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Underwater landscape mapped in new Australian bathymetry and topography grid

Hydrographer of Australia, Commodore Robyn Phillips, Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO) Director Maritime Data Management, Mr Doug White, and AHO Director Maritime Relationships and Governance, Mrs Nat McLean, using the newly launched Australian Bathymetric and Topography Grid.

A new bathymetry and topography grid mapping Australia’s underwater landscape has been launched after collaboration between science and education partners.

A new bathymetry and topography grid mapping Australia’s underwater landscape has been launched after collaboration between science and education partners.

The map, which showcases a three-dimensional picture of the underwater landscape, was created under a collaborative partnership between Geoscience Australia, Defence’s Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO), James Cook University, and the University of Sydney.

The resource has a spatial resolution of 250 metres and is made from many bathymetric datasets, to meet government and scientific needs.


The new grid is the first update since 2009 and incorporates data from 1,582 individual marine surveys knitted together into the grid so that it accurately represents the shape of the sea floor.

It represents decades of bathymetry data acquisition from the Australian seabed mapping community and also incorporates depth data from the latest charts, 30-metre gridded data from the HydroScheme Industry Partnership Program and historic surveys.

Project lead and research Fellow at James Cook University Dr Robin Beaman said the new map is an important development.

“The value lies in seeing the whole three-dimensional picture of Australia’s underwater landscape, giving full geographic context to how the landscape fits together at a national scale, from land to coast, across the continental shelf and into the surrounding deep basins,” said Dr Beaman.

“The AHO’s collaboration in the project and the provision of high-quality bathymetric survey data were critical to the accuracy and development of this new three-dimensional model of Australia’s underwater landscape.”

Depth data from the AHO’s suite of electronic navigation charts anchored the data from other contributors’ surveys.

This assists by resolving height errors in the coastal zone, where the sea meets the land and surveying methods change.

Hydrographer of Australia Commodore Robyn Phillips said the map has many uses.

“An accurate, national-scale grid is useful for a wide range of purposes, from planning offshore developments to ecology and regional oceanographic modelling,” said CDRE Phillips.

“The AHO collects the highest quality bathymetric data to produce navigational charts for shipping, and this grid project is an opportunity for the AHO to reuse that data for broad benefit of Australians.”

Bathymetry is the study and mapping of the sea floor. A task on this scale needed collaboration between all stakeholders who measure the sea and land, as no agency could do it alone, according to Defence.

The underwater grid will undoubtedly be useful as Australia embarks on the path to field nuclear-powered submarines after a joint announcement made earlier this year between the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Australia.

The first SSN-AUKUS is scheduled for delivery from the UK to the UK’s Royal Navy in the late 2030s, with the first domestically constructed SSN-AUKUS delivered from the Commonwealth to the Royal Australian Navy in the early 2040s.

In the meantime, plans continue for the United States to sell Australia nuclear-powered and conventionally armed Virginia Class submarines in the early 2030s, with the deal pending congressional approval.

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