Mapping Program
MBARI Santa Barbara Basin Multibeam Survey

In April 1998 the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) completed surveys of selected areas offshore of Santa Barbara, California. The EM300 multibeam survey covers the central and western section of the Santa Barbara Basin, which forms the northernmost part of the California continental borderland province. The morphology of the continental borderland has been extensively investigated using high-resolution deep and intermediate penetration seismic reflection and sidescan sonar techniques that provided detailed topographic information along selected transects. The MBARI EM300 data set constitutes the first multibeam swath-bathymetric survey of the entire basin.

We used the recently developed Simrad EM300 multibeam system to collect bathymetry and backscatter data. We contracted with C&C Technologies to run the system which they had installed on a contracted vessel, the M/V Ocean Alert. The 30 kHz EM300 system, because it is hull-mounted, allowed us to collect georeferenced high-resolution bathymetric and sidescan data at speeds of eight to 10 knots in water ranging from shelf to abyssal depths. 

Data and related products

Santa Barbara Survey Areas

Choose from the following survey area list or click on the map area to view images, survey details, and data file information.

Bathymetry data:

The most convenient way to access the data from this data set is to select the area of interest on this web page and download the data to your local hard drive.

The imagery data consists of two files, one containing the image (*.tif) and the other containing the spatial registration information (*.tfw). In some cases both files are required for the images to be properly geo-located. However, the imagery data included on in this data set are stored in the GeoTIFF format which includes the projection and coordinate information stored in the heading tags of the image. Therefore many software packages including ArcView and ArcInfo can use the images independent of the tfw files.

Because of space limitations grids are stored in gziped compressed ASCII format.

The shape files (located in the features directory) contain navigation from the cruise, the grid bounds and the Santa Barbara basin. The shapefiles should be copied as a group with all files having the same prefix moved to the same location.


  • docs—Ancillary information about the data sets such as geographic bounds, grid size, pixels, etc.
  • features—ArcView®shapefiles of the Santa Barbara basin, the survey lines, navigation points, and grid bounds. Also included is a shapefile (usgs.shp) outlining the bounds of a survey conducted by the United States Geological Survey (Dartnell and Gardner, 1999) in areas adjacent to the areas surveyed by MBARI, using the same survey ship and sonar equipment.
  • geoTIFFS
    • backscatter—Acoustic reflectivity images from the surveys in GeoTIFF format (bright implies high return).
    • sunshade—Color shaded relief images of the bathymetry grids in GeoTIFF format.
  • grids—(Compressed) ASCII raster format grids of Santa Barbara basin bathymetry in Geographic coordinates.
  • metadata—FGDC-STD-001-1998 standard metadata for the bathymetry data

NOTE: For ease of downloading the data, within each data directory is a .zip file that includes all the files within that directory.

Final processing of the data was done using the software package MB-System. For each survey area several bathymetric grids and acoustic backscatter images of multiple resolutions were created. The resolution of the data sets range from 30 to 3 meter grid cells (or 15 to 1.5  meter acoustic backscatter pixel sizes) depending on water depth. The cell sizes of the grids is indicated on the index maps by the outline color; red 3m, brown 10m, green 20m, and purple 30m. In all cases except for transits there are one or two large area grids of 30 meter cell size (15 meter backscatter cells) and several smaller area grids of higher resolution for the shallower areas of the survey where the data density is greater.

This data set was compiled by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) during 2001. 

MBARI provides these data "as is", with no warranty, express or implied, of the data quality or consistency. Data are provided without support and without obligation on the part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to assist in its use, correction, modification, or enhancement.


Mass wasting in Santa Barbara Basin

The Mapping Team includes Nancy Barr, David Caress, David Clague, Peter Eichhubl, H. Gary Greene, and Norman Maher, all from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). The data were collected by Gerry Hatcher and Norman Maher from MBARI and the mapping crew from C&C Technologies.

Index Map Arguello and Conception Canyon Santa Barbara Basin Rodriguez Seamount
Last updated: Jan. 08, 2016