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Vessel-Based, Shallow Water Mapping with a Phase-Measuring Sidescan Sonar

  • Special Issue: Shallow Water Mapping
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Coastal areas have traditionally been difficult locations to collect consistent, high-resolution bathymetric data via vessel-based acoustic surveys. The use of phase-measuring sidescan sonar is becoming more prevalent, particularly in shallow (< 20 m) coastal waters. Instruments used in the field over the last decade by the lead author are discussed here. This work is intended to serve as an introduction to the coastal scientist interested in the operation, use, and data sets associated with these instruments. Hydrographers unfamiliar with phase-measuring sidescan sonar will also benefit from insights regarding survey planning, data acquisition, and processing. These instruments collect co-located sidescan backscatter and swath bathymetry. The effective bathymetric swath widths can be 2 to 3 times that of multibeam echosounders making phase-measuring sidescan sonars ideal for shallow water mapping operations. These large effective swath widths offset the high levels of noise and processing needed in these bathymetric data sets relative to multibeam data. The sidescan backscatter and bathymetric data sets can be used individually, but the co-location allows for uses and analyses not feasible with other data sets. These instruments are well-suited to collect data for a suite of seafloor mapping projects and science-based investigations. Examples from a wide range of projects are detailed here for the shallow water mapping community and the multi-disciplinary groups who may benefit from the data and insights presented here.

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The data presented herein are from unpublished and published data in technical reports and peer-reviewed literature. We have received funding from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The US Department of Agriculture, the National Park Service, Cape Cod National Seashore, The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, The Towns of Chatham, Provincetown, Truro and Wellfleet Massachusetts, Shellfish Promotion And Tasting (SPAT) Inc., The Pleasant Bay Resource Management Alliance, The Friends of Pleasant Bay, and The Friends of Herring River. The authors wish to thank Ken Foote, Val Schmidt, Straud Armstrong, Harold Orlinsky, and Mark Adams for the helpful conversations throughout the years about ocean acoustics, hardware and software configurations, and related issues. The authors would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments that greatly strengthened the manuscript. No financial support was provided by any other sellers of hardware or software mentioned herein, and the discussion of the VRS network is neither an endorsement nor a recommendation on the part of the authors, The Center for Coastal Studies, or the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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Correspondence to Mark Borrelli.

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Communicated by Brian B. Barnes

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Borrelli, M., Smith, T.L. & Mague, S.T. Vessel-Based, Shallow Water Mapping with a Phase-Measuring Sidescan Sonar. Estuaries and Coasts 45, 961–979 (2022).

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