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Historical Technology used in National Surveying and Mapping

  • Australian Longitudes by WIRE and WIRELESS describes how time information transmitted using the technologies of telegraph and then broadcast assisted in the accurate determination of longitude in Australia.
  • The technology of Electronic Distance Measuring (EDM) was a major factor in the successful completion of Australia's national survey and mapping programs. Terrestrial and later airborne EDM systems evolved from World War Two radar developments and were at the forefront of surveying technology until the advent of satellite-based surveying and navigation technology in the 1970s. This paper Airborne Electronic Distance Measuring : A Brief History seeks to catalogue the major airborne distance measuring systems that were developed during the twentieth century, with the focus on the history and use of airborne EDM used in, or associated with, the surveying and mapping of Australia.
  • In May 1954, the National Mapping Office of the then Department of the Interior took delivery of a Model NASM-1 Geodimeter that had been purchased from the Swedish AGA company. Hitherto an unknown technology, the NASM-1 Geodimeter was not only the first commercially available Electronic Distance Measuring (EDM) instrument but also the first such instrument to be used in Australia. This article looks at the introduction of EDM to Australia and its subsequent use by National Mapping.
  • Following the arrival of the first Tellurometer pair in Australia in April 1957, they were tested to ensure their claimed accuracy could be achieved. The results of the testing were summarised in a paper Report on Tellurometer tests, by GRL Rim Rimington, published in the Australian Surveyor, Vol.16, Issue.8, pp.494-507.
  • Brian Sturman and Alan Wright's 2008 paper The History of Tellurometer in words and pictures.
  • The Aerodist airborne distance measuring system was used by Nat Map between 1963 and 1974 to obtain horizontal ground control for the 1:100,000 scale national topographic map series. Laurie McLean has prepared this extensive article on Nat Map's Aerodist years in consultation with many of the Nat Mappers who were involved in the Aerodist program from up to over half a century ago. The article incorporates many of these Nat Mappers' recollections.
  • The Natmap Johnson Ground Elevation Meter (JGEM), was one of only a handful ever manufactured. In Australia, the Royal Australian Survey Corps (RASvy) also used the JGEM for mapping. The Johnson Ground Elevation Meter article is a collaborative effort instigated by Mike Cecil, former Head of Military Heraldry & Technology, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, with additional material courtesy John Hook ex-RASvy.
  • Early machines for making maps on the move - read about the Co-graph and the Odograph.


  • John Doherty worked for National Mapping in 1967. During that year he was a field party member in both Groundmarking and Aerodist. John has kindly provided details of his Year with National Mapping which he extracted from his correspondence home that had been saved by his Mother and held for the last fifty years.
  • A multi-million dollar project to rehabilitate a protected island of the Great Barrier Reef prompted Paul Wise to recall his stay on that same island some 45 years ago.
  • 1972 Montebello Islands Survey, Western Australia and Big Day at Little Turtle Island by Andrew Turk, describe a couple of Natmap's lesser known survey projects.
  • Kevin Burke and Syd Kirkby recall their sides of the story when the Aerodist helicopter ran out of fuel in Queensland. Their recall of events and Laurie McLean's coordination is acknowledged.
  • H.A. (Bill) Johnson recalls his 1965 aerial reconnaissance of the Tanami Desert in a letter back in 1980.
  • Des Young recollects the Desert flight of the Dornier the 1966 spot photography mission thorugh WA and Queensland, as well as providing photos of his time in Queensland on Aerodist ground operations.
  • The 1966 & 1967 field seasons from Andrew & Murray Porteous: Andrew in Geodesy & Murray in Ground Marking/Aerodist.
    Photos courtesy of Andrew and Murray taken during these years.
  • Jupiter Well recollections by Ed Burke.

    A album of photos is also available

  • Firsts & Lasts from Paul Wise
  • Caught by the Tide from Carl McMaster
  • The Birth of the MRA-2 Tellurometer at Natmap from Carl McMaster
  • Rescue Missions from Carl McMaster with additional insights by Murray Porteous

From the printed media