Google Earth icon with tsheet
View NOAA Historical Shoreline Surveys in Google Earth

NOAA Historical Shoreline Survey Viewer

What is a Shoreline Survey?

Shoreline surveys (also called coastal surveys, T-Sheets or TP-Sheets, and shoreline manuscripts) refer to topographic sheets compiled from maps derived in the field with a plane table, in the office from aerial photos, or a combination of the two methods. These shoreline surveys are the authoritative definition of the U.S. high-water line and may also include details such as roads, prominent buildings, and other features along the coast. The surveys were used as base maps to construct nautical charts primarily used for navigation.

The NOAA Historical Shoreline Survey Viewer

screenshot of tsheets in Google Earth screenshot of tsheets in Google Earth
Survey from 1885 for Dana Point, CA

The NOAA Historical Shoreline Survey Viewer provides access to a large number of historical shoreline surveys conducted by NOAA and its predecessor organizations. About 7,800 surveys—the earliest dating back to 1841—are available for viewing in Google Earth. In addition to overlaying a scanned image of the survey in Google Earth, the Viewer provides links to download: the original scan and metadata, the resulting extracted vector shoreline, and a descriptive report compiled by the survey team.

Note, many of the scanned surveys have large file sizes, which have been reduced to more manageable preview sizes for Google Earth. Also, some slight georeferencing issues may be noticed in the older shoreline surveys when viewed with the Google Earth imagery. If you have any questions about individual scans feel free to contact special.projects@noaa.gov.

Using the Shoreline Survey Google Earth Tool

screenshot of timesliderA time slider is available in the upper-left corner. To see a specific time period, slide the handles to define the range of surveys shown in the Viewer.

Click on the outline of a survey to view survey information and to access the preview overlay and source downloads.

Click on the Preview link to view the preview version of the scan overlaid within Google Earth.

screenshot of popupThe Original Scan and World File go together. The World File provides location information for GIS applications, while the Original Scan provides the scan in its original format and original resolution. (examples: scan, world file).

Survey Scan Metadata provides background information on how the scan was completed (example: metadata).

The purpose of the surveys was to create an accurate shoreline. Thus, the Shoreline Extract and Extract Metadata provide downloads of the vectors extracted from the scans, along with associated metadata. (example: vectors, metadata).

The Descriptive Report provides detailed information from the surveyors (example: T-4371).

screenshot of transparency sliderThe transparency of the overlaid scan can be changed by selecting the scan in the Places panel and adjusting the opacity slider. This allows the most current Google Earth imagery to be visible with the shoreline survey.

Your computer video card's specific capabilities will determine how well Google Earth overlays the preview images. If the Max Texture Size reported in the About Google Earth dialog box (available under the Help menu) is less than 8000 x 8000, you may experience incomplete image overlays. We are working to resolve this issue to ensure all users can view the full image overlays.

GIS File of the NOAA Historical Shoreline Survey Footprints

A GIS shapefile is available of the footprints for the georeferenced scans used in the Google Earth file. The GIS file contains full URLs to the georeferenced images, world files, descriptive reports, and metadata.
Historical Shoreline Survey Footprints

The Complete T- and TP-sheet Shoreline Survey Scan Archive

The complete archive, which contains 16,200 scans, is available through the Non-georeferenced NOAA Shoreline Survey Scans link listed below. The archive lists the original source scans and includes index map catalogs. Of the 16,200 scans, 7,800 were georeferenced and made available through the Google Earth tool. There are no plans to georeference the remaining 8,400 scans. Non-georeferenced NOAA Shoreline Survey Scans

Shoreline Survey Online References

The NOAA Shoreline Website has detailed information about the various shoreline products NOAA offers: http://shoreline.noaa.gov

Many more surveys have been created than are scanned and available through this tool. For more information about the shoreline surveys, see http://beta.ngs.noaa.gov/shoreline_raster

FGDC metadata record for the scanned shoreline surveys: http://www.ncddc.noaa.gov/approved_recs/nos_de/ngs/ngs/ngs/t_sheet.html