Skip to content

Looking Back: How Surveying Has Shaped History

Ancient History Of Surveying

Did you know that the first surveying practices took place around 5000 years ago? An integral element to planning and developing sites, communities and cities, the earliest signs of surveying extend back to Stonehenge, which is estimated to have been built 3000BC.

Since the earliest surveying practices, surveyors have relied on their tools to provide surveying solutions. In Egypt 1400 BC, ancient surveyors stretched treated rope to gauge the dimensions of land. The Greeks developed the diopter in 120BC, which measured terrestrial and astronomical elements of land plots.

The next breakthrough in surveying tools came in 1571, when Joshua Habermel developed the theodolite. This surveying equipment, which uses a tripod and compass, is still utilised in some contemporary surveying practices.

Early Surveying In Australia

Surveyors and explorers in the 1800s allowed Australia to become an economically diverse nation with farming, mining and support services flourishing in the 19th century [1]. Conditions for those colonial surveyors were grueling, with a challenging climate and terrain to map.

Some of the most notable surveyors and explorers of early Australia include Matthew Flinders, who is famous for charting most of Australia’s coastline. In 1801 he surveyed from Cape Leeuwin to the Bass Strait, and in 1802 he charted the east coast as well as the Gulf of Carpentaria. He then continued to circumnavigate Australia, before reaching Port Jackson in 1803 [2].

The first inland surveyors were John Oxley, Thomas Mitchell and George Evans — who surveyed inland regions of NSW.

As well as sun and star observations to gain latitude, longitude and orientation, these surveyors utilised a range of pioneering surveying tools including sextants, theodolites and compasses.

One of the first Western Australian Surveyors was John Forrest who surveyed southern, northern and middle parts of the state during the period 1869 – 1874. He was known for using indigenous Australian guides to explore the desolate region. In 1883, he organised the first large-scale survey of the Kimberley region [3]. He was later made premier of Western Australia.

The Role Of The Surveyor

The role of the surveyor is often overlooked, but they were instrumental in determining boundaries between colonies and states of the federation. They have mapped landmarks, towns and cities and continue to shape the way that Australians live.

Western Australian Surveying Solutions

Our Perth surveyors at Survey Group have the skills, knowledge and experience to ensure your project is delivered to the highest of standards. If you would like to learn more about our surveying expertise and latest projects, contact our Osborne Park Head Office by calling (08) 9443 8900 or send your enquiry online.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.  

[1] FIG: International Federation of Surveyors

[2] Britannica

[3] Australian Dictionary of Biography

Scroll To Top