Point of Beginning

The Latest News

November 1, 2001
News on locating a vessel in Alaskan waters, a report on infrastructure that relies on GPS, changes to Virginia's land surveyors' license and an IHEEP conference recap.

The Arctic Rose before it was refit and renamed to work in the Bearing Sea. The ship was originally called the Sea Power and was built for work in the Gulf of Mexico.


Locating a Sunken Vessel

On April 2, 2001, 15 crew members aboard the Arctic Rose fishing vessel went to a watery grave in the Bearing Sea, 775 miles southwest of Anchorage. It was the worst fishing disaster in Alaskan waters in nearly two decades. The only sign of trouble from the vessel had been a signal from its automatic emergency locator beacon to the U.S. Coast Guard at 3:30 a.m. that morning.

A side-scan sonar photo of the Arctic Rose on the ocean floor.
Richard Dentzman, a geological oceanographer from Triton Elics International Inc., Watsonville, Calif., and three Naval Undersea Warfare Center employees helped U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation officials locate the vessel.

Mike Farnam, Tim Jamison and Brian Bunge, all of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Keyport, Wash., were already aboard the Ocean Explorer vessel in the Bristol Bay and contracted to do studies of the effects of bottom trawling when they were requested to extend their trip to aid in the search for the Arctic Rose.

“We were also contracted by the National Marine Fishery Service to operate the navigation equipment and side scan sonar equipment that was onboard the vessel,” Bunge said.

While aboard the Ocean Explorer vessel, Bunge, Farnam, Jamison and Dentzman designed a grid around a position provided by the U.S. Coast Guard from an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), on-site identification of the EPIRB by a C-130, and visual sightings of an oil slick and debris field. The team integrated technology of a Triton Elics International Isis Sonar topside acquisition system with a Klein 5000 towed side-scan sonar. Data from the Klein 5000, known as a “towfish,” was transmitted up a tow cable. DGPS was used with Ultra Short Baseline (USBL) as a tracking system to obtain precise positioning of the side-scan towfish sonar. Using these techniques, the team located the wreckage of the Arctic Rose soon after the start of the search. The Arctic Rose lies at a 437 feet depth, 200 miles northwest of St. Paul Island in the Bearing Sea.

“It took us only two hours from when we put the towfish in,” Dentzman said. “We found it about 2 a.m. or so, and we made several passes to resolve the image at the bottom.”

The Isis Sonar was used to quickly process the raw sonar data into a grey-scale mosaic of the wreck, which was displayed as a geo-referenced image in Triton Elics International’s DelphMap. DelphMap is a sonar mosaic and GIS program for displaying and building a georeference database of images.

The Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation concluded underwater photographing operations of the Arctic Rose using a remote operated vehicle in August, and are conducting an investigation into the sinking.

DOT Releases Report Assessing Vulnerability of Infrastructure Relying on GPS

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the results of a study it sponsored in consultation with the Department of Defense (DOD), which assesses the vulnerability of the GPS-reliant national transportation infrastructure.

The study, which was mandated by a Presidential Decision Directive and prepared by DOT Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, notes that GPS is susceptible to unintentional disruption from atmospheric effects, signal blockage from buildings, interference from communications equipment and deliberate disruption.

“This report provides a roadmap for addressing possible vulnerabilities in GPS so that we can continue maintaining the highest standards of transportation safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

Transportation operations that employ GPS, methods for GPS disruption, possible impacts on transportation safety and approaches to ensure service reliability are all identified in the study. Its findings will initially be used by DOT’s operating administrations to strengthen safety-critical areas that impact aviation, maritime, railroads and intelligent transportation systems. Findings will also be used to review backup systems.

Recommendations to address possible disruption and ensure the safety of the national transportation infrastructure include:

  • Creating awareness among aviation, maritime and surface user communities of the vulnerability of GPS and the need to reduce the possibility of GPS signal loss or interference.
  • The need to implement systems to monitor, report and locate unintentional GPS disruption.
  • The need to assess the applicability of military GPS anti-jamming technology and work with the DOD and the industry to make technology available for civilian use.
  • The need to identify appropriate backup systems, integrity warning, or operational procedures for each safety critical application.
  • The need to encourage development of low-cost systems as backups to GPS.
  • The need to continue the ongoing GPS modernization program and the goal of availability of three civil frequencies.

Administrators of each DOT operating administration are reviewing the report and the adequacy of backup systems for each area of operation in which GPS is used for critical transportation applications. They are to report findings back to Mineta this month.

“The Department of Transportation takes this report’s findings very seriously, and we will be working to ensure that GPS will fulfill its potential as a key element of the nation’s transportation infrastructure,” Mineta said.

A public meeting was held in early October to solicit views on the study, and a second meeting will be scheduled by mid-December.

Virginia Board “Grandfathers” Photogrammetry

The Virginia Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers and Landscape Architects (APELSCIDLA) adopted regulations on September 12 to add a “grandfathering” clause for photogrammetry into the land surveyors’ license.

Mark Courtney, the administrator of the board, said the one-year clause must be subjected to legal examination, registration and review by government agencies before it can become effective. These steps are expected to be met by the end of this year or early next year, according to Courtney.

As passed by the APELSCIDLA, the clause will allow practicing photogrammetrists to apply for licensure as land surveying photogrammetrists based upon requirements including eight years of relevant education and experience, four or more of which should be in mapping projects, and other board requirements. At present, the clause requires photogrammetrists who want to become land surveying photogrammetrists to pass an exam that focuses on Virginia regulations, statutes and government practices. This requirement was designed to ensure that the licensees meet the necessary requirements and demonstrate knowledge of professional practice law, according to Courtney.

The issue was first brought before the board by the Virginia Association of Surveyors approximately a year ago according to Courtney. A board committee examined the issue and consulted the board with several drafts of the proposal before a comprehensive proposal came before the board in September.

A HEEPing Helping of Exchange

The 43rd annual conference of the International Highway Engineering and Exchange Program—or IHEEP—was held September 9-14 in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. Attendees totaling 252 ventured from 25 states, six provinces and nine countries to learn of new technologies and techniques, to share ideas and to enjoy several area festivities including whale watching.

Two key words permeated the halls of the IHEEP conference: exchange and integration. Exchange—of experiences, advice and even computer systems and programs—is a prominent goal of the IHEEP organization, as its name implies. Integration also underlies several discussions of IHEEP-ers, as they work together to accomplish transportation challenges across the world.

It was through such challenges—and the exchange foundation provided by IHEEP—that BRASS was established. BRASS, Bridge Rating and Analysis of Structural Systems, was developed in response to a U.S. government requirement of stricter inspection of the nation’s bridges following the collapse of the Silver Bridge in West Virginia in 1967. With a need at hand, the Wyoming Department of Transportation, a charter member of IHEEP, began development of a bridge analysis program using computer programs created both in-house and from other state department of transportation bridge offices. Using the precepts of IHEEP and working closely with other states, several modules were added to BRASS. The bridge analysis system has since been used by 33 state DOTs, 83 engineering firms, 14 Federal Highway Administration offices, 15 Army Corps of Engineers offices and numerous others. BRASS is distributed free of charge to interested state DOTs through the IHEEP network.

BRASS is proof that exchange and integration are reached through IHEEP.

A discussion of IHEEP’s future included plans to continue the sharing of technology, ideas and task groups, its benefits (including the no-fee membership) and the advantage of gathering such a prestigious—and global—group of professionals each year.

Seminar attendance also proved that IHEEP is beneficial. Surveyors, engineers and technicians packed seminar rooms to learn and share ideas on automated roadway data collection, GIS/asset management, CAD standards, LandXML and other highway programs.

IHEEP will hold its 44th conference in St. Louis, Mo., next September. Check out POB’s Calendar of Events for further information at www.pobonline.com.