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Katahdin Confusion


Papa-Bear-NYC
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Last week my daughter and I did some hiking up in Maine. We spent 4 days in Baxter State Park and we were lucky with the weather. It rained on 2 of the 4 days but in both cases these were "travel days" not climbing days. On Monday we sumitted Baxter Peak, the high point of Katahdin (and the highest point in Maine). It was fogged in on top, but we got great views on the way up and down (via the Saddle Trail from Chimney Pond) so we were happy. Then after a long drive over dirt roads in the rain on Tuesday, we did the Traveler Loop on Wednesday in mostly sunny weather. The Traveler range is a remote and rocky set of peaks which are the remnant on what is said to be the highest volcanic mountain in Maine, and perhaps on the East Coast. If you are ever up to Baxter State Park, and you're tired of climbing Katahdin, go for the Traveler. You wou't be disappointed. Here's my log of the triangulation station on The Traveler RF0728 "TRAVELER MTN". But this is not about the Traveler.

 

Katahdin has 4 NGS stations at the summit:

QG1448 "N 16 MC=KATAHDIN" NGS link GC link

QG1449 "KATAHDIN RM 1" NGS link GC link

QG1450 "BAXTER PEAK CAIRN 1955" NGS link GC link

QG1451 "KATAHDIN 2" NGS link GC link

 

Let's start with a map - actually it's a diagram more than a map. I used the locations from the datasheets and plotted them using Google maps, with my custom map type (a blank page) and maximum zoom. The red marking on this diagram were added by hand, based on my observations at the summit. Their locations are approximate (as compared to the marks) but they are shown to give you your bearings. The Appalachian Trail sign and the tall rock cairn are features on the summit that nobody who has been there can miss.

 

5efecef7-3ca7-417c-b50b-f5b21a5ea0a4.jpg

 

There is no confusion (or shouldn't be) concerning RM 1 and the 1955 Cairn, so I'll start with those.

 

QG1449 "KATAHDIN RM 1"

 

This is the easiest mark on the summit to find and it's in great condition. It 's roughly mid way between the AT sign and the tall cairn and it sits right in the middle of a large boulder. You'd have to be blind not to see it. Here's a picture:

 

7319981d-eadd-472e-afa5-899ff41a62dc.jpg

 

One further note: the designation given on GC is "KATAHDIN USGS 1941 RM 1" (which happens to be the stamping on the disk). The NGS evidently decided to shorten this and now it's listed simply as "KATAHDIN RM 1"

 

QG1450 "BAXTER PEAK CAIRN 1955"

 

This will be a disappointment to many visitors to the summit, but the tall rock cairn that is an icon for this peak, is not this station!.

 

First look at my diagram, and notice that the 1955 cairn's location is about 20 feet north of RM1, and is right next to the AT sign. The present cairn is about 45 feet southeast of the AT sign. Secondly, if you have a GPS you will see that it points right to the side of the sign. The difference in the locations of the old cairn and the current cairn is well outside the uncertainty of a GPS, so there should be no doubt about it. Third. check the description in the datasheets:

 

From QG1450's datasheet:

 QG1450'THE CAIRN IS LOCATED ON A LARGE BOULDER AND IS ABOUT 4 FEET HIGH
QG1450'AND 4 FEET IN DIAMETER AT ITS BASE.  IT IS 13.685 METERS, 44.9
QG1450'FEET NORTHWEST OF TRIANGULATION STATION KATAHDIN (USGS) 1941.  THE
QG1450'CENTER OF THE CAIRN WAS INTERSECTED.

And from QG1448's datasheet:

 QG1448'BAXTER PEAK CAIRN IS 4 FEET HIGH AND 4 FEET WIDE.  IT SITS ON
QG1448'A LARGE BOULDER 10 FEET SQUARE AND 3 FEET HIGH AND IS THE HIGHEST
QG1448'BOULDER ON THE SUMMIT.

The last line is key - the old cairn was sitting on a very large boulder, which was the highest boulder on the peak. This is unambiguous: the boulder is still sitting there next to the AT sign and is clearly the highest point on the peak. Here it is - and sorry, there is no cairn sitting on that rock:

28fd38f4-8a36-4c4a-a0e2-df6dd217cfb3.jpg

 

And just to be clear, the current cairn, although impressive, is not the 1955 cairn. Notice that it's not sitting on a 3 foot high by 10 foot diameter boulder:

 

9fe22731-9eca-4dcd-adbe-3fd2e6210a9d.jpg

Nice Impressive Cairn - But Not the station

 

Bottom line: Not Found.

 

I reported this to Deb with appropriate documentation and asked that it be marked destroyed. I know, what a party pooper: folks just love to see that cairn and love to log it. Never fear, destroyed or not, I'm sure they'll still log it.

 

QG1448 "N 16 MC=KATAHDIN" (aka "KATAHDIN")

QG1451 "KATAHDIN 2"

With these two, it gets interesting. I'll continue this on the next note so I don't go over the limit.

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC
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QG1448 "N 16 MC=KATAHDIN" NGS link GC link

QG1451 "KATAHDIN 2" NGS link GC link

 

First a little history

 

In 1927 the USGS came through this area and set some bench marks. The one on the top of Katahdin was stamped "5267 N 16 1927 Mc". "5267" was the elevation, "N 16" was the designation, "1927" obviously the date and "Mc" unknown (but read on).

 

Interestingly, there is another USGS disk sitting on a boulder right in front of the Chimney Pond Ranger station:

 

4325a73b-f9f5-467b-8121-252e5830162e.jpg

Chimney Pond 1927 USGS Bench Mark - similar to the disk on Katahdin

 

Notice the stamping "2914 FEET, M 15 1927 Mc" is almost identical to what was on the Katahdin disk. Just the elevation and designation differ. Obviously the elevation would differ but the designations "N 15" vs "M 16" on the Katahdin disk would seem to indicate that these marks were part of the same project and possibly were on the same level line.

 

Neither disk is in the NGS database, but there may be some paper work that the USGS has that would tell us a little more.

 

DaveD - Is there any paperwork in your files on USGS leveling near Katahdin in 1927 that might include these disks?

 

The other thing, is what's with the "Mc"? I really don't know, but here's a guess: I recall a friend finding a disk a few years back in Baxter State Park marked "MCNAIR 1929". DaveD of the NGS found that an extensive network of USGS stations were established in that time by a party under the direction of Mr. E. L. McNair. (See this thread: "MCNAIR" Disks in Maine) They were all stamped "MCNAIR 1929". Perhaps Mr. McNair was working in the area a few years earlier and his party set these disks at Chimney Pond and at the Katahdin summit.

 

But I digress, back to the main topic - KATAHDIN and KATAHDIN 2

 

Fast forward to 1941 - the CGS came through and needed to establish a triangulation station on Katahdin. Seeing that there was already a perfectly good disk sitting right there, they usurped the USGS disk, set up their theodolite and other triangulation stuff, made their measurements to other stations and thus established a new triangulation station. I've occasionally seen tri-stations or reference marks reused as bench marks, but this is the reverse. This also explains the designation: the USGS had stamped the disk "5267 N 16 1927 Mc" and the CGS were establishing a station called "KATAHDIN" so the new designation became "N 16 MC=KATAHDIN"

 

That's station "KATAHDIN", so what's "KATAHDIN 2"? Well, whenever you see a designation "WHATSIS 2" it usually means that something happened to the original station "WHATSIS" and the "2" station was established in it's place. So guess what, look at the datasheet for "N 16 MC=KATAHDIN" (aka KATAHDIN).

 

QG1448'RECOVERY NOTE BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1955 (WRH)
QG1448'STATION RECOVERED AS DESCRIBED AND ALL MARKS BUT THE STATION MARK
QG1448'ARE IN GOOD CONDITION. THE STATION MARK APPEARS TO HAVE MOVED IN
QG1448'A SOUTHERLY DIRECTION ABOUT 0.2 METERS. THE ROCK IT IS SET IN IS
QG1448'VERY HEAVY AND WEDGED BETWEEN OUTCROPPING BEDROCK.
...
QG1448'OFFICE NOTE--OFFICE COMPUTATION VERIFY THAT STATION HAS BEEN
QG1448'MOVED, A NEW POSITION IS BEING LISTED AS KATAHDIN 2 (USGS).

 

The last line is key: since the station was moved, the old station no longer had a valid location, so new measurements were made, a new PID and a new datasheet was created and the new station was given the name "KATAHDIN 2". This means that the original station was effectively destroyed as a survey marker.

 

What this tells me is that the old station should be designated "Destroyed" (by the fact of it's movement) and all future recoveries and uses should be done on the new station KATAHDIN 2. This is true even though the new station uses the same disk on the same boulder as the old station. Remember, it's not the disk that is the station, it's the location of the disk.

 

Side note: The Geodetic distance (calculated from the datasheets) is .1624 m (= 6.4 inches), not quite the .2 m estimated by the 1955 field crew. Furthermore, it was moved northwest, not south. Either they made a simple typo (reversing north for south) of they didn't correctly see which way the rock had moved.

 

Bottom line #1 - QG1148 is destroyed (by reason of being moved)

 

One problem for us amateurs: all the descriptions are on the old station's datasheet (QG1448) and all it says on the new datasheet (QG1451) is:

 

 QG1451'DESCRIBED BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1955
QG1451'SEE STATION KATAHDIN

But once the relationship between the old and new station is known, looking at the old descriptions and logging under the new PID, although unintuitive, should not be a big deal.

 

So where is "KATAHDIN 2"?

 

Searching for KATAHDIN 2 instead of KATAHDIN made little difference (except in logging it in the right place) since the locations were only a little over 6 inches apart.

 

At this point refer again to the diagram in the note above. You see the two stations practically on top of each other and the red circle I drew in which marks the position of the current cairn. My circle may not be accurate to geodetic standards, but my GPS, and aligning the arrows on the two RMs put the station under the front of the cairn. Alas I did not bring a tape or I could have been sure, but that is my best guess. Here's a picture of where I think the mark is (was):

 

ef7d2f78-acca-48d0-931d-2eec6b8941b7.jpg

 

There is also another candidate which was documented in the GC log by solid-rock-seekers on 8/10/2004 for station QG1448. He found what looks like a drill hole at the edge of a boulder about 6 feet in front of the cairn. I show it in my shot above. Here's his picture which shows better detail:

 

1d4b458f-1703-47bd-89c6-a168ded5cd5c.jpg

 

Although this is a possibility, I have doubts for several reasons: 1) the reference marks and my GPS all point to a location near the edge of the cairn 2) the so called "drill hole" is on the edge of the boulder where they would never have placed a disk, and the boulder does not appear to have split apart, and 3) the boulder is not wedged between outcropping bedrock nor does it appear very heavy. It's just sitting on the dirt. Look again at the description quoted above made by the 1955 party, in particular "THE ROCK IT IS SET IN IS VERY HEAVY AND WEDGED BETWEEN OUTCROPPING BEDROCK".

 

If this drill hole is really a remnant of the 1927 disk, I would say the rock has moved again since 1955, and this time a lot more than 6 inches, plus breaking apart at the edge where the hole is located. In that case it would definitely be destroyed.

 

Bottom line # 2 - QG1451 is Not Found and probably is under the front of the cairn.

 

To those of you who may go to this peak in the future, have fun. That's the important thing.

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC
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Great story, as usual! I wonder if freezing and thawing could have moved some of the rocks? Regarding the possible drill hole with partial circular outline around it, did you measure the diameter of the circle to see if it compares to a disk (if you didn't measure, you might be able to measure the width of your GPSr at home and scale the circle's diameter from measurements on the photo).

 

GeorgeL

NGS

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Great story, as usual! I wonder if freezing and thawing could have moved some of the rocks? Regarding the possible drill hole with partial circular outline around it, did you measure the diameter of the circle to see if it compares to a disk (if you didn't measure, you might be able to measure the width of your GPSr at home and scale the circle's diameter from measurements on the photo).

 

GeorgeL

NGS

No, I didn't measure anything. I neglected to bring a tape (this was supposed to be a hiking trip, not a benchmark trip). I just had the dastasheet and my diagram. If I had a tape I would have measured the distances from RM 1 and RM 2 to clinch the location.

 

The picture is from solid-rock-seekers' 2004 log, not mine. I don't have that kind of GPS, I have a Garmin 60CSx, his says Garmin 76S.

 

I looked up the Garmin 76S on the web and it says the screen is 1.6" wide and the unit is 2.7" wide. Unfortunately these dimensions don't look quite right for that picture. The overall width would seem less that 2.7" if the display is 1.6"

 

Scaling that from the GPS display (which I think is easier to measure from the picture) in the picture would give 2.75" for the circle's diameter. How does that compare with the width of a 1927 USGS disk? Darn, I should have measured that disk at Chimney Pond.

 

I also just noticed the location reading on the GPS in the photo. It says N 45° 54.078' W 068° 55.231'. The geodetic position of the mark (either old or new) is N 45° 54.261' W 068° 55.276', so that's off by quite a bit (is it within the GPS's accuracy ??). Of course that doesn't proove the boulder wasn't moved again.

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC
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Perhaps if you pivoted the boulder with the suspected drill hole around it's far end it would line up with the boulder under the carin (where the red arrow is) as if the rock split right at the drill hole (an obvious place for water to enter & expand.) That would put the suspected drill hole close to the base of the carin where it's supposed to be. Someone could have heaved it around to get the disk out once it became obvious the rock had split.

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I measured my Garmin 76S and find the opening in the silver colored housing to be 1.88 x 2.5 inches and the black mask around the screen is 1.8 x 2.40 inches, measured across the middle. The advertised screen dimensions may be an honest measure of the useful display area. So using these values, your scaling would result in a bigger disk but still not near 3 7/8.

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Just a comment on the logging of QG1451 "KATAHDIN 2" on GC.

 

Most of the GC logs of this mark that have pictures, show KATAHDIN RM No 2:

 

a0140bf0-5540-4841-b49f-8dd34a06484e.jpg

Click for larger image

 

The stamping on this disk is "KATAHDIN USGS 1941 NO 2". It's not surprising that someone, finding this disk, would assume it's the disk for the station named "KATAHDIN 2". Unfortunately, it's not. It's RM No. 2 set for the original station "KATAHDIN" and now it's RM No. 2 for the new (1955) station "KATAHDIN 2". It's location is given in the box score for "KATAHDIN 2" and it's about 35 feet southwest of the station.

 

Any reasonable GPS should show the difference of 35 feet, especially on this summit which is open to the sky for 360 degrees.

 

But with the unfortunate similarity of the stamping and the station name, I suspect there will continue to be a number of folks logging this disk as the station.

Edited by Papa-Bear-NYC
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