Stennis personnel helping ships safely navigate into Haitian ports

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, MS (WLOX) - Personnel from the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC), based at Stennis Space Center (SSC), are helping relief get to the devastated people of Haiti.

Operation Unified Response involves 11,000 military personnel. Most of the Stennis-based personnel taking part are conducting hydrographic surveys of ports of interest around Haiti.

"Hydrographic surveys are necessary in order to determine navigational hazards that could impede the egress of Navy assets involved in the relief support and enable the flow of humanitarian supplies," said Rear Adm. Jonathan White, Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. "The assistance we are providing reflects on our nation's compassion and commitment to those impacted by this tragedy."

Personnel from the Naval Oceanographic Office conducted airborne lidar surveys of Port-au-Prince over the weekend, and are expected to conduct more this week using the Compact Hydrographic Airborne Rapid Total Survey system- more commonly known as CHARTS.

CHARTS represents the latest airborne charting and mapping technology and can survey large ocean areas from the air to quickly assimilate a synoptic snapshot of many parameters for broad areas.

The system integrates a 3,000-Hz hydrographic lidar and a 20,000-Hz topographic lidar, a digital imaging camera and a CASI-1500 hyperspectral imager in one system.

CHARTS is installed on a commercial Beechcraft King Air 200 aircraft. Other Naval Oceanographic Office personnel are en route to the area aboard the naval oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson. The 329-ft. ship is equipped with two hydrographic survey launches (HSLs). Their equipment includes multibeam sounders, sidescan sonar and GPS systems.

Members of the Fleet Survey Team, also based at SSC, are currently aboard a U.S. Navy warship in the vicinity of Port-au-Prince to conduct port safety of navigation surveys in support of ship-to-shore humanitarian relief operations.

Personnel from the Team's expeditionary and navigation groups routinely deploy to areas around the world outfitted with equipment to perform surveys from their own small boats or boats of opportunity. Data are collected and processed by the team on scene in order to provide timely products including the best possible graphic depiction of potential hazards to navigation.

NMOC has pre-positioned an International Hydrographic Organization Category-A certified Navy hydrographer from SSC with the Commander Fourth Fleet staff in Mayport, FL. to assist Commander Task Force (CTF) 42, with developing a plan to optimize application of the various hydrographic survey capabilities.

In addition to hydrographic support, the Naval Oceanographic Office is also providing wave and tidal data and specialized analyzed imagery that are critical to planning ship-to-shore operations in support of the relief effort.

Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center in Monterey, CA is providing high-resolution wave and atmospheric model information. Additional forecasting support for USN ships participating in humanitarian relief operations is being provided by Navy weather personnel embarked aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Bataan (LHD 5) and by the Naval Maritime Forecast Center in Norfolk, VA.

NMOC directs the Navy's meteorology and oceanography programs, maintains the Navy atomic clock for precise time and tracks the positions of the stars for navigation.

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