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Author Topic:   Making Your Own Hydrographic Charts
Agntvbb posted 09-25-2011 02:04 AM ET (US)   Profile for Agntvbb   Send Email to Agntvbb  
I'm looking for something that will display and record location and depth information. I live on an uncharted portion of the Mississippi, and I would like to chart it. Ideally I would love to extract depth and location info and build a map of this information. Any suggestions on a device that can display and export this kind of information?
jimh posted 09-25-2011 08:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Get a Lowrance HDS series GPS receiver, chart plotter, and SONAR. Purchase a WIndows OS computer. Purchase the DrDepth software. DrDepth software will generate maps for Lowrance devices.

As an alternative, most GPS receivers will have an NMEA-0183 serial output which can be configured to present position information in the NMEA-0183 protocol format. Some depthsounders also have NMEA-0183 serial output and will provide soundings. You could ingest this data into your computer and store it there. Then you could write your own software, teach it how to read NMEA-0183 data, and convert this stored data into positions and depths. Then you could write more software to generate digital maps. Finally, you could then write software to convert your maps into a format that you chart plotter could read. This method assumes you have the requisite skill to create all of the software necessary to accomplish this.

Agntvbb posted 09-26-2011 08:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for Agntvbb  Send Email to Agntvbb     
Extracting the data and dropping it onto a ready made map probably won't be too difficult. Many devices will talk to a PC or Mac via USB and can output the data in a rudimentary text file. This data can then overlay on something like Google Earth or can be displayed in any number of ways, but graphical is usually the easiest to comprehend. As you mention Jim, there are ready made packages out there that will do all of this for you but it isn't that complicated.

I am mostly curious about devices that do depth and location simultaneously and output the data. Also, the smaller the better even if it means trading off some features. I have been burned on a couple Garmin products lately (and the poor performance of Garmin customer service), and have been looking at Lowarance, but I am unfamiliar with this line and was looking for feedback on the devices themselves.

jimh posted 09-26-2011 09:10 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For a GPS I can recommend the USGLOBALSAT BU-353. This $35 GPS receiver will do exactly what you want. The output is on universal serial bus (USB).

For an echo sounder, you'll have to look for one with a NMEA-0183 output. The really inexpensive echo sounders tend to not have any NMEA-0183 output. Look for the NMEA-0183 sentence $SDDPT (depth) or SSDDBT (depth below transducer).

For my money, I would not reinvent the wheel. I'd get a Lowrance HDS and DrDepth, and go surveying.

Agntvbb posted 09-26-2011 09:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for Agntvbb  Send Email to Agntvbb     
The Lowrance device that caught my eye is the Lowrance M68C S/Map. I also noted the new Elite line that is smaller and way cheaper than the HDS series. I'm still trying to figure out if you can export tracks from these devices though.
bluewaterpirate posted 09-26-2011 09:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
Not sure the end product is worth the effort in as much as the Mississippi River is ever changing.
David Pendleton posted 09-26-2011 11:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     

This would be an interesting endeavor, but I wouldn't rely on anything but real-time data for the Mississippi. The only thing you can (mostly) be sure of is a nine-foot channel.

I'm rarely brave enough to venture outside the channel anyway as my stretch of the river is heavily wing-dammed.

It would be interesting to see high-resolution scans of some of the stump fields and dams.

Agntvbb posted 09-26-2011 01:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for Agntvbb  Send Email to Agntvbb     
I'm just above the end of the navigable channel, I'm not expecting to build high def maps or anything, I thought it would be a fun project and a good excuse to buy a new piece of gear. Working a grid to establish a real 3D map would be almost impossible, but I thought I could at least do some soundings, try to find the holes and maybe mark out the natural channel on a seasonal basis.

There are definitely portions of the bottom structure that stay put, other things like boulders and logs and whatnot get shuffled.

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