The Boundary Hunters: Surveying the 141st Meridian and the Alaska Panhandle

By Lewis Green | Go to book overview
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6
Marking the Panhandle Boundary
(1904-1920)

Marking the Alaska Panhandle boundary on the maps in London was just the first step; now the surveyors were expected to risk their lives in attempting to identify and monument the peaks themselves. It was a near-impossible task, taking ten years to complete in a preliminary manner and involving between sixty and one hundred men each season in the first years. There must have been many times when a surveyor, struggling to reach a peak or shivering while waiting for the clouds to lift, wished that all six Tribunal members could be with him, sharing the discomfort!

Travel along much of the line was simply out of the question; nearly a third of it was perpetually covered by ice and snow. Instead, the surveys would have to be carried inland by triangulation from coastal stations already tied into the Southeast Alaska Datum. 1 This datum or network, established in 1901, would provide the underlying framework needed to produce accurate topographic maps of the boundary area. As new surveys were joined to it, the exact latitude and longitude of the added survey stations could be calculated. The datum incorporated nine different groups of triangulation, each built up around independent astronomic determinations of latitude and longitude, that had now been joined together. Most of the work had been done by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey beginning with their initial work in the summer of 1867 and particularly between 1893 and 1895 when the Alaska Boundary Commission was active. As yet, there were no direct ties to the survey network extending across the mainland United States and southern Canada.

-95-

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