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Establishing Vertical Datum
Note: images in this article show some typical duties in the daily life of a Hydrographic Surveyor.

Hydrographic Surveyor

Location of position: Queensland Government, Maritime Safety Queensland. (opportunities include Port Authorities, Royal Australian Navy, private consultants and dredging companies).

Marine area that you work covers: Queensland coastal waters including the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and Rivers. Predominantly in the defined channels and harbours. Occasional work in inland water bodies.


General duties: Hydrographic surveys, keeping abreast of constantly changing technologies (software, hardware and special equipment), survey planning and logistical support.

Relevant qualifications for this type of work: Bachelor of Surveying. An interest in the maritime industry and specialist courses. On the job experience.

Shore Station for survey control

Other: Location and identification of items for water police, contract dredging supervision, scientific investigations, environmental monitoring, survey infrastructure maintenance.

Collecting data in field office

Short Story: To be a Hydrographic Surveyor, it is often said that one of the prerequisites is to be insane. That may be taking things a bit too far, but it is perhaps the simplest way of stating that you have to be a little different from the normal in your aspirations.

If you desire a comfortable home life, pleasant working conditions, regular social and sporting life, regular working hours, weekends at home, public holidays, three meals per day, and a few hassles, don't become a Hydrographic Surveyor.

Now, if moving at short notice, living in all sorts of accommodation, working in temporary uncomfortable offices, always being too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry, crawling in mud, through scrub, swimming with sharks and jellyfish, fighting off mosquitos and sandflies, rolling your gut out aboard some unkindly vessel, flying in precarious situations in helicopters, going without food or drink for what seems like eternity, clearing scrub, climbing cliffs, seldom seeing your family, hate sport or social obligation, and love hassles then maybe it is the life for you.

It is therefore, a rare breed who stick at Hydrographic Surveying for the term of their working days, and employers who come to appreciate the value of this breed, will do wise to treat them with a certain amount of respect. It is not a glamorous job, often boring and mundane, so to keep the surveyor happy in his job, he needs a little encouragement on occasions in preference to being the scapegoat for everybody's failure.
Echo Sounder at work

When he is not doing "mad" things to satisfy his employer's requirements, it would be nice for him to have time to sample those niceties of life that most people enjoy, even if only to satisfy his curiosities, and make him realise the better aspects of his calling. He will then go back to the never never and work happily, drawing on the memories of that little fling in the big smoke to sustain him, at least for a few weeks. Threat him as a chattel, and the employer's life could become as frustrating as his.

One who knows

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