It seems fitting that the editor of a surveying publication would travel to a place called Traverse City for her fall vacation.

My new family visited the self-proclaimed Cherry Capital of the World in late September, a Michigan city named after the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan on which it borders. While intriguing to some, the name of the city doesn’t have much of an interesting tale: French voyagers apparently crossed the large mouth of the bay. That’s it. But besides the community that enjoys its cherries, grapes and wine (it is one of the centers of wine production in the Midwest), and an annual film festival founded by Michael Moore (please, don’t throw tomatoes--er, cherries), Traverse City is home to year-round tourism. The fall color tour is what drew my family there, and it’s what drew numerous others.

Including the barrel-of-a-man I met on the side of the road.

My husband and I had just gotten out of our van to take a picture of the sign that indicated we had reached one of the 45th Parallel markers of the United States (the one near Old Mission Lighthouse). The man was there with his wife doing the same. He told us he’d been to one of the markers for the 45th Parallel South, so he planned to add this one to his records. I asked if perhaps he was a surveyor. No, he said, but he had a fascination with geography and positioning, and with survey markers. In fact, he was excited to tell us, he owns a second home in Honduras with an old War Department marker embedded in his driveway.

Our exchange got me thinking about the many people interested in positioning. How many jokes are there about men knowing their way around? Look at how the sport of geocaching has taken off around the world. And take a look at Google’s popular “average Joe” broadcasting repository YouTube.

In a search for “land surveyors,” I pulled up 98 results on YouTube, although many were duplicates. “Photogrammetry,” “laser scanning,” “GPS, “GIS” and other search terms also brought up several results. Of course, the videos range from complete duds to pretty darned impressive (the California Land Surveyors Association recruitment video is one). Some are quite demonstrative of the true life of the surveyor, showing wildlife, land clearing, the perils of weather and landscape, and direct views from the eye of a total station. Others are, well, just plain embarrassing. They all prove that everyone desires attention, and through the medium of the Internet that everyone relies on today, surveyors can get that attention while highlighting their chosen profession.

With this exposure, more people like the guy I met in Traverse City--and even others with less knowledge of the profession--can be presented with real-life views of surveying and mapping. Perhaps, then, more will become interested in the sciences (so long as those amateur videographers produce better footage). We can only hope. Until then, I will be sure to spread the word about the profession to barrel-like men and others I meet on vacations near survey markers and road signs.

To contact the editor, send an e-mail