The View from the Top

Michel at work. (Photo by Kandice Gunning)

 or: ‘What else happens on a mapping ship?’ +++ A guest entry by Michael Force, USFWS Seabird Observer +++ Are there seabirds way out here in the middle of nowhere? Why am I outside all day, in sizzling scorching sun, or in torrential tropical rainstorms, staring at what appears to be a vast empty ocean? While […]


The water colum data shows the intensity of recieved signals over depth and the across-track range (swath width) with the strongest signals in red. The white line marks the depth at which the system locates the seafloor. / Die Daten aus der Wassersäule zeigen die Intensität der aufgezeichneten Signale in Abhängigkeit von der Tiefe und der Fächerbreite mit den stärksten Signalen in Rot. Die weiße Linie markiert die Tiefe, in der das System den Meeresboden lokalisiert. (Photo and modifications by Meike).

or ‘How we map, part I’ Water absorbs electromagnetic waves. That’s why we know so little about the 70 % of Earth’s surface that are covered by water. So mapping the oceans relies on acoustic waves. Echosounder systems emit an acoustic signal and measure the time, untill the reflection of the wave from the seafloor is […]

On a mission to map

The central Pacific during an ElNiño year. (Photo by Meike)

As over two thirds of our planet can be considered as unmapped, we have plenty of work ahead of us. The northeast Trade winds bring high waves and make it rough to sail north. But despite cloudy days and heavy rain falls, our incredible chef Debby understands how to lighten the mood. So, we continue […]

Why do we map from a ship?

The 'flat surface' of the Pacific Ocean ahead of us. / Die 'ebene' Weite des Pazifik vor uns. (Photo: Meike Klischies)

Today, the sea is calm. We are still on our way south, some wind from behind, and a flat ocean ahead of us. Wait, the sea surface is not flat! The scientists Sandwell and Smith discovered in the early 90’s that the ocean surface isn’t flat at all. Radar measurements from satellites (so-called satellite altimetry) […]


We used our time on shore to climb Diamond Head, a volcanic cone outside Honolulu. The picture (taken by Sebastian Graber) shows the unfortunately cloudy view from the top of the crater rim onto the city.

What a nice occasion to start this blog! The Kilo Moana, an US research vessel, will be our home for the next 30 days and will take us to the equatorial Pacific. Research cruises and work at sea are the only way, we can acquire high resolution data from the seafloor. So, I will use this opportunity […]