Summertime, and the Surveying Ain’t Easy

This entry is part of 6 in the series xyHt in print, June 2015

Now that winter and even spring have finished thrashing half the country, we can officially enjoy summer. As a laser scanner operator I have a fairly easy job this season due to the limitations of the instrument—at least, it’s easier than being a field surveyor. If you’ve ever worked on a survey crew in the summer you’ll know what I’m talking about. Let me give you a brief example of a fairly typical job for surveyors.

I was fresh out of survey school, and my crew chief and I needed to stake out clearing limits for a new plat. The job site consisted of thick woods and acres of tall blackberries. My crew chief turned his instrument to the specified angle and told me to go that way for 200 feet.

“I can’t do that,” I complained. “Those blackberries are taller than me!”

“Get your machete out and start chopping!” was all he said.

I clipped on my machete and meekly walked up to face Blackberry Mountain. For a while I just stood there trying to decide where to begin. Were those bees I was hearing? “Well, here goes nothing,” I said as I took my first swing.

Boy was this hard work! The only thing I could do was carve out a tunnel in the direction I needed to go.

After what seemed like a good 45 minutes I turned around to see my progress. 25 feet? What the heck?!? I could have sworn I was almost there.

“Keep going another 175 feet,” was the only encouragement I received.

My first rookie mistake was wearing a shirt with short sleeves due to the heat. My arms and face were absolutely shredded! They looked like I had been in a fight with an army of trained cats. Plus, I was pouring sweat, which made all the spider webs and dry leaves stick to me.

As the chopping continued I started to get the hang of it. I found the best angle to chop at the stems and which ones not to cut so they didn’t fall on my head.

Things were going well until a swing hit something that sounded like I had smacked a grocery bag. Immediately I was surrounded by a cloud of insane wasps. I tore out of the tunnel and flailed about at top speed trying to get them off, slapping the ones on my skin and trying to swat the ones in the air (second rookie mistake). Some even hid like ninjas in creases of my pants and shirt, only to surprise me later in the day.

Guess what time it was after all that? 11:00 am. It wasn’t even time for lunch! We had the whole rest of the day, and week, and summer of the same kind of work.

Next time you see a surveyor standing by the road in the hot summer sun, please don’t use their cones as a slalom course. Instead, cut them some slack, and maybe, I don’t know, squirt some cold water at them.

 

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