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Views of the Sea Floor in Northern Monterey Bay, California

June 10, 2008

A sonar survey that produced unprecedented high-resolution images of the sea floor in northern Monterey Bay was conducted in 2005 and 2006. The survey, performed over 14 days by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), consisted of 172 tracklines and over 300 million soundings and covered an area of 12.2 km2 (4.7 mi2). The goals of this survey were to collect high-resolution bathymetry (depth to the sea floor) and acoustic backscatter data (amount of sound energy bounced back from the sea floor, which provides information on sea-floor hardness and texture) from the inner continental shelf. These data will provide a baseline for future change analyses, geologic mapping, sediment- and contaminant-transport studies, benthic-habitat delineation, and numerical modeling efforts. The survey shows that the inner shelf in this area is extremely varied in nature, encompassing flat sandy areas, faults, boulder fields, and complex bedrock ridges that support rich marine ecosystems. Furthermore, many of these complex bedrock ridges form the ?reefs? that result in a number of California?s classic surf breaks.