Joe Kravitz and the Chirp Sonar: The Vision of a Prophet, the Patience of a Saint


In his January 2000 review of Ocean Science and Technology at the Office of Naval Research, then Chief of Naval Research R.Adm. Paul Gaffney, described a recent Florida Atlantic University chirp sonar program as an "excellent example of the payoff one realizes from vertically integrated research conducted by a government/industry/university team" and "a classic ONR investigation" The chirp sonar has indeed been a great success, meeting a variety of Navy, industry and academic needs as well as being a profitable product for several manufacturers. Such success does not come overnight, however, and in the case of the chirp sonar, it has been the result of nearly 20 years of continuous support from ONR, most of it under the direction of Joe Kravitz. The chirp sonar had its academic roots in frustration over our ability to resolve fine-scale subbottom layering that we believed held the clue to paleoclimatic change and the belief that a broadband, quantitative profiler could open the door to remote characterization of the seafloor. Seeking ways to increase resolution without compromising penetration, in 1979, Larry Mayer and Bob Tyce, both students at Scripps, visited JPL where Richard Heyser had built a prototype chirp profiling system. Moving to the Univ of Rhode Island in 1980, Mayer, in collaboration with Lester LeBlanc proposed to ONR that the JPL chirp sonar be adapted for use as a high-resolution profiler and sediment classification system. Interagency problems prevented the use of the JPL prototype so instead a new system was developed with contributions from a number of URI graduate students. In 1984 Steve Schock began a PhD. program at URI greatly advancing the development of the system. The private sector showed an interest, Schock and LeBlanc moved to Florida Atlantic University to establish a Chirp Sonar Lab and the rest as they say, is history. While funding for the chirp sonar began before Joe's arrival at ONR (Tom Pyle, Murray McDonald, Mark Odegard and Gerald Morris were first program managers), it was Joe's patience and faith through 15 years of continual development that has led to today's successes. In a similar fashion, Joe has also been driving force behind the development of new technologies to map and visualize the seafloor. Our view of the seafloor and understanding of its processes would have been much murkier if it had not been for the vision and patience of Joe Kravitz.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

EOS Transactions, American Geophysical Union


81, Issue 48

Conference Date

Dec 15 - Dec 19, 2000

Publisher Place

San Francisco, CA, USA


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding