Scientists to create the most detailed map of California coastline ever assembled

Posted: 07/18/2010 04:01:48 AM PDT

Updated: 07/18/2010 04:23:40 AM PDT
Their tools are laser beams, airplanes and computer software — instead of compasses, wooden ships and parchment.

But more than 400 years after explorers like Sir Francis Drake and Sebastian Vizcaino made some of the first maps of California’s spectacular coastline, state and federal scientists are embarking on a new project to construct the most detailed map of the California coast ever assembled.

The $3.3 million effort will begin with researchers in an airplane flying back and forth along the coast shooting thousands of laser pulses per second at the rocks, beaches and cliffs along the 1,200-mile shoreline from Mexico to Oregon, generating ultra-detailed 3-D images of the contours of the land in huge computer files.

“We need a better sense of what’s out there. We need a modern map. And with a modern map we’ll have the knowledge to make better decisions,” said Doug George, a project manager with the Ocean Protection Council, a state agency in Oakland that approved $2.75 million toward the project last month.

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