Archive for the ‘Maritime Transportation’ Category

What are the Totten Beacons?



In 1513, Spanish explorer Ponce de León sailed into the strong currents of the Florida Straits. Little did he know that within a few years, these uncharted waters, which fed into the Gulf Stream, would become a major international shipping route to and from Europe and the New World.

As Europeans explored and colonized the Americas, they took advantage of the Florida Straits' winds and currents. The winds changed direction often, however, easily pounding countless vessels against miles of treacherous submerged coral reefs off the southern Florida coast.

By 1852, Lieutenant James B. Totten, the U.S. Army's assistant to the Coast Survey, had installed 15 wooden signal poles in the reefs to create more accurate charts of the Florida Keys. Local mariners quickly recognized that the poles themselves helped them safely navigate the reefs, and by 1855, Totten and his team installed a second generation of 16 poles using a more permanent material—iron. The "beacons" each displayed a letter, starting with "A" and ending with "P." Today, remnants of Totten Beacons are protected as historical resources by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS).

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What are the Roaring Forties?



During the Age of Sail (circa 15th to 19th centuries), these strong prevailing winds propelled ships across the Pacific, often at breakneck speed. Nevertheless, sailing west into heavy seas and strong headwinds could take weeks, especially around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, making it one of the most treacherous sailing passages in the world. The Roaring Forties take shape as warm air near the equator rises and moves toward the poles. Warm air moving poleward (on both sides of the equator) is the result of nature trying to reduce the temperature difference between the equator and at the poles created by uneven heating from the sun.

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What are the trade winds?

This item was filled under Basics, Economy, Facts, Maritime Transportation


Known to sailors around the world, the trade winds and associated ocean currents helped early sailing ships from European and African ports make their journeys to the Americas. Likewise, the trade winds also drive sailing vessels from the Americas toward Asia. Even now, commercial ships use "the trades" and the currents the winds produce to hasten their oceanic voyages.

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What are the doldrums?



Known to sailors around the world as the doldrums, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, (ITCZ, pronounced and sometimes referred to as the “itch”), is a belt around the Earth extending approximately five degrees north and south of the equator. Here, the prevailing trade winds of the northern hemisphere blow to the southwest and collide with the southern hemisphere’s driving northeast trade winds.

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What is GPS?



For thousands of years, humans found their way by looking to the sky. Sailors used the constellations, sun, and moon to navigate to distant shores. Today, all that's needed is a device called a GPS receiver. GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and it lets us know where we are and where we are going anywhere on Earth.

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What is the Great Loop?

This item was filled under Economy, Facts, Maritime Transportation, Places


The Great Loop is a continuous waterway that recreational mariners can travel that includes part of the Atlantic, Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, Canadian Heritage Canals, and the inland rivers of America's heartland. Anyone who completes the journey is then named an official 'Looper.'

For a safe and enjoyable trip, there are a few things to consider when traveling the Great Loop—a great amount of time, a boat with less than a five foot draft to travel inland waterways, NOAA nautical charts, and a NOAA radio. Along the way, it is possible to visit a number of national marine sanctuaries and estuarine research reserves.

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What is seaspeak?

This item was filled under Facts, Maritime Transportation, Technology

Whether on the high seas or at port, misunderstood communication can lead to serious and even dangerous situations. "Seaspeak", the official language of the seas, helps to prevent miscommunication.

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What is a High Seas Forecast?

This item was filled under Facts, Maritime Transportation, Ocean Observations

NOAA's High Seas Forecasts are weather forecasts and data transmitted around the world in real- and near-real-time.

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What is a bight?


A bight is a long, gradual bend or recess in the shoreline that forms a large, open bay. Bights are shallow and may pose hazards to navigation, so their depths, in addition to any submerged features like sand bars and rock formations, are clearly marked on nautical charts.

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What is PORTS??

PORTS? stands for Physical Oceanographic Real Time System. NOAA PORTS? is an information system that measures and disseminates the oceanographic and meteorological data that mariners need to navigate safely.

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