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The Science of Hydrography

The Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) is Canada’s authority on nautical charts and publications. Using the latest technologies, CHS charts underwater landscapes, uncovers potential hazards, and collects hydrographic data to create tools that are critical for ensuring safe and efficient navigation on Canada’s waters.


Canada is a maritime nation, famous for stunning scenery and part of a global blue economy.

When exploring these landscapes, you need reliable maps showing distance, terrain and elevation to determine the safest route.

When exploring the seabed, our shallow and deep waters, how do you know what features exist in order to plan your route?

At sea, the nearest land is usually under the keel of a ship! It’s not where you see it, it’s where you don’t.

Hydrography is the science of measuring, describing, and displaying features below or above the surface of the water, including the variation of tide, currents and water levels.

At the Science Canadian Hydrographic Service, we use the latest innovations to chart the underwater landscape and uncover hazards.

Multibeam bathymetry collects data by transmitting sound waves and measuring how long it takes them to be reflected back to the receivers in the vessel.

LiDAR uses laser light emitted from an airplane or drone to reach shallow areas that are inaccessible by boat.

Satellite imagery is analyzed to detect features like erosion, underwater hazards in clear water, monitors sedimentation, and changes over time.

Hydrographic data is used to create tools that are critical for ensuring safe and efficient navigation on the water.

And this information is also used to better understand ecosystems for habitat protection, fisheries management, resource and coastal development.

Our waterways play an integral role in our history, culture and economy.

CHS helps maintain our prosperity and safety as a maritime nation by providing the official hydrographic products, charts and services for all users of Canadian waters.

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