Learn about the Canadian Hydrographic Service's Multibeam Sonar Technology

Photo Gallery

The Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) is an organization under the Science Branch at Fisheries and Oceans Canada that employs state-of-the art technologies to conduct hydrographic surveys of Canada’s lakes, rivers and oceans to ensure their safe, sustainable and navigable use. With over 130 years of experience, the Canadian Hydrographic Service is also responsible for publishing and updating paper and electronic nautical charts and navigation publications, monitoring tides, currents and water levels and providing related services.

The Canadian Hydrographic Service conducts hydrographic and oceanographic measurements and is a leader in multibeam systems and related data modelling technology. Most of the Canadian Hydrographic Service’s surveys are conducted using multibeam sonar technology on survey launces that are either deployed from a ship or from shore.

Multibeam sonar is a cutting-edge technology that transmits hundreds of beams of sound through the water, relaying the information to computers to capture images of the seabed. The images generated from the data allow scientists to “see” underwater dangers to navigation, landscapes, and geomorphological features. The data from multibeam sonars is used in a wide variety of marine applications, ranging from fishing to engineering to helping scientists establish Marine Protected Areas (MPA), areas which are protected under the Oceans Act for the conservation and protection of Canada’s marine ecosystems.

Multibeam image showing evidence of a waterfall twice as high as Niagara Falls that existed approximately 10,000 years ago. (Tobermory, ON)

Multibeam image demonstrating scours on the seabed, caused by drifting icebergs.

In addition to surveying and charting for marine navigation safety, multibeam sonar also enables the Canadian Hydrographic Service to conduct high resolution surveys of objects on the seafloor such as shipwrecks. As part of this year’s multi-partner Victoria Strait Project and the subsequent historic discovery of Sir John Franklin’s lost vessel HMS Erebus in Arctic waters, the Canadian Hydrographic Service conducted multibeam surveys over the site and produced three-dimensional images of the ship that were used by Parks Canada marine archeologists to confirm the identity of the shipwreck. Multibeam data will continue to be used by archeologists and researchers for further analyses. The discovery of the wreck of HMS Erebus marks a momentous occasion for Canada’s history and showcases the substantial scientific work being undertaken by the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

Image of shipwreck HMS McKenzie generated by multibeam sonars, in British Columbia.

For more information:

On Measuring depths with echosounders and sonars

Date modified: