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Layered Look at Northwestern Gulf of Mexico

June 29, 2009--Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) is very pleased to announce the development of a new online GIS-based mapping tool of the sanctuary. It's a Google-based map, so you can zoom in and out, and turn layers on or off.

Captured image of the interactive map showing the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.  Coast of TX shows from Galveston east through LA and MS.  In the Gulf are red dots showing the location of banks, green lines showing the location of oil and gas pipelines, and blue lines showing shipping fairways.

Link to Map

In addition to East Flower Garden, West Flower Garden and Stetson Banks, this interactive page includes information about a number of other reefs and banks of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Many of these other banks are currently under consideration for potential sanctuary expansion.

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Map Features

While this interactive map is, and will always be, a work in progress, there are many interesting layers to check out already.

Along the top of the map is a feature where you can Select a Bank using a pulldown menu. The Find It button alongside will jump you directly to the selected bank. A dialog window associated with the bank will then give you images and additional information or links.

Also along the top of the map are options to view the Bathymetry of Banks and Shaded Relief of Banks. Turning these options on will add contour lines and dimension to the bank being viewed.

Screen capture of the new interactive map page showing East and West Flower Garden Banks in colored relief.  Selection menus are visible above and to the right of the map.  A Flower Garden Banks header appears at the top of the image.

On the left side of the map are a series of other viewing options. You can turn these features on or off by clicking on the boxes alongside. Keep in mind that some of the datasets associated with these features are quite large, so it may take a little while for the images to appear on the map.

Current options include regional bathymetry, boundaries, buoy locations, oil and gas platforms and pipelines, shipping fairways, and cruise tracks for the sanctuary research vessel R/V Manta.

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ROV Tracks and Images

One other notable feature is the incorporation of ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) tracks with associated photos. So far, only one dive track has been loaded (at McGrail Bank), but we are working on adding representative data for all of our ROV cruises since 2004 (over 200 ROV tracks).

Screen capture of the interactive map showing McGrail bank with bathymetry, shaded relief, and an ROV track.  The menu to the right of the map shows a listing of photos that can be viewed along the ROV track.

To check out this feature:

* Select McGrail Bank from the "Select a Bank" pulldown menu. Turn on the "Shaded Relief" button. Click "Find it".
* The map will zoom to McGrail Bank and open a window with two tabs. Close these tabs by clicking on the 'X' in the upper right corner of that window.
* On the left side of the page, scroll down to Remote Operated Vehicle Dives and click in the box to select this data. Yellow lines representing the ROV tracks will appear on the map.
* Click on any track to view the images available from that track.

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Partners Make it All Possible

This site is the product of a partnership between FGBNMS and NOAA's National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC), located at Stennis Space Center, MS.

The underlying information including bathymetry, ROV tracks and images, and biological information, is the result of an enormous effort by many partners, including USGS, University of New Hampshire, Minerals Management Service, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration, National Undersea Research Center – University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Smithsonian Institution, Long-Term Monitoring contractors, students, volunteers and interns, and dozens of marine scientists who assisted in the identification process.

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Check it Out!

Please visit this website and spend some time exploring it. You'll be amazed at all of the detail we've already included! But, keep in mind that we will be updating it with new layers on a regular basis, so check back with us every so often and see what's new.

Link to Map

If you have any suggestions or comments about this new map, we'd love to hear from you. Please email us at

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