Since 2003, the Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has been conducting multibeam mapping of many U.S. continental margins in areas where there is a potential for an extended continental shelf as defined under Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. UNH was directed by Congress, through funding by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, to map the bathymetry in areas in the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, Northwest Atlantic, northern Gulf of Mexico, the Northern Mariana Islands, Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll (Fig. 1). The purpose of these surveys is to accurately locate the 2500-m isobath and to collect the bathymetry data required to eventually determine the location of the maximum change in gradient on Figure 1. Locations and year of bathymetry mapping (yellow areas) for U.S. UNCLOS concerns. the continental rises. A total area of about 862,000 km2 has been completed; approximately 250,000 km2 remains to be mapped. The area between the ~1000 and ~4800-m isobaths has been mapped on each of the completed margins. The mapping has been conducted with multibeam echosounders (MBES) that typically collect soundings with a spacing of ~50 m or less in the focused water depths. After each area is mapped, the data are gridded at 100-m spatial resolution although higher resolution is possible in the shallower regions. The depth precision achieved on all of the cruises has been <1% of the water depth and typically has been <0.5% of the water depth, based on cross-line comparisons. Navigation on all of the cruises has been acquired with inertial-aided DGPS using commercial differential corrections that provide 2 position accuracies much better than ±5 m. All of the MBES systems used produce acoustic backscatter as well as bathymetry but the backscatter quality varies among systems and conditions. Table 1 is a summary of the mapping completed and of areas yet to be mapped for bathymetry. The data are all processed at sea by UNH personnel during their collection and the data, grids and views of the processed data are posted on the worldwide web soon after completion of each area. The data, grids and images can be viewed and downloaded at http://ccom.unh.edu/law_of_the_sea.html.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal Title

U.S. Hydrographic Conference (US HYDRO)

Conference Date

May 14 - May 18, 2007

Publisher Place

Norfolk, VA, USA


Hydrographic Society of America

Document Type

Conference Proceeding