Archive for the ‘Technology’ 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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Where do I get real-time and forecast coastal conditions?



NOAA's nowCOAST is a GIS-based webmap service that provides frequently updated ocean observations along with coastal and marine weather forecasts 24 hours a day. The free online map offers point-and-click access to 60 NOAA data products and services all in one place. With nowCOAST, you can get a one-stop-shop look at coastal conditions — real-time and forecast — before you do or plan anything on the water.

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What is the highest point on Earth as measured from Earth’s center?

This item was filled under Facts, Places, Positioning and Geology, Technology


Mount Everest, located in Nepal and Tibet, is usually said to be the highest mountain on Earth. Reaching 29,029 feet at its summit, Everest is indeed the highest point above global mean sea level—the average level for the ocean surface from which elevations are measured. But the summit of Mt. Everest is not the farthest point from Earth’s center.

Earth is not a perfect sphere, but is a bit thicker at the Equator due to the centrifugal force created by the planet’s constant rotation. Because of this, the highest point above Earth’s center is the peak of Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, located just one degree south of the Equator where Earth’s bulge is greatest. The summit of Chimborazo is 20,564 feet above sea level. However, due to the Earth’s bulge, the summit of Chimborazo is over 6,560 feet farther from the center of the Earth than Everest’s peak. That makes Chimborazo the closest point on Earth to the stars.

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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 marine biogeography?

This item was filled under Basics, Facts, Ocean Observations, Ocean Science, Technology


Marine biogeography is the study of marine species, the geographic distribution of their habitats, and the relationships between living organisms and the environment. By mapping benthic habitats, studying what occurs on the bottom of a body of water, and assessing the relationships between the environment and the organisms that live there, biogeographers provide useful information to protect and conserve marine resources.

Marine biogeographers often use Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, to aid in their research of marine animals, plants, and habitats. Scientists and GIS specialists develop map-based data that describe the distribution and ecology of living marine resources and their connections to human communities. State and federal planners can apply these tools and information to position aquaculture sites and alternative energy facilities, and to protect fisheries and coral spawning areas. Information from biogeographers allows planners to consider possible scenarios, such as new development, that may, or may not, impact the environment.

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What is the Forchhammer’s Principle?

This item was filled under Basics, Facts, Ocean Observations, Ocean Science, Technology

In 1865, the Danish geologist and mineralogist Johan Georg Forchhammer, with the help of naval and civilian collaborators, collected numerous samples of seawater from the Northern Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. He wanted to determine why the salinity (or "saltiness") of seawater varies in different areas of the ocean.

Forchhammer put the samples through a detailed series of chemical analyses and found that the proportions of the major salts in seawater stay about the same everywhere. This constant ratio is known as Forchhammer's Principle, or the Principle of Constant Proportions. In addition to this principal, Forchhammer is credited with defining the term salinity to mean the concentration of major salts in seawater.

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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 NOAA tide table?


A tide table provides daily high and low tide predictions. NOAA tide tables are available for more than 3,000 locations around the nation. NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services and predecessor agencies have produced tide tables for more than 150 years.

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What is an ocean glider?

This item was filled under Facts, Ocean Observations, Ocean Science, Technology
An ocean glider is an autonomous underwater vehicle used to collect ocean data.

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How does NOAA monitor water levels around the nation?

NOAA monitors water levels in the U.S. with the National Water Level Observation Network.


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