David (Dave) Cook

(Courtesy John Hyslop, Marion Cook and John Allen)



I am honoured to be able to say a few words about Davidís surveying career. I considered him to be a practical, extremely competent surveyor with a long diverse and interesting career with the Commonwealth Government. Someone for whom I have great respect and admiration.

Davidís first introduction to Surveying was in 1944 working for a couple of weeks as a chainman for retired Surveyor General Colonel Goodwin on a survey in the Brindabella Valley. He then started his surveying career in 1948 as a cadet surveyor with the Department of the Interior. He worked in Canberra, then a year in Sydney to get NSW experience, then on BMR [Bureau of Mineral Resources] surveys in Western Australia before qualifying as a Surveyor in 1953.

After qualification he worked again on surveys for the BMR on the west coast of Tasmania, in Queensland and the Northern Territory then in 1958 and 1959 mainly in Canberra on interesting projects such as the Bendora Dam and pipeline. I think by now an adventurous spirit was emerging.

David wanted the chance to go to the Antarctic but could not get released from Interior so he resigned and joined The Division of National Mapping (I always thought it a shame that Interior and National Mapping were not one organisation).

Two summer trips in 1960 and 1961 followed mapping the coastline of Antarctica by astronomy positioning control of air photography and other survey tasks. It was on one of these mapping excursions that David survived a helicopter crash. In February 1960 David and the helicopter Pilot Peter Ivanoff tried to land at a small beach at the foot of a steep ice slope, but a landing was impossible due to the strong katabatic wind flowing off the plateau. Trying to climb out along the slope, the helicopter could not make it and the pilot had to crash it into the steep ice about 50 metres from a high ice cliff dropping into the sea. The pilot had head injuries and concussion and David also had head injuries but they managed to get out of the wreckage, rope up and David cut footholds in the ice to get away from the dangerous ice cliff so Peter could pull himself up to safety. As Peter neared the top of the rope he called out ďThis is no time to be taking photosĒ. David had the camera out recording the event while holding onto the end of the rope and bracing himself from sliding back down the slope. Luckily the chopper had stuck to the ice and didnít end up over the cliff, as did some of the gear strapped to the side of the chopper. The pilot of the second helicopter made a dangerous landing about a kilometre away and the passenger, Ian McLeod, cut footholds along the steep ice slope to rescue them both.

I have landed and taken off from that same site in 1993, now called Ivanoff Head. It was still a dangerous and windy landing and the helicopter pilot was worried about the landing.

David was appointed by Natmap as PNG Resident Surveyor for the Geodetic Survey of Papua New Guinea and arrived in Port Moresby in 1961 with a young family.

The success of the survey necessitated good personal contacts with PNG Administration Departments, commercial entities and others in the private sector, and also missionary organisations. Local contacts from Patrol Officers and locals for access would be necessary. All skills which David certainly possessed.

This survey involved selecting from the air major high intervisible peaks along the central mountain range from the south eastern tip near Samarai to the West New Guinea border, then climbing each one to fix its position by Astro-fix and erecting a trig beacon. Access to the peaks was usually from the nearest Patrol Post. Recruiting between 60 to 100 carriers, loading them with food, equipment and shelter and hiking through some of the worldís roughest terrain, hot tropical jungle to cold mountain peaks and even snow on Mt. Wilhelm. One of the longest climbs was Mount Victoria a 56 hour hike from the coast and requiring 23,000 feet of climbing to get to the 13,000 feet peak. This was before the arrival of high altitude helicopters to make life easier by getting personnel and equipment to the peaks.

Over the last few days I have read reports of these surveys which I found on the site written by David and others, describing these conditions and the difficulties of the survey work. Some of the words I found in these reports were: exciting times ††-†† happy moments†† -†† adventure†† -†† satisfaction. I think they got the right man for the job.

In 1965 David returned to Canberra and spent a couple of years as Secretary to the National Mapping Council, which consisted of the Director of National Mapping, †the Commonwealth Surveyor General, Commanding Officer of the Army Survey Corps, †RAN Hydrographer and the Surveyor General of each State.

Then he trained for Astro-geodetic observations for determining the shape of the geoid, the undulating surface of equi-potential around the earth, which is required for accurate mapping and also determines the path taken by all satellites circling the earth. Several field trips around Eastern Australia on this work, and also to the PNG Ė West Irian border in 1966 to help start the Lands Department surveyors making astronomical observations to fix the position of the 14 stations delineating the border, a joint operation with the Indonesian Army Topographic Mapping Service. When the Astro-geodetic work was finished in Australia some sets of the equipment were donated to Indonesia for the same purpose and he spent some time there training the Indonesian surveyors in its use.

He was truly an acknowledged expert in the theory and practice of field astronomy and, in conjunction with Tony Bomford, a later Director of National Mapping, and Frank McCoy, he co-authored detailed technical specifications relating to the use of the Kern DKM3A astronomical theodolite, together with its associated timing and recording equipment.

In early 1972 the section responsible for geodetic survey was re-assigned the role of map completion for the 1:100 000 scale national topographic mapping series. David was given charge of this section and supervised map completion surveys in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. A lot of this work involved aerial map-to-ground inspections during which David, a qualified pilot, flew the aircraft.

In early 1973, as a result of a previous request from the then Bureau of Mineral Resources, David was involved with the planning and execution of a plate tectonics survey in the upper Markham Valley, Papua New Guinea. This was to be followed by proving measurements with the Model 8 Laser Geodimeter for a planned plate tectonics survey across St Georges Channel, between New Britain and New Ireland.

If this was not enough, he also had responsibility for the planning and execution of a tide gauge survey in Torres Strait for the then Commonwealth Department of Transport. This survey was for the installation of tide gauges which transmitted continuous water levels for safety of deep draft ships passing through, some with only a metre clearance

In early 1974 the Bathymetric Branch of the Division of National Mapping was formed. David secured a position in the newly created branch and supervised the data coordination aspects relating to the production of the 1:250 000 scale national bathymetric mapping series, together with the emerging Law of the Sea requirements in relation to definition of the national territorial sea baseline.

About 1975 the future of National Mapping looked insecure and David moved to the Australian Development Assistance Bureau, later AUSAID, organising aid projects through India, Bangladesh, Burma and South East Asia. With continual reorganisations after six months this job ceased to exist and he moved to Aboriginal Affairs doing similar work within Australia.

After another six months the job of Special Projects came up at the Australian Survey Office, successor to the Department of the Interior, Survey Branch, and he moved back there after an absence of seventeen years, organising mainly overseas projects in Fiji and Indonesia. A water supply project in Sumatra required a few weeks there preparing for a survey teams to establish control stations for air photography and mapping and water pipeline surveys.

It was during this time that I was working in Special Projects and had the pleasure of having David as my boss and I had firsthand experience of his managing skills. Suffice it to say I was impressed.

During the next few years there was a period of a few months with building firm Civil and Civic as a training exercise and short periods in charge of the Survey offices in Sydney and Adelaide office.

In mid-1982 David moved to Adelaide to take charge of the office there for the next six years. This included a period in Dandenong managing the State Survey office and National Mapping, now combined into one organisation. It was a busy and productive time with wonderful staff.

Retirement followed in 1988 and he and Marion moved back to the old family home in Reid in 1998.

David Cook was an extremely practical and highly competent surveyor who possessed a friendly easy-going nature, always willing to share his vast knowledge and experience and was always held in the very highest esteem by his peers.

David also possessed one very important asset essential to adventurous surveying career and that was a loving and understanding wife and family.

We can celebrate Davidís full and productive surveying career and take comfort in the memories and the marks he has left on the mapping of Australia.

I would like to thank Charlie Watson, Brian Murphy, Barry Sloane and Col Fuller for providing me with information of Davidís career. Also Davidís wife Marion and daughter Fiona for providing me with a copy of Davidís own summary of his working life. There was certainly no shortage of people who would put in a good word about David Cook.

Order of Service.

Eulogy by David's daughter Fiona.

Reflections by Reverend Ivan Roberts.