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NOAA Nautical Charts




Nautical Chart SectionThe Navigational Chart is one of the most fundamental tools available to the mariner. In the very early days of the United States, commerce between the states was mostly waterborne and foreign trade, necessary for survival and expansion of our national economy, was entirely by sea. This still holds true today with over 98% of the nation's cargo carried by waterborne transportation -- a good portion consisting of hazardous cargo posing a continuous threat to the environment.

What is a Nautical Chart? A Nautical Chart is a graphic portrayal of the marine environment. In addition to providing the most *basic elements (a schematic layout of a Coast Survey chart), a chart is a working document used by the mariner both as a "road map" and worksheet and is essential for safe navigation. In conjunction with supplemental navigational aids, it is used to lay out courses and navigate ships by the shortest and most economically safe route. A chart shows the nature and form of the coast, the depths of the water and general character and configuration of the sea bottom, locations of dangers to navigation, the rise and fall of the tides, locations of man-made aids to navigation, and the characteristics of the Earth's magnetism.