World Hydrography Day 2017

21 June 2017

Today, 21st June, is World Hydrography Day, celebrated around the world by professionals whose job it is to ensure that the world's seas and oceans are adequately mapped and charted.

Robert Ward, Secretary-General of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), recently attended the United Nations (UN) Ocean Conference in New York, where he reported that we have higher resolution maps of the Moon and Mars than we do for most of our seas and oceans.

According to the statistics maintained by the IHO, the depth of at least 85% of the world's seas and oceans has yet to be measured directly.  Over 50% of the world's coastal waters have never been surveyed.

Despite years of effort by the world's hydrographers, most of the depths shown on maps of the ocean are derived from satellite gravity measurements, which can miss significant features and provides only coarse-resolution depictions of the largest seamounts, ridges and canyons. Many significant features on the seafloor remain to be discovered.

In 2005 the UN General Assembly endorsed the concept of an annual World Hydrography Day to publicise the work of the IHO and to assist in increasing the coverage of hydrographic information on a global basis. The theme for 2017 is "Mapping our seas, oceans and waterways - more important than ever".

At their recent Assembly, the 87 Members States of the IHO passed a Resolution aimed at improving mankind's knowledge of the depth and the shape of the seafloor around the world.  This includes greater use of newer technologies in shallow waters, such as satellite imagery and airborne laser, and crowd-sourcing using existing ships and boats and their standard navigation echo sounders to collect and record the depth as part of their normal voyages and to upload it to the IHO's open-access global database of depth - the IHO Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry.  From here, the depth data can be used to check and improve existing charts and maps as well as assisting managers, scientists and industry to plan their use of the sea and its resources in a sustainable and cost effective way.

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