Readers comment on surveying/engineering and "The Great Sage Stone Expedition."

A Note On Survey "Engineering"

The battle over surveying education rages on. As a survey educator I have a problem with schools referring to the programs they offer as "survey engineering" or "geomatics engineering." I have the utmost respect for our engineering brethren, but tacking the term "engineering" [onto] "survey" creates an oxymoron, in my humble opinion. I would like to know how other surveyors feel.

Engineers deal with what may be, [while] surveyors are concerned with what is and how it relates to what once was. Engineers determine and maintain equilibrium strictly using mathematics. To the engineer, forces acting up must equal forces acting down, and clockwise moments must equal counterclockwise moments. In the surveyor's world there is often more than one state of equilibrium and choosing the correct state is seldom, if ever, solely a function of mathematics. Surveyors make decisions using both quantitative as well as qualitative techniques. Surveyors often make decisions that appear ludicrous to the uninitiated. In the engineer's world the concept of "intent" carries little weight, whereas to a surveyor intent can change everything.

Surveyors deal in shades of gray the engineer rarely encounters. A surveyor usually makes professional decisions based on legal precepts instead of mathematical ones. To a surveyor, measurements are used solely to show relationships, what those relationships mean and how they are dealt with is what makes surveying a profession separate from engineering. The real danger in referring to surveying as "survey engineering" is in how the profession is perceived by the public. To use the term engineering in reference to surveying leaves the impression that surveying is primarily a profession dependent on number crunching. Mathematics is only one of several skills a surveyor must have. Quite often in surveying the answer that appears to be mathematically correct is superseded by a subtle legal principle that our clients are totally unaware of. Surveying is not a profession of design; it is a profession of discovery. Discovery of the truth.

Barry Savage, PLS
Instructor,
Cleveland State Community College
Cleveland, Tennessee


The Great Sage Stone Expedition
September and October 2004

I write as a privileged member of "The Great Sage Stone Expedition," profoundly documented by Ian Wilson, LS, in the September and October issues. My involvement was instigated by the foresight of the late Mark Deal [who created] the POB/RPLS.com bulletin board [now hosted by POB], where I discovered an avenue to share surveying "down under" and to learn U.S. surveying. Through this wonderful medium, I have been fortunate to communicate with and meet many contributors.

Last year I attended the ACSM-APLS [Annual] Conference in Phoenix and then traveled on my "Pin Cushion Discovery Tour" to meet [RPLS posters] in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. In March 2004 I had an extremely enjoyable and memorable trip to Redmond, Ore., to present my paper on "Surveying Down Under" [at] the PLSO Conference. My travel was made easier by many POB [RPLS] posting surveyors, including the unselfish Doug Casement, Scott Freshwaters, Ian Wilson, Paul Cook, Jeremiah Teague and Alan Stephens, who all ensured that I had an indelible, memorable experience of a lifetime to match my first U.S. tour.

I am extremely grateful and indebted to Mark Deal's legacy for allowing me the opportunity to share surveying "down under" and to have the privilege of meeting many fine surveyors and their families. To be involved in events like Ian Wilson's "Great Sage Stone Expedition" was simply priceless. POB, you have generated a unique board family! Thank you!

Richard Abbott (aka RADU)
Adelaide, South Australia