Alberta and British Columbia Boundary Commission.

Report of the Commission appointed to delimit the boundary between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia (Volume 1) online

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Deville, LL.D., Surveyor General of Dominion Lands, as long ago as 1885
and has been extensively used since then in the survey of mountainous dis-
tricts. Dr. Deville has given the science much study and has brought it to
a high state of precision.

The work requires a specially constructed camera and mountain transit-
theodolite. It is carried on by climbing to previously selected stations at
the summits of the peaks, or to high points on mountain ridges that command
a view of the area to be mapped. From these a series of views is taken and
their direction established by the use of the transit-theodolite, frequently
entailing a precarious balancing over dizzy depths. Rock cairns are erected
at the selected stations, either in advance or at the time they are occupied,
and are used for identification purposes.

The stations are fixed in position by a triangulation of a greater or less
degree of precision, expanded from a given base and extended over the required
area. This triangulation may be made independently or be carried on at
the same time as the photographing.

The altitudes of the various points are obtained by reading angles of
elevation or depression back and forth from point to point and applying the
necessary corrections for curvature and refraction, a process known technically
as trigonometric levelling.

The chief advantage of the method is its rapidity for work in the field.
It is much more rapid than any other that can be applied to the same class of
country and the standard of accuracy is a high one. It is true that work can
only be carried on in fine weather, when the stations are below the clouds and
the landscape i& sufficiently clear to be photographed, but the same limitation
applies to any other method that can be used. Only a small party, generally a
surveyor and one or two assistants, is required to carry the instruments, take
the views, record the transit readings and build the rock cairns or other signals
that may be erected to mark the stations it is desired to perpetuate. The
instrumental outfit, adapted by Dr. Deville, weighs about 45 Ibs., and is so
disposed as to be easily carried, even when the climbing is dangerous.

The camera is of fixed focus and has a wide-angle lens covering about
52 degrees of arc for one view. It is adapted in two positions to a light, strong
tripod with sliding legs, to which are attached levelling screws to bring the
plate exposed in the camera to a vertical position, an absolute necessity to
obtain suitable views. The same tripod fits the transit-theodolite.

16 Instructions and Methods of Survey

The size of the plate used is 63" by 4f " and the lens gives very nearly
a true perspective. Later, in the office, the plates are developed and bromide
enlargements, 9? by 13 inches, are made for mapping purposes. Practically
speaking they are perspectives of the views and, by means of geometric and
perspective constructions, the position and altitude of points seen in them
can be obtained and the contour outlines of the various topographical features
drawn on the plan. It is an interesting process: landscapes seen from the
dominating height of a peak show a chaos of mountains, snowfields, icefalls,
forested valleys, streams and lakes here, there, everywhere. Often from an
exceptional height the irregularity and immensity of the overlook, flecked
with snow and partly swathed in clouds, resembles a vast, boundless ocean
in a state of turmoil. In the mapping room, this chaotic condition soon
resolves itself into orderly array: fragmentary mountain ranges, valleys and
streams fit together, isolated peaks assume their proper locations, and what
was previously a collection of views, chiefly ups and downs, has become an
instructive and accurate map showing the various topographical features
as a co-ordinate whole, their extent, trend, and altitude, in addition to general
geographical information, conveying many meanings of geological interest
to those who have the understanding.

There are certain factors necessary to the conduct of a survey such as
this, for instance: the triangulation on which the photographic work depends
must start from a measured base and be expanded in sufficiently symmetrical
proportions; the altitude above sea-level of one or both ends of the base must
be known; and there must be independent checks on the expansion of the
triangulation at sufficiently close intervals to keep the work within bounds
of the limit of accuracy.

In the survey under discussion, the series of traverse lines accurately
surveyed by Mr. Cautley's division across each pass furnishes a base from which
to start and on which to check. These bases are connected with the Dominion
system of land surveys and are as accurately fixed in position as those surveys
will permit. The triangulation has been carried on at the same time as the
photographing and the stations occupied have been fixed in position by reading
horizontal angles, and in altitude by reading vertical angles, from one to the
other. Altitudes of stations are derived originally from precise spirit-levelling
along the main lines of the Canadian Pacific Railway carried from ocean to
ocean. In certain cases independent checks have been made by occupying
or sighting upon cairns at stations of the primary triangulation of the Railway
Belt through British Columbia, made many years previously.


The system of control employed is dependent on the Dominion Lands
System of Survey. The survey of the Boundary in almost every pass that
has been surveyed has been connected with points of this System, and the

System of Control 17

latitude and longitude of the monument used as an observation station in each
pass has been computed from the tables issued by the Surveyor General's

From the surveys of the Boundary, thus established, used as bases, the
secondary triangulation system carried over the entire length of the Boundary
by Mr. Wheeler has been expanded and checked at each succeeding pass.

Independent checks on his system of triangulation have been made by
Mr. Wheeler by azimuth readings taken upon, or from, the various primary
triangulation stations of Lhe Railway Belt Survey, made by J. J. McArthur,
D.L.S. and W. S. Drewry, D.L.S., as early as 1887.

In that part of the Boundary Survey dealt with in this first part of the
Commission's report, namely from the International Boundary to the Kicking
Horse Pass, the computations of elevation above sea-level of all monuments
and of the mountains between passes that have been occupied as stations
by Mr. Wheeler are primarily based on the track elevations obtained by the
Canadian Pacific Railway Company in the Kicking Horse and Crowsnest
Passes as corrected up to date. In the Akamina Pass the elevation assigned
by the International Boundary Commission to their monument No. 272 was
adopted as correct. It is interesting to note that the gross apparent error
found by Mr. Wheeler when tying on to monument No. 272 in 1915, after
having carried his trigonometric levelling survey from Crowsnest Pass a
distance of approximately fifty-three miles in an air line was one foot.


The concrete monument which is erected in the passes was designed by
Mr. Wheeler, and, with certain modifications suggested by Mr. Cautley, has
proved to be entirely satisfactory.

In essence the monument is a concrete monolith, consisting of a truncated
pyramid 20 inches high, of which the bottom cross-section is 12 inches square
and the top 7 inches square, having a flattish pyramidal top and set on a base
24 inches square which extends 10 inches above the ground and 36 inches
into it.

Its parts may be best described by reference to Fig. 1 as follows:
A is a form made of heavy zinc which is filled with concrete and is the per-
manent outer covering of the top part of the monument.
B is an iron bar protruding through the top of the zinc form and secured

in the concrete by the cross-piece (b) ;

CC are brass name plates about l-8th inch thick, each of which is secured to
the monument by four threaded brass bolts DDDD \ inch in dia-
meter and 3^ inches long. On each bolt there are two nuts, one of
which is screwed up so as to hold the brass plate close to the zinc form
while the concrete is setting in said form, while the other is left near the
end of the bolt as at eeee to become embedded in concrete and act as


Instructions and Methods of Survey

an anchor. The name plates are deeply etched with the names
"ALBERTA" and "BRITISH COLUMBIA," respectively, at the fac-
tory, and the number of the monument and characteristic letter of each
pass are similarly etched in the field as required.*


FF is the top of the concrete base which is 24 inches square and extends 10

inches above the surface of the ground.
GG is the extension of the concrete base below surface level. Owing to the

difficulty of packing lumber in the mountains and the impossibility of

*The name plates first designed, and used during the season of 1913 in the Kicking Horse, Vermilion and
Simpson Passes, were of thin sheet brass with raised letters and figures which were soldered to the zinc form. After
the first season's work your Commissioners felt that these were unsatisfactory, and, on their recommendation, dated
the 24th February, 1914, they were authorized to procure and use the heavy brass plates described above.

Boundary Monuments


using an underground form more than once, the collapsible form used for
the bases is made to extend only two inches below the surface; below this
the hole is dug as carefully as possible and filled full of concrete.
Wherever it is possible the holes are dug a full three feet deep; where
large boulders are encountered their surfaces are washed so that the
concrete may form a properly bonded contact with them. In many cases
the monument site is situated on rock in place; in these cases all loose or


partly disintegrated rock is broken away and removed, the interstices
are cleaned out and washed and the base is built right on the rock. Fig.
2 illustrates a good example of a monument built in this way; 12 inches
of the original surface rock was broken down to secure the foundation
for this monument, and its stability is beyond question.

The advantages of this type of monument, as compared with other
types which have been used on similar surveys and which have generally
taken the form of bronze or cast iron posts, may be stated as follows :

It possesses great solidity and stability, since a monument with a full
three foot base weighs about 2700 Ibs.

20 Instructions and Methods of Survey

2. It is of such an enduring character that it is impossible to set a limit to
its continuance, and it is not subject to destruction or distortion by fire,
which is a most important consideration when the fact that nine out of
every ten monuments are built in thick woods is taken into account.

3. It costs very much less than a bronze monument half its size would,
first because the cost of material is about half the cost of the bronze
monument and, secondly, because the cost of transportation is less
although the monument itself is so much heavier; this arises from the fact
that the material for the concrete monument is capable of being packed
piecemeal, and that 4-5ths of it consists of gravel from some compara-
tively near-by creek bed.

4. The monument is only three feet high above ground level and it is there-
fore an easy matter to set a transit over it. In view of the great number
of surveys which will have to be tied on to this Boundary in the future,
and the comparative shortness of some of the courses, this is a most
important consideration.


The work of constructing the monuments is practically continuous, for
the day after Mr. Cautley's party arrives in a new pass the packers either have
to go back to the nearest railway point to bring up cement or to find the nearest
available source of good, clean gravel, and this work goes on throughout the
time occupied by the preliminary survey and until the last monument is

Owing to the fact that the Boundary is situated on the watershed it is
never possible to secure clean gravel on the spot, and it is necessary to get it
from some point along one of the creeks running from the pass where the
volume of water is sufficient to have caused the formation of gravel beds.
Such a point can generally be found within three miles of the pass and at an
elevation of from 600 to 1000 feet below it. The gravel is packed up to the
pass in cement sacks.

As soon as the Commissioners have determined the number and location
of monuments to be built in a pass, the brass name plates have to be etched
with the number of the monument and the characteristic letter of the pass.

Each pass surveyed is assigned a charactertistic letter, and each monu-
ment is marked with a number and with the characteristic letter of the pass
in which it is built.

The first pass surveyed by the Commission was Kicking Horse Pass,
and it was assigned the letter 'A.' From Kicking Horse Pass it was pro-
posed to continue the work southerly towards the International Boundary
and to assign to each succeeding pass towards said Boundary the letter that came
next in alphabetical sequence. Thus 'B' was assigned to Vermilion Pass,
and 'C to Simpson Pass; but from Simpson Pass the Commission proceeded

Construction of Monuments 21

to Crowsnest Pass, and thence southerly to the International Boundary, and
it was not until 1915 and 1916 that the work of closing the gap between
Simpson and Crowsnest Passes was undertaken and completed. During
these two seasons it was found necessary to survey four passes, lying between
Simpson and Crowsnest Passes, for which no letters were assigned at the
time when 'F' was made the characteristic letter of Crowsnest Pass, so that
it was impossible to maintain the alphabetical sequence as originally pro-
posed. The consequence is that the characteristic letter assigned to any
pass must be regarded merely as a symbol by which monuments built in that
pass are distinguished from those built in any other pass, without any relation
between the order in succession of the various passes and the alphabetical
sequence of the letters assigned to them.

The monument nearest to the lowest summit of a pass i.e., the lowest
point of its cross-section along the watershed is numbered 1. Proceeding
from No. 1, those monuments that are built along the watershed on its course
to the north boundary of the two Provinces are numbered consecutively 2,
4, 6, etc., and those that are built on its course to the International Boundary
are numbered 3, 5, 7, etc. Thus Monument No. 6F is the third monument
on the northerly side of the monument at the bottom of the pass character-
ized by the letter F, which happens to be Crowsnest Pass.

The brass plates are then bolted to one of the zinc forms and the
iron bar, shown as B in Fig. 1, is soldered into position so that it will not
move while the form is being filled with concrete. The zinc form is then
taken to the monument site, fitted into a heavy wooden case, bottom
up, and filled with concrete. On the same day the hole is excavated for
the base of the monument in such a position that those sides of the monu-
ment which bear the name plates shall be at right angles to the lines which
bisects the angle between the two adjacent courses of the Boundary. The
monument builder then proceeds to another site so as to allow the concrete
in the monument top to set, which, in good weather, only takes 24 hours.
Next day the hole is filled with concrete to within two inches of ground level ;
the wooden form for the base is then set in position, by means of the reference
picket set for that purpose, and filled with concrete. The monument top is
then turned out of its wooden form and lifted into position on the wet concrete
base, where it is worked down to a seat on four small wooden pegs which have
been set, and levelled, to receive it two inches below the surface of the concrete
in the wooden base form. The surface concrete is then trowelled smooth, and
the monument is watched for a while to see that there is no likelihood of subsi-
dence which might cause the top to set out of plumb.*

*At first the practice was to allow both the top and the base to set separately, and then to cement the top on
to the base. It was found, however, that, owing to the shrinkage of concrete in setting having already taken place
in the base, the rich mixture of cement laid on to cement the top to the base to a depth of two inches did not unite
properly, and was liable to crack in setting.

22 Instructions and Methods of Survey

The concrete is made in the proportion of one part of cement to four parts
of gravel, and is well mixed and puddled; this mixture is somewhat richer
than is ordinarily used, but has been adopted because the body of concrete
in a monument is small, requiring greater power of cement than would be
necessary in a larger body, and also with the idea of overcoming any defects
in the gravel, which is not always as good as what would be used in ordinary
concrete construction.

When the concrete has set dry the wooden form is removed from the
base, and the zinc cover is painted a bright red. This colour has been adopted
by the Commission as being most distinctly visible, both against the green
background of summer or the white background of winter.

The equipment necessary for the above work is as follows:

2 heavy wooden forms in which to fill zinc tops.

2 sets of wooden forms for bases,

2 sets of shovelling boards on which to mix concrete,

2 water kegs in which to transport water,

2 square-mouth shovels,

1 spade,

1 pick or crowbar,

1 pail,

1 mason's level,

2 smoothing trowels,

1 box nitric acid, beeswax and hellebore, for etching brass plates,

1 soldering outfit,

1 painting outfit,

number of cement sacks in which gravel is carried.


The cost of each monument may be divided under three heads material,
labour of building and transportation of material, of which the first two may
be regarded as constant and the third varies in accordance with the distance
of a pass from the nearest railway point from which cement can be brought,
and the difficulties of transporting it thence to the pass. Wherever it is prac-
ticable Mr. Cautley employs team freighting, both because it is cheaper and
also to relieve his pack train, which it may be safely stated is the most steadily
worked train in the Mountains, but it has been necessary on occasion to pack
cement 75 miles which adds very materially to the normal cost of transpor-

Cost of Monuments 23

On the basis of charging half the expense of the pack train and half the
wages and allowances of the two packers to the monument account, under
the head of transportation, and charging as labour of building the actual time
of men who are engaged in building monuments, it may be estimated that
the actual construction of each monument costs from $30.00 to $40.00, as

To material for one monument $11.50 $11.50

" labour of building 4.50 4.50

" transportation of material by rail and horse 14.00 or 24.00

Total cost of each monument $30.00 or $40.00


From the commencement of the survey until the end of the season of
1915 the bolt form of monument used by the Commission consisted of a solid
brass bolt with a shank 4 inches long, of the form and dimensions shown in
Fig 3.

It was stamped by means of steel dies with the words "ALBERTA"
and "BRITISH COLUMBIA" on the longer sides, and with the number and
characteristic letter of the pass on the shorter sides, or ends. A " -\- " was
stamped in the centre of the upper face, or top.

The bolt is set in cement in a hole drilled for that purpose in the solid
rock. In some few cases, however, solid rock was not to be had and the bolt
has been set in the largest available loose boulder.

The position of the bolt is marked by the erection over it of a rock cairn
with five-foot base and from five to seven feet high, depending upon the amount
of material at hand. A photograph or photographs of the cairn and descrip-
tion of its location serve to identify the spot where the bolt has been placed.

The bolt weighs 2 Ibs. and it requires a lj inch drill and 5 Ib. sledge to
make the hole in which it is cemented.

In many cases the rock is of a rotten, friable character and the making
of a hole with so large a drill frequently results in splitting and chipping.
The weight also of the sledge, drill, bolt and cement, together with the survey-
ing instruments has proved highly detrimental when making difficult climbs
to selected points.

For the above reasons it has been decided to reduce the dimensions of
the bolt to those shown in Fig. 4.


Instructions and Methods of Survey






1913, 1914 AND 1915



Bolts and cairns are used as monuments of the Boundary Survey in three
ways, as follows:

1. It may be necessary to use a bolt to mark the intersection of two straight
line courses of the Boundary. Bolt 4 B in Vermilion Pass may be cited
as an example of this case. This Bolt is considerably below timber line,
and its location is quite suitable for the erection of a concrete monument,
but a precipitous rock bluff, about 700 feet high and extending right
across the line for a considerable distance on either side of it, made the
transport of monument material impracticable.

2. Usually the last straight line course on either side of a pass is terminated
by a bolt and cairn, because the terminal point selected by the Com-
mission is generally inaccessible to horses. This is due to the feeling of
the Commission that the straight line boundary should be carried beyond
timber line to some prominent terminal point whence the position of
the natural boundary, or watershed, is clearly defined, in all cases where
such a line can be found which fairly conforms to the watershed.

Bolt and Cairn Monuments 25

3. Beyond the last course of the straight line boundary Mr. Wheeler uses
bolts to mark dominating points of the watershed in the immediate
vicinity of the passes. These bolts are used by him as triangulation
stations, and are closely connected with all other monuments of the

Bolts set under this heading are always set on the actual watershed,
but the Boundary between such bolts, and the continuation thereof
beyond the last bolt set, is the natural watershed as established by
photographic delineation.

The cairns built over bolts are all photographed, and the photographs
are included in Appendix I of this report.

Since the position of bolts and cairns is accurately determined by the
Commission, in relation to the other monuments of the Boundary survey,
and to the points of the Dominion Lands System connected therewith, and
the cairns are generally visible for miles on either side of a pass, it is possible
for a surveyor employed to make land surveys within a reasonable distance
of a pass to tie on to the Boundary survey by methods of triangulation, without
going to the great labour involved in runnirig a traverse up to the Boundary.
In view of the facts (a) that it is of the greatest importance that all isolated
surveys should be connected with some survey of which the relative position
to the general survey system of the country has been established, and (b)
that almost all the concrete monuments of the Boundary survey are situated
in thick woods, and that it is difficult to tie on to them by the employment
of trigonometric methods for that reason, it is considered probable that these
outlying bolts of the pass surveys will be found very useful, and will be
extensively used in the years to come.



The survey of the Boundary across the passes in the manner indicated
by the instructions from the Surveyor General of Dominion Lands, quoted at
the beginning of Chapter II, involved a number of problems that had to be
worked out. For this reason a beginning was made at Kicking Horse Pass.
The Pass was easy of access by rail, presented slopes largely denuded of green
timber by fire and lumbermen and contained, close at hand, a supply of
material for experimenting with concrete monuments.

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