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Scientists and fishermen also use sonar to find fish and oil.

Surveyors call the sound the sonar makes a “PING.”

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Depths measured with sonar are called “soundings.”

Bats and dolphins also use a type of sonar to navigate. We call this echolocation.

Singlebeam sonar
The ship sends out a single beam of sonar to the sea floor, kind of like a flashlight beam.

What Tools do Surveyors Use to See the Sea Floor Today?

Today, scientists survey the sea floor with SONAR.


SONAR stands for SOund NAvigation and Ranging. Sonar systems send sound waves from the bottom of a ship to the bottom of the sea. These sound waves bounce off the sea floor and back up to the ship. Sonar works a little bit like dribbling a basketball. The basketball leaves your hands, hits the ground, and bounces back up to you.

Did you know?

Hydrographic surveyors don't just look at what's under the sea; they also look at the shoreline. A 2005 survey in Alaska found the Columbia Glacier had melted so much that the shoreline was moved back by 9 miles!

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