The Survey of Victoria.


In 1836, when the Port Phillip District of New South Wales had so grown into importance by increasing settlement, as to require the machinery of a local Government, we find among the first appointments recommended to the Secretary of State by the Government of New South Wales, the names of R. Russell, F.W. Darcy, and W. Darke, assistant surveyors.


The first duty of these officers was the survey of a site for a township on the banks of the River Yarra, where considerable settlement had already taken place, and in 1837 this site was subdivided and streets laid out by Mr. R. Hoddle, a surveyor from Sydney. The land selected for the town was included in the block of rather more than a square mile now bounded by Spencer, Flinders, Spring, and Lonsdale streets. Each block was originally marked out to contain ten square chains, but they were afterwards divided - first, by the formation of a right-of-way through the centre of each block parallel with Flinders, Collins, and Bourke streets, and secondly, by dividing each of these half-blocks into allotments fronting these streets. The rights-of-way referred to were to give back access to every allotment; or, as Governor Bourke said, to give the owners a means of getting their cows in and out of their back yards. These lanes originally intended for so modest and convenient a purpose have eventually become, perhaps the most important business streets in Melbourne.


The survey of Melbourne was made by aid of the circumferenter, an old form of surveying instrument, with which all lines were laid out by compass bearings, and Spencer, Elizabeth, Swanston, Russell, and Spring streets were aligned in the direction of 20 west of magnetic north, while Flinders, Collins, Bourke, and Lonsdale streets were at right angles, or 26 north of east.


After the survey of Melbourne was completed, certain suburban lands, which were named Collingwood and Richmond, were surveyed in blocks, varying from five to forty acres, intended chiefly for dairy farms. In this year (1838) some country lands north and north-west of Melbourne were surveyed in blocks of from 640 to 1200 acres (no block exceeding two square miles). These were sold immediately the surveys were completed at 12 shillings per acre. About the same time a survey was made of the Barrabool Hills, and the land sold at auction. A large tract of land between Fyans and Bates Fords was also laid out for the Port Phillip Association, and in 1839 the township of Geelong was marked out by Mr. Surveyor W.H. Smyth, the survey consisting of two ten-acre blocks abutting on Corio Bay, and two similar blocks due north on the bay side of the River Barwon. Some large blocks of country lands containing 5120 acres were surveyed in 1838 and 1839, which were styled and afterwards known as Special Surveys, made at the request of some of our early settlers, who purchased them at once at a uniform price of 1 per acre.


The mode of survey up to this time was of the most primitive description: the compass, or circumferenter and chain, were the only instruments used, and even those not on every occasion; there was no system of connecting one survey with another, and from descriptions given of the modes of proceeding, the wonder is that the really creditable accuracy obtained (generally speaking) of the surveys should have been secured. In ranging straight lines, the boundaries or divisions of surveys, it was a common practice for the surveyor, after once obtaining his direction, to fix on some distant mark, such as a tree or bush, and without ranging poles or intermediate marks, chain out the line as nearly as it was possible to do with the distant mark constantly disappearing and reappearing with the rise and fall of the ground or from other obstruction to the line of sight. Under such circumstances it is not so surprising to find occasional crooked boundaries as it is to find so few of them.


In all survey operations it is necessary for the surveyor to have assistance in the shape of labourers for clearing, etc.; he is therefore usually accompanied by a small party of men to act as chain men, axe men, tent keeper and cook, and until 1841 the men employed for such purposes were usually convicts. In some cases the surveys were done under a kind of contract with the Government: the surveyor was supplied with a party of convicts, and rations, and he carried out the surveys on a schedule of prices, by which he usually averaged about thirty shillings per mile of lines run.


Subsequent to 1841 the employment of convicts in survey parties was abolished. The surveyors were then paid about 150 per annum, with an allowance of 150 per annum for camp equipment. Rations and forage for one horse were also allowed by Government. A survey party at this period usually consisted of six men, comprising a bullock driver, a cook and tent keeper, and four field men (axe men and chain men).


As early as 1844 and 1845 the settlement of the Port Phillip District westwards had extended to the supposed boundaries of the territory of New South Wales and of South Australia. It became necessary therefore to define the boundary that was to separate the two colonies. Although it was generally understood this boundary should be a line running from the sea to the Murray, about the 141st meridian, it was still an open question in 1845, and a natural boundary, namely, the River Murray, was suggested. It was, however, eventually decided to adopt the 141st meridian.


In 1847, therefore, a party of surveyors, under the direction of Mr. Wade (surveyor in charge) and Mr. White, were commissioned to run the 141st meridian from the seaboard to the Murray. The position of the 141st meridian had however first to be ascertained by astronomical measurement, and this task was deputed to the late Mr. Tyers (afterwards police magistrate at Port Albert), who was an experienced nautical astronomer. The meridian thus determined by Mr. Tyers was marked by Messrs. Wade and White from the coast northwards to about the 36th parallel of latitude, or about 123 miles from the sea; they were unable to carry their work as far as the River Murray in consequence of it being impossible to obtain supplies so far from the coast. This line was marked by a series of cairns, most of which are still in existence, and the line so marked was afterwards proclaimed in the Government Gazette of South Australia as the boundary between the two colonies. After the completion of this undertaking, the surveyors, Messrs. White and Wade, commenced the survey of land about Portland.


From 1843 to about 1846 scarcely any surveys were made in the colony, but in 1847 there was a slight revival of survey work, and in 1848 the cry of unlock the lands aroused it to considerable activity: new surveyors were appointed, and now commenced the real survey of the colony. About this time we first hear of the names of Mr. Skene (late Surveyor-General), of Mr. Urquhart, and of Mr. Lindsay Clarke, which are associated with a very large part of the early surveys of Victoria. Many of the principal main roads were at this time surveyed by Skene; the character and features south of the Dividing Range were laid down by Urquhart; while Lindsay Clarke laid out the first lines of the network of survey which now partitions out our fertile Western District. Up to this period all the work of survey had been done by means of the compass only, and I believe Mr. Skene had the honour of introducing the first theodolite into Victorian surveying. Its introduction brought contemptuous revilings from the old veterans of the circumferenter, and our late Surveyor-General was wont humorously to tell of the jeerings and ridicule heaped on him and his newfangled gimcrack (Not so very long after, in 1853, when Captain (now Sir Andrew) Clarke was appointed Surveyor-General, instructions were issued to the effect that no surveys would be accepted or recognised unless they had been made by means of the theodolite).


From 1848 to the time of the separation of the Port Phillip district from the colony of New South Wales - which took place in 1850, the new colony taking the name of Victoria - there was but little progress made in the survey operations. Mr. Robert Hoddle was appointed to the post of Surveyor-General immediately after the separation, and Mr. Russell, who had up to this time virtually filled the post, retired from the service. The discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851, however, soon altered the aspect of affairs, and the cry of Unlock the Lands, which had been persistently kept up, now arose with double vigour as the rapid and continuous stream of population poured into the colony immediately the existence of rich goldfields within the territory became known, and the Government was forced by the increasing clamour to a more vigorous policy with regard to the land.


The staff of surveyors in 1851-52-53 was therefore largely increased, and survey operations were carried out in many localities where the demand was most urgent, and especially in the vicinities of the chief goldfields - Castlemaine, Bendigo, and Ballarat - and on the roads from Melbourne to these places. No complete system had yet been adopted, and all surveys were either started from survey lines already marked out, or were commenced as isolated surveys with boundaries usually conforming to the magnetic meridian, and in some instances later on, to the true meridian.


The first systematic survey undertaken for the specific purpose of connecting or tying together the disjointed surveys of Melbourne and its environs, was made by Mr. Clement Hodgkinson in 1852. It consisted of a careful triangulation of the Melbourne district, or such portions of it as lay between points on Batman's Hill, Point Ormond, at the mouth of the Yarra, on the high ground in Royal Park, and in Studley Park. A base line selected on the Melbourne swamp was accurately measured by means of pine measuring rods properly compared with a standard yard measure belonging to the Customs Department, and from the ends of this base line a chain of triangles with sides of from one to three miles was measured over the area included within the points already named. A complete triangulation of Melbourne as it was then was thus established, by aid of which the excellent and well-known official map of Melbourne proper was afterwards compiled.


In 1853 the Surveyor-General (Mr. Hoddle) retired, and the position was taken by Captain Andrew Clarke, of the Royal Engineers, in August of that year. Soon after his appointment Captain Clarke pointed out to the Government the growing requirement of a general and systematic survey of the colony, not only to assist in meeting the overwhelming demands for lands for settlement, but also with the view of tying together the numerous small separate surveys already dotted over the country. At his suggestion a small party of sappers and miners, who had been engaged in the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, were obtained from the Imperial Government; this party consisted of a sergeant, two corporals and four sappers. Soon after their arrival they were placed in charge of parties of labourers and woodcutters to clear and erect trigonometrical stations on many of our most prominent mountain tops - notably Mount Macedon, Mount Disappointment, Mount Dandenong, Mount Eliza, Mount Martha, Arthur's Seat, Station Peak, etc., and subsequently many of the mountain peaks and hills in the Western district. In the meantime, although the ordinary surveys had been rapidly extended, and the staff of surveyors still further enlarged, the increase of population and demand of land for settlement continued to tax the resources of the survey department to the utmost; and while the Legislature enacted liberal land laws, the necessity for survey before settlement limited the amount that could be thrown open for sale or lease, very much within the large and ever increasing requirements. To meet this several schemes were suggested, the two most reasonable being a method of permitting settlers to select land before it was surveyed, such selections to be limited to certain localities and subject to certain conditions, the chief of which being that which limited the area of such selection. This was known as selection before survey. The second plan was to assign extensive areas of agricultural land for settlement, and obtain contracts for the survey and subdivision of such areas, as it was thought that by this means not only would survey be more rapidly, but also more cheaply made.


There were, however, already signs that the system, or rather want of system, upon which the surveys of the lands of the colony had hitherto been carried out, was leading up to future trouble in consequence of overlapping boundaries and conflicting descriptions of adjacent limits of surveys, and to other evils inherent in a mode of laying out lands in isolated blocks without any relation or connection one to another, except in so far as the boundaries frequently ran north and south or east and west. It became, therefore, a matter of extreme importance, if not absolute necessity, in the further prosecution of the survey, to initiate a system that would obviate as far as possible any further trouble in this direction, and supply to some extent a remedy for the difficulties already existing, as well as expedite the subdivision survey for settlement. About this time Mr. Ligar, who was then Surveyor-General, suggested a method somewhat analogous to the United States meridian survey. His plan was to establish an initial meridian, and mark it out from the seaboard to the northern boundary. From this meridian a parallel of latitude was to be laid out to the limits of the colony east and west. At stated intervals along this parallel, to be determined astronomically, other meridians were to be run north and south of the parallel, at first intersecting districts most required for settlement. The meridians and parallels thus run out and marked were to form the basis of all future surveys, by which they would become accurately connected one with another, and with all former surveys that they might intersect or approach. It was not intended that all subdivision should conform to these meridians and parallels and every allotment have its boundaries north and south and east and west, unless such a course was desirable, as it might be in open plains; conformation to the features of the country, access and frontage to water would, in most cases, demand a deviation from simple meridional subdivision. By such a plan of survey moreover, it was suggested the method of getting large areas surveyed by contract would be much facilitated. The Government eventually adopted Mr. Ligar's scheme, and Parliament voted the necessary funds. This undertaking was called the Geodetic Survey.


The operations of the Geodetic Survey were commenced in 1858 by starting a meridian line from Hobson's Bay to the Murray River. This meridian commencing near the present Port Melbourne station, ran north through Flemington, Moonee Ponds, Kilmore, through Wanalta Plains, to near Wyuna on the Murray. On this meridian the intersection of the parallels of latitude 37 deg. and 37.45 deg. were determined, and the parallels themselves laid out to the westward, and on these parallels other meridians laid out and run north or south as required. To facilitate the measurements along these meridians and parallels, and to assist in connecting the former surveys, a trigonometrical survey was initiated simultaneously with these operations. A base line over five miles in length was carefully measured on the plains near the Werribee River, and a triangulation commenced aided by the points or stations erected on most of the conspicuous mountain Lops, by the sappers and miners already referred to. This method of surveying involved astronomical work to a very large extent, and instruments of large dimensions and the highest class were employed, consisting of portable transit instruments, large theodolites with fifteen and eighteen inch circles, base line measuring apparatus, heliotropes for signalling, etc. (Heliotrope, literally sun-reflector, is the name of an instrument that was much used and found very useful in the geodetic and trigonometrical survey. It is similar in principle to what is now called the heliograph, and used for signalling in war time, but was much smaller - indeed was a pocket instrument. It consisted of a mirror about 1 inches wide and 2 inches long, mounted in a jointed metal frame, with a beautiful little optical arrangement for showing the exact direction in which the sunlight was reflected, so that the sun's rays could be directed on any distant point at pleasure. It was used for giving a point to observe to, the reflected sunlight appearing as a bright star in daylight, which in clear weather could be seen distinctly at a distance of sixty or seventy miles. It was also largely used for telegraphing between different survey parties at distant stations. These instruments were first obtained from Munich in 1858, and were used from the very commencement of the geodetic survey. As the earliest date upon which actual message sending by this class of instrument was first carried out, as well as the distances over which such messages have been sent by British Army signallers, have been written about and read of with some interest, we may mention here, as an instance of what was done in the Victorian survey as early as 1860, that a message of twenty-four words was transmitted in eight minutes from the Bass Ranges, near Westernport, to Mount Latrobe, Wilson's Promontory, a distance of eighty miles, every word of which was received without a repeat, although neither mountain could be seen one from another on account of haze on the horizon. The sun's rays from the tiny mirror, however, pierced this haze and looked like a tiny daylight star just above the horizon, whose flashing bore the message quickly and intelligibly over this long distance.)


By this combined method in a couple of years the different parts of the colony became geodetically connected, so that surveys might be started in almost any locality where a connection with surveys of the remainder of the colony could be easily obtained. Thus the chief requirements of a general survey were supplied. By the year 1869 the amount of land surveyed had overtaken the demand, and the Survey Department was able to devote some of its staff to other pressing requirements, prominent among which were the demarcation of the boundary line between Victoria and New South Wales, a triangulation of the coast line to aid in the hydrographic survey of our seaboard, which was being made by a staff of Admiralty surveyors, as well as the extension of the trigonometrical survey into remote parts of the colony.


The eastern boundary of the colony was described in the Act of separation, as a straight line drawn from Cape Howe to the nearest source of the River Murray; but the position of such a line had hitherto been entirely a matter of conjecture, and settlers in this part of the colonies were in doubt as to which colony their holdings belonged, and rents were paid at Sydney or at Melbourne as most convenient to the tenant. Difficulties regarding postal matters also cropped up, until in 1870 the necessity of marking the boundary led to the respective Governments agreeing to its delineation.


The progress of trigonometrical survey eastwards along the coast of Gippsland, and over the Australian Alps to Mount Feathertop, the Bogongs, Mount Wellington, and Kosciusko afforded the means of determining the Geographical positions of the termini of the boundary named in the Act Cape Howe and the nearest source of the Murray, but there still remained the difficulty of localising Cape Howe itself as well as of the nearest source of the Murray. The south-eastern cape of Australia is very indefinite for at least two miles, while the numerous tributaries and creeks at the source of the Murray, coupled with the wild and rugged nature of the country, rendered it no easy matter to determine which source was nearest Cape Howe. The first difficulty was got over by a conference at Cape Howe of the Surveyor-General of New South Wales (P.F. Adams, Esq.) with the Superintendent of the Geodetic Survey of Victoria, Mr. R.L.J. Ellery (the writer), accompanied by two of his chief surveyors. The coast line was traversed for about two miles, but no spot could be pointed to as being Cape Howe - it was all Cape Howe for nearly two miles. There was at first a difference of opinion which gradually narrowed down to only about half-a-mile of coast line. An adjournment for lunch, which was waiting for the party under the shade of some ti-tree, interrupted the conference. Refreshment and a short rest, much required after a long and tiring journey, however narrowed this limit down to ten chains immediately on resuming the question, and ten minutes after lunch it was finally agreed to name a certain point of rocks Cape Howe; and that as the line would have to be run from the Murray to Cape Howe, a certain limit of error was agreed upon, namely, if the line run from the Murray struck the coast within five chains on either side of the point now marked and named Conference Point, it would be accepted by both colonies.


The other difficulty was surmounted by a careful examination of the sources of the Murray River by Mr. Black (Geodetic Surveyor, now Surveyor-General), and the nearest source of that river to Cape Howe was accurately determined. The triangulation having now reached to Cape Howe on the coast, and to Kosciusko and the Pilot at the source of the Murray, the bearing of a line started from near the Pilot Mountain which would strike Conference Point, was computed with the greatest possible care. This was a somewhat critical operation, for given the bearing of a straight line, not being a meridian, to join two points on the earth's surface  110 miles apart, and that line being run as straight as possible, it will depend upon the accuracy of our elements of the earth's figure and dimensions whether that line strikes the distant point within very considerable limits. However, the survey and marking this line on the bearing calculated in the computing room was entrusted to Messrs. Allan and Black, two of the most skilful of the geodetic surveyors, and after eighteen months of work on one of the most difficult and arduous tasks these surveyors had ever undertaken, owing to the wild, rugged, and in many places practically impassable nature of the country, Mr. Allan, who surveyed the coast end of the line, emerged from the forest-clad ranges, and turned his transit on to the rocks near Cape Howe, when he had the great satisfaction of seeing that his line struck Conference Point far within the limits agreed upon, and it was subsequently found it passed within 16.8 feet of the mark set up; thus successfully carrying out an operation almost unique in higher surveying with an almost unhoped-for precision. The result showed conclusively that not only were the elements of the earth's figure used for the calculation very near to the truth, but also that the trigonometrical survey by which the geographical position of the two ends of this boundary was determined, had been made with great accuracy, and that the difficult task given to Messrs. Allan and Black had been done with a precision little short of perfection.


The marking of the boundary line between New South Wales and Victoria was the last prominent operation of the surveys of the colony. With the groundwork formed by the geodetic lines and trigonometrical stations throughout the colony, all further survey of lands for sale and settlement can be readily connected with those already existing, and accurate maps plotted.


At the present time the survey staff of the Government is very limited, as most of the work has for a long time been performed by surveyors who contract for surveying and marking out lands, roads, etc., either in large areas or by a schedule of prices. Although the state of the survey of the colony appears to be adequate for most of present requirements, it will undoubtedly be necessary at no very distant date to resume the operations of the old geodetic and trigonometrical survey for the more accurate connection of old and new work, for the purpose of completing accurate locality maps, and for settling questions regarding boundaries and title. These matters, although pressing but little in the early settlement of a country, become of the utmost importance as population increases, settlement gets more dense, and land more valuable.


Soon after the trigonometrical operations had extended into the westernmost districts, stations were erected on Mount Gambier and Mount Schanck, within the territory of South Australia; these points with others in Victoria included the southern or coast end of the boundary line marked by Messrs. Wade and Darke in 1841, and its geographical position was accurately ascertained relatively to the initial point of the trigonometrical survey (the old observatory at Williamstown).


Assuming the longitude of this observatory to be 144 55' 55", which had been deduced from a long series of careful astronomical determinations, the longitude of the boundary line was found to be 140 57' 55.53", or 10,502 feet to the west of the 141st meridian. Shortly after this fact became known, the Government of South Australia advanced a claim for the portion of territory which had been held by Victoria for 35 years, on the ground that the 141st meridian was the true boundary. The Victorian Government disputed the claim on what appear to be strong grounds.


As this question is a somewhat important one, a few words on its true position according to preceding cases of a similar or analogous character may be of interest.


A geographical position, or the position of any geographical line, such as a certain meridian of longitude or a parallel of latitude, with reference to a distant initial point like the meridian or parallel of Greenwich, for instance, is at present only determinable within certain and somewhat wide limits, and this has been so well known and so generally admitted in all cases where a geographical position or line has been named as the location of a boundary or part thereof, that when the line has been marked as near to the named position as the skill of the surveyors or the accuracy of the instruments and means used would admit of, the line so marked has always been accepted and proclaimed as the boundary. The most important instance of this kind was in the boundary of Canada and United States, where Mason and Dickson marked out a part of a certain parallel of latitude as a portion of the boundary, which was accepted and proclaimed; although it is now known that this part of the boundary does not coincide with modern determinations of the certain named parallel, no question has arisen or is likely to arise in connection therewith. Were any other course adopted it would leave the question of the true place of the boundary open indefinitely, for although closer approximations might be obtained from time to time, no certainty of its absolutely true position could ever be arrived at.