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04 2000 Basic Datums

04 2000 Basic Datums

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 April 2000 
Grids & Datums
The contents of this column reflect the viewsof the author, who is responsible for the factsand accuracy of the data presented herein.The contents do not necessarily reflect theofficial views or policies of the American So-ciety for Photogrammetry and Remote Sens-ing and/or Louisiana State University.
This is a revision of the first col-umn on Grids and Datums that ap-peared in the July 1997 issue of 
. The U. S. Global PositioningSystem (GPS) satellites have revolu-tionized surveying and mapping ac-tivities. First-order astronomicaltheodolites are now displayed inmuseums. Classical triangulation isno longer performed outside of aca-demic instruction because of theenormous cost-savings afforded bydifferential GPS techniques. How-ever, the fruits of centuries of de-tailed,
and largely reliable
, classicalsurveys are the foundation of today’s national topographic mapsexisting in every country through-out the world. When we ventureinto a “new” mapping project, thereis some pre-existing survey and mapdata that will have to be incorpo-rated into that data set. Although aGPS-controlled project is largelyfree of systematic error when prop-erly executed, the prospect of quan-tifying the systematic error of anolder data set and incorporatingthat older data into the new systemcan be daunting. A successful map-ping project depends on the mergingof the old with the new. An under-standing and knowledge of pastpractices, techniques, and referencesystems is the pre-requisite to thatsuccess.The primary coordinate refer-ence system is the DATUM. Theclassical horizontal datum alwaysstarts at some particular point. Mostdatums have their historical originsat an astronomical observatory,mainly because when geodetic refer-ence systems originated, the best-known position in a country was atthat national observatory. That ob-servatory also had a “mire” or refer-ence point on the horizon with aknown azimuth from true north(North Celestial Pole). With aknown direction reference and aknown position, physically measur-ing a distance to another point onthe ground allowed the computationof another known position (Latitudeand Longitude) with reference to thedatum origin point. That’s how alldatums started. The observatory forthe “mature” North American Da-tum of1927 (NAD27) was not inKansas but on the East Coast. Thatis because “mature” datums are aresult of more than one computationor adjustment. NAD27 is based onearlier datums that included theNewEnglandDatumof1879, theUnitedStatesStandardDatumof1901, and the North American Da-tum of 1913.Many of these origin pointswere also Prime Meridians (zeroLongitude) because observatoriesestablished an
of theirown for predicting positions of heavenly bodies with respect totheir own reference meridian. Forinstance, classical horizontal datumorigins that had their own PrimeMeridians include: Amersfoort,Netherlands; Bogota, Colombia;Dehra Dun, India; Tokyo, Japan;Madrid, Spain; Athens, Greece;Quito, Ecuador; Ferro, Canary Is-lands; Singkawang, Borneo;Potsdam, Germany; and, Greenwich,England.When we map an area, we firstestablish control points that encom-pass the entire area. We interpolate—notextrapolate— when we map,and we use a coordinate referencesystem of some sort. The establish-ment of a datum from a startingpoint required many points to bedetermined in order to provide con-trol for a national or regional map-ping program. The electronic dis-tance meter that used light waveswas invented in the late 1940s inSweden. The less expensive imple-mentation with microwaves waslater developed in South Africa.Prior to that, tapes were used in the20
century that were made of aquench-annealed nickel-steel alloycalled invar. Geodetic surveyors of the late 18
and 19
centuries didnot have that technology available,so they had to use other types of length-measuring devices. Measur-ing distances was extremely diffi-cult and time-consuming. Triangula-tion baselines sometimes involvedentire seasons for dozens of survey-ors and helpers in the determinationof a single 20-30 kilometer distance.The Royal Court of England actuallyfollowed the survey of a baseline byhaving a series of picnics to watchthe length measurement! Of course,after a baseline was determined to be reliable by separate, independentmeasurements, the last thing thosegeodetic surveyors wanted to dowas to measure another baselineanytime soon. Triangulation tech-niques were developed to minimizethe need for physically measuringdistances on the ground. The basicmathematical formula they used forthis purpose was the Law of Sines:a
ccSin A Sin B Sin COf course, there are many correc-tions needed for systematic error, but the basic principle of classicaltriangulation is just this simple.These points were observed as partof basic figures called quadrilaterals(four-sided), with all points beingvisible and all angles observed fromall other points in the quadrilateral.Within each quadrilateral there isan over-determination of lengthswhich is used in a least-squares so-lution. Tens of thousands of quadri- 

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