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Citizen Scientists: Help Map the Seabed with SeaKeepers

19 December 2022By Lauren Beck
Courtesy of SeaKeepers

Written by

Lauren Beck

Editor Lauren Beck has been with Dockwalk since 2006. At 13, she left South Africa aboard a 34-foot sailing boat with her family and ended up in St. Maarten for six years. Before college, she worked as crew for a year, and then cut her journalistic teeth at Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal online. She loves traveling, reading, tennis, and rooting for the Boston Red Sox. Email her at lauren@dockwalk.com.

If you’re looking for opportunities to make a difference or give back, there are myriad ways to do so in the yachting industry. One more to consider is the Seabed 2030 Project. The International SeaKeepers Society, better known as SeaKeepers, has joined the cause to help find yachts willing to help map the world’s oceans. 

“We are always looking for ways that the yachting and boating community can contribute to marine science, so it made all the sense in the world to be a part of this ambitious endeavor,” says SeaKeeper’s Lead of International Partnerships Gill Rodrigues. The non-profit organization supports marine science and conservation by working with privately owned yachts as platforms for oceanographic research, educational outreach, and marine conservation. Their efforts permit scientists to maximize research potential and provide the yachting community with a way to advance marine science and raise awareness about global ocean issues.

The project coordinates bathymetric data sourcing into the GEBCO Ocean Map to produce the “definitive map of the world ocean floor,” SeaKeepers says.

The Seabed 2030 Project is a collaboration between The Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), which launched in 2017 at the United Nations Ocean Conference. The project coordinates bathymetric data sourcing into the GEBCO Ocean Map to produce the “definitive map of the world ocean floor,” SeaKeepers says. The project falls under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development” and aims to be the most comprehensive and accurate map of the seabed ever created.

Courtesy of SeaKeepers

The open-source, high-resolution seafloor map will be available to the public — Seabed 2030 is not just about collecting data; it’s about making that data accessible to everyone. “The map is continuously updated by GEBCO as the data is received,” says Tony Gilbert, SeaKeepers program director. “While real-time updates are something that may be developed in the near future, we currently receive the recorded bathymetric data from the boats intermittently and then pass that on to the International Hydrographic Organization for integration into the GEBCO map.”

You can help — SeaKeepers needs vessels to assist. Any yacht can play a part in the cause by relaying information collected on board from specially designed hardware data loggers. These data loggers can be easily installed and integrated into the vessel’s existing system and collect bathymetric data needed for the project. As superyachts travel the world and visit many remote areas, they offer a rare opportunity to map zones most vessels or people will never see and where information may be scarce. “This initiative is one of the easiest ‘set it and forget it’ things you can do while contributing to a massive global undertaking,” says Gilbert. “The more boats participating, the higher chance of reaching the goal by 2030, so if you own a boat or yacht, please consider participating.”

Any yacht can play a part in the cause by relaying information collected on board from specially designed hardware data loggers.

Crowd-sourced bathymetry (CSB) can be an invaluable asset as it collects depth measurements using standard navigation instruments, while a vessel is engaged in routine maritime operations, SeaKeepers explains. CSB supplements information gathered by hydrographic offices and researchers around the world and can help identify uncharted seafloor features and verify charted accuracy. Obvious benefits include more accurate charts and improved navigational safety around the world.

According to Seabed 2030’s June 2022 press release, Seabed 2030 has now mapped 23.4 percent of the sea floor “to a high resolution,” an increase in 10.1 million square kilometers of bathymetric data since last year. “As we make headway with the Ocean Decade, we look forward to accelerating our efforts to recoup time and effort lost last year,” says Seabed 2030 Project Director Jamie McMichael-Phillips in the same press release. “The progress we have made since 2017 is commendable, but we are mindful of the task still ahead — and eager to realize it.”

If you’re interested in helping, contact Tony@SeaKeepers.org in the U.S., or Gill@SeaKeepers.org in Europe.

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