Most people that use GPS technology for long drives and family vacations might not think twice about latitude and longitude. Early explorers and navigators had a very different experience when it came to venturing into unknown lands and oceans. And even though we don’t think about it, GPS depends on geodetic coordinates or latitude and longitude. For generations, people have depended on coordinates to travel and navigate the world. The tools and instruments of navigation are not that different from those used for land surveying.
So let’s explore some of these amazing tools that have improved the way we understand our world.
The Mystery of Longitude and How it Was Solved
Latitude runs parallel to the equator and is, therefore, easier to determine. It is determined by nature, whereas longitude proved to be a far more difficult problem to solve. Determining how far east or west a ship was from the land was a challenging endeavor and led to some fascinating maritime history. The difficulty in longitude made travel by ocean and sea very perilous and sometimes costly to merchants, explorers, and sailors.
In a well-known story that happened in the Scilly Isles in southern England, massive wreckage led the British government to offer a big cash prize for anybody that could solve the longitude problem. This was known as the famed Longitude Act of 1714. The wreck at Scilly Isles had caused a lot of damage and had been one of many shipwrecks that had destroyed property, goods, and human lives.
The problem of longitude came down to maintaining consistent time at an agreed-upon zero-meridian. Sailors would have to set the ship’s clock at exactly 12 when the sun was directly overhead, but clocks could not withstand the motion and changes of the sea. So sailors knew that an hour meant 15 longitudinal degrees of separation so they could convert the hour into a geographical measurement. And yet, it kept failing, as establishing precise time and keeping time was difficult on the ships.
This problem was solved by one unschooled fella named John Harrison, who invented an oil-free clock and would carry true-time across any turbulent sea. Harrison was recognized for his genius and his clocks were mass-produced, helping ships calculate longitude accurately and arrive safely at their destination. He is central to British maritime history.
The Zenith Telescope and Geographical Measurements
A zenith telescope has an amazing little story and forms an important part of the study of the skies. It is a refracting telescope that is designed to observe the stars overhead. As early as the 1700s, scientists and sky enthusiasts were looking for ways to better understand and measure the earth’s movement. In 1725, the aberration of starlight was discovered using one of these telescopes. It measures differences in zenith angles which helps to determine latitude location.
Zenith telescopes were also made portable, and this meant they could be used for geodetic purposes. A man by John Bird living in London was responsible for the first zenith telescope used in America.
The U.S. Corps of Engineers
During the 19th century, groups like the U.S. Corps of Engineers created a powerhouse of innovation in various areas of construction and land development. The field of surveying grew and so did the surveyor’s toolbox.
Captain Andrew Talcott of the U.S. Corps of Engineers continued to develop the methods of using zenith scopes to determine latitude. While working on the state boundary between Michigan and Ohio, he used a slightly different method. Earlier surveyors had paid attention to only the stars that passed about one degree or less of the zenith. Talcott focused on pairs of stars that moved through in equal distances. The method of measuring the zenith distance and finding the latitude is called the Talcott method.
The zenith telescope was used to demarcate state borders as newer states were being formed and new boundaries were decided upon.
The Surveyor’s Compass
A surveyor’s compass is unique from other compasses because it has vertical sights for aiming at distant objects. The surveyor’s compass came along in places with vast land exploration and was first referenced in Art of Surveying (London, 1610). These are vernier compasses with a variation arc and vernier mechanism. An Improved Surveyor’s Compass could measure horizontal angles without referencing magnetic north. This newly patented version of the compass helped many early railroad engineers improve their building process.
Get Accurate Land Surveys With Experienced Surveyors in El Paso
Whether it’s for a new home, a commercial property, a larger structure, or a building, a land survey is a must. Accuracy is our motto. Customer service is always our driving force. Land-Mark land surveyors are here to serve the community of El Paso and beyond. How can we help?
Land-Mark Professional Surveying provides the southwest with land surveying services. Connect with us today and find out more.
Many prominent people have gotten their start or dabbled in the art of land surveying. As we’ve covered in previous posts, well-known American figures have connected with the land through the art of land surveying. The work is ideal for those who see the beauty of the natural world. During the mid 19th century, America produced many memorable poets and writers that were essential in articulating and refining the American ethos and the philosophies of the New World. One name that is synonymous with harmonious living in the natural world — particularly as technology and cities began to grow— was Henry David Thoreau, known as an American environmental writer and essayist. When he wasn’t philosophizing and thinking profoundly about man’s relationship to nature, Thoreau was working as a land surveyor.
The Mark of Land Surveying on the Life of a Profound Thinker
Classical education in American history will likely come across the likes of Massachusetts native Henry David Thoreau and his work. With such well-composed life advice and profound thinking, Thoreau was known for his thoughts on capitalism, nature, and the individual. The son of a pencil factory owner, Thoreau became an apprentice to Ralph Walde Emerson—another big name in American literature. This meant that young Thoreau would be heavily steeped in the Transcendental tradition of his mentor. For the Transcendentalist, the way to a meaningful life was in the ability to hold oneself or maintain one’s separation from the material world and material wealth. This was an American delineation of the British Romantics, who saw the natural world as the arbiter towards spiritual transcendence and peace. Emerson wrote, “Mind is the only reality, of which all other natures are better or worse reflectors. Nature, literature, history, are only subjective phenomena.” This type of transcendentalist thinking was to inform much of Thoreau’s work, although he would depart from heavily discounting the power of nature on individual development. On the contrary, Thoreau put a lot more significance on nature and its presence in our lives.
Perhaps a little less known fact about the famous writer was that he was also a strong-minded abolitionist who participated in the Underground Railroad and railed heavily against slavery. During this time as a conductor at the Underground Railroad, he helped several slaves escape to Canada.
A Young Land Surveyor Uses Surveying to Inform His Work
As Thoreau worked parceling land that would be sold off to loggers. He used land surveying as his day job and dedicated himself to writing on his time off. He became Concord’s head surveyor in 1851. A close look at land surveying of the 19th century reveals that there were no licensing requirements to do the work. So land surveyors relied heavily on recommendations and their past work to vouch for them. Thorough was a man known in the surveying community as a man of integrity and this fared well for his ability to continue getting work.
The US Coast Survey formed in 1807 was important for the young land surveyor. The survey was conducted under the public spotlight and brought questions to the forefront about the role of science in democracy. These early surveys often had a significant impact on the shaping of society and people’s understanding of private property in the early days of the nation.
Land Surveying in the Mid 19th Century
The century has many important people working as land surveyors, but the work itself — done across the country — would help shape so much of America today. One of the most famous texts was the 18th-century treatise called “The Complete Surveyor or the Whole Art of Surveying Land.” This book was influential for other early surveyors including George Washington and Henry David Thoreau. The process of land surveying looked a little like this:
- The selling or distribution of the land to a prospective owner
- A prospective landowner would obtain a warrant
- A surveyor would go out to the location with the prospective owner
- They would mark out and demarcate the property line
- The surveyor would prepare a plat or special map of the boundaries
- The surveyor would include a textual description
- This document would serve as the deed to the land
The Long Tradition of Land Surveying in America
These figures have included the first president of the United States, George Washington, and founding father Thomas Jefferson. We have also covered the Lewis and Clarke expedition that gave way to a better understanding of the American Western frontier. The Lewis and Clarke expedition helped the American expansion efforts. In Europe at this time, land surveying would use a lot of transits, theodolites, and star charts, early surveying in the colonies used a different method that involved a long Gunter’s Chain to measure and demarcate the property. Most of the land surveyed east of the Ohio River was done using this method.
Land Surveying You Can Trust in the El Paso Area
Here at Land-Mark, we continue the great tradition of land surveying. The great predecessors of the industry have left behind great lessons of land surveying and much of their history.
As one of the Southwest’s most dependable land surveying firms, we are ready to help you survey your land with accuracy and reliability. Call us today and find out more about what we do.
Land surveys today benefit from hundreds of years of experience, knowledge, and tools. Our map creation of today uses anything from magnetic locators to special telescopes, to drones and satellites. The men tasked with early land surveys had simple equipment and employed special and innovative techniques to get the job done. As we saw in our series about Lewis & Clark, some of America’s most notable land surveyors, these early pioneers didn’t have much to work with but their knowledge of the land propelled them forward. Land surveys rely on smart techniques but also on their tools to get the job done.
Early Tools and Techniques for Surveying and Understanding the Land
Even ancient peoples had the urge and necessity to understand the land that surrounded them. It is an essential part of civilization—though not often discussed as such.
The Roman Groma
One early instrument in the history of land surveyors seems to have made its way from Mesopotamia. The Groma looks rather simple. It is a vertical staff with horizontal staff pieces at right angles. It was also adopted by the early Romans to measure land in the empire for taxation purposes.
The Greek Diopter
With the advancement of math and geometry came advancements in other fields. Land surveying advanced as the art of measurements and mathematical equations developed further. The Greeks developed the diopter. This was a lightweight portable tool composed of a cogwheel. They used water levels and astronomical features to survey a property. The theodolite—an instrument still used today— seems to have derived or at least been inspired by the early Greek diopter.
Land Surveying in Early Europe and American History
As Western civilizations expanded, the need to understand and record features of the land became more and more important. As the British Empire extended its borders across great lands, the explorers that led these expeditions sought to understand the lands in which they ventured.
In 1571, Joshua Habermel created the first theodolite. Modern versions of this tool still exist today and form part of the day-to-day surveyors kit. This is a precise instrument that requires a tripod and compass. When early Europeans began using the technique of triangulation, it improved the accuracy of the measurements of boundary lines. This early European method of triangulation was used up to the 1980s because of its simplicity and accuracy.
The Use of Celestial Maps & the Night Sky
In the mid 18th century, the theodolite was improved by the addition of a scope. Today’s Theodolite, for example, is a rather sophisticated telescope derived from these early versions. Surveyors around this time used sextants, which measured angles using celestial maps.
The Use of Other Early Tools
The land surveyor’s tool kit has evolved but the ideas have remained the same. Below is a list of various other early tools used by pioneer land surveyors that learned to be creative and innovative with what was at hand.
- Gunther’s Chain: This tool was around during the 17th century. It is a thin-looking chain consisting of a linked chain that is pinned to the ground and extended outward up to 60-65 feet. It helped surveyors define a path and record measurements from endpoint to endpoint.
- Gunter Surveyor Compass: Angles are critical for land surveys. Many of the tools that were developed early on focused on using angles to measure distances and terrain. Also known as the circumferentor, this tool helped determine right angles.
- Zenith Telescope: This is a refracting telescope and was pretty sophisticated for its time. It was designed to observe the night skies and contributed to the understanding of Earth’s rotation and axis. Portable versions of this telescope were used for land surveys including latitude determinations.
- Ramsden Theodolite: Jesse Ramdsen developed the Ramsden Theodolite in the late 1700s. He was an innovative London instrument maker that was tasked with creating an accurate instrument that used triangulation to divide England. The instrument weighed up to 200 pounds.
The Day-to-Day Instruments Used for Land Surveying Today
Most days it depends on the job. When surveying relatively flat terrain in the middle of a city to surveying mountain regions or deserts, there are various instruments and equipment that can be used. On any given day you might find your local land surveyor using the following:
- Surveying magnetic locators
- Surveyors safety vests
- Surveying tripods
- Marking paint
- Automatic levels
- Total stations
- Electronic levels
The list goes on. Depending on the kind of job and the kind of survey that needs to be done, the tool kit may vary slightly.
Get Accuracy and Reliability with Land-Mark Land Surveyors
As experts in the industry, we have seen the development of many new technologies and equipment over the years. It is no substitute for knowing how to do the job. We pride ourselves on efficient and accurate work here at Land-Mark. From residential surveys to government contracts, we get the job done.
Need a reliable land survey? Trust the experts in El Paso and the Southwest. Call Land-Mark today.
Surveying and map-making began as a treacherous and rather dangerous enterprise. It wasn’t for the faint of heart. Lewis and Clark were one of history’s most important land surveyors. They and their crew would be responsible for changing the course and expansion of America. In our last post, we explored the background of Lewis and Clark and some of the surveying tools that they would take on their journey. Today we continue our remembrance of this historic expedition and the surveying marvels that were born from this trek across unknown lands.
Two Surveyors, a Guide, & Thousands of Miles
In addition to their early surveyor tools like compasses, quadrants, telescopes, and chronometers, Lewis and Clark also gathered other necessary equipment. Some of these included weapons and ammunition, medical supplies and medicines, books on botany, geography, and astronomy, maps, as well as gifts to present to Native Americans they knew they’d run into including beads, face paint, ivory combs, and more.
The duo recruited 45 brave souls to join them on their way westward. Among these were 27 unmarried men, a French-Indian interpreter, a boat crew, and Clark’s slave known as York. One other unique characteristic about the Corps was the fact that it was a rather eclectic and diverse bunch. In addition to the Southern roots of Lewis and Clark, there was his slave, a one-eyed-part-French-part-Omaha-Indian fiddler player, a German named John Potts, and the famous Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian.
Both Lewis and Clark knew the journey would require incredible tenacity and discipline and so they ran a tight ship.’ Historical accounts describe how the corps was led with an iron fist, including harsh punishments like bareback lashing and hard labor for dissidents or uncooperative members of the team. It is the ultimate adventure story, only one person of the crew would die during the journey—a 22-year-old who died of an abdominal infection.
The team headed northwest along the Missouri River. Thomas Jefferson tasked them with several missions and goals for the expedition. These included finding and mapping a route across the continent, making detailed observations and notes regarding the natural geography, landscapes, and natural resources out West. At the same time, the team was meant to establish good relationships with native peoples along the way to interrupt the British dominance of the fur trade in the areas.
By mid-October, the expedition had reached the Mandan villages on the Missouri River. This important trading place allowed them to make some connections and talk to others about possible routes westward. The team had moved to South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. From the Mandan Villages, the crew was now facing the Rocky Mountains, the highest mountain range. One famous story was of Merriweather Lewis falling 20 feet into a cavern, was poisoned, and then shot in the thigh.
The now-famous Sacajawea, the wife of one of the Frenchmen in the expedition, proved to be invaluable for the success of the journey, as her language skills and knowledge of the territory proved essential. By the winter of 1805, they had reached the Columbia River and made a transcontinental crossing north of Mexico.
By the end, the expedition has traveled about 8,000 miles while pushing, pulling, and hauling ‘the boat’, the famous keelboat of the Corps, facing harsh storms, weather, hunger, thirst, and one or two run-ins with bears, friendly and not-so-friendly Indians, exhaustion, sleeplessness, mosquitoes, venereal disease, dysentery, boils, ticks, injuries, and God knows what else. The crew also found themselves face-to-face with some elk, buffalo, and deer, which they kindly turned into campfire dinners.
Throughout the trek, many of the men kept detailed journals, which would serve them well, as many of the maps and drawings they tried to send back to Jefferson during their journey never made it through. Finally, the crew made it to the West Coast, moving through northern Montana, Oregon, and present-day Washington onto Ft. Clatsop.
The Land Surveyors Return Home to a Hero’s Welcome
When Merriweather Lewis and William Clark returned to St. Louis with their crew, they were celebrated as pioneers and heroes of the time. The crew arrived back in St. Louis in September. The Corps of Discovery go their own way, but Lewis is named governor of the Louisiana Territory, while Clark becomes an Indian agent for the West. Most of the intended goals of the journey were met. This included establishing diplomatic relationships with Native Americans. The crew held councils with Indians and participated in events with them. Upon his return, Lewis had identified 178 plants including bitterroot, prairie sagebrush, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine. They had also identified 122 animals such as grizzly bears, prairie dogs, and pronghorn antelope.
A Tradition of Land Surveying Continues With Unprecedented Precision
Lewis and Clark’s journey is seen differently among historians. For many, the journey was one of the first tales of American exceptionalism and would spearhead a movement of westward expansion and discovery. Others focus on the tragedies that plagued the journey. In the end, the expedition’s contributions to early maps of American territory are indisputable. The flourishing country understood its terrain and natural resources much more in-depth than it did before 1804.
As land surveyors, we can only admire the skill and technical understanding of Lewis and Clark in their creation of maps. Their understanding of geography, astronomy, and climate, allowed them to make extraordinary conclusions that turned out to be quite accurate.
While the process is much different today, here at Land-Mark Land Surveying, we move forward with creating detailed and accurate land surveys for construction, government contracts, and more. Connect with us to find out more!
You are given a hand compass and told to go off into this unknown territory and come back with a map and detailed drawings of the land. No GPS. No smartphone. No calls to mom. No helicopter to rescue you. It would be quite the feat! Many people today are used to the convenience and accuracy of GPS for navigation. If you drive into a new city, you likely use navigation tools to find the nearest burger place, hotel, or shopping center.
It wasn’t always like that. In fact, going into the unknown was part of this country’s early history. Somebody had to do it. That person (among others, of course) was Meriwether Lewis and William Clark when they set off West to map the unknown lands beyond the Mississippi River. This incredible history shows just how vast and expansive the United States was and is an inspiring real story of the American spirit on a tumultuous journey.
In past posts, we’ve explored the incredible technology that is changing and enhancing the work of land surveyors across the world. From drones to GPS to smart technology, mapping our world has improved through the implementation of these tools. We thought we’d go back in time to a story that had none of those technologies and surveyed over 8,000 miles with not much more than a pen, paper, and a whole lot of grit.
It Begins With the Son of a Surveyor and a Notable Name in American History
For most people, Thomas Jefferson is the name behind the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States of America. He is known as one of the most notable founding fathers who wrote and spoke eloquently about the role of government, led the revolutionary cause, and worked for the republic moving forward. A little unknown fact about Jefferson is that he was a son of a land surveyor and a land surveyor himself. He was exposed to the world of mapping and charting as a young boy and for a time considered pursuing this as his profession. Because of his exposure to the line of work, Jefferson understood the importance and necessity of having accurate maps and surveys of one’s country. He knew that a new nation attempting to build itself could not do without the knowledge of its own lands.
As president, Jefferson emphasized the importance of the landowner and the central role they played in building the country. All of this fueled his ambitions for discovery and exploration, as well as an understanding of what lay beyond the recent territories the country had just acquired.
The Louisiana Purchase obtained after a negotiation had added 827,000 square miles to the United States. This was a lot of unexplored territories. Jefferson was already calling for it to be surveyed. He appointed his secretary, Meriwether Lewis, a known surveyor as well, to lead the expedition. Lewis would choose his friend William Clark and together they would put together a team that would change American history and set an example for pioneers everywhere.
The Two Men That Would Spearhead the Corps of Discovery
Like many early pioneers, William Clark and Meriwether Lewis were men of their era: smart, with a drive for adventure, and a relentless spirit. Lewis went to college in his home state of Virginia and graduated in 1793, no small feat at the time. He joined the Virginia state militia and took part in putting a stop to the Whiskey Rebellion. He would go on to become captain of the U.S Army, and at the ripe age of 27, he became a personal secretary to the President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.
William Clark joined the state militia of Kentucky when he was nineteen and would go on to serve in the regular Army. He served with his future partner Lewis and would be commanded by George Washington himself as a lieutenant of infantry.
Survey Instruments Used For the Treacherous Expedition
It might be interesting to note that Thomas Jefferson taught Lewis the basic principles of determining latitude by observing altitudes of the sun or a star with an octant. Both Lewis and Clark understood that this was not a journey to take lightly. Both prepared adequately for the journey Jefferson also sent him for formal education and once appointed to head the expedition, Lewis began studying medicine, botany, astronomy, and zoology. He would study and analyze existing maps and journals. Some of the surveying tools they had at the time included:
- Tape measure
- Plotting instruments
Soon, this dynamic duo would set out for the unexplored wildlands of the West. In Part II, we’ll explore their journey, what they ran into, and what they found after miles and miles of exploration, map-making, surveying, and endless adventure.
Here at Land-Mark professional surveying, we have slightly more sophisticated equipment than Lewis and Clark, but we see every job as an adventure. For a professional land survey, contact Land-Mark today.
Technology continues to change the way that we live, interact, go to school, go to work, build, fight wars, and more. Technology of one sort or another seeps into every sector of life and land surveying is no different. Most people will think of drones as a weapon of war and that’s certainly why they were first concocted, but the use and advancement of drones might actually have quite an impact on the industry of land surveying. The use of this technology is impacting our industry so we thought we’d pay a little tribute to the drone and its use in scoping out the terrain.
Drones During War Time
If told that the idea of drones goes back to the 1800s, most people would roll their eyes. Of course, drones as we know them today did not exist back then but the concept of sending unmanned vehicles to complete a mission happened when Austria attacked Venice with incendiary balloons they sent across the sky. These balloons carried bombs and were sent as a military operation. Without remote control, most of these balloons missed their target and did not actually drop the bombs where they were supposed to. Most wondered off, slowly descending with a dud, miles from their intended target. Now, compare that with today’s military drones and you’re talking about a whole different species, of course.
The U.S military began using drones more readily in the Vietnam War for reconnaissance missions and even dropping leaflets for psychological operations. Today’s drones are highly sophisticated flying machines that can capture photographs, information, and drop bombs at incredible accuracy and speed. Today, U.S military drones include a wide arsenal of flying beauties including the Reaper used to take out ISIS operation, the Shadow used for reconnaissance, surveillance, and field assessment, or the great Golden Hawk, which helped our great military in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The Golden Hawk is known for its high-resolution surveillance capacities and the use of electro-optical and infrared sensors.
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles provide the opportunity to navigate difficult terrain and reach difficult places without having to risk-taking vehicles or sending people up there. In this way, drones can offer access to hard-to-reach places and facilitate accuracy in mapping. When it comes to surveying land, drones provide eyes that can reach and hover over specific areas. Because of the remote control technology, height can be adjusted for better observation. They are also equipped with sensors and can measure and transmit data immediately. These drones can help in identifying property boundaries, subdividing land, and surveying of construction sites as they prepare for building. These drones can also produce accurate topographic and hydrographic maps, volumetric calculations, flood insurance maps, and more.
The world of civil engineering has long depended on manpower to gather data. Today, the use of drones is revolutionizing the industry of civil engineering and even construction because of its ability to gather accurate data for the purposes of building and more.
Drones in the Field of Land Surveying, Construction, and More
Drones are changing the land surveying industry in a couple of ways and provide certain benefits like:
- Disruption: Surveyors often have to deal with disruption or boundaries that make getting a full survey a little more difficult. The operator using a drone does not have to worry about any disruption to the sightlines.
- Imagery: Images collected from a drone are not only accurate but high resolution and can serve a variety of purposes.
- Risk: The use of drones lowers the risk to the surveyor when it comes to difficult and dangerous terrain, not to mention eliminates the need to go out when weather conditions are harsh and can disrupt the work. Because of this, the safety of employees and workers is prioritized. Land surveyors are tough and are used to navigating difficult places, but drones eliminate the need to put workers in unnecessary peril and get the job done with the same amount of accuracy, it’s a win-win.
- Survey speed: Using drones increases the rate of speed of receiving the information. Land surveying often requires carrying equipment and setting it up from one place to another. Drones can eliminate most, if not all of the need for this. Drone mapping means that you can do an entire area or construction site in one swoop and obtain accurate information.
- Efficiency and budget. As drones become more commonplace and specialized software makes its way to the civil engineering industry, using drones can be a way to stay in budget and make better use of resources for a project. And who doesn’t love that! Whether it is a construction company or a government contract, saving on resources is always at the forefront.
Mapping in Record Numbers
Experts assert that by using UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) technology will shorten the surveying process and contains the great possibility of reducing time and monetary investment. Whether it is the construction industry or home building industry, this is always on top of everyone’s list. The use of drones in surveying, however, is not just about productivity and speed, it is also about accuracy and the ability to improve the work we do. With this, we can carry out more projects in the same amount of time but also work with quality data sets, which in turn allows better and more through planning.
One popular example was the famous mapping of Ghost Ranch in New Mexico in 2015 that happened after the area suffered some flash flooding. Surveyors were called in to assess the area and get an idea of the damage and the conditions. An early company using UAV for surveying purposes was tasked to do the job and were able to do a complete drainage study with a 45 minute drone flight and mapped 1,200 acres in one hour for a stream geomorphologic study. Most people know Ghost Ranch for its contribution to such popular films as Indiana Jones, Cowboys and Aliens, No Country For Old Men, and more.
So as drone technology improves and becomes more ubiquitous, the work of the land surveyor will be positively impacted and improved. Here at Land-Mark, we are excited about the many possibilities that lie ahead with this and many new technologies. Until then, we continue to perform our work with high standards of excellence and accuracy for every job. If you need some land surveyed for a project, call us today and find out more.
Much of the world hit the pause button in the middle of March up to May and even continuing on into the summer of 2020. It has been a strange year for everyone worldwide but despite the many changes and shifts, land surveyors have continued to do their jobs in mapping out our world. As it turns out, surveying land is a pretty essential endeavor and one that we may not realize impacts our lives pretty significantly. The last few decades have had a considerable effect on land surveying, as technologies have improved and embedded themselves in the process. We thought we’d take a look at some of the changes in the industry in the past couple of years and how we have coped with the changes of the virus.
The Close Call — Keeping Land Surveyors Working Through the Pandemic
Across the country, governors made moves to protect their populations by shutting down what they considered ‘non-essential’ businesses. This led to a lot of other businesses to question the metric of ‘essential.’ Who, after all, decides what is essential and what is not in American life. Surveyors across the country began to make a case for their services as quite essential.
President Trump issued two national emergency declarations under the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act. Several players petitioned to keep surveying operations open and exempt from the governor’s orders. The letter making this case was shared with other parties including the National Society of Professional Surveyors, which encouraged surveyors all across the country to send to their governors preemptively to prevent shutdowns of surveying operations. While some governors exempted surveyors by name, others did not consider our work particularly necessary. Many appealed this by showing how surveyors are actually critical to the economic well-being of the state. The reason being that many government construction or private construction, building permits, or other infrastructure cannot proceed without a survey.
According to many surveyors across the country, some private-sector jobs have been put on hold by the pandemic but many public sector jobs have increased. This might be because localities and other entities are taking advantage of the reduced traffic and crowds to work on important city projects.
At the same time, land surveyors are not exactly working amidst large crowds. Our profession is pretty isolated and doesn’t require large teams or working in highly trafficked areas. All of our work can easily be done with social distancing and by taking precautions. Here at Land-Mark, we continue to do our important work while ensuring that all of our workers and any member of the public we might come across, is protected.
Another aspect of our industry that has changed considerably has been the use of new technologies. These, of course, have been in the works for many years at this point. We’ve written about how GPS technology specifically has altered our industry, but technology has impacted us in several ways:
Accuracy: Modern instruments allow land surveyors to have an accuracy of measurements. Compared to the tools in use even a decade ago, the accuracy has improved exponentially.
Speed: Today, the speed of the surveying process has also greatly been improved by technology. Accurate results can be presented in a few hours, allowing for projects and infrastructure to get rolling. With the use of drones, for example, areas can be surveyed without exceeding human effort.
Improved possibilities: Development really begins with the land surveys and thanks to the improvement of technology, we are able to create surveys that create even more building possibilities. A lot of cities that are approaching development in a smarter, high-tech way, is a result of improved results in the land surveying arena.
As cities grow, there might be limited space available and large metropolitan areas have to get creative about the way they develop some of these areas. Cities often have to perform complex planning in small and complicated areas. Land surveying is imperative when looking to make the most out of space.
As we look to the uncertain future, we know that land surveying will continue to improve as technology improves. Automation and artificial intelligence will surely trickle into the industry, as they have already begun to do so. The use of drones, for example, has become useful in surveying difficult terrain. Other features like cloud-based storage and instant data seem to be right on the horizon.
Get Accurate Land Surveys for Your Project
Whether you are involved in a private contract, government contract, or public sector infrastructure project, Land-Mark Land Surveying is here to provide the quality land survey you need. Get the right view of the land and proceed with confidence.
Whether you are a large company purchasing acres of your next commercial infrastructure, or your a government agency looking to build some kind of installation, or you’re a property investor, or even a prospective homebuyer looking to buy acreage on which to put your home, a land survey is more than likely relevant to you.
Chances are that, at some point in your life, you have seen land surveyors at work on the side of the road on your everyday commute or drive across town. It looks like they’re taking photographs, as they are looking through a telescopic-looking device sitting on a tripod. And yes, it looks like they’re out there taking panoramic photos or admiring the horizon but really they are hard at work taking specific measurements and mappings of the land. The expertise of a land surveyor is in their ability to determine land measurements, topographic heights, and more.
The Right of Way Surveys
One of the main services of many land surveyors, such as Land-Mark, include what are known as Right of Ways Surveys. This refers to the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass through specific grounds that form part of someone else’s property. In other words, it is the right of passage to another person’s land or property. The term is a common way that land surveyors and other civil engineers use to describe the ability to access another’s property, as it pertains to land usage rights. Examples of a Right of Way might include utilities— gas, electricity, water, telephone, or drainage— to pass through neighboring land, or if your neighbor must access your land in order to get to their property.
There are a couple of options with this:
Property Right of Way: This type of Right of Way (ROW) allows individual access to a person that needs it in order to reach it another location. This might be common on properties that are adjacent to another property that has the only access to the property in question. This may be in absence of a public walkway, lake, or river.
Public Right of Way: A public ROW allows members of the public to access a right of way that is on private land.
Pipeline Right of Way: This type of ROW applies directly to utilities or services that must access private property. This is when the utility company needs to use this private piece of land in order to provide its services and are vital to its operations.
A land surveyor can help you determine the specific details of the ROW by taking measurements of the property and assessing where the property line begins and ends. It is important that if you are the property owner, that you are aware of any ROW that might pertain to your land.
Before you renovate or develop on your land…
This information is key to the development and maintenance of your piece of property. If you are planning on developing your land or building on it, knowing the specifics is essential to ensure a successful project. You don’t want to find out that you have a ROW after you have built over it or disrupted it in some way. By law, it is necessary that you are aware of these types of details on your property.
A ROW can also refer to land owned by a municipality or company that transports goods and/or people. In a way our streets and highways are located on right of ways and so access to any adjacent properties are always to be provided.
Why is a Land Survey Important for Renovations and Development of Property
Knowing precisely the dimension and topography of any site is essential in order to ensure full compliance and abidance of building guidelines, town plans, etc. Even if you think your renovation project is just a room addition or something simple, knowing the precise measurements and boundaries of your property is necessary.
If you are looking to build on your land, a planning permit and/or building permit may be required. A land survey will be a mandatory part of these planning permits.
Get Necessary Land Surveying with Land-Mark
So if you are a property owner that is looking to develop on their land, understanding the historical data that you must take into account will ensure a successful build, project, or expansion. Owning a ROW is important too, as it informs you of necessary access you must provide to others through your property. Call Land-Mark today to get quality land surveying that is not only done quickly but effectively.
We thought we’d go back this month, all the way back. What we do here at Land-Mark is to understand terrain and land for the purposes of historical records, construction, and more. All of that began, however, with the idea of mapping and what is known as cartography.
Understanding the terrain which we inhabit has been a natural impulse for people and therefore early attempts at mapping our surroundings appear early on in human history. The earliest maps date back to 16, 500 BCE. These maps, however, were focused on the night sky more than they were the earth itself. Ancient cave paintings often depict landscape features like hills and mountains. These early forms of maps were there to help people navigate the world.
In ancient Babylonia maps on clay tablets, as well as routes done by ancient Egyptians on papyrus paper. In fact, many ancient civilizations would come to develop their own systems of mapping and drawing out the landscape.
The Greek civilization was no different. They helped develop the industry of cartography as an important science. Many notable ancient Greeks would study the size and shape of the earth and its habitable areas, climatic zones, and country positions. We might all be familiar with Pythagoras, as he was the first one to draw the map of the earth that showed it as a sphere. Geographers of ancient Greece started trying to calculate the circumference of the earth.
Ancient maps are always fascinating, as they tend to be a little biased. Early Greek maps, for example, tend to show Greece as the center of the world. And this happened with China as well. Other early Greek maps, however, do show the landmasses divided into two continents: Asia and Europe. This was derived, in large part, by Homer’s work and other notable works of the time.
The Roman Empire
The Roman empire began to see a real practical and functional use for their maps. Understanding the terrain meant that this could help them for military purposes and other expansion efforts. The need for the empire to control and protect their empire in both military and economic aspects, meant that they needed to have a precise picture of boundaries and road networks.
Other important map contributions include the Ptolemy map, which is notable for its probable role in the Roman expansion. This is the beginning of latitude and longitude, which we still use today in all of mapping and land surveying. This was originally done around 130 AD but was lost and had to be recreated in 1300 AD. Cartographers that came after this then adopted this system and refined it to be far more accurate.
During the Middle Ages, where so much scientific and artistic advancement was halted, the work of map-making continued. Many Muslim scholars followed the methods of latitude and longitude. As travel across the glove increased, various notes and writing became essential to understanding the new terrain.
Later on, medieval European maps adopted their own form of doing things. They called them ‘mappa mundi.’ The largest Medieval map still in existence includes the Hereford Mappa Mundi—an elaborately and delicately colored map. The Fra Mauro map is another notable map of the ancients. It was created by a monk and it is a large round map of the world.
Let’s skip to the 1600s. There is the famed Ricci Map, a.k.a the Impossible Black Tulip—which is a great name for a map! This map was put together by a Jesuit priest and actually shows the Americas, though it has China in the center.
As Modernity Sets In….
As people continued exploring and mapping out the world, discovering new worlds, mapping those out and so on and so forth, maps became more and more accurate, necessary, and detailed. As the Industrial Revolution set it, trade and commerce began to connect the whole world through a vast network of trading routes and travel. This meant that a more defined understanding of our world was needed. All of a sudden, travel for pleasure was possible and people taking vacations or exploring new areas of the world were looking to move through the areas.
The ornate maps of earlier times, however, were replaced with far more functional and practical maps that could be used for various types of travelers including business travelers, explorers, and even leisure travelers. During the 19th century, railroads expanded rapidly throughout the world, connecting the world once again.
Reading maps is something that used to be taught in school, perhaps not so much anymore if most people use the GPS technology. Nevertheless, the world of mapmaking continues to be a fascinating field, as it is focused on providing detailed information about a certain terrain.
Find a Trustworthy Land Surveyor — A Different Kind of Map Maker
Here at Land-Mark Land Surveying, we don’t make your typical maps but we engage in the practice of creating detailed and informative depictions of a particular landmass or piece of land.
We live in the age of information. We all probably hear this phrase on a regular basis and are made of aware of this fact again and again when we encounter— and have immediate access to — endless bits of information and media and entertainment. Land surveying involves the gathering of information and data. The world of GPS has also significantly changed the way we travel and move around, as well as the way we understand the terrain. Many people now depend on GPS to get around. As land surveyors, GPS technology has impacted the way we do our work as well.
For centuries, scientists aimed to devise a way to enhance and improve our navigation and improve our ability to pinpoint our position in the world with accuracy. That technology exists today and most of us hardly give it a second thought.
The Beginning of the Technology
The GPS technology has so steadily snuck its way into our cars, our phones, and our lives. It has its origins in the Sputnik era. Scientists were able to track the satellites with shifts in their radio signals. This is known as the Doppler Effect. Throughout the 1960s the United States Navy conducted experiments to track submarines carrying nuclear missiles. In the 70s, the Department of Defense used some of this Navy technology and continued the movement of using satellites to track movement and for sophisticated navigation systems.
The DoD launched its first Navigation System with Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR) satellite in 1978. By 1993, the 24 satellite system that GPS uses today was pretty much operational. There are two levels of service: the Standard Positioning Service and Precise Positioning Service. Access to the latter is restricted to the U.S Armed Forces. The former is the one most people know today as the GPS utilized by everyone.
So who created this technology and who do we credit as the inventor? After all, we always want to put a face to the name, even though some of the inventors we credit are not often the ones that deserve all the credit. Thomas Edison, for example, gets all the credit for the light bulb, but Humphry Davy might have something to say about that.
When it comes to GPS technology, there are a lot of people that contributed to what ultimately became the technology. There are four people typically credited with at least spearheading the concept that was developed by the US Department of Defense for military purposes. There is Roger L. Easton, the former head of Naval Research Laboratory’s Space Application was the brain behind a lot of the preliminary applications. Another name is Ivan Getting which contributed to the idea of using an advanced system of satellites to allow the calculation of data. Bradford Parkinson was at the forefront was also a chief architect of the technology. And then Dr. Gladys West also contributed to the advancements of calculations for an accurate model.
GPS stands for Global Positioning System and today this system has become quite sophisticated that it allows us to find addresses that might seem otherwise hidden or in the middle of nowhere. GPS uses signals from satellites to pinpoint a location on the Earth’s surface. GPS will use at least 24 separate satellites in a system that consists of six earth-centered orbital planes.
The Main Uses of GPS & How They Help Land Surveyors
- It determines a position or location
- Facilitates navigation
- Allows tracking
- Creates maps
- Aids accurate time measurement
How did GPS make its way into land surveying?
Because land surveyors are essentially marking and measuring terrain and property, GPS was a natural for the industry. The use of technology in surveying was one of the first commercial adaptations of GPS technology. GPS survey equipment allows the ability to obtain location, distance, and height almost instantaneously.
There are some pros and cons, however, when it comes to using/depending on GPS for land surveying. The benefits include:
- It offers a higher level of accuracy
- Calculations are made quickly
- Land surveyors can carry GPS components easily
There are also some slight disadvantages. These might include:
- Requires a clear view of the sky to receive the satellite signal
- When the area has intense foliage, there may be limits
- All GPS survey equipment is subject to failure
- The equipment can be costly
As GPS evolves, of course, land surveying will likely benefit and only increase its efficiency and accuracy. Already, in the last decade there has been quite a lot of changes in the way that land surveying is done, thanks to new equipment and improvement of techniques.
Get Accuracy with Land-Mark Land Surveyors
Just like any other industry in the 21st century, land surveying continues to change and advance as technology does the same. Here at Land-Mark, we do the job right. We use top-of-the-line equipment and the best techniques to ensure an accurate reading.