Saturday, December 22, 2007

Adverse Possession

6May08 Update:

Looks like the Kirlins are going to Appellate court since the trial court judge dissed their evidence by saying it only upholds the McLean/Stevens adverse possession claim.

And meanwhile, the two bills proposed earlier passed the Colorado legislature. My, how the twists and turns of land history ensnares every facet of our lives! No one could make this stuff up, it's just too much about how people really do treat each other.

Here's a recent Colorado case that's created quite a stir:

Rocky Mountain News


Daily Camera

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Wandering North Pole

The latest issue of Science News contains an interesting article about the magnetic North Pole and how archaeologists are using it to date artifacts. You can read it HERE

New GPS Satellite Launched

At 2004 GMT on Thursday, 20 Dec, the Delta II rocket holding the newest GPS satellite, IIR-18(M) was launched successfully from Cape Canaveral, FL.

IIR-18(M) is planned to be stationed in GPS orbital slot C1.

IIR-18(M) is PRN 29 and SVN 57.

This new GPS satellite is expected to be set healthy for use in early January 2008.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Biz

Mergers and acquisitions are continuing in our industry. Recent announcements included the acquisition of NovAtel by Hexagon. As you know, Hexagon already owns Leica Geosystems. NovAtel has been making boards for Leica for quite some time, and is an OEM partner with Sokkia in Point. Topcon recently annouced that it will acquire Sokkia. So, it remains to be seen how it will all shake out.

Business-wise, it appears that surveying activity in many parts of the country is still strong. But woe to the companies who have concentrated their efforts primarily in the land development sector because that appears to be down across the country. It goes without saying that diversification is the key to a successful practice. Something else to consider: remember how hard it is to train and get up to speed on new software and hardware when you're busy? If you are seeing a downturn in your workload, and have been considering upgrading to newer technology, now is the time to do so, when you're not so busy.

Surveying in the News

As part of my daily news-gathering, I come across many interesting items that involve surveying. Some are wacky, while others are sobering.

For instance, we take our system of land registration and land titling for granted. But in many parts of the world, this is not so, and ownership of land is often subject to corruption. The UN recently announced an initiative to combat this. You can read about it HERE. Corruption, especially in Africa, is rampant, as you can see HERE.

Under the category of odd, this newly-developed device might be a good thing, but I'm not sure why anyone would want to use GPS to track a simple letter through the postal system. But obviously, at least one company thinks this is something we need, and you can read about HERE.

And just today, an Escondido, CA newspaper reported about surveying and GIS is being used to retrace a 150-year-old wagon road through the town of Temecula. You can read about it HERE.

Monday, December 17, 2007

December articles are now online

This issue is jam-packed with more of the kind of content you have grown to expect from The American Surveyor. It was difficult to limit ourselves to just one page to capsualize the life of Silvio Bedini. A man from the old school, we always loved his sense of humor. Full of humility, he spoke with a soft voice that commanded attention. Sharp as a whip, he could recall details from decades ago. In my editorial, I discuss the current GNSS situation, and delve into the pros and cons of NSGPS. Joel Leininger continues his discussion with Gary Kent about the ALTA standards. We've decided to take the discussion out of the magazine and into this blog, so watch for future installments about this important topic. It's been awhile, but we once again have an article from the master instrument restorer, Jeff Lock. Jeff's an excellent photographer, and these images leave no doubt. I highly recommend downloading the PDF for this one just to see the images. The ProFile of Donald Todd relates a fascinating story of a ten-chain GLO blunder and the resultant mess it created along the shores of Lake Okeechobee in Florida. Again, the PDF is a must. For those who are into laser scanning, Tom Mochty, the survey manager for Woolpert details their secrets of success and best practices. A must-read for anybody who has a laser scanner or is considering buying one. California attorney and LS Lloyd Pilchen gives a great explanation of the real property law behind roads. In this issue we have not one but two reviews. The first, by the venerable Al Pepling, gives the lowdown on CST/berger's Chinese-made total station. You might be surprised by what Al discovered. The other review, of Carlson's SurvNet 5 least squares adjustment program, is by our new software and hardware reviewer, Shawn Billings. Shawn lives in Kilgore, Texas and is hard at work on future reviews. The January issue will contain a review of the new TDS Nomad. Wendy Lathrop continues her series on land development. This installment has to do with population growth: not just how many people, but where. Finally, Curt Sumner, the executive director of ACSM, writes a detailed analysis of the recent MAPPS lawsuit. All is all, this is another great issue. And remember, if you want to see the images that go with most articles, be sure to download the PDF.
In Memoriam: Silvio Bedini, January 17, 1917 —­ November 14, 2007
It is with deep sadness that we share the news of Silvio Bedini's passing with our readers and his long-time fans. A brilliant historian and decorated scholar, many instrument collectors and writers credit him for the inspiration that fueled their own passions and careers. He was born in ....Read the Article

Editorial: CGSIC
Things are rocking right along in the GNSS world, and the Civil GPS Service Interface Committee meeting is where it all comes together. It is predicted that, by 2020, six or more systems will be operating. In addition to planned or existing constellations from the United States, Russia, Europe and China, both Japan and India are well along with......Read the Article

Point to Point: ACSM Positional Accuracy
One of the disadvantages (some might call it a benefit) of arguing a topic in successive issues of a magazine is that to get the full flavor of the dialog one must keep a fistful of issues at hand, in order to understand the context of the current conversation. For that, I apologize, because that is the situation in which....Read the Article

David Rittenhouse Telescopic Theodolite
As a researcher and restorer of 18th century Colonial surveying instruments, I deal primarily with the artistically crafted surveying compass. These instruments often have beautifully executed engraving, combined with technologically advanced workmanship for...Read the Article

Did Surveyors Lie (to Avoid Alligators & Snakes)?
If you've been in the business long enough, you've probably encountered your share of tangled information and hard-to-trace footsteps. Maybe it was trying to follow in the footsteps when there were none, or maybe it was just trying to sort all the footsteps out. Surveyor Donald Todd, owner of Atlantic/Caribbean Mapping in West Palm Beach, Florida has...Read the Article

Laser Scanning: Woolpert 3D Laser Scanning
Tom Mochty, LS, is senior vice president and director of surveys at Woolpert, Inc., Dayton, Ohio. Known for developing and implementing advanced position measurement technologies for civil survey and geomatics, in the early 1990s he worked closely with technology developers to integrate GPS with....Read the Article

Roads That Come Up Short Under The Law
Before Harry Truman left home to serve in the First World War, he helped his father oversee the community's responsibility to maintain the local roads. As biographer David McCullough wonderfully tells, Truman's experiences with roads at the beginning of the Motor Age were pivotal in his path to...Read the Article

Product Review: CST/berger CST-Series Total Station
In this installment, I review a CST/berger CST-205 total station, which is targeted for the construction stakeout market. After spending some time with the CST-205, I have concluded that it is well suited to that task, and in addition, I believe it will find much wider acceptance and usage, based on...Read the Article

Vantage Point: A Balancing Act
Most articles about balancing development and open space seem to focus on a single issue: water quantity, water quality, habitat, perhaps recreation. But I recently read a "what if" article that made me think in a different way about that balance. It led to a back and forth argument in...Read the Article

Software Review: Carlson SurvNet Network Least Squares Adjustment Software
Many of today's surveyors began their careers with the chain and transit. As many of you will recall, even though electronic distance measuring technology had been around for a while, wide spread acceptance of EDM instruments did not occur until the late 1970s to early 1980s. The chain is...Read the Article

Feed Back
I enjoyed Joel Leininger's Point to Point article, "Our Insular World," in your July/August issue, but I fear that the second paragraph contradicts the first. The local idiom, without explanation, seems to be used freely in the second paragraph. To me a "bollard" is a post used to attach a ship to a...Read the Article

Surveyors Report: Reflections on "The Lawsuit"
First, let me make it clear that I am not an attorney, nor do I portray one on TV. The reflections stated herein are solely mine, and have no legal weight whatsoever. They are based on my experiences, having been brought into the discussion of this matter on a number of...Read the Article

Longevity of Recordable Plat Media

The following appeared in the December issue of the Vermont Society of Land Surveyors The Cornerpost. Thanks to VSLS for allowing us to share.

Note: This is something that many of our readers might benefit from. I've actually seen this first hand. When I was working in Oklahoma City, we would go to the courthouse to obtain copies of subdivision plats. I remember (with shock and horror) when I opened one drawer and saw that much of the ink on the early-day mylar was slowly shedding and the drawer was accumulating bits of linework and letters that had "fallen off" of the legal copies of the plats. If this is a problem in your jurisdiction, the information below might help:

Sometime last spring or summer I was made aware that the state’s Department of Public Records now accepts plats prepared by inkjet plotters as meeting the “original ink on mylar” standard. This is, in my opinion, a step forward - to officially accept a technology that has become the industry norm. But truthfully, this step only goes part of the way towards achieving a practical archiving standard. Whether ink is “jetted” onto polyester film or is applied by more mundane methods, it never actually bonds with the film, but merely lays on the surface. Discouraged by the expense and poor image quality of fixed-line reproduction, and in hopes of finding an acceptable alternative, mapping technicians at VELCO recently conducted some “crude but effective” experiments with various inks and media and their HP Designjet 5000 plotter. They were impressed with the combination of a certain common ink cartridge (HP81, in their case) and a plotter media called “Polyart” by IJ Technologies (Imagine a large sheet of that nearly indestructible material on which your hunting license is printed.) The media is opaque white, seems to be dimensionally stable, takes the jetted ink beautifully, and, once dry, the ink bonds so well that it resists smudge or smear when subjected to indignities such as coffee and water spills. An excellent “winter chore” for us would be to see – after a bit more investigation perhaps – if we could encourage the acceptance of similar media combinations by the Department of Public Records and subsequently into the land records.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

This great story appeared in the December issue of the Vermont Society of Land Surveyors The Cornerpost. Thanks to VSLS for allowing us to share.

Survey Dick Bohlen, L.S. #7, Retired

We were running line on the Kittridge Hills, north of the Walden Mountain road. We were using compass and tape procedure, meaning that we were taking compass bearings, and measuring distance with a 200 foot steel tape. There were the 2 of us, and my faithful black Lab., Tippy. We named him "Tippy" because he had white feet, and a white tip of his tail.

John Nagle was working with me, and the procedure was that I went ahead pulling the tape and clearing the line with a machette. I would go out for as far as the growth would allow, and establish a foreward point. John would then take a magnetic bearing to the point, and we would tape the distance with John calling out the numbers. We were following a blazed line and making pretty good progress when we were stopped by a beaver dam. John joined me at the foreward point, and we discussed a battle plan. We could see the blazes on dead trees in the water, and could see where the line was on the far shore, about 150 feet away. There were "blowdowns " in the water, and the water appeared to be about 5 to 6 feet deep. No way to get across without a boat. The option would be to run line around the pond, and then compute the distance across. Not very good procedure, and not very accurate. Sure would like to measure across that pond !

I think that we both looked for Tippy at the same time, and then came up with the battle plan. We tied the leather tong at the end of the tape to his collar...John held him and talked to him with kind and soothing words, and I made my way around the pond to where the line emerged. One excited call from his master, and John's release of the collar put Tippy into the water with a great lunge. The water, the blowdowns, the pond growth, the tree limbs and nothing else could deter that mighty swimmer from the shortest path to his Master. We had our tape across, the distance measured, and Tippy earned his pay that day.

My lengthy absence

Apologies to all for disappearing immediately after starting my blog. I had a knee replaced and it knocked me for a loop. I'm much better now, and will do my best to actively post.

Monday, October 29, 2007

November articles have been posted

Even though the November issue won't mail for another few days, I've gone ahead and posted the articles. Please note that the links below are to the text-only versions of the articles. I highly recommend clicking on the PDF link to see the images and gorgeous artwork of each article. Enjoy!

Editorial: Road Trip!
The 2007 Surveyors Rendezvous at George Washington's birthplace in Northern Neck, Virginia was a fabulous first stop that kicked off a three-week, 6,500-mile road trip of meetings and interviews (and seeds of future articles!) Adding to the spirit of the Rendezvous was my rustic cabin in the woods and loads of behind-the-scenes facts about......
Read the Article
Point to Point: Valuable Papers Insurance
Conscientious surveyors maintain several types of insurance coverage for their practice, spreading the risk of calamity among the rest of the insurance pool. One kind deserves some scrutiny, because many of us, I suspect, are unaware of the coverage particulars...
Read the Article
The Father of Government Mapmaking: Henry Gannett
Rarely has the influence of one individual made such an impact on the history of American mapmaking. Under the direction of Henry Gannett, Chief Geographer of the United States Geological Survey, an era of unprecedented topographical maps was introduced to the United States beginning in the late...
Read the Article
Fusing Measuring Innovation with Global R&D
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job as editor has been getting to know many of the talented people whose work has helped to shape our industry. This month our spotlight focuses on Roger Höglund of Trimble and Omar Soubra of Trimble, formerly MENSI. What follows are really two stories, one...
Read the Article
The Totalizer Makes Your Total Station Complete
Like many surveyors, I have been following the evolution of GPS for many years (actually more than I care to admit) and constantly looking for ways to make it work for me. My first regular usage was for navigation when I installed a Garmin unit in my airplane in 1991. But surveying turned out...
Read the Article
Scanning Deadwood
Not documenting an historic area like Deadwood, South Dakota in Lawrence County was a gamble. The city was named for the dead trees that were found in the narrow canyon (Deadwood Gulch) where the historic Main and Sherman streets were originally laid out. Cradled in a narrow gulch of...
Read the Article
Laser Scanning: Surveying Revolutionized with True Color 3D Scanning
Surveyor Richard Darling's company purchased their first scanner, a Riegl Z360, in 2002 to assist a luxury home developer in creating a unique entrance into the Saguaro Ranch Master Planned...
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Reconnaissance: Relative Positional Accuracy—Again
It was with considerable disappointment that I read Joel Leininger's recent "Point to Point" column in the July/ August issue in which he derided the concept of positional accuracy in the 2005 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ ACS M Land Title Surveys. My response to...
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The Surveying Inspired Art of Perri Lynch
Land surveying is rightfully described as an art, and not just in reference to execution of skills and knowledge required. Surveying describes and projects both linear and abstract thoughts and ideas over the broadest of media ­ land and landscapes ­ to apply that which seeks precise definition to...
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Vantage Point: Building Brain Cells and Legacies
The care and feeding of brain cells has always been one of my greatest concerns, both of my own and of those belonging to others. It's why, even in the ancient days before I was licensed, I advocated increased educational requirements (beyond a high school diploma) for admittance to...
Read the Article

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

GPS Car Units Being Stolen

As I predicted years ago, the American people will wonder how they ever got along without GPS once they discover how convenient a car nav unit is. If you stop and think about, even in your own town, it's nice to have something tell you how to get someplace you've never been. Trouble is, because these units are valued at $400-600, they have become easy targets for thieves, and reports are pouring in from police departments all over the globe about stolen units. And removing the unit from the windshield mount doesn't help. Even if you remove the mount, unless you clean the windshield, a potential thief can still see that a unit might be in the car. It's a hassle, but the only safe option is to take the unit with you when you exit the vehicle. I bought one for my daughter last Christmas and she never mounts it her car, but rather keeps it in her purse and simply lays it on the dash or in the car seat when she wants to use it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

America's Crumbling Infrastructure Will Make Work for Surveyors

Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America's Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry (The University of Chicago Press, October 2007, $25.00).

For many years, I have been hearing how automation is going to transform the construction industry. Whether it's machine control for construction equipment or interactive 3D models, changes are stirring in the world's largest economic engine. Many of these changes do not bode well for our society unless we prepare properly.

Under the lurid headline Day of Reckoning: Why We Can No Longer Ignore the Fatal Flaws in America's Construction Industry, construction attorney Barry B. LePatner explains why the construction industry has to change.

In the book, LePatner "builds a powerful case for a much-needed change to a risk-averse industry plagued with an archaic Mom & Pop mentality, ineffective management that wastes 50 percent of all labor costs, a shortage of capital, and a tradition of contracts that insulate companies from the costs of their own mistakes."

As surveyors grapple with a current downturn in land development activity, something else I've been hearing is the coming growth in infrastructure spending. LePatner pessimistically paints an almost insurmountable picture, but also show a way out. For those surveyors who intend on continuing their line of work, dividends will be paid by paying attention to the winds of change.

In the latest issue of The American Surveyor

Point to Point: Of Agnew, Surveyors and Kickbacks
Joel Leininger's column discusses Spiro Agnew, vice president during Richard Nixon's term. Despised by liberals, Agnew showed one face to the public while he was taking kickbacks and bribes. He was eventually caught and went down.

Integrated Survey Engineering Key to South Hook LNG Terminal Project
A great story from Wales shows how one company used total stations, GPS and scanning to retrofit an existing pier for use as a liquid natural gas offloading terminal.

24/7 Structural Monitoring Keeps Detroit Lakes Roadway Reconstruction Steady
As land development winds down, surveyors will increasingly find their services needed to repair our nation's aging infrastructure. This story shows one such application.

Monument Memorials
Early GLO surveyors started a tradition of burying objects near the corners they set. Jerry Penry takes us on a fascinating tour of perpetuation techniques.

GIS? Show Me the Money!
A Texas surveyor shows how he is using GIS to make his business more efficient and profitable.

RTN101: NTRIP ­- The Essential RTN Interface (Part 10)
In his continuing series, Gavin Schrock explains the critical piece in making real time networks operate.

VantagePoint: More to Maps than Meets the Eye
Wendy Lathrop brings us up-to-date on FEMA mapping.

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

The 2007 Surveyors Rendezvous at George Washington’s birthplace in Northern Neck, Virginia was a fabulous first stop that kicked off a three-week, 6,500-mile road trip of meetings and interviews (and seeds of future articles!) Adding to the spirit of the Rendezvous was my rustic cabin in the woods and loads of behind-the-scenes facts about the Father of our Nation, and a field trip to the new Washington exhibit at Mt. Vernon. Check out our photos by clicking on the flickr link at

Under pleasant blue skies I left the meeting and headed south for a visit with long-time acquaintances Lew Lapine and Matt Wellslager at the South Carolina Geodetic Survey. I have been hearing great things about the South Carolina RTN and the success they are having with GNSS verticals...

From there it was on to Florida, where I visited Traverse PC user Donald Todd in West Palm Beach. Don’s been working on a large GLO problem along the shore of Lake Okechobee for the past five years. According to Don, it all goes back to a 10-chain bust along the meander line...

Next I met with Marilyn Evers, executive secretary of the Florida Society of Mapping and Surveying (FSMS) in Tallahassee. Marilyn had read my editorial about the demise of math in surveying students and called to inform me that Florida has, for the past three years, been on top of the game. It will also make a great story about one state’s successful efforts to attract young people into the profession...

Next stop was Fort Worth, Texas for CGSIC For anyone who wants to know where GNSS is headed, it’s all at this meeting. Here's a teaser: think we could benefit from having ±124 GNSS satellites in the sky? Much of the meeting buzz surrounded the pending demise of NDGPS. While High Accuracy NDGPS provides the accuracy the precise crowd needs, NDGPS does not, but HA-NDGPS depends on NDGPS, so it’s a Catch-22...

Welcome to the American Surveyor Blog!


Even though I've been involved with land surveying electronics since the late 1970s, and have absolutely no fear of computers, I'll have to admit that I'm starting a blog with a bit of trepidation. I think the sense in our country is that most blogs are used for political purposes, but I can assure you that this is not what my blog will be used for. Instead, I will use it to report up-to-the-minute news and events that occur in the surveying industry. Because magazines are printed ahead of time, and because they only appear once a month, my blog will allow much more timely reporting, and best of all, items that will never make it into the magazine.
I hope that you will find it useful and, most of all, interesting.

Yesterday, I received a press release about a new GNSS receiver made by Altus Positioning Systems. You can read about this new entry into the precise positioning arena HERE. Of special note is the involvement of Neil Vancans as one of the the Altus principals. Originally from the UK, Neil has a long involvement with our industry, first at Leica and then at Thales. He's a surveyor and has a clue about what's important for surveyors. At the recent CGSIC meeting in Fort Worth, it was announced that if all of the planned or envisioned satellite systems are built, we will have as many as 124 positioning satellites floating overhead. We welcome the Altus APS-3 into our sandbox.

Marc Cheves, LS
The American Surveyor