Sir, In June’s Geoscientist (v. 23.05), Nina Morgan stressed the benefit, to geologists, of accurate topographic base maps.
This stirred memories of my first appointment, from 1949 to 1955, to the Gold Coast Geological Survey. The Gold Coast (now Ghana) could boast full one inch to the mile cover, thanks to the interest and support of a former Governor (himself a trained land surveyor) some decades previously.
Not long after arrival in the colony, I found myself supervising a drilling programme designed to explore the site of a proposed dam on the Volta River. The contoured maps were invaluable and I recall, in particular, sending out my labour force to clear access to an area of interest, a small rise on the far bank wholly covered in dense vegetation. For several days thereafter, I levelled along cut lines that resolutely refused to reveal the contours I was seeking, until I reluctantly had to conclude that some head office draughtsman, long ago, had used his imagination to fill a space that had escaped the survey.
Not long after this episode, I asked my Ghanaian field assistant (who, as it proved, had an odd sense of humour) to explain why certain paths on the maps were marked “fit for hammocking.” As a result, and on his assurance that he had seen hammocks in store at Survey HQ, I put in a requisition for two hammocks, since being carried in this hilly area would undoubtedly improve my efficiency.
HQ’s response was frosty to say the least; they confirmed existence of the hammocks but pointed out that their use had been phased out in the 1920’s; also that the best geologists were the ones that saw the most rocks and that this was best achieved by inspecting the ground over which they walked. This story got around.