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Applying the criteria in Article 76 of the Law of the Sea Convention requires data on the morphology of the seafloor and, in some areas, the thickness of the underlying sediment. For this reason, the ECS Project has conducted field programs necessary to collect bathymetric and seismic data.  Data collected as part of the U.S. ECS Project are made available to the public and can be downloaded from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Bathymetric Data

Bathymetric data are collected using state-of-the-art multibeam echosounders that provide a three-dimensional map of the surface of the seafloor. These data are important for applying the criteria in Article 76, including identifying the foot of the slope and 2,500 meter isobaths (i.e., depth contours).

Since 2003, NOAA has mapped more than 3 million square kilometers of the ocean floor in support of the U.S. ECS Project, an area 5 times the size of Texas. Bathymetric data have been collected using state-of-the-art multibeam echosounders on 37 separate cruises from 14 ships in 10 regions totaling nearly 2.5 years of sea time. This is the largest offshore mapping effort ever conducted by the United States. Bathymetric data collection is coordinated by NOAA and undertaken by the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/NOAA Joint Hydrographic Center, a cooperative partnership between NOAA and the University of New Hampshire.

Table 1: Bathymetric data collection in support of the U.S. ECS Project.
ECS Region Dates Ship Bathymetric Data
(sq km)
Arctic Aug 30-Sep 10, 2003 USCGC Healy 10,000
Oct 6-26, 2004 USCGC Healy 20,000
Aug 16-Sep 14, 2007 USCGC Healy 70,000
Aug 14-Sep 5, 2008 USCGC Healy 34,600
Sep 5-Oct 1, 2008 USCGC Healy 29,158
Aug 7-Sep 16, 2009 USCGC Healy 66,135
Aug 3-Sep 4, 2010 USCGC Healy 47,663
Aug 15-Sep 28, 2011 USCGC Healy 58,000
Aug 26-Sep 27, 2012 USCGC Healy 68,600
Sep 19-Oct 6, 2016 USCGC Healy 14,000
Atlantic Aug 23-Sep 18, 2004 USNS Henson 255,000
(total all three legs)
Sep 25-Oct 20, 2004 USNS Henson
Oct 29-Nov 29, 2004 USNS Henson
Apr 29-May 30, 2005 USS Pathfinder 148,500
(total both legs)
Jun 5-23, 2005 USS Pathfinder
May 1-31, 2008 Roger Revelle 124,216
Jul 3-17, 2012 Ronald H. Brown 69, 287
Jul 30-Aug 29, 2015 Marcus G. Langseth 157,166
Oct 3-24, 2018 Okeanos Explorer 58,000
Bering Sea Jul 7-28, 2003 Davidson 21,000
Gulf of Alaska Jun 24-Jul 29, 2005 Kilo Moana 321,466
Jul 1 – Aug 3, 2018 Kilo Moana 98,777
Gulf of Mexico Jun 21-Jul 8, 2007 Northern Resolution 32,300
Johnston Atoll Aug 9-22, 2014 Kilo Moana 97,250
Kingman Reef & Palmyra Atoll May 12-Jun 16, 2010 Kilo Moana 107,435
Nov 20-Dec 20, 2015 Kilo Moana 164, 200
Jan 12-Feb 9, 2016 Ron Brown 166,756
Mendocino Ridge May 5-26, 2009 Okeanos Explorer 14,136
Sep 23-Oct 11, 2014 Atlantis 103,074
Necker Island Aug 21-Sep 3, 2009 Okeanos Explorer 18,207
(total both legs)
Sep 12-26, 2009 Okeanos Explorer
Jul 31-Aug 10, 2011 Kilo Moana 47,394
Nov 15-Dec 21, 2017 Kilo Moana 149,770
Northern Mariana Islands and Guam Oct 15-Nov 15, 2006 USNS Bowditch 92,111
Nov 16-Dec 17, 2007 USNS Bowditch 92,151
Aug 6-Sep 5, 2010 USNS Sumner 187,503
Sep 24-Oct 21, 2010 USNS Sumner 156,023
Sep 14-Oct 13, 2016 Fugro Supporter 102,440

Seismic Data

Seismic data is required in some regions; it provides information on the depth, thickness, geometry, and other characteristics of the sediments beneath the seafloor.  The ECS Project requires seismic data to derive the thickness of the sediment for those regions where the sediment thickness formula in Article 76 applies.

Seismic data collection for the ECS Project is coordinated through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  Seismic data has been collected in the Arctic, Atlantic, Bering Sea, and Gulf of Alaska (Table 2).  USGS made significant efforts to minimize the impact of seismic data collection on living resources through careful planning, obtaining the applicable authorizations, and following mitigation strategies.

Seismic data collection in the Arctic Ocean was undertaken cooperatively with Canada.  The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy collected multibeam bathymetric data and created a straight and open path through the ice for the Canadian Coast Guard ship Louis S. Saint Laurent, which followed collecting seismic reflection and refraction data with sensors towed behind the stern of the ship.

Table 2: Seismic data collection in support of the U.S. ECS Project. 
ECS Region Dates Ship Seismic Data
(linear km)
Arctic Aug 30-Oct 11, 2007 CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent 2,987
Aug 21-Oct 3, 2008 CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent 4,217
Aug 6-Sep 16, 2009 CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent 4,069
Aug 4-Sep 15, 2010 CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent 3,600
Aug 18-Sep 29, 2011 CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent 1,437
Aug 11-Sep 3, 2016 CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent 629
Bering Sea Aug 10-Sep 2, 2011 Marcus G. Langseth 2,200
Gulf of Alaska Jun 6-26, 2011 Marcus G. Langseth 3,200
Atlantic Aug 21-Sep 13, 2014 Marcus G. Langseth 2,760
Apr 10-May 3, 2015 Marcus G. Langseth 3,005

For more information on data collection, please visit other U.S. ECS Task Force Websites

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information  

U.S. Geological Survey ECS Website  

Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/NOAA Joint Hydrographic Center  

NOAA Ocean Exploration Program  

U.S. Department of State

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