Program 1969


During 1969 the whole field effort was to be the completion of the two high precision base lines, plus if possible, a high precision connection from the east-west baseline near Kingoonya, SA via the triangulation scheme to the Johnston Geodetic Station.


In NSW a change was to be made to the route of the east-west base line between Mt Drysdale and Mt Kaputar; to avoid the tower traverse section between Mt Bendemeer and Mt Kaputar with its very short lines; the base line would now be taken via the hilly country some 70 miles south, approaching Mt Kaputar in a wide arc from the south west. On many of the hills in question there were second order NSW Lands Department triangulation or traverse stations.


Late in 1968 O.J. Bobroff accompanied by Surveyor Class 1, P. O'Donnell from Canberra, made an aerial inspection of this terrain and reported it satisfactory except for one flat timbered area where towers may be needed.


Other factors effecting planning were the requirement to observe simultaneous reciprocal azimuths along every line which did not already have such an azimuth; the arrival of the Model 8 Laser Geodimeter, and the lack of field party leaders - P.H. Langhorne had transferred to Canberra and A. Porteous had resigned early in the previous year. However an experienced Surveyor Class 1, B. Willington (ex New Guinea) who would be based in Canberra, was due to start early in the New Year.


Supervising Surveyor K. Leppert would rotate between Canberra and Melbourne, as required, during this last year of the Geodetic Survey Branch in Melbourne.


Taking the above into account the programme was to be:


O.J. Bobroff would direct the following:


      (i)            Reconnaissance, beaconing between Tooram - Mt Kaputar, NSW


     (ii)            Beaconing and clearing would be done by P. O'Donnell


    (iii)            R. Ford would join the party for a short time to reconnoitre the difficult section Mt Foster – Warrumbungle Ranges.


   (iv)            High precision traversing Tooram - Mt Kaputar


     (v)            High precision measuring and simultaneous reciprocal azimuths along every line Thursday Island to Mt Maurice (near MacKay) Queensland. A helicopter contract would be arranged to do the Thursday Island - Cairns section, commencing date July.


J.W. Witzand would direct the following:


   (vi)            Observation of one nights simultaneous reciprocal azimuths along every line not previously observed in this manner between Muchea, WA and Mt Drysdale, NSW. Some Wild T3 Almucantar Longitude observations were also required.


  (vii)            High precision traverse, including simultaneous reciprocal azimuths along all lines, Kingoonya, SA - Johnson Geodetic Station.


 (viii)            Conducting acceptance tests of Laser Model 8 Geodimeter.


R.A. Ford would be party leader until July when he would join O.J. Bobroff at Thursday Island to assist with the helicopter contract.


A new Surveyor Class 1, A. Kudrin would assist with the Geodimeter acceptance tests and take the instrument into the field.


Preparatory Work


The beaconing party for the NSW work under P. O'Donnell comprised 50% each of Canberra and Melbourne personnel. It assembled at Dubbo during the last week of February where R. Ford joined the party. The reconnaissance in the Mt Foster - Merrinele - Wingebar - Warrumbungle Ranges area showed that the best route eastward via the Warrumbungle Ranges was from Wingebar to the more easily accessible Mt Bullaway instead of Mt Wombelong and Siding Springs; this also saved one station.


It was found that high towers must have been used on the Merrinele - Wingebar line. This line was going to be difficult no matter how it was approached. The 18 foot reconnaissance ladder was used to advantage and after the strong glow of lights was seen when they were elevated to about 18 feet it was decided to do considerable clearing. There was no doubt that the line could be observed from 30 foot towers if sufficient clearing was done. There was also the possibility of saving some of the clearing by elevating the lights with extra scaffolding to about 36 feet. The laser Geodimeter could measure the line in the same manner by elevating the reflector.


As a safeguard a mid-point was selected from which both Merrinele and Wingebar could be seen from a twenty foot tower. The other difficult line Mt Foster - Antares was then proved; R. Ford returned to Melbourne while P. O'Donnell and his party went ahead with the clearing and beaconing, completing this by about the end of March.


About the middle of March O.J. Bobroff and R. Ford made a two day aerial inspection of the Cairns - Thursday Island section which was to be done by helicopter. This showed that the main difficulties would be in the original occupation of the stations rather than the technical aspects. Most hills were heavily timbered and landing pads would need to be cleared; many were steep climbs and vehicles would not be able to get very close. Also the main supply road for petrol and Avgas was very rough with many difficult creek crossings. However it had been a drier than usual “wet season” and much rain after March was unusual; this could help the supply vehicles.


Tooram - Mt Kaputar high precision traverse


This was commenced early in May, the party leader was Surveyor Class 1, B. Willington, observers were A. Wright, D. Yates and G. Overnell, the last named being a new Technical Assistant Grade 2 from Canberra who would require training.


The task was fairly straight forward, measurements were done with the MRA-4 Tellurometer, horizontal and vertical angles were completed at each station as well as simultaneous reciprocal azimuths. About 14 stations were completed. G. Overnell had considerable difficulty with the observing and still was not fully trained when the survey was completed by mid-June.


The party then commenced the move by road to the Cape York area.


Thursday Island - Cairns high-precision traverse by helicopter


The track north from Cooktown is rough and narrow with many steep creek crossings making for very slow travelling. O.J. Bobroff, prior to the field party leaving Melbourne, had purchased a hand winch of French manufacture called a “Tractel”.


When a vehicle becomes bogged one end of the Tractel’s steel cable is attached to the chassis at front or rear as required, the cable is then run out and anchored to a solid tree or rock outcrop. The ratchet handle of the Tractel is worked back and forward, with its low gear the equipment gradually hauls the vehicle out of its bogged position. Those watching for the first time were sure it would not succeed; they felt the cable or the equipment would break before the vehicle would move. However this was not the case and this small item of equipment proved invaluable on this survey.


The party arrived in the area and established a base camp on the beach not far west of Cape York Lighthouse. The helicopter contract started in mid-July. O.J. Bobroff was directing operations with field party leader P.H. Langhorne, and the same 3 observers A. Wright, D. Yates and G. Overnell were available.


In addition a Laplace astronomical observing party from Canberra joined the field party. This group consisted of Surveyors, D.P. Cook and F.J. McCoy working on a rotation basis, also Technical Officer W. Jeffery. They would observe at selected stations with the DKM3A Theodolite.


E. Ainscow with various field assistants would be engaged on clearing helicopter landing pads as well as line of sight from the stations, where necessary. This often meant landing by means of a rope or “Sky-Jinnie” from the hovering helicopter and immediately clearing a landing pad with a chainsaw and brush hook. Once the pad was cleared the helicopter could land bringing in assistance.


Sometimes these pads were on the summit, but more often a short walk away on some lower, more suitable ground. The observing parties were able to assist with clearing lines once they were brought in.


As the tests of the Model 8 Laser Geodimeter had still not been completed all high precision measurements were made with the MRA-4 Tellurometer. Horizontal and vertical angles were observed to first order standards and simultaneous reciprocal azimuths were observed on all lines. The BC4 camera site on Thursday Island was incorporated in the survey.


Gradually moving south from Cape York, other base camps from which the helicopter operated, were established at Higgins Field, Bramwell, Moreton, Coen, Stuckey, Lakefield and Daintree River. While at Higgins Field, Assistant Director A.G. Bomford joined the field party for a short period.


This very interesting survey by helicopter ended near Cairns about mid-September, during this time about 32 stations were completed for all the requirements of high precision traversing.


Cairns - Tully - Townsville high precision traversing


At the conclusion of the helicopter contract, O.J. Bobroff and P.H. Langhorne returned to Melbourne. B. Willington arrived and took over as the party leader for the section Cairns to Tully. D. Yates and one field assistant resigned leaving quite a small party for the balance of the year. The observers were A. Wright, G. Overnell and M. Tonks who had been gradually trained. Without the assistance of a helicopter all had a very strenuous time as almost all the hills were a fairly solid climb and considerable clearing of undergrowth was required.


P.H. Langhorne changed over as party leader with B. Willington at Tully and from then on the field party remained unchanged for the balance of the season. Townsville was reached in early November by which time the weather was very hot and humid. During the Cairns - Townsville section about 13 stations were completed for high precision measurement; horizontal and vertical angles to first order standards and simultaneous reciprocal azimuths were completed along all lines. The observing finished early in November.


After a long but interesting season the field party returned to Melbourne arriving mid-November.


Muchea, WA - Mt Drysdale, NSW simultaneous reciprocal azimuth observations


The equipment was sent to Perth by container - this included vehicle and radio equipment for A. Kudrin who would arrive about a week later with the Laser Geodimeter. The field party followed by air arriving in Perth on 9 April and was ready to start observing from Muchea eastward by 14 April. An additional task had been allotted to the field party; after completing the azimuths to Mt Drysdale it was to complete the short tower section in the Merrinele - Wingebar area NSW.


The observers would be D. Hutton, D. Roberts and P. Blake who would be assisted by R. Ford until he gained experience. To utilise to the full the advantage of having three observers, it was decided that two simultaneous reciprocal azimuths could be completed on the one night by having the centre observer work to a light on each station as well as the star.


As the task was fairly straight forward once a routine was established, progress was steady. The party leader kept the computations of the simultaneous reciprocal azimuths up to date to assess the quality of the work and the need for any extra observations.


All lines were completed to Kalgoorlie by 7 May. Telephone calls to Melbourne failed to establish when the Laser Geodimeter would join the party. Owing to inclement weather in Victoria they had not as yet measured the 40 mile line which was the last test the instrument was required to pass. However the telephone call did provide the information that the BC4 Camera Site had been moved from Muchea to Caversham, much closer to Perth. Further details would be advised later but we might be required to make a connection to the new site.


East of Kalgoorlie six thirty foot towers and scaffolding had to be used as well as five twenty foot towers with “Quicklift” scaffolding. Six Wild T3 Almucantar observations for longitude were completed by D. Hutton at the nominated stations. Camping and working conditions were as unpleasant as ever on the Nullarbor Plain but with three observing parties progress was steady and every endeavour was being made to get clear of the plain before the worst of the winter set in.


Rawlinna was reached by May 26, WA-SA border 18 June, Cook 25 June, and the eastern edge of the plain near Ooldea by 3 July. During this period news came through that P.H. Langhorne had rejoined the Geodetic Survey Branch and would be party leader under O.J. Bobroff on the Thursday Island - Cairns helicopter contract.


From Ooldea the Bedford with the towers and scaffolding was sent to Melbourne as it could not continue along the traverse line through the next section, and the equipment would not be required until the Dubbo area was reached.


Working conditions were much better now that the plain had been crossed. In this area it was found that the line Warrior - Lena could not be observed from ground level. A request for information revealed that a 40 foot tower had been used for the original observations.


It was arranged for WRE who had 40 foot tower equipment, to erect the required tower and scaffolding. Work continued while this was being organised and all work west of Port Augusta was completed by 27 July.


The section between Port Augusta - Broken Hill involved a fair amount of travelling at the commencement. This was in getting around Lake Torrens and crossing the Flinders Ranges where Mt Patawarta was a hard climb. All was completed to Gap, north of Broken Hill by 8 August and the final section to Mt Drysdale by 26 August. Figure 1 shows the difficult observing set up on Mt Patawarta.


During the final stages of this work the field party was notified that as well as completing the short tower section near Wingebar, the party would re-observe the whole angular and azimuth work recently completed between Tooram and Mt Kaputar as it was not up to first order standard.


Mt Drysdale - Mt Kaputar, first order observations and simultaneous reciprocal azimuths


The Bedford arrived with the towers and the scaffolding and A. Kudrin with the Geodimeter; the line Moxham - Tooram was found to be too low for the Geodimeter even with a 30 foot tower and the longer, higher line Moxham - Coronga Peak was substituted. This work had shown up a weakness in the station summaries of two other authorities as no indication was made that towers had been necessary for the original observations and measurements.


The 30 foot towers and scaffolding were then erected at Merrinele and Wingebar where it was found insufficient clearing had been done and about one week’s extra clearing would be required unless the mid-point was used; Melbourne advised that the clearing was to be done.



Figure 1: Mt Patawarta revisited after 15 years. Difficult observing setup for azimuth, latitude and longitude observations, 1969.


The clearing was very hard work; luckily the weather was cool. The trees were quite large and solid; mostly swamp oak with some pines. It took most of the anticipated week to complete. Even then the lights and Geodimeter reflector had to be elevated on extra scaffolding; at Wingebar this was about 40 foot above ground level.


The Geodimeter worked well, the longer 30 mile line Moxham - Coroonga Peak which was done first, took a fair time for the first measurement but the second was done in a very short time, surprising those who were seeing the instrument for the first time. The short Merrinele - Wingebar 12 mile line was no trouble with the reflector elevated. The Geodimeter and the Bedford with its towers and scaffolding now returned to Melbourne.


The Moxham - Tooram - Coronga Peak and the Merrinele - Wingebar work had been full of interest as well as hard work; had involved quite a bit of ingenuity and gave a sense of achievement when completed.


With these tasks completed the final stage to Mt Kaputar was straight forward. All were pleased to be doing the full first order horizontal and vertical angles as well as the simultaneous reciprocal azimuths; these observations had to be done to lights as no back lines had been cleared. The Party leader kept up to date the geographic co-ordinate computations as well as the simultaneous reciprocal azimuth computations so that when the work was completed to Mt Kaputar a good idea of its quality was immediately available. Heavy rain delayed the last fortnight’s observations.


All observations were completed to Mt Kaputar by 2 October and arrangements were made with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Surveys representative to connect the BC4 Camera Site at Culgoora. For some reason unknown they had set up the Camera a few metres from the mark especially established for them in 1966.


Since leaving Perth, in 24½ weeks the field party had observed approximately 140 simultaneous reciprocal azimuths across the continent and had also observed horizontal and vertical angles at 14 stations.


Owing to the unexpected requirement to completely observe the Tooram - Mt Kaputar section and the necessity for a small party still to go to Perth to connect the new BC4 Camera Site at Caversham, the Kingoonya – Johnston Geodetic Station traverse would have to be omitted for this year.


It was therefore decided J. W. Witzand would take over most of the field party and complete nine simultaneous reciprocal azimuths between Mt Kaputar and Mt Maurice (near MacKay, Queensland). R. Ford and one observer, D. Roberts, would, after a short break in Melbourne, proceed by air to Perth and complete the extra azimuths required as well as making the BC4 Camera Site connection at Caversham. A. Kudrin was to go to WA immediately and for research purposes, remeasure with the Laser Geodimeter a series of lines along the high precision base line between Merredin and Caversham. Two Canberra field assistants from the levelling party would join him for this task.


J.W. Witzand arrived and took over the observing party on 9 October. The azimuths to Mt Maurice were completed with some difficulty mainly due to inclement weather. The thunder storm period had arrived so delays were experienced mainly because of cloud, and with rain at times. There were a considerable number of fairly steep climbs on hills covered with thick undergrowth. This combined with much warmer conditions than had been experienced to date made this last section quite strenuous. It was finally completed early in November and the Party returned to Melbourne.


Caversham area, WA


R. Ford and D. Roberts returned to Melbourne on 10 October. In Melbourne equipment was selected and despatched by rail to Perth. They followed by air arriving on November 5. A vehicle was hired from the Stores and Transport Branch and the equipment collected. A. Kudrin and the Geodimeter party were still too far east to assist, so time switches were brought along to enable the two man party to proceed without assistance.


This proved possible and was quite effective, but meant a long day of vehicular movements to set up time switches at two widely separate stations and then get to the middle one to observe. Also it says much for the honesty of Western Australians that so close to a capital city, no time switch with its accompanying batteries and light were interfered with during this survey.


Three stations were observed in this manner (two nights per station for both horizontal angles and reciprocal (but non‑simultaneous) azimuths). D. Roberts was the observer. The Army Survey Corps and the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Surveys representatives were contacted and the BC4 Camera site was connected.


Towards the close of the task A. Kudrin was contacted as he completed the last few lines with the Geodimeter. Overall he had enjoyed success with the Geodimeter; smoke haze from 'burning-off' operations by farmers had been his greatest handicap.


The computations of the azimuths were kept up to date and the quality of the observations assessed each day. All was completed by 15 November and the two men party returned to Melbourne. A. Kudrin and his party remained a short period longer to complete some Geodimeter measuring for the Army Survey Corps on Rottnest Island.


Field Parties 1969


Beaconing Tooram - Kaputar


P. O'Donnell          Surveyor Class 1 (Canberra)

P. Walkley            Field Assistant (Canberra)

C. Young              Field Assistant (Canberra)

D.E. Ainscow         Technical Assistant Grade 2

O. Gyles               Field Assistant

T. Wignell             Field Assistant


High Precision Traversing, Tooram - Mt Kaputar (May - June)


B. Willington        Surveyor Class 1 (Canberra)

A. Wright             Technical Assistant Grade 2

D. Yates               Technical Assistant Grade 2

G. Overnell           Technical Assistant Grade 2 (Canberra)

D. Ireland            Field Assistant

M. Tonks              Field Assistant

T. Wignell             Field Assistant

C. Young              Field Assistant (Canberra)


Thursday Island - Cairns high precision traverse


O.J. Bobroff          Surveyor Class 2

P.H. Langhorne     Surveyor Class 1

A. Wright             Technical Assistant Grade 2

D. Yates               Technical Assistant Grade 2

G. Overnell           Technical Assistant Grade 2 (Canberra)

D.E. Ainscow         Technical Assistant Grade 2

D. Ireland            Field Assistant

M. Tonks              Field Assistant

E. Graham           Field Assistant

T. Wignell             Field Assistant

R. Turner             Field Assistant

C. Young              Field Assistant (Canberra)

D.P. Cook             Surveyor Class 1 (Canberra)           ) Laplace observations,

F.J. McCoy            Surveyor Class 1  (Canberra)           ) Surveyors rotated on duty

W. Jeffery            Technical Officer (Canberra)


Cairns - Townsville high precision traverse


B. Willington        Surveyor Class 1 (Canberra)            Cairns - Tully

P.H. Langhorne     Surveyor Class 1                              Tully - Townsville

A. Wright             Technical Assistant Grade 2

G. Overnell           Technical Assistant Grade 2 (Canberra)

M. Tonks              Field Assistant

C. Young              Field Assistant (Canberra)

E. Graham           Field Assistant

R. Turner             Field Assistant


Muchea, WA - Mt Drysdale, NSW, simultaneous reciprocal azimuths (May - August)


R.A. Ford             Senior Technical Officer Grade 1

D. Hutton             Technical. Assistant Grade 2

D. Roberts            Technical. Assistant Grade 2

P. Blake                Technical. Assistant Grade 2

J. Weller               Field Assistant

L. Dawson            Field Assistant

H. Hodge             Field Assistant

N. Hubbard.         Field Assistant (about half of period)


Tooram - Mt Kaputar, re-observing, Geodimeter and tower section (September)


The above team plus:

A. Kudrin             Surveyor Class 1 (Geodimeter operator)

D. Abreu              Field Assistant


Mt Kaputar - Mt Maurice


J.W. Witzand        Surveyor Class 2

D. Hutton             Technical Assistant Grade 2

P. Blake               Technical Assistant Grade 2

J. Weller               Field Assistant

L. Dawson            Field Assistant


Caversham BC 4 Camera - Darling Ranges, WA, horizontal angles, azimuths


R.A. Ford             Senior Technical Officer Grade 1

D. Roberts            Technical Assistant Grade 2


Merredin - Caversham, Geodimeter measurements


A. Kudrin             Surveyor Class 1

D. Abreu              Field Assistant

P. Walkley            Field Assistant (Canberra)

P. Allen                Field Assistant (Canberra)



Additional Photos


Bamaga, Qld, 1969

Iron Range, Qld, 1969 (formerly Gordon Field WW2 site)

Green Island, Qld, 1969

Cape York, Qld, 1969

Accessing Cape roads, 1969

Accessing Cape roads, 1969

Bell 47G-4



Beach “heliport”

Slinging a load

Slinging a load

Approach to station

Approach to station

Approach to station

Approach to station




Wild BC4 Ballistic camera

Geodimeter obs

Geodimeter tower

Obs setup

Obs setup

Mt Finnigan, 40km due south Cooktown, QLD

Mt Finnigan ground mark

Mt Finnigan south to Mt Whyanbeel (aka The Pinnacle)

Mt Finnigan east to Cedar Bay

Mt Finnigan photos courtesy Bruce Willington

Reconnaissance map for Bramwell Homestead helicopter pad and photograph during operations courtesy Peter Langhorne

Reconnaissance map for Canal Creek helicopter pad and photograph of site and described ‘blazed tree’ marker with Peter Langhorne during operations courtesy Peter Langhorne

Reconnaissance map for Ryan helicopter pad and photograph during operations courtesy Peter Langhorne