Hydrographic surveying deals with the configuration of the bottom and adjacent land areas of oceans, lakes, rivers, harbours, and other water forms on Earth. In strict sense, it is defined merely as the surveying of a water area; however, in modern usage it may include a wide variety of other objectives such as measurements of tides, current, gravity, earth magnetism, and determinations of the physical and chemical properties of water. The principal objective of most hydrographic surveys, is to obtain basic data for the compilation of nautical charts with emphasis on the features that may affect safe navigation.Other objectives include acquiring the information necessary for related marine navigational products and for coastal zone management, engineering, and science.
Hydrographic surveying is undergoing fundamental changes in measurement technology. Multibeam acoustic and airborne laser systems now provide almost total seafloor coverage and measurement as compared to the earlier sampling by bathymetric profiles. The capability to position the data precisely in the horizontal plane has been increased enormously by the availabilityof satellite positioning systems, particularly when augmented by differential techniques. This advance in technology has been particularly significant since navigators are now able to position themselves with greater accuracy than that of the data on which older charts are based