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Bathymetric Surveys: Jet Skis Go Hi-Tech

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New Jet Ski based technology, bathymetric surveys, allows researchers to quickly and easily survey the ocean floor in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.

Hazards to navigation such as shoaling of shipping channels or shipwrecks can be identified using a bathymetric surveying and side scan sonar system, which produces detailed pictures of the ocean floor up to depths of 300ft. Now, researchers with the Caribbean Coastal Observing System Caribbean (CariCOOS), a project funded by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have created a way to mount this technology on a jet ski in order to make it quick, easy, accessible and affordable.

“This system uses a transducer and a side scan sonar to produce a detailed picture of the depth of the water in any harbor, port or navigation channel,” explains Dr. Miguel Canals, Director of the Fluid Mechanics and Oceanic Engineering Laboratory and assistant professor of the College of Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayaguez campus and one of CariCOOS’ leading researchers. “Since it is mounted on an easily transported jet ski and powered by a solar panel, this substantially reduces the cost of performing this type of survey.”

A bathymetric survey is used to research a particular coastal area to better understand beach erosion and sediment transport. The side scan sonar is particularly useful in order to recover a port entry or for detecting obstacles to navigation or for search and rescue assistance in the event of a downed airplane or sunken vessel.

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“We are on-call by the U.S. Coast Guard to survey for shoaling or other hazards to navigation,” says Canals.

This jet-ski based bathymetric surveying system will now be used throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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  1. hello,
    My name is Carlos Lopes and work for the Portuguese Navy for the Hydrographic Institute, currently I am collecting information about survey on the jetski because the institute bought one and we’re still trying to learn how to get good results, what the best equipment to adapt the jetski and adjusting them where
    if you could help me by sharing some of your knowledge and photos of equipment mounted on the jetski would be very useful for the start.

    from already thank you very much
    Carlos Lopes
    Portuguese Hydrographic Institute


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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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