A Brief History of Queensland Surveying – Colonial Style

A Brief History of Queensland Surveying – Colonial Style

A Brief History of Queensland Surveying – Colonial Style

Surveying has a rich worldwide history dating back to the earliest times of civilisation. These activities have been crucial in the planning and development of places like Queensland, where European land surveying began after colonisation in 1839.

The first surveyors arrived at Moreton Bay, then a part of the New South Wales colony, to prepare the land for free settlement. The first surveyors were named Dixon, Stapylton and Warner. They began their extensive task in May 1839 with the town of Brisbane and its surrounding areas.


Queensland Surveying History

Surveying New Land

The Imperial Government decided to abandon Moreton Bay as a penal station in the 1830s and open up the area to free settlement. By 1839, most of the convicts had been removed and the Crown was ready to lease and sell the land to others.

Surveys were critical to identifying land parcels and their areas and dimensions. In a newly colonised district, surveying the land required a considerable amount of time and work to locate rivers, creeks and ranges, some of which would become the boundaries of runs, parishes and counties. The first trigonometric surveys began with Dixon measuring a baseline three miles long on the Normanby Plains near Ipswich.


The Surveying Life

Surveyors in Queensland faced many challenges while carrying out their work. Extreme weather conditions, the harsh terrain, the sparseness of populations and long distances to travel required meticulous organisation and preparation.

The work itself was isolating and repetitive, made worse by the extremely labour-intensive surveying tools of that time. Early Queensland surveyors faced hardship and adversity while mapping out this vast and unfamiliar land. Crocodiles, insect infestations, poisonous plants and drought were some of the challenges that took a heavy toll.

Surveyors often sought assistance from locals and Indigenous guides, some of whom were helpful while many others were understandably hostile.


Surveying Profession and Tools

Much like today, conducting the first surveys required a high level of precision and accuracy. Types of surveys included trigonometric surveys, features surveys, and surveys that set out boundaries of land. Queensland’s first surveyors were trained professionals that came from outside the state.

Surveying techniques, training and tools developed hand in hand with technology over time. The first suppliers of surveying tools in the colony were jewellers and opticians who imported instruments from Europe before producing tools themselves. Distances were measured with chains and perambulators. Angles were measured with circumferentors and theodolites.

In addition, a wide range of tools were used to help with the calculations. This included geodetic datums, which helped translate the three-dimensional curved surface of the earth to a two-dimensional piece of paper.


Modern Surveying in Queensland

Surveying in Queensland today is an entirely different kind of profession. Tools are far more advanced and a lot more effort goes into precisely measuring the dimensions and areas of land parcels and their boundaries. Geodetic datums, for example, have evolved from describing a spherical earth to developing ellipsoidal models derived from years of satellite measurements.

Surveying today plays a crucial role in ensuring the legality of development projects in a heavily regulated environment. Land developers everywhere rely on cadastral surveyors to ensure their projects are legal and have structural integrity. If you need an experienced and qualified cadastral surveyor in Queensland, get in touch with Arnold Development Consultants today.