a reply to: DigginFoTroof
I worked as a surveyor for a couple of years back in the late 70's early 80's (I'm not a Registered Land Surveyor (RLS)).
We worked surveying several major pipelines across the western United States. It was an awesome job! I loved it, and even thought about getting into
it as a career. But life happens, and things changed. I still look back on it very fondly though.
One thing I will say is surveying today is dramatically different from what it used to be, especially given differential GPS (and GIS). It's a whole
different ball game now. When I was doing it we still had to blaze across country where there were no roads to set "Line" and "Level". So, my
experience of what it was like might be dated. ...
Basically, when we were near the home office we would leave the office each day before sunrise and travel to where we left off the day before (very
remote locations in Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Colorado). We would travel in a convoy of 2-3 4x4 survey trucks (words of wisdom...NEVER buy a used
survey truck!!!). We would usually travel anywhere from 60-180 miles one way to get on location. Well, we'd get as close to the location as we could
with the trucks (often getting stuck, and having to extract ourselves). Then we'd hike from there to where we needed to be for that day.
Some of the terrain was very technical and often steep. The hiking was often pretty difficult and rugged with all the gear you had to carry. I loved
it though. You were always outside, rain or shine, all day. In a lot of cases you were miles away from your truck so you just had to deal with
whatever came your way. We would usually try to put in as many hours on location as we could (usually about 9-12). Daylight was usually the limiting
factor. Then, depending on how far you drove to get there, we'd either head to the nearest town with a motel, or four-wheel it back to the office.
The great part about the job was you were outside every day, you got to see things very few other people have ever seen. I always like the technical
climbing part of it with all the ropes, harnesses and gear. Some of the wildlife stories I have from those days are pretty crazy (i.e. getting
chased and attacked by wild horses was a big one). All in all it was a GREAT experience, and you developed a bond with the rest of your crew like no
other working relationship. It was hard sometimes, but it was always worth it.
RLS's made pretty good money, but for the most part (as I recall) I don't think a fella would ever get financially rich doing it. Life experiences,
on the other hand, you would be wealthy beyond imagination. At the time, getting an RLS certificate was a pretty big deal, and not very easy at all
requiring years of surveying. Most times we'd just go out with Crew Chiefs, many of whom were understudies to the company RLS's. You didn't always
have an RLS with you, they mostly sat in the office. The field work was the best from my perspective.
If I had it to do all over again, I think I might go into surveying as a career, but you have to remember not all survey jobs were cool like that.
Sometimes you'd get stuck laying out a subdivision for a housing plot which was tedious, boring and generally sucked. But when you got out on the big
survey jobs (which is mostly what we did) it was an awesome job!
The company I worked for had two kinds of crews, we had 'home' crews and 'away/traveling' crews. I was on an 'away team" as we called it (think: Star
Trek, LOL!). The only down side to being on an 'away' crew was you never really knew how long you'd be gone (i.e. could be a day or so, could be a
week or longer).
Lot of good memories surveying.