We interviewed Michael Pohl, a SurveyingSA committee member and licensed surveyor with 48 years experience in the industry.
Michael, How long have you been in the surveying and mapping industry?
"My first job in the industry was as a surveyor’s assistant in my school holidays in 1971. That was 46 years ago. At that time such a position was referred to as a chainman. Although we did not use a chain to measure a distance anymore, it was a remnant of a time when chainmen were part of every survey team, being used to measure distances with a chain. A chain had a 100 links and was 66 feet long – the length of a cricket pitch. "
How did you kick off of your career, what training did you undertake?
"That first job which was with the Commonwealth Railways, took me into sand dune country at the edge of the Nullarbor Desert to do surveys for the re-routing of the Indian Pacific railway line. The experience of being in an environment I had never been before and the fascination of using geometry and precision instruments for practical purposes impressed me to the extent that from that time on I set my goal to become a surveyor. My understanding and respect for geometry already existed at this stage having been impressed by the fact that this form of mathematics enabled the ability to calculate distances without directly measuring them. That the height of a tree could be measured without climbing the tree with the end of a tape measure between your teeth seemed pretty smart to me.
At the completion of High School, I enrolled in the Certificate in Surveying course at the then Institute of Technology which involved part time study so I could work full time. Firstly in a Consulting Engineer’s Office as a trainee draftsman and then the Public Service as a chainman again. By this time I was using electro-magnetic distant measuring equipment but the term chainman was just too embedded into the survey tradition to have use a different name for the survey assistant.
During this time I discovered my interest in Boundary or Cadastral Surveying so I decided after 4 years at the technical level of study to attend University Level Surveying Course which would lead on to me being able to become a Licensed Surveyor."
What do you love most about the industry?
"All effort and energy then went into completing the full –time study and then obtaining my Licensed after being mentored by Master Surveyors while working as a Graduate Surveyor. Cadastral Surveying involves a fairly simple requirement to identify where the first surveyor marked a boundary. Having said that, the first surveyor might have done that 150 years ago so the original pegs are long gone. What follows then to find that same point again, may involve using old plans and original field notes and then searching the immediate area for evidence that may be found on the old plans and then using modern measuring technology to bring the information into the office and using logic, experience and again technology figure out where that original surveyor placed their marks. Once that is established new boundaries can be created and the Cadastral Network is added to or altered.
The Licensed Surveyor in their role of working with in the Cadastre will also be involved with many other professionals such as engineers, architects, planners, solicitors and conveyancers to assist one another to reach a desired outcome.
A very broad exposure to practical skills, other professions skills and working in team environments. "
What advice would you give to anyone interested in a career in mapping and surveying?
"If you enjoy: the rules of science, in particular geometry which is the basis of mapping and spatial awareness, precision meaning finding the exact point, working outdoors and being aware of what is around you in the form of man- made and natural features, using high precision measuring equipment, being indoors, working with technology and using high level of problem solving using logic and learnt skills and science then this maybe a career for you.
I liked geography, geometry at school and reading and using maps in my spare time."