October 1, 2014  

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Costa Concordia Incident Highlights Importance of Hydrographic Science

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The recent maritime accident involving the cruise ship Costa Concordia validates the need for advances in ocean mapping and navigation technology, according to faculty in The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Marine Science who specialize in hydrographic science.

Hydrographyis the branch of applied sciences which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans, seas, coastal areas, lakes and rivers, as well as with the prediction of their change over time, for the primary purpose of safety of navigation and in support of all other marine activities, including economic development, security and defence, scientific research, and environmental protection. [IHO]

“This catastrophe highlights the critical role hydrography plays in the safety of maritime operations,” said Dr. Monty Graham, chairman of the department. “While the accident investigation will most likely determine the cause to be human error rather than an ‘uncharted’ rock as initially professed by the ship’s captain, modern charts and chart display systems, as championed by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), could have prevented this tragedy.”

Located at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., the Southern Miss Department of Marine Science is home to one of two graduate degree granting programs in the country recognized by the IHO as meeting their requirements for the education of hydrographers. Graduates of the Southern Miss program who earn a master of science in hydrographic science are equipped to assess the adequacy of existing charts, plan and execute a hydrographic survey to collect updated data, and process those data into new paper or electronic charts. 

The Hydrographic Science Program began in 1999 through a partnership with the Naval Oceanographic Office and is an intense, one-year course of instruction. It has conferred more than 130 graduate degrees to hydrographers in 17 countries. Graduates of the program are surveying in all corners of the world, and are among the first to respond with updated charts after natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia. 

The Hydrographic Science Research Center, also located at Stennis Space Center, engages in innovative research and development that advances the science of hydrography and implements those advances into hydrographic operations. The center has been instrumental in novel applications such as the Global Positioning System for water level determination, the development of the next generation Airborne Lidar Bathymetry System and assessment of the adequacy of various electronic chart depictions.

For more information about Southern Miss’ graduate program in hydrographic science, online visit http://www.usm.edu/marine/hydrographic-science-overview or call the Southern Miss Department of Marine Science at 228.688.3177.