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Front Page > Technology > Measuring Physical Properties > Side-Scan SONAR:

Side-Scan SONAR

Side-Scan SONAR is a type of acoustic technology used for mapping the ocean floor and for tracking schools of fish. This has become a well-established technique for studying marine life. Pulses of sound are projected by a ship or a towed device. As the sound waves bounce off of objects, whether living things or physical features of the ocean floor, they reflect back to the ship. This generates an image of the shapes from the reflected sound. Scientists use Side-Scan SONAR to "see" in the ocean.

The Klein towfish, which uses Side-Scan SONAR, being pulled out after a survey. (Klein Sonar Associates)

Diagram showing how a towed SONAR device works as it moves above the surface of the ocean floor. (USGS Seafloor Mapping Technology Group)

An actual SONAR-generated picture demonstrating how effective Side-Scan SONAR can be at distinguishing differences in the composition of the ocean floor. (USGS, David C. Twichell, USGS)

Click on the links below to see what Census projects use this technology:

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