Marine seismic reflection data acquired originally for purposes of oil and gas exploration within the US EEZ represent a national scientific resource of inestimable value. Recognizing the value of these data, the USGS is committed to preserving on behalf of the academic community and the nation data that may otherwise be lost, and to ensuring free and open access to that data.

High-quality seismic reflection data are essential to geological investigation of the offshore. To date, much of these data have been proprietary and available for publishable research only with significant restrictions. Although the commercial value of these data has diminished as a result of technological advances and offshore development moratoria, these data continue to have great relevance and value to current and future scientific research efforts. The value and risk of loss of these data was the subject of a 2002 National Research Council report “Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril” by the Committee on the Preservation of Geoscience Data and Collections, Committee on Earth Resources.

Initially, a National Archive of Marine Seismic Surveys (NAMSS) was created to serve data collected by the USGS under the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) mapping programs between 1975 and the mid-1990s. In 2005, two large data owners, WesternGeco and Chevron, offered to transfer to the USGS more than 300,000 km of data off the US eastern, western, and Alaskan coasts for the purpose of making those data publicly available for research and educational purposes. These data were conventional 2D multichannel airgun seismic reflection acquired and processed according to standards of the mid 1970s and early 1980s. The surveys were generally limited to the continental shelf, extending up to 150 miles offshore.

More recently, the USGS has partnered with the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) to distribute data acquired since 1975 by BOEM for the purpose of assessing offshore resources. BOEM retains the regulatory authority to acquire and release Geological and Geophysical (G&G) data and information on the Outer Continental Shelf. The Code of Federal Regulations 30 CFR Parts 551 and 580 allow for the release of G&G data and information upon completion of the proprietary term for said data and information. For processed seismic reflection data that proprietary term is 25 years from the issuance of the G&G permit. Accordingly, data provided to BOEM from 1975 to 1990 are now eligible for public release on NAMSS.

Other contributors of data to NAMSS include British Petroleum (data from the North Slope of Alaska), and Pacific Gas and Electric, which has provided data that were collected offshore of Diablo Canyon, California in support of the re-licensing of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.


Patrick Hart, Geophysicist

Peter Triezenberg, Geologist

Jon R. Childs, Emeritus