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1. Describe basic principle of marine echo sounding equipment
2. Identify the main components on a simple block diagram & state the
function of each
3. State the physical factors which affect the velocity of sound in water
4. Operate a typical echo sounder & demonstrate basic user
5. Distinguish between range and phase and demonstrate awareness
of suing wrong phase
6. Distinguish between inaccuracies caused by instrument, scale error
& those caused by false echoes.
7. Explain causes of inaccuracies due to instrument or scale error and
state their likely magnitude and measure that may be taken to
eliminate them
8. Recognize various types of false echo that may be recorded,
describe their formation and states the possible action to remove
them from trace
9. Describe the potential errors due to trim, heel and transducer

In order to navigate safely, one of the prime concern is to know the depth
below the ship. An echo sounder is designed to provide reliable
information on depth below a ship to aid navigation, particularly in shallow
water. Some times, it is also refered as echo sounding equipment. Sound
navigation and ranging , SONAR is an acronym which refers to systems
that use trasmission and reception of acosutic energy in water. This is a
very wide term which includes all modern systems that propagate
acoustic or electromagnetic energy into seawater to determine vessels
speed or depth of water under keel.
The echo sounder uses sound propagation technique to measure the
depth below the ship. Sound energy (also called acoustic energy) is
transmitted vertically down from the ship and reflected back as echo after
striking the seabed. The time taken for the return of echo is measured and
this provides the depth of water as per adjacent equation.

The echo sounders are

generally designed to
depths assuming the
speed of sound in water
as 1500 m/s. This value
is taken for calculation
purpose. The velocity of
sound in water can vary
1445 m/s to 1535 m/s
and may be affected by atmospheric conditions like temperature,
pressure, salinity.
The transmission of acoustic energy for the purpose of depth sounding
can be in the form of continuous waves or in the form of short and rapid
pulses. The latter is preferred and majority of echo sounders use this this
system of short and rapid pulse. One of the peculiarity of this system is
that acoustic pulses are transmitted and received by a single transducer
whereas continuous wave system requires one transducer to transmit and
another to receive.


1. Display Unit: This is located on the navigational
bridge. The display unit can be a paper recording
type or digital display type. Main function of this
unit is to record and display the depth after
2. Pulse Generator: This produces electrical pulses which are send to
Transducer. The pulse generator can be integrated into display unit
or completely separated depending upon manufacturer.
3. Transducer: This is located at the bottom of ship in a tank known as
transducer compartment. The
transducer converts electrical
(acoustic energy) at a frequency
of 12 KHz to 200 KHz. An
internal clock starts at this time.
towards the sea bed with the help of transducer and when pulses
are reflected back from seabed, the transducer converts the
reflected sound waves into electrical pulses.

Some larger vessels

may be fitted with
transducers. This is
when navigating in
4. Amplifier:
passed through an
amplifier to increase
received signal. The
internal clock notes
the time when pulse
is returned and so the time taken is measured.


There are many controls to adjust the performance of the equipment and
to operate it at various depths. The controls may vary depending upon the
manufacture but the general controls are as follows:
1.Range Switch to select the range between which the depth is be
checked e.g. 0- 50 m, 1 100 m, 100 200 m etc. Always check the
lowest range first before shifting to a higher range.
2.Unit selector switch to select the unit feet, fathoms or meter as
3.Gain switch to adjust the sensitivity of the equipment. This is adjusted
such that the clearest echo line is recorded. Care should be taken not to
set it too high or too low. A setting with speckled background is considered
satisfactory. Too high a gain will blacken the display and too low gain may
not return enough echoes.

4. Auto: to adjust the range scale and clutter level according to depth. In
auto mode gain is adjusted automatically.
5.Paper speed control to select the speed of the paper usually two
speeds available.
6.Zero Adjustment or Draught setting control the echo sounder will
normally display the depth below the keel. This switch can be used to
feed the ships draught such that the echo sounder will display the total
sea depth. This switch is also used to adjust the start of the transmission
of the sound pulse to be in line with the zero of the scale in use.
7.Fix or event marker - this button is used to draw a line on the paper as
a mark to indicate certain time e.g. passing a navigational mark, when a
position is plotted on the chart etc.
8.Transducer changeover switch in case vessel has more than one switch
e.g. forward and aft transducer.
9.Dimmer to illuminate the display as required.
In echo sounder, the stylus rotates with constant speed and the
transmission takes place when stylus passes the zero mark. When higher
range scale is selected, the transmission will take place when the stylus
comes to zero but the stylus speed is reduced because stylus has to
remain on the paper for longer period of time since the echoes are
returning from greater depth. This system is known as ranging. The typical
range scales are provided as 0-50 m, 0-100 m, 0-200 m, 0-300 m, , 0400m and so on.
Since the same length of paper now covers a larger depth the graduations
become closer and it becomes difficult to read depth accurately. Phasing
arrangement is used to avoid this.
Ranging is technique were the scale of the echo sounder is kept constant
and the stylus is varied according to the depth scale chose. E.g.- 0-100, 0200, 0-300 mtrs and so on
The speed of stylus is kept constant in phasing arrangement. However the
transmission point is advanced. Phasing is a method used in echo sounder to
determine depth of the sea bottom. In this method the speed of the stylus is kept

constant and the range scale is changed from 0-100 mtrs , 100-200 mtrs , 200300 mtrs and so on.It is important that the echo sounder range changed and


It is very essential to know the errors and limitations of echo sounder while
using for intended purpose.
Basic working of Echo sounder explaining stylus & pen arm
It is essential to ensure that pen arm is referenced at zero mark of the scale
intended for use. If this is not correctly set an additional error, known as
transmission line error could occur.

The speed of sound waves is assumed to be constant at 1500 m/s for calculation
purpose. However this speed varies with changes in atmospheric pressure,
temperature and salinity of water. In such cases the equipment will not be able
to provide accurate measurement. Generally an increase in temperature, salinity
or pressure will result in an increase in speed and the depth indicated will be less
than the actual depth.
The value of speed of sound waves through water as 1500 m/s is an international
standard and provides an acceptable degree of accuracy for most commercial
shipping requirements.
However if it becomes necessary to apply corrections, Admiralty table NP139
provides fine corrections.
In Red sea where salinity and temperature of the seawater are higher, the depth
indicated by an echo sounder may be about 5 % less than the actual depth.
The speed of sound in water depends upon the density of water. The speed of
sound waves is lesser in fresh water than in sea water due to the difference in
densities. This means that sound waves will take more time to travel in water of
lesser density (eg Fresh Water) than in water of greater density ( eg Salt water
or Sea water).
The density of water depends upon temperature, salinity and atmospheric

Hence it is quite essential to exercise precautions where atmospheric conditions

are abnormal.


When echo sounder is used in

If a vessel is experiencing squat the recorded depth will still be the depth
under transducer, irrespective of the squat. This can be quite critical when
squat is in excess say 2.0 m or more. The deep drafted vessels or any
other vessels which are concerned with UKC may require depths fore and
aft. Hence additional transducers are fitted to indicate the depths from
forward to aft.
Most echo sounders provide the depth under transducer, not the actual
charted depth. In other words the depth indicated is UKC. In order to
compare the depth with the chart, the ships draft and any height of tide at
the time of sounding should be taken into account.
Siting of transducer is very important. A fixed correction may be
applicable if the transducer is not situated at the lowest level of keel.
Similarly, excessive trim or list may affect the overall UKC.
A double echo is caused when
reflection from sea bottom are
again reflected from the water
surface or ships hull. The
second echo is never as strong
as the first echo. The echo
sounder will show two layers of
echo on the display. The
weaker one is usually the
double echo. A change in the
sensitivity control can remove
this error.

This is similar to double echo but reflection between the seabed and ships
hull takes place several number of times. This usually occurs in larger
depths, usually greater than 100 meters. This may cause several echoes

to be recorded and adjustment of the sensitivity control, selected depth or

scale could provide a better indication of true depth.
Some sea objects like seaweed, shoals of fish or plankton may sometime register
strong echoes. In such case, use alternate means to cross check the depth. One
of the method is to double check the position of ship and verify the depth from
navigational chart.
When sound waves are reflected diffusely due to air pockets or bubbles, it affects
the capability of echo sounder. Here aeration refers air bubbles which pass close
to the transducer which will reflect and diffuse the transmitted energy. The air
pockets or bubbles are caused by turbulence in rough weather, cross currents or
eddies. Turbulence is also caused when ship
astern on engine, thus capability of echo
sounder is
affected while moving astern.
This error is caused when transmitter is located
from the receiver. In modern equipment, the
difference in the length through which the acoustic
pulses have to travel is accounted for.



In high traffic density areas, it may happen
that pulses transmitted by echo sounder of one ship
are received by
the echo sounder of another ship. There is complete blockage of the display unit.
An adjustment of grain control can eliminate this error.
The location of transducer is important concern in proper functioning of echo
sounder. Obviously, transducer should be located away from areas close to
source of noise. The main problem encountered is stream of air bubbles due
aeration. Hence transducer should be site in such a place where effect of
aeration is minimum on doesnt exist. There is always turbulence around the bow
or stern of the ship. Bow waves generally create stream of bubbles on around
quarter length of ship from forward. The exact location of bow waves depend
upon shape of bow, speed and draft of ship.
The best place to install a transducer is where there is least possibility of
aeration in water under the ship and minimum interference from engine or
propeller vibration.