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TeacherMatt

Oldest benchmarks?

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The oldest mark I can find a United States Geological Survey data sheet for is BUTTERMILK. This monument is a drill hole in a boulder at N 41 06.606' W 073 48.624" (north of New York City.) From the aerial imagery, it appears to be on a farm and the landowner may or may not grant permission to walk across.

 

Additionally, the various stone survey markers for the Mason and Dixon Survey were all surveyed and originally monumented BEFORE 4 July 1776 using fieldstone or stone milled in England and shipped to Pennsylvania. Some of these stones have USGS medallions added on.

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I'm not sure where one would find a United States Geological Survey data sheet. You probably found a data sheet on the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) site for a US Coast and Geodetic Survey (US C&GS) mark (the predecessor name for NGS).

 

There was a thread with pictures long ago on this forum about a recovery of Buttermilk.

 

Buttermilk, of course, was a geodetic mark as opposed to the M&D cadastral (land boundary) stones.

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If you run a query using the coordinates from my previous entry, you can look at all the finds posted on www.geocaching.com for the BUTTERMILK mark (not the nifty historical plaque but the actual mark and various reference marks.) The data USGS data sheet is included, as always, and the Geocachers who bagged it were actually a surveyor team which made dozens of photos which show marks as well as tens of thousands of dollars of modern survey equipment which very few Geocachers will ever have access to.

 

The 'data sheets' for the Mason and Dixon survey monuments are the field notes and final report to the Chancery Court in England of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. A trip to the historical society in Baltimore would afford you access to documents as well as, at least one actual piece of the survey equipment used by the 40 or so member survey team under Mason and Dixon. This survey probably wrapped up around 1774. The Historical Survey Society used to sell a CD with an Excel file listing the Pennsylavnia/Maryland monuments as well as the Maryland/Delaware monuments. You can use that to locate, observe, and photograph many stone boundary markers from the colonial era since they are actually the basis for the modern boundaries. Some of them are also listed as benchmarks on www.geocaching.com and some are not. You might enjoy reading Drawing the Line: How Mason and Dixon Surveyed the Most Famous Boundary in America if you are going to try to 'bag' a large number of M&D monuments. For other English speaking countries, try going online to find Trig Point Bagger websites since www.geocaching.com cannot be used to bag these.

 

I also note that some USGS medallion benchamrks ARE NOT listed on www.geocaching.com although they are still there in plain sight to be observed and photographed! I have found, by luck, marks inside of Mammoth Cave as well as surface marks in Kentucky on public property but cannot bag them on www.geocaching.com, presumably because the Park Service or other government agency does not want them published in a nonprofessional forum.

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Buttermilk is on public property, you can visit any day you like. I recovered it, and it was a real thrill!

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I also note that some USGS medallion benchamrks ARE NOT listed on www.geocaching.com although they are still there in plain sight to be observed and photographed!

*MOST* of them are not.

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According to foxtrot xray above, most benchmarks are not listed on www.geocaching.com. Can we submit a request for a specific benchmark to be listed so that we can bag them? Who would one submit such a request to?

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According to foxtrot xray above, most benchmarks are not listed on www.geocaching.com. Can we submit a request for a specific benchmark to be listed so that we can bag them? Who would one submit such a request to?

Was gonna say, "Sure, you can ask , just send your request to the Help Center", then realized benchmarks don't seem to fit in any request drop down.

 

Though in reality, unless they finally counted benchmarks as finds in the US, and get a heckofalot more folks interested than what's here, that's more than likely never gonna happen. :)

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According to foxtrot xray above, most benchmarks are not listed on www.geocaching.com. Can we submit a request for a specific benchmark to be listed so that we can bag them? Who would one submit such a request to?

Was gonna say, "Sure, you can ask , just send your request to the Help Center", then realized benchmarks don't seem to fit in any request drop down.

 

Though in reality, unless they finally counted benchmarks as finds in the US, and get a heckofalot more folks interested than what's here, that's more than likely never gonna happen. :)

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Strictly speaking, Benchmark Hunting does not HAVE to be imbedded within the Geocaching.com forum. While looking up a piece of geographical data, I came across a website for 'Trig Point Bagging' in England. It referred to bagging or finding any benchmark monument in England, Scotland, or Wales not just trig points. Using the term, 'Trig Point Bagging', I checked to see whether other English speaking countries had techno-nerds hunting for benchmark monuments and confessing to it online as well. As I recall, I tracked down a website for both Ireland and Canada. Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Nigeria, wherever the Empire went is certainly also a candidate. So, if an avid BM Hunter is heading out for vacation in an English speaking country or former English colony, it would be well worth paying for a one year subscription to an online service so he or she could print up data sheets and then post any BM finds OVERSEAS! I also searched for an online service for benchmark hunting in Sweden (which has one of the oldest ordnance survey departments on Earth) and the total size of the BM hunting community was much smaller so the number of entries was also a bit thinner. The photos and recovery notes were top shelf work of course, but it may be that the total number of BM recovery entries in a single US state is about the same as all of western Europe. It is illuminating to see what a standard Trig Point (Theodolite Platform) looks like in different countries. I wouldn't mind if the US Geological Survey copied the British Flush Mark for use as a witness post in urban settings. They look almost as good as BM disks but have that secret Egyptian symbol language feel about them. We don't want anyone but the true Cognosenti speaking the Unseen Community's codes!

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According to foxtrot xray above, most benchmarks are not listed on www.geocaching.com. Can we submit a request for a specific benchmark to be listed so that we can bag them? Who would one submit such a request to?

Was gonna say, "Sure, you can ask , just send your request to the Help Center", then realized benchmarks don't seem to fit in any request drop down.

 

Though in reality, unless they finally counted benchmarks as finds in the US, and get a heckofalot more folks interested than what's here, that's more than likely never gonna happen. :)

 

Honestly, even if you get in touch with the folks up above, they won't do anything. For a few reasons -

(1) They haven't updated their BM database here since 2000, I believe. (Maybe 2001?) So you're lookin' at 15-16 year old data.

(2) USGS marks are not NGS (NOAA) - different gov't agency completely. USGS does not have an electronic database of their stations. To get a datasheet(*), you have to write them, they make a copy of it and mail it out to you. (I'm not even sure if they could scan and email it to you..)

(2a) Other gov't agencies, like the Dept of Interior, National Park Service, have their own marks as well. I don't know off-hand how to even get info about those, or if they are online.

(3) Ref (*) above in #2, I used the term 'datasheet' lightly - USGS marks do not have the formatted, pretty datasheets that NGS has - often times, the 'sheet' is nothing more than a paragraph with the height and to-get-to directions. And sometimes, it's even hand-written.

(4) The USGS, DOI, NPS and other agency marks that you DO FIND in the NGS database means that those marks were used for an NGS project, usually. So they have the data and accuracy needed and then were entered into the NGS database. (i.e. There's a USGS mark at the top of a mountain, and enough data was obtained on it to get an accurate reading, the survey crew didn't want to put in another mark on the same mountain, they used the USGS one..)

 

Hope that helps. Canada has their mark database online, and I've been lookin' at ways to tie it into my android app. Any agency that has an online database is pretty fair game, in my view. :)

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Since we don't seem to be anywhere's near the same page :laughing: , I'll just say I believe the only reason that benchmarks are still popular in the UK and Canada on this site is the two moving caches they're allowed "Found Its" on (multiple times) with each benchmark found.

Brass Cap Cache, and Ye Ole Survey Monuments.

There may be others, but I've had these two on watch. :)

 

I'm glad it didn't end up the same here in the US, but since pretty-much everything else here's turned into a game, maybe that's why there's little draw for others anymore.

- And I'm sure true benchmarkers prefer it that way. ;)

Edited by cerberus1

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I'm hoping that by now the message is clear that a USGS mark (metal, chiseled, blaze, whatever) is not the same as a C&GS (aka NGS) mark. A USGS (and GLO's also) point may have a NGS DATASHEET (a NGS specific term, as should be the use of the word 'Recovery'. All these acronyms can be understood by reading the above 'Pinned' topics.

 

And there are a fair number of NGS Datasheet-ed points associated with the US-CAN IBC physically located well north of the Medicine Line. Do a topic search here. kayakbird

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Thanks you to Cerberus1 for noting that everything has basically been turned into a game. That is truer every day as techno-nerds find more grist for the game. It may interest some Geocachers to know that the NGS-NOAA website that we all know and love for looking up data sheets has instructions for us (Geocachers) to file reports of recovered marks and destroyed marks. They include helpful instructions for field notes the way an actual surveyor does the job and supply agency identifiers for different personnel. Geocachers use the agency code, GEOCAC. Yes, that's right, Geocachers have an agency code!! We can file reports electronically, on paper, or via email. It would of course, be nifty if the world coordinated all nerd hobbies into one big fat website so we could post it and view the statistics in one place but failing that, it is gratifying to know that at least one federal agency graciously welcomes techno-nerds to help make the world a well mapped place! I am currently preparing my first report but I'm not blabbing to you guys yet because I WANT THE First to report honors on a few of these bad boys before the field becomes crowded. See you in the posted standings!

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Your enthusiasm is good to see, and I note that you have been finding bench marks for a while. Your reports to NGS can be valuable to them.

 

I hope you have picked up the "flavor" of the official recovery reports. All business, no "found while geocaching with a friend on Saturday between rainstorms" comments. Use "Found as described" or add any helpful information you can, such as "School building is now a community center", "Road realigned and disk now xx feet from center", "Railroad dismantled and used as recreational trail", "[item they measured from] is gone. Disk is xx feet NW of new culvert". If you didn't find it, add helpful comments about how the location has changed.

 

Give handheld GPS coordinates in degrees, minutes, and seconds format for marks that only had SCALED coordinates before. Please, no comments about how far off the old coordinates were, and never give your coordinates for a mark with ADJUSTED coordinates because they are more accurate than your device.

 

Intersection stations (church spires, towers, water tanks) are no longer of interest to NGS, so do not report them.

 

Good condition for professional purposes means that the POSITION hasn't been compromised. They don't care a lot about the cosmetics of the mark. A disk that has been hammered on by vandals can be GOOD if they can set their pole on the exact same location and height that was originally measured. The most pristine looking disk in a post that is seriously leaning is at best POOR and perhaps DESTROYED.

 

You will be asked when using the NGS entry form whether the location is suitable for GPS. You can select "Don't Know" and that's fine. The criteria for professional GPS are generally clear sky view except for minor items like a pole or small tree. They are interested in visibility from 15 degrees above the horizon up. If you extend your arm, spread your hand, and set the little finger on the horizon, your thumb will be close enough to 15 degrees.

Edited by Bill93

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Addedendum to the addendum to the addendum: I submitted a MISSING PID/Missing DATA SHEET report to the NGS-NOAA email contact for a US GELOGICAL SURVEY benchmark monument I found that was not in the NGS-NOAA database and received a quick reply to the effect that that benchmark was not maintained by the NGS and I should submit my report to the US Geological Survey. I requested the original datasheet for the 'missing' monument using my observed position data from the US Geological Survey and received an email response within 24 hours. The email contained attached copies of pdf files showing the original datasheets for 'my' monument and gave me an email address to request them directly in the future. They still are not included in the NGS database nor on the Geocaching.com website, but, what the heck! A bagged benchmark is a bagged benchmark whether it was erected by the Roman Empire or the NGS! Since the USGS datasheets are only available on paper, it is probably logistically impossible to load them onto a database such as Geocaching.com. The email for requesting USGS datasheets directly is mcmcesis@usgs.gov. The datasheets I received are not as detailed as NGS datasheets but they are sufficient to identify and locate marks. Maybe someone will eventually write a program that will enable Geocachers to load the 'lost boys' of the benchmark community to the Geocaching.com website.

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Addedendum to the addendum to the addendum: I submitted a MISSING PID/Missing DATA SHEET report to the NGS-NOAA email contact for a US GELOGICAL SURVEY benchmark monument I found that was not in the NGS-NOAA database and received a quick reply to the effect that that benchmark was not maintained by the NGS and I should submit my report to the US Geological Survey. [...] They still are not included in the NGS database

And they never will. It's a completely different agency - that's like going into BP and asking why they don't carry Exxon gas. :) SOME USGS marks are in the NGS database, but in the whole, only a tiny percentage of the USGS marks are.

 

Maybe someone will eventually write a program that will enable Geocachers to load the 'lost boys' of the benchmark community to the Geocaching.com website.

I can have a program ready by the end of the day that will let you enter in all the information.. but someone has to transcribe ALL that information, and as you found - a lot of it is very limited, especially on height runs. The problem isn't the software - it's the transcribing of the data. :)

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Some of the stations surveyed and monumented by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon between 1770 and 1775 are included in the benchmark database in www.geocaching.com because they have a (later) benchmark disk added on.  Clearly, these monuments are older than the US Geological Survey itself as well as the NOAA database of benchmarks. 

 

The Mason and Dixon survey was the foundation for the US Geological Survey since much later work is based upon it.  Just run queries along the Mason and Dixon Line as well as the Maryland-Delaware boundary to find benchmarks that were surveyed between 1770 and 1780.

 

BUTTERMILK is a benchmark on the north side of New York City that is for all intents and purposes, a Bucket List Pilgrimage for all Benchmark Hunters/Trig Point Baggers everywhere.  The photos included in entries on the benchmarking pages of www.geocaching.com show this early (earliest?) mark quiet well.  The oldest mark in every state is a Bucket List to contemplate.  I still need to head out to search for GZ2695 (Rohan Reset) in Kentucky where I live.  This was monumented in 1833 so it is only a little bit younger than BUTTERMILK and about an hour's drive from home for me.  (The last entry for ROHAN RESET was made in 1952 so I don't think I shall bump into any other Benchmark Hunters while searching for this one.)  I would love to grab the oldest mark in California.  San Diego?  I can dream.

 

 

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