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Geologists had many jobs to do when they were working on the survey and used many different instruments and tools to do this work.

Photograph of surveyors using a disk pole and other equipment to conduct a topographic survey, Lake Mistassini, Quebec, 1884

Surveying using a disk pole,
Lake Mistassini, Quebec, 1884;
photo taken by A.P. Low

One of the geologists' jobs for the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) was to examine rocks and write descriptions of them. In some places rocks are found in layers called strata. The GSC geologists described and measured each layer to build a picture of the whole area. They took rock samples and fossils using hammers and chisels and shipped the samples back to headquarters. These samples were then studied, catalogued, organized and, later on, displayed in the Survey's museum.

Photograph of a geologist at a geological observation station, Skoatl Point, British Columbia, 1888

Surveying atop summit of Skoatl Point, British Columbia, 1888;
photo taken by George Dawson

The geologists also had to map the areas they were travelling through to show where they found their rock samples and fossils. (It is no use collecting rock samples or writing notes about them if you cannot remember where they came from.) They did this by using instruments that measured the distance and direction they travelled. Since the geological surveyors were exploring some places where Europeans had not been before, they did not always have maps to follow. Luckily, they were able to make their own surprisingly accurate maps using a few basic instruments.

Newsworthy Nuggets

- With the use of satellites and aerial photography, areas that took early geological surveyors years to map can now be recorded in seconds.

- Forget instruments! Logan often measured distances along the ground by counting his paces -- sometimes thousands at a time.

In His Own Words

"Our survey is carried on with a Theodolite, micrometer, and a pole with two disks on. The disks are five feet apart � Mr L [ogan] and Mr McNaughton goes on with the micrometer in the Big canoe while I remain at a station with the Theodolite and disk pole in order that they may get the angle that the disks form with the micrometer. We have two flags, one red and one white in the front canoe, by means of which I know when they have taken the angle and also the red to signify when they want me to go on."

(Angus McDougall, Sept. 15, 1845)

Digging Deeper


Photograph of a boat log instrument used to measure distance travelled by waterExplore this Topic

Digging Deeper

Rock Record

Rock layer diagramExplore this Topic