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On My Last Day as a Land Surveyor

Last Day as a Land Surveyor

On this day in 1998, my life changed. While working as a land surveyor out in the Charleston Tea Farm (then overgrown for over 30 years and not surveyed since the 50s). 

Ravenel, South Carolina

I can remember the day as if it were yesterday... I had on chest waders and snake boots carrying a machete and a prism pole. After having already killed one water moccasin that morning with my bushaxe, I was asked to take center-line shots from the middle of a long canal once used as a track for carting tea from one section of the plantation to another. It was about 6 feet deep in some sections and 8-10 in others. While attempting to cross the canal I get a crackling on the radio. "Jaybird, watch your left, there is a gator coming towards you." I thought it was a joke, but then i looked over and there sat the largest gator I have ever seen - 12-14ft. I froze. Radio again. "Shit man, there is another one coming up behind you fast!" I stepped into the water to try to cross. It was over my head and I sank with water pouring into my waders. Crew chief luckily had a shotgun in the truck. He let out a shot towards the bank and stopped both gators from coming into the water after me. I reached out of the water with my prism pole and stabbed it into the bank on the other side. Low and behold there was a third gator already in the water making its way towards me. With his last shotgun shell, he shot the water right beside me and the gator stopped. I climbed out of the canal with my life. The next day, I quit surveying and enrolled in College of Charleston and took a job as a bellman at Planters Inn. The rest is history.

This was my 2nd of 5 near death experiences over the years. 

It wasn't until some years later that I began building Land Surveyors United and trying to use the power of social media to promote awareness and connectivity among surveyors...

Food for thought: If you think your job sucks, just think of what land surveyors encounter every single day to make measurements that society can rely on.

For Those Land Surveyors out there who have similar stories to share, please consider composing a short story on Land Surveyors United Surveyor Stories so we can all learn what surveying is like in your part of the world.

Charleston Tea Plantation Today:

Do you have any particularly interesting stories about why you began or have quit surveying in the past?  We'd love for you to share them with us!
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Justin Farrow... Creator of Land Surveyors United and Mobile Apps for Land Surveyors

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  • near-death experiences do exist in the ... I had one ... Crew chief and rodman were upwind from me, and I was setup on a frast freight track(we checked in and this was supposed to be the track from the upwind side).  Anyway, crew chief found a "toy", on the tracks and was making obscene gestures toward me ... not letting rodman give me site.  Of course a train came from the downwind side, which meant I "should", be safe.  But since the train was coming around a bend ... I had to wait til it reached the tangent.  Well, I'll be darned, the train, or I, was on the wrong track, cause we were both on the same track and the train was a fast freight train.

    I had my tripod, my EDM(big HP3508) and my BRAND NEW TI 58 ... grabbed the legs(with the EDM on it), and in the turn grabbed the bag handle(with the Wild theodolite), and in one move, got it off the track and safe ... only to look back and see my BRAND NEW TI 58 calculator.  Went back, grabbed it turned and got off the track ... as I turned around, the engine and a few cars had already passed me.

    The guys down the track looked away(they didn't want to see "it", happen ... the crew chief told me later that his concern was how was he going to explain this to the boss ... he also told me that when the train engine passed them, the engineer had a big smile on his face ... not a fun day, and I NEVER made another setup on tracks ever again. 

    • wow... that is quite a day!   Glad you lived to tell us about it.  thanks for sharing with us John!

  • Party Chief

    Wow... that's pretty scary situation...

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