Thought Leader: Analog Land Measuring

It looks like the EU’s civilian operated Galileo constellation recently had a few hiccups and measuring this big old ball is still proving to be quite an undertaking. Technology has supplanted the craft of measuring land however if technology were disabled, there would only be a few people on this planet that could actually measure it. If you’re reading this then you are most likely part of that elite society. Rest assured that I have a K&E transit adorning the fireplace mantle and a 100’ steel chain buried in the shed somewhere so I’m ready to go. California just rattled the Richter up to 7.1 on the bouncy box. Who knows? Just a few more In and Out Burgers might crank it up to eleven and put our power grid in a pickle. So the question is “could you work five days without electricity?” I could with paper, pencil, transit, tape, dip needle and shovel. Oh yeah, I need my book of trig tables. Life gets easier if we include some drugstore batteries. A few dry cells bring life to our calculators and Schonstedts, but we’re still working off the grid. Let’s just assume that the VRS networks are whacked and there’s no municipal power to plug our chargers into. It’s not likely but hypothetically stimulating. By the way, I know a few folks in the open skies of the west that don’t have anything but GPS and would just as soon turn a trick before they’d turn an angle. I’d imagine that a hardbound copy of elementary surveying might come in pretty handy after the apocalypse. No doubt we will be called on and my guess is that our initial tasks will be marking public rights-of-way and re-establishing horizontal/vertical control. Chaining, trig leveling, three-wire, and stadia combined in a traverse have provided very suitable survey results for centuries prior to the advent of Microsoft.

Let’s not downplay the importance of paper deliverables. As our pop culture devolves into a worthless pile of melted crayons glued to social media, the rights of land ownership maintain a rock solid foundation under law.

Every landowner should keep a copy of their title report and instruments defining their property and rights. Providing a complete and analog copy of land survey deliverables is a great service to your client. Including the evidence of title work, research, aerials and tax maps with your deliverables certainly offers the client a better view of the opinion they paid for. If that unnerves you then maybe your opinions are lacking a foundation in evidence? Regardless, someday the recorder’s office might just be broken. I suspect after a natural disaster public archives might not be readily available for an inconvenient period of time. Ultimately we’ll patch things up in short order but in the meantime we need to keep on truckin. Realistically we may face an insensitive bureaucracy that “misindexed” documents because employees were upset with some sort of orange haired election results. More than likely I figure we’ll feel slightly inconvenienced by a cyberburp or some digital mischief by a third world bonehead wanting to hold digital public records as a virtual hostage#they are public information ding-a-ling#we want you to have them#you just gotta pay for copies. Conversely, something politically extreme like a coup might involve irreversible destruction. Anything worse and I’m bagging it for Jeremiah’s tent revival & snake charmin’ old timey blues jam in Tucson with my good old printed copy of The American Surveyor. We’ll still have tunes and good reading if someone forgets to pay the electric bill.

About the Author

Jason Foose

Jason Foose is a Professional Surveyor licensed in multiple jurisdictions.