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Rick618

4 corners area whoops

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forum oops, said 45 second time out then shows a double post.

Edited by Rick618

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A survey made waaaaay back in 1868 caused an small error to the boundaries of four states. :unsure:

"The current monument marking the intersection of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona is approximately 2.5 miles west of where it should be."

 

Here's the story:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,705298412,00.html

 

~ Mitch ~

Edited by Difficult Run

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The article contains erroneous 'information' in almost every thing it says. One could say that it contains considerable error whereas the state lines discussed do not. Really a shame too. I have no idea why this article was even published.

 

A survey made waaaaay back in 1868 caused an small error to the boundaries of four states. :unsure:

"The current monument marking the intersection of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona is approximately 2.5 miles west of where it should be."

 

Here's the story:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,705298412,00.html

 

~ Mitch ~

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Double post, browser timed out.. Sorry

Edited by jwahl

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I don't get it. Here are the coordinates they posted and the location on Google Map. Doesn't look like it's off by 2.5 miles to me.

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I don't get it. Here are the coordinates they posted and the location on Google Map. Doesn't look like it's off by 2.5 miles to me.

The surveyors in 1868 thought they were at N38" 00' 00 W109" 00' 00 (dms).

Instead, the mark is actually at N36 59 56.31532 W109 02 42.62019, a distance of 2.499 miles.

Here is where they should have placed the monument.

 

Also, I agree with jwahl, the article could use a rewrite.

 

I'd be curious to understand how the error occurred, (lack of accurate time, improperly calibrated instruments, accumulated error, etc).

~ Mitch ~

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The reason I said that the article should not have been published was that there is no such'error' in the location of 4 corners monument. The legally defined corner of the states is actually defined to be at 37 degrees latitude and 32 degrees of longitude west of the WASHINGTON MERIDIAN. The WM was determined from the old Navy Observatory in Washington D.C. which was by another statute that prescribed it for use in the U.S. between the years of 1850 and 1912. It's location was determined later to be at about 77 degrees 03 minutes and a few odd seconds West of Greenwich. Some sources give it a smaller value.

 

So the boundary was not supposed to be at 109 degrees of longitude from Greenwich.

 

Second: That comment made that it had moved once and then moved back is INCORRECT as far as I know. The monument today is a very well documented perpetuation of the original survey monument originally placed there. Some Geocachers have reported another monument to the east that may be a horizontal control mark or a mile marker on the NM-CO Boundary and is not and never has been the state corner.

 

Third: The 'bend' mentioned north on the West line of Colorado is to the West not the East and has nothing to do with an imaginary error at 4 corners.

 

Four: The South Boundary of Colorado has been involved in a number of resurveys all of which used the same 4 corners monument. Some of those surveys were not legally authorized and so a dispute arose between NM and CO which was settled by the Supreme Court in 1928. That case did not involve any change in or dispute relating to 4 corners.

 

Fifth: By law original surveys performed under proper authority are controlling as to location and even though not perfectly performed are considered to be correct. Proper authority for state boundaries are authorization or approval by the Congress of United States, The combined actions of both States approved by U.S. Congress, or the Supreme Court of the United States.

 

The location of all the state boundaries in and around 4 corners are legally authorized and approved boundaries of those states and are considered by law to be unchangeable even though not perfectly located by subsequent technology.

 

Considering the difficulties and equipment available to the original surveyors that established the point, it is remarkably accurate. The only means available in that era were astronomic observations which relied solely on accurate chronometer time and instruments which had to be carried by over treacherous terrain from Durango involved some difficult river crossings.

 

- jlw

 

I don't get it. Here are the coordinates they posted and the location on Google Map. Doesn't look like it's off by 2.5 miles to me.

The surveyors in 1868 thought they were at N38" 00' 00 W109" 00' 00 (dms).

Instead, the mark is actually at N36 59 56.31532 W109 02 42.62019, a distance of 2.499 miles.

Here is where they should have placed the monument.

 

Also, I agree with jwahl, the article could use a rewrite.

 

I'd be curious to understand how the error occurred, (lack of accurate time, improperly calibrated instruments, accumulated error, etc).

~ Mitch ~

Edited by jwahl

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I have been having lots of trouble with posting and editing. Browser times out but post is posted. Edited post but it doubles the post. And neither showing as the latest post.

 

- jlw

Edited by jwahl

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The reason I said that the article should not have been published was that there is no such'error' in the location of 4 corners monument. The legally defined corner of the states is actually defined to be at 37 degrees latitude and 32 degrees of longitude west of the WASHINGTON MERIDIAN. The WM was determined from the old Navy Observatory in Washington D.C. which was by another statute that prescribed it for use in the U.S. between the years of 1850 and 1912. It's location was determined later to be at about 77 degrees 03 minutes and a few odd seconds West of Greenwich. Some sources give it a smaller value.

 

So the boundary was not supposed to be at 109 degrees of longitude from Greenwich.

 

Second: That comment made that it had moved once and then moved back is INCORRECT as far as I know. The monument today is a very well documented perpetuation of the original survey monument originally placed there. Some Geocachers have reported another monument to the east that may be a horizontal control mark or a mile marker on the NM-CO Boundary and is not and never has been the state corner.

 

Third: The 'bend' mentioned north on the West line of Colorado is to the West not the East and has nothing to do with an imaginary error at 4 corners.

 

Four: The South Boundary of Colorado has been involved in a number of resurveys all of which used the same 4 corners monument. Some of those surveys were not legally authorized and so a dispute arose between NM and CO which was settled by the Supreme Court in 1928. That case did not involve any change in or dispute relating to 4 corners.

 

Fifth: By law original surveys performed under proper authority are controlling as to location and even though not perfectly performed are considered to be correct. Proper authority for state boundaries are authorization or approval by the Congress of United States, The combined actions of both States approved by U.S. Congress, or the Supreme Court of the United States.

 

The location of all the state boundaries in and around 4 corners are legally authorized and approved boundaries of those states and are considered by law to be unchangeable even though not perfectly located by subsequent technology.

 

Considering the difficulties and equipment available to the original surveyors that established the point, it is remarkably accurate. The only means available in that era were astronomic observations which relied solely on accurate chronometer time and instruments which had to be carried by over treacherous terrain from Durango involved some difficult river crossings.

 

- jlw

 

 

I would have expected some kind of press release from the NGS if this news story was accurate. I started playing on the internet and found just about everything that JLW accurately informed us on. It was very informative and I learned several historical facts about the way our country did things. Here are some of the links if anyone is interested.

 

The first one is the Supreme Court decision JLW told us about that sets the boundary between New Mexico and Colorado

 

http://supreme.justia.com/us/267/30/case.html#F1

 

The next one is about the Washington Meridian itself, and which states boundaries were based from it.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_meridian

 

And lastly, is the actual datasheet from the current monument at four corners.

 

http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/ds_mark.prl?PidBox=AD9256

 

Thanks JLW for setting the record straight on this, and for providing the information.

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I've really been enjoying this thread and the media frenzy that has arisen around this subject.

I just had to, I repeat, had to add this item to this thread.

 

28673048-d402-4ad7-883b-73b002a2f964.jpg

 

jbandersen

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jwahl:

Interesting stuff. Thanks!

Maybe the Desert News should publish a "correction" or at least a re-visit of the issue with the proper information. And, you are just the guy to do it! Go for it!

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The story actually made it into the national news -- yesterday the Morning Edition program of NPR had a short item about the 2.5 mile error.

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The story actually made it into the national news -- yesterday the Morning Edition program of NPR had a short item about the 2.5 mile error.

It on Tuesday, April 21, in the half-minute, whimsical segment called the "return" at the bottom of the hour (not carried by all member stations):

Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne. The site where you can cross four state lines in just one step is a little off the mark. Turns out the Four Corners marker — where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet — should be two and a half miles east of its current spot. Government surveys first recorded the site in 1868, but a new survey revealed the error. There are no plans to move the marker, so officially anyway, it will continue to let you be in four states at once.

That's a transcript of the audio. Oddly, the text online is different:

National Geodetic Survey officials say the Four Corners marker showing the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is about 2.5 miles west of where it should be. The only place in the U.S. where four state boundaries come together was first surveyed by the government in 1868. The survey was inaccurate.

-ArtMan-

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Jerry Wahl is filling other surveyors in on all the details on another forum.

 

This involves the same surveys that were discussed here and here a few years ago regarding a CO-NM state line Supreme Court disk with a PID.

Edited by Bill93

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My question to Mr. Wahl.

 

Why do you state this in your discussion?

 

"I say that the article should not have been published as there is no such 'error' as is reported. I also don't think there IS any dispute between the states. The story seems to have been raised by amateur geocacher types and fanned by incompetent reporting."

 

We have all worked and studied as we could and I did not see any geocachers in that report.

 

There is a reference Colorado Papa pointed out in the first few miles of about the same distance that I have not followed through on.

I can't remember if he did either.

 

There are many mistakes that are well known to many.

And we all make mistakes too.

The world is not perfect and we learn new things everyday.

 

I think this is a very interesting topic and will try to stay on top of it.

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I hope I didn't make too much trouble by posting the link. He probably used those words because he was responding to an audience who used that term in other threads on the subject, and who remember the geocacher telling NGS to move the disk to where his GPS said it should be. Geocachers to that audience includes anybody with a handheld GPS.

 

Jwahl has acknowledged in other writing that there ARE very knowledgeable and careful amateurs whose work he admires. Regulars on this forum know who is likely to be included on that list. Unfortunately there is no easy collective name for the ones who are thus qualified but don't have professional credentials.

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The first article that I am aware of on this topic and which may have been the 'seed' was here:

 

Deseret News

 

Without interviewing the reporter it is probably not possible to know precisely 'where' the story came from, but I have the impression that it came from gps hobbiests more of the tourist variety. The question has been raised a few times on geocaching forums over the years. It could also have been raised by people who spend a lot of time on google earth.

 

I guess I differentiate amateur geocachers from the more proficient types and virtually everyone who has ventured into Benchmarking is of the latter variety.

 

The main problem was that the reporting followed disinformation and discounted other input which would have discredited the initial assertions. If I can call up a reporter and make wild assertions that they never really validate with a knowleadgable professional, I think there is great danger in that level of reporting.

 

- jlw

Edited by jwahl

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It's always fascinating to see where these discussion lead us. With a little help from Google Books, which allows us to read some of the original reports, I found the history of the survey of the four-corners monument.

 

It was surveyed and monumented by Chandler Robbins in 1875. Robbins knew that 32 degrees west of Washington was not the 109th meridian:

"The boundary line is not, as is frequently supposed, 109 deg. west of Greenwich, but 32 deg. west of Washington, which is 109 deg., 2 min. 59 sec., 25 thirds west of Greenwich -- a difference of nearly three miles."

The report states:

"As the determination of the boundary on the face of the earth involved astronomical observation both for the longitude and latitude, and the locality of the line was remote from telegraphic means of communication, recourse was had to the War Department to designate a well determined point along the boundary to serve as a starting place."

The reference point used was Crestone Mountain.

"The astronomer was instructed to consider the Crestone, a well determined point by the United States Corps of Engineers, as being in longitude 108° 50' 26" west of Greenwich and in 36° 41' 40".3 north latitude, and to deduce there from the thirty-second meridian of longitude west of Washington Observatory; and to admeasure the intervening distance between the Crestone and the boundary. This he reports to have done finding it to be 11 miles 49 chains and 39 links."

Note that 11 miles, 49 chains and 39 links (i.e. 61339.74 feet) west of 108° 50' 26" would be longitude 109° 2' 59.25" on the Bessel 1841 spheriod.

 

So the longitude of the four-corners monument was accurately derived from the adopted Army survey of Crestone Mountain and the accepted location of the Washington meridian. Who measured the location of that mountain? Alas, there is no NGS monument at that point, so it will take a little more research. My first guess would be the Wheeler surveys established the location of Crestone. If anyone has access to those reports, and can shed light on Wheeler's datum, jump in.

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My main concern is that it is still using Geocaching as a reference.

 

I have seen and have heard that too.

I want to change the way we are looked at and referenced to by pointing out proper "names" can we achieve this.

It does appear from your link that Utah Geocaching was quoted but it looks like only for a measured distance.

 

I look up to Jerry on a lot of things as well.

 

I would like to have us as best we can be if you know what I mean.

I have made many mistakes myself.

 

Thank you for the reply and I am not trying to point a finger.

 

"The main problem was that the reporting followed disinformation and discounted other input which would have discredited the initial assertions. If I can call up a reporter and make wild assertions that they never really validate with a knowleadgable professional, I think there is great danger in that level of reporting."

 

I agree!!

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It's always fascinating to see where these discussion lead us. With a little help from Google Books, which allows us to read some of the original reports, I found the history of the survey of the four-corners monument.

 

It was surveyed and monumented by Chandler Robbins in 1875. Robbins knew that 32 degrees west of Washington was not the 109th meridian:

"The boundary line is not, as is frequently supposed, 109 deg. west of Greenwich, but 32 deg. west of Washington, which is 109 deg., 2 min. 59 sec., 25 thirds west of Greenwich -- a difference of nearly three miles."

The report states:

"As the determination of the boundary on the face of the earth involved astronomical observation both for the longitude and latitude, and the locality of the line was remote from telegraphic means of communication, recourse was had to the War Department to designate a well determined point along the boundary to serve as a starting place."

The reference point used was Crestone Mountain.

"The astronomer was instructed to consider the Crestone, a well determined point by the United States Corps of Engineers, as being in longitude 108° 50' 26" west of Greenwich and in 36° 41' 40".3 north latitude, and to deduce there from the thirty-second meridian of longitude west of Washington Observatory; and to admeasure the intervening distance between the Crestone and the boundary. This he reports to have done finding it to be 11 miles 49 chains and 39 links."

Note that 11 miles, 49 chains and 39 links (i.e. 61339.74 feet) west of 108° 50' 26" would be longitude 109° 2' 59.25" on the Bessel 1841 spheriod.

 

So the longitude of the four-corners monument was accurately derived from the adopted Army survey of Crestone Mountain and the accepted location of the Washington meridian. Who measured the location of that mountain? Alas, there is no NGS monument at that point, so it will take a little more research. My first guess would be the Wheeler surveys established the location of Crestone. If anyone has access to those reports, and can shed light on Wheeler's datum, jump in.

 

Wheeler.........

Some where I had some stuff but I think I lost all those links.

We talked about this around that time as well.

 

There was also the 100th Meridian Survey.

Rumsey Collection

Wheeler Internet Archive

 

But I found some.

Wheeler Geological Survey of New Mexico 1874

 

Wheeler Survey Notebook

Edited by GEO*Trailblazer 1

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Also, apparently Crestone Mountain, a.k.a. the Needle, is now the well-known Shiprock Peak in New Mexico! I don't know if they used the uppermost peak, or some side peak, though.

 

edit: Just found the new American Surveyor article, too.

Edited by holograph

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One more press clipping from today's Washington Post, specifically their "Kids Post" page —

When 'X' Doesn't Mark the Spot

 

The Four Corners Monument is where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona all meet in one spot. It's the only place in the country where you can stand in four states at once, and thousands of tourists visit every year.

 

But a controversy erupted this week when reports surfaced that the real boundary of the four states is not at the monument people love to stand on.

 

Here's what happened: When the original surveyors marked the meeting point for those four states in 1868, they put it in the wrong place. Their equipment wasn't as accurate as today's, so they marked a spot about 1,800 feet away from the point where the four states meet.

 

So does this mean that if you go to Four Corners, you're really just in one state?

 

No, long ago the U.S. government adopted the mistaken marker as the legal boundary of the four states -- right where the current monument stands. So, yes, you can still go there and stand in four states at once.

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Two more article's from AP that touches on the issue. The first a correction for the misinformed article.

 

The second a longer piece quoting Dave Doyle.

 

Kudos to Dave Doyle and JLW for getting it corrected in the press and on the forums.

 

It all reminds me of a quote by Mark Twain possibly:

 

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.

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I noticed that the bogus article's author came on to the Utah Geocachers Forum 4 days before he/she published the article asking a lot of leading or misleading questions. The questions reflect incorrect assumptions and so it is not surprising that incorrect answers were given.

 

I saw this phenomenon also with a number of experts that appeared on newscasts for this story.

 

There were two alleged Utah historians who apparently don't know where the Boundary was supposed to be or in fact ANY history of how any of the boundaries were established. Some appear to just be making stuff up about how the point was set or why it is "off". I think there was also some Geologist who weighed in with all kinds of incorrect assumptions.

 

So, if a reporter calls you up and asks some questions you don't know the answer to, it is probably easy to WANT to answer the questions, but it might be smarter to just say "I don't know", or I'll research that and get back to you" or something less harmful.

 

The author implies an attempt was made to get 'answers' from BLM and Utah Geological survey to comment on these questions but didn't get anywhere. It is possible she got a receptionist or a public affairs person and certainly not someone who might have been able to answer.

 

Where she got her original assumptions is still not clear.

 

This is the post:

 

Posted by lynnarave

Joined: 16 Apr 2009

Posts: 1

 

Posted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 12:18 pm Post subject: Media question on 4 Corners

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Looking at the history of the 4 Corners Monument, it definitely isn’t where it was originally intended to be.....

 

I don’t know if any of you experienced Utah Geocachcers can take a stab at my questions or not----I'm not well versed enough in GPS and have not been successful at getting the Utah Geological Survey or the BLM to answer these same questions----

 

The exact 4 Corners were supposed to be at an even 37 degrees north latitude and 109 degrees west longitude. However, somehow it ended up at 36 59 56.31532 N and 109 02 42 62019 W. because of survey mistakes.

 

My questions:

 

1. An on-line calculator figured the difference between the 2 coordinates above at about 2.3 miles apart. Does that appear correct?

 

2. My next question is if I'm correct in the general direction from the intended 37 north latitude and 109 degrees west longitude spot to the current monument -- it looks to me that the current monument is southwest of the intended location.

 

Does that look correct?

 

3. So, given if that is correct, it appears that Utah gained some land (all Indian reservation land) out of this mistake, if the monument did indeed move to the southwest. New Mexico too, might have received a sliver extra of land and Arizona was shortchanged the most and Colorado slightly. Does that seem correct?

 

4. Going from the 37/109 degrees of the original monument goal to the larger numbers above, where the current monument is, that on-line calculator also yielded a bearing of 257.30773862495 degrees and a bearing of 4.4908672298665 in radians, but those numbers are Greek to me. Do they mean anything to Geocachers as far as more absolute directions?

 

This all for a Deseret News "gee whiz" kind of story I would like to do.

Any help any forums reader of this can provide would be appreciated and credited for their assistance.

 

Lynn Arave

Deseret News

801-237-2168.

----------------------------

Edited by jwahl

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Interesting and enlightening thread. - I learned something today! :laughing:

Thanks to Dave Doyle and jwahl for explaining the real story.

 

~ Mitch ~

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After reading the above, I believe the current marker is about as accurate as it can get, and the article has only successfully started a controversy over nothing. The original surveyor, Robbins, acknowledges that the marker isn't exactly on the 109th, but measured from Washington. As with the controversy that was over the Texas/Oklahoma border years ago, it all depends on the original instructions pertaining to placement. I welcome a correction/retraction to be seen in the Deseret, perhaps with an apology for not researching more in depth before rushing to press with erroneous information.

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They published a fairly unrepentent modification to their story about a week after the initial story.

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Is it acceptable to quote you in a surveying newsletter about this subject? Thanks for your insite!

I don't get it. Here are the coordinates they posted and the location on Google Map. Doesn't look like it's off by 2.5 miles to me.

The surveyors in 1868 thought they were at N38" 00' 00 W109" 00' 00 (dms).

Instead, the mark is actually at N36 59 56.31532 W109 02 42.62019, a distance of 2.499 miles.

Here is where they should have placed the monument.

 

Also, I agree with jwahl, the article could use a rewrite.

 

I'd be curious to understand how the error occurred, (lack of accurate time, improperly calibrated instruments, accumulated error, etc).

~ Mitch ~

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I wouldn't quote anything until I had studied the whole story, including jwahl's posts on the other forum I linked above, to understand how the whole fracas was initilly based on erroneous assumptions.

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Is it acceptable to quote you in a surveying newsletter about this subject? Thanks for your insite!

I would strongly ask that you refrain from doing so, as my comment was based on a poor understanding of the history surrounding the mark.

Instead, please consult DaveD, who is an expert in the field of surveying. - I'm just a hobbyist.

~ Mitch ~

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