Side scan sonar is a category of active sonar system for detecting and imaging objects on the seafloor. This system is often used to map cultural heritage sites like shipwrecks, to characterize the makeup of the seafloor, and can even help biologists identify habitats of marine animals.

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The above items are only a selection of the educational materials highlighting seafloor mapping on our website.

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