GEBCO / Nippon Foundation Indian Ocean Bathymetric Compilation Project


Bathymetric data is widely used amongst a variety of maritime sectors where the understanding the bathymetry and morphology of the seafloor are, for example, important for:

Scientific and academic research
This includes a variety of academic fields including:

  • Geosciences (structural studies—understanding of plate tectonics; structural integrity and potential failure sites, sediment modelling, mineral resource mapping, geomorphology),
  • Physical Sciences (ocean circulation models, wave, tides and current prorogation),
  • Life Sciences (habitats, large marine ecosystems and ocean observing systems)

Geohazard modelling and mitigation 

  • Tsunami-propagation and storm surge models

Environmental Stewardship and Sustainable Resource Management
Habitat mapping and monitoring requires an understanding of both bathymetry and sea floor geomorphology as this provides information regarding baseline data for:

  • The support of spatial planning, management and decision-making for all maritime sectors on national, regional and local levels
  • The design and support of marine protected areas
  • Resource assessment for economic and environmental management purposes for a number of important sectors, including transport, fisheries resource management, aquaculture, petroleum and mineral exploration and exploitation, renewable energy resources as well as infrastructural support

No ocean-wide map of the Indian Ocean has been produced since the 2003 map based on the work of Dr. Bob Fisher and D.r Andrew Goodwillie. No ocean-wide map has ever been produced using multibeam (as opposed to single beam) echosounders. No ocean-wide map has ever been produced incorporating long-wavelength information from satellite altimetry. Yet some of these data exist for the area. This means that the Indian Ocean is not as well mapped as it can be and should be.

GEBCO has recognised the importance of assembling the highest possible resolution bathymetric dataset for any given region. A number of regional projects are underway that concentrate on identifying, sourcing and collating the best available data for a given area. The Nippon Foundation / GEBCO Indian Ocean Bathymetric Compilation (IOBC) project is one of the recognized GEBCO regional projects. Others include the International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean (IBCAO) at and the International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean (IBCSO) at


The aim of this multi-nation project is to assemble, collate, archive and publish all publically-available bathymetric data from all sources within the Indian Ocean.

The major objective of this project is to produce a new bathymetric map and grid of the Indian Ocean (north of -60 degrees S) using data from all available sources, utilizing the contacts generated through GEBCO members and the Scholar’s network to access data. The produced map and grid will be constructed from scientific cruise data obtained in both shallow and deep water, combined with hydrographic survey data in shallow water, as required to complete the map area at the highest resolution possible. In areas of sparse acoustic measurements, satellite altimetry will be used to guide interpolation between sounding values.

To date, 27 Nippon Foundation / GEBCO Scholars from 13 Indian Ocean coastal states have been trained through the Postgraduate Certificate in Ocean Bathymetry program at the University of New Hampshire. These scholars will be drawn into an increasingly active network through working on a common mapping project in a geographic area relevant to their home organization. While the tangible output will be the production of a map of a portion of the seafloor, the enduring outcome will be the building of capacity to create such maps in the Scholar’s home country and in countries adjacent to it, and the development of cooperation in Ocean Mapping between the neighboring countries.

Project Proponents

The project is undertaken by a combination of Nippon Foundation Scholars and senior GEBCO members, guided by an Editorial Board.

The Editorial Board reports to the GEBCO Sub-Committee on Regional Undersea Mapping (SCRUM). The Editorial Board is made up of members and advisors selected from GEBCO membership and from national organizations that provide data.

Operations are directed by a Project Director, Dr. Rochelle Wigley, located at the project data center at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Other researchers and data specialists in various countries will participate.

Project Limits

This diagram shows the general limits of the Indian Ocean Bathymetric Compilation project, with the home nations of Indian Ocean Scholars included in shades of green.

Map of the Indian Ocean.

The current project area extends from ~10° east to ~147° west (IHO S23 defined edge of Indian Ocean south of Australia). The western limit extends to 10° east into the Atlantic Ocean, so that any South African data could be included. 10° E was selected as this is the approximate limit of the South African extended continental shelf claim.

Project Progress

The first phase of this project was perceived to include two parts, namely the identification of major data sources and the need to identify and create a network of GEBCO Scholars who wanted to be involved in this project. An email has been sent out to all GEBCO Scholars from Indian Ocean Coastal States to inform them of them of this regional project and to assess their interest in getting involved.

The 8th UNH class (2011-2012) worked on Phase 1 as part of their class projects. This project introduced the class to data sourcing and some of the major data centres including; BODC (UK), BHS (Germany); IFREMER SISMER (France) , SHOM (France), JAMSTEC (Japan), NGDC (USA) as well as data from the Netherlands

The class compiled a spreadsheet of over 350 relevant multibeam surveys identified to date. Information for each survey data set included: Data identifier; Year; Cruise Name (Research Vessel); Institution (country); Area; Data type (Echo sounder); Share; URL or Remarks; "Contact Person (Chief Scientist)." The retrieval of this data is now in progress.

The IOBC project also allowed the 2011/2012 GEBCO class, in some cases, to focus their end-of-year laboratory visits and to build networks amongst relevant personal at three different data centres. Students from Myanmar and Bangladesh worked on generating a bathymetric grid for part of their coastlines at the NGDC in Boulder, Colorado and this compilation will be included within the data gathered for the Indian Ocean. In addition, these two students also visited AWI (and BSH, Rostock) and Geoscience Australia respectively, where they used their visits to source and collect relevant datasets.

Data sourced date: 280Gb and 60 multibeam surveys were identified and data copied from AWI and BSH and 3 grids (~40 Gb) compiled by Geoscience Australia have been added to the IOBC data set through these two laboratory visits. In addition, 18 multibeam bathymetric cruises have been sourced from IFREMER/Sismer.