Detailed knowledge of bathymetry is a prerequisite for creating accurate charts of the seven seas. Simultaneously it increases knowledge of the global earth system and their degree of influence on our world.

The increased demand for detailed bathymetric data cannot be fulfilled by the world's hydrographic offices alone. Therefore, the International Hydrographic Organization IHO, has established the crowdsourced bathymetry working group (CSBWG).

The working group has been given the task of creating guidelines for crowdsourced bathymetric data collection, which could improve the quality of collected data significantly. Evert Flier, advisor for international affairs at the Norwegian Mapping Authority Hydrographic Service, represents Norway in the working group.


The seabed’s geomorphology and subsea mountain ridges affect the sea currents, which feeds the fisheries directly, protects ecosystem, and affect weather and climate. Expertise on seabed and coastal conditions is missing or lacking in most areas of the world. The distance between the two nearest points of depth is more than 10 km for over half of the world.

– If we succeed, in engaging commercial shipping to contribute in an organised manner, and manage to make the navigators capable of surveying parts of the coverage gaps, this would increase our knowledge about the seabed and how it affects the world around us, says Evert Flier at the Norwegian Mapping Authority Hydrographic Service.

Since 1998, the American hydrographic office, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has been managing the global Data Center for Digital Bathymetry (DCDB) in Boulder, Colorado. The quantity of data has been modest so far, and the IHO would like to improve this. Take a look at collected data managed by the DCDB.

Through organised crowdsourced bathymetric data collection, the IHO would like to increase the DCDB’s coverage, and thereby increase the knowledge of the seabed.

The guidelines for crowdsourced bathymetric data collection will contain chapters about:

  • Relevant systems and sensors
  • Metadata
  • Data collection
  • Uncertainty linked to data quality
  • Procedures for data contributions
  • The legal side of crowdsourced bathymetric data collection and distribution

Members of the workgroup

Representatives from the hydrographic offices in USA, Canada, India, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Finland and Norway, as well as the University of New Hampshire in USA, participated in the working group. From industry, there are participants from existing CSB pilot projects, e.g. the Rosepoint project in the USA and Sea Id.