3 old total stations bound for the skip at Malcolm Hughes Land Surveyors (MHLS) in Swansea have been brought back to life and donated to the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) to help their monitoring of shipping off the North Cornish Coast. The NCI is a voluntary organisation keeping a visual watch along UK shores and when ships get into trouble, they are there to alert HM Coastguard and direct the appropriate rescue services.
Last summer Volunteer Watch-keeper Chris Angove approached MHLS Land Surveyor Jon Grigg over a drink asking how more accurate bearings and distances could be obtained from their St Agnes Head station. Jon was able to locate 3 non-working instruments (2 Trimbles and a Geodimeter 600) from Swansea and gained permission to try to get them repaired.
Jon Grigg (MHLS Swansea) presents the 3 instruments to Jim Jefferis and Chris Angove at the NCI station St Agnes Head
In October Jon was able to arrange a free repair, service and upgrade for all 3 instruments through KOREC Group – who’s Engineer John Salter even remembered working on that actual Geodimeter 20 years ago! John, along with help from other members of the KOREC workshop team, gave up his lunchtimes to calibrate, repair and check over the instruments before passing them to Jon for use.
The NCI will be using the instruments to measure a vertical angle difference from the horizon to a ship at sea – this is used to calculate a very accurate distance (using expanded Bowditch chart calculations) as well as an accurate bearing, which can then be relayed to the emergency services to quickly reach any vessel in distress. With a visible horizon of over 20 miles, their normal estimates can sometimes have an error of several miles. Using these instruments should see any errors reduced to less than a few hundred metres which could be the difference between life and death in a rescue scenario.
A watchkeeper using a Trimble device
In mid-January the NCI station went “live” with the first of the instruments and their band of volunteers are being trained in their use. This new life given to old disused instruments could well assist in saving lives at sea in the years to come.
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