This “history” would not have been written by me had it not been for the insistence of O.J. Bobroff (‘Bob’ to all at National Mapping.) He was particularly keen to see that such a book was compiled and pointed out that I was the only person continually engaged on actual geodetic surveys from 1951 until the transfer of the Geodetic Survey Branch from Melbourne to Canberra, at the end of 1969. During this time these activities ranged from surveys conducted prior to the inception of the small Geodetic Survey Section in 1954 to the completion of the primary geodetic survey in 1965, followed until 1969 by mapping control traverses and the major part of the field work associated with the two high precision base lines, Perth - Culgoora, NSW, and Culgoora - Thursday Island.


It is written in narrative style, not a stiff technically orientated history. I have endeavoured to show what was done by each field party in each year, the party leader, observers and the work accomplished. I have also included some outstanding events of a non survey nature in which the survey parties became involved from time to time. All units of measurement have been given in Imperial measure just as they came from the various diaries, reports etc. which were consulted.


My main objective has been to place on record information about actual field operations which otherwise will soon be lost. Now that it has been compiled I am sure it could be of considerable value as background information for any person who, in the future, wishes to compile a technically orientated history of the geodetic survey. For this purpose it will be necessary to obtain all the necessary files from archives and spend many hours searching through them.


While no indication of any tension is mentioned it would be foolish to believe that all went smoothly at all times. Personalities being as they are, through all ranks the survey parties had the normal amount of friction that is to be expected in the more independently minded types of persons who are attracted to this type of work.


My thanks are due to 'Bob' Bobroff, John Allen, Ed Burke, Jeff Fox, Bob James and Adrian Wright for help with information on the activities in which they were involved; also particularly to Bob Goldsworthy who provided much valuable information. Dave Hocking and John Manning gave invaluable constructive criticism which helped to clarify certain paragraphs or to bring to mind important data which otherwise would not have been included.


In conclusion, I must also mention that in trying to give as full an account as possible of the survey parties’ activities, the parties about which I have the most information are those with which I was associated as an observer or party leader. Thus more detail is given about these activities than those of the other survey parties. I apologise for this, however in general similar problems and events would have arisen in all parties. It has been my hope in this manner to convey to the reader a feel for the activities of all National Mapping geodetic survey parties.



R.A. (Reg) Ford



22 November 1978



Closing Note (placed here to put paper in context – Ed.)


As this is a narrative and not a technical report it is fitting that a tribute should be paid in a final few words to those few persons whose foresight in the early nineteen fifties enabled National Mapping to push quickly ahead from such a small beginning with its part in the Australian Geodetic Survey.


B.P. Lambert was Director of National Mapping for the full period of the geodetic survey and as well as being responsible for its ongoing programme was also Chairman of the National Mapping Council which was in turn responsible for the coordination of similar programmes for all the authorities, engaged on the geodetic survey.


G.R.L. Rimington was Chief Topographic Surveyor in charge of the Melbourne office, and was directly responsible for the field activities conducted from there as well as the activities of the photogrammetric drafting section. I personally, will always be grateful to "Rim for giving me the chance to join National Mapping in early 1950 and his instruction and encouragement in my initial field work.


H.A. Johnson was Senior Surveyor in charge of the Geodetic Survey Section from 1954 and later Supervising Surveyor of the Geodetic Survey Branch. There is no doubt that it was his drive and energy when he joined National Mapping that really started the Australian Geodetic Survey moving ahead; he showed just how much a small survey party could accomplish. Hopefully this volume has given some indication of this as well as his contribution in the field until the task was completed in 1965. I am grateful to Bill for his instruction in the techniques he employed and how by using these techniques first order results could be obtained very much quicker than was accepted as normal at that time.


The various survey party leaders, observers and field assistants who worked on the geodetic survey should not be forgotten. Working for long field seasons under rough camping conditions is very trying, particularly as the work was at irregular hours as is required for theodolite observations which include astronomical work. That they stuck to the task and produced high standard results is evident from the quality of the Australian Geodetic Survey.


One person who was not in the Geodetic Section but who gave me much help while I was in the office during the short break between field seasons was J.D. Lines, Senior Surveyor Topographic Survey Section (later Supervising Surveyor Topographic Survey Branch and Assistant Director, Melbourne). When preparing the survey party for their next field period I often felt we would never have completed the purchase of equipment and supplies at the short notice available if Joe had not been there to guide me through the minefields of the bureaucratic jungle.


The last paragraph must mention the final preparation of this narrative for publication. Additional photographs were kindly provided by John Allen, Jeff Fox, Bob Goldsworthy and Dave Hocking; most of the diagrams are being drafted by Bruce O’Connor and the progress maps are being prepared by Trevor Trevillian and his staff in Queanbeyan. My thanks to all the above as it is their specialised contributions which will decide whether or not this narrative holds the readers interest.