About Amerisurv| Contact    
Magazine | Newsletter    
Flickr Photos | Advertise    
HomeNewsNewsletterAmerisurv DirectoryJobsStoreAuthorsHistoryArchivesBlogVideosEvents

Sponsored By

Software Reviews
Continuing Series
An RTN expert provides everything you need to know about network-corrected real-time GNSS observations.
Click Here to begin the series,
or view the Article PDF's Here
76-PageFlip Compilation
of the entire series
Test Yourself

Got Answers?
Test your knowledge with NCEES-level questions.
  Start HERE
Meet the Authors
Check out our fine lineup of writers. Each an expert in his or her field.
Wow Factor
Sponsored By

Product Reviews
Partner Sites







Spatial Media LLC properties




Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

Point to Point: The Pincushion Dilemma Print E-mail
Written by Joel Leininger, LS   
Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A 91Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Pincushion corners result when two or more markers exist identifying the same property corner. If set by surveyors, they are invariably the result of different interpretations of evidence, whether justified or not. The measurati have almost universally denounced them as further evidence of rank-and-file surveyors "not getting it;" of them ignoring error theory and the wishes of property owners for stability in favor of one-upping the competitor down the street who never could measure, and never will. Besides, they argue, having multiple markers for a single corner invites ridicule of our profession among the general population. One website huffs, "a `pin cushion' corner is prima facie evidence of incompetence." Strong assertions.

Are they justified? Clearly, there is some merit to the idea that earlier markers should be afforded dignity by virtue of the probable reliance property owners have placed on them. (In this discussion, we assume that the found, uncalled-for marker, is not in its "correct" geometric relationship to surrounding boundary evidence.) Since no measurements are perfect, we delude ourselves when we claim that our new measurements automatically have less error (and are thus more valid) than those whom we retrace. It is likely that, on average, recent work is tighter than older work. But exceptions abound, and chest-beating over precision should wait until we can consistently retrace our own work and get the exact same results, day after day. To my knowledge, even with today's fancy equipment, no surveyor anywhere achieves that. So our insistence on setting a new marker in the vicinity of an existing marker should have more behind it than mere measurement arrogance.

The Argument For
But does that translate into "automatic corner marker status" for the first monument? Some think so. This is a complex argument, but it appears to have at its core the presumption that unwritten transfers will have taken place ratifying the otherwise misplaced monument. In other words, monumentation begets occupation, which, given enough time, ripens into adverse possession. Several complementary factors must align for this to work. First, in some areas of the country, short prescriptive periods (as little as five years in places) considerably lower the bar for perfecting adverse possession. Next, one must presume that occupation always extends exactly to the monumentation, and no farther. Finally, one must presume that all the other elements of adverse possession will have been satisfied. Satisfying all of these parameters would result in that marker identifying the property corner. Your willingness to opine on that question will necessarily depend on your willingness to opine on adverse possession. As I have written before, I believe we surveyors can be in a position to do that, as long as we have access to all of the relevant facts. That last can prove to be a tall order, in most cases.

Looming large on the other side of the argument are the venerable rules of construction, which, in case you haven't reviewed them lately, make no provision for error ellipses, measurement theory or uncalled-for monuments. Historically, the courts treated 100 feet as 100.0000 feet. No more, no less. Find the original, undisturbed monument if at all possible, but, failing that, the courses and distances in the record control the boundaries. This tends to stifle chicanery.

Pssst: Want Some More Land?
One of the oldest (and we're talking Biblical here) ways to obtain land without paying for it was to set (or move) the property bound without the neighbor noticing. The ultimate zero-sum game, losses of the neighbor automatically become our gains. The more valuable the land, the more incentive to "bend" the rules, as it were. Greed is such a compelling motive. Given that situation, a surveyor adopting just any marker in the vicinity would be making a rash decision, potentially abetting a crime of Biblical proportions!

Remember how "fenceline surveyors" were derided? If occupation were our sole guide, why bother with the recorded descriptions, or, for that manner, with the land records at all? Adopting whatever markers are found in the vicinity of the corner is a step farther out on the thin ice than our "fenceline" predecessors. If we take the position that genuine occupation is conclusive evidence of the boundary location, an enclosure (fence) is much more persuasive than a lone pipe with no other evidence of possession near it. I think acting in this manner exceeds our mandate.

It seems to me that the adoption of a secondary marker, i.e., one that is not called in the original grant, can only be justified when its provenance is known, and supported. If one has access to records documenting the secondary marker, such as who placed it, when, and the basis for the location, one should be able to decide whether the earlier survey is defensible. If one agrees with the methodology of the earlier work, one should honor the results of it, and hold the marker. This, of course, is easier in areas where records of survey are recorded or otherwise available, but is possible to a lesser extent everywhere.

Sure, That's Our Pipe
For several years our area had a variation on that theme whereby a crew (or crews) of a large local firm would smash that firm's identifying cap over top of whatever cap had been installed on the pipe, sometimes leaving the original cap lying in pieces next to the marker, other times leaving it hanging off the side of the pipe like some drunken sot. To my knowledge, no one from that firm ever owned up to the practice, even when presented with photos of the crime. (As I think about it, since the caps are primarily a means of identifying the firm responsible for them, and since the very act of leaving the identifying cap identifies the firm responsible, it takes a considerable amount of gall to later claim ignorance of the deed or the doer. But they did, and, as far as I know, still do. I'm sure they won't mind my telling the 40,000 of you that no one in the area believed their pious denials.) Annoying as those episodes were, the real victims of the acts were the parties for whom accurate evaluation of the evidence in the area was important. The pipe cap's raison d'etre is to identify the origin of the marker, not to identify the surveyor in the area most recently. The stature of the marker's location rises or falls depending on whether it was set by a defensible survey or not.

Accurate evaluation of the evidence. Our goal 100 years ago. Our goal today. (And only use your caps on your pipes. I'm sorry I have to say that.)

Joel Leininger is a principal of S.J. Martenet & Co. in Baltimore and Associate Editor of the magazine.

A 91Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

< Prev   Next >

 American Surveyor Recent Articles
Marc Cheves, PS 
Editorial: A Great Year to be a Surveyor
Some magazines have what are called "theme" issues. That is, most of the content is focused on one particular subject. In my 22+ years of survey magazine publishing, my philosophy has always been to have a little bit of everything in each issue, thereby eliminating the possibility that ....
Read the Article
Jason E. Foose, PS 
Decided Guidance: Case Examinations: Halverson v. Deerwood Village
Whew! We really beat the snot out of Bryant v. Blevins and practical locations. Well this month we're back on new case that hit the Minnesota Supreme Court's docket in 1982. We've got the familiar gymnastics of jurisprudence featuring an extraordinary array of flying rope stretchers ...
Read the Article
Michel Philips 
Extreme Environment Surveying
A Franco-Chilean team of cave divers used the Nautiz X8 rugged handheld for marine cave surveying, gathering data to classify the inaccessible northern half of Madre de Dios for UNESCO World Heritage. The team of cave divers used the Nautiz X8 ....
Read the Article
Erik Dahlberg 
The Original Green Engineers
Sometimes, it's best just to leave things as you found them. That's the lesson shared by Dr. Richard Miksad and his students at the University of Virginia. As a result of studies covering nearly a decade, Miksad's teams have developed detailed ....
Read the Article
Dave Lindell, PS 
Test Yourself 49: No Dimensions
In square A-C-D-B with side S, C-E is tangent to the semicircle Q1 with diameter B-D. Q2 is the inscribed circle of A-C-E. The tangent to Q1 and Q2 meets the sides of the square at F and H and intersects C-E at t G. Q3 is the inscribed circle of C-G-H. What is the ratio of the radii of circles ....
Read the Article
Jerry Penry, PS 
Discovery on Grizzly Peak
When First Lieutenant Montgomery M. Macomb arrived in Carson City, Nevada, from Washington D.C., on July 28, 1878, his assigned survey crew from the 4th Artillery was waiting and ready for the new field season. At age 25, Macomb was the leader ....
Read the Article
Wendy Lathrop, PS, CFM 
Vantage Point: Fighting City Hall Over Land
Once upon a time (1989 to be exact) in a place not so far away from where I live, a man (Francis Galdo) bought a home across the street from a vacant parcel owned by the City of Philadelphia. That parcel, along with others, had been acquired by condemnation back in 1974 subsequent to a 1956 ....
Read the Article
Patrick C. Garner, PS 
Book Review: Boundary Retracement: Processes and Procedures
When I was in my mid-twenties and learning the honorable profession of land surveying, I was lucky to be guided by a mentor who would grab a book off his office shelf and say, "Every surveyor should have a copy of this!" The first example he waved at me was Davis, Foote and Kelly's Surveying ....
Read the Article


Amerisurv Exclusive Online-only Article ticker
Featured Amerisurv Events
List Your Event Here
contact Amerisurv


Carlson SurvCE &
SurvPC 6 Available

press [at] amerisurv.com
Online Internet Content


News Feeds

Subscribe to Amerisurv news & updates via RSS or get our Feedburn
xml feed

Need Help? See this RSS Tutorial

Historic Maps

post a job
Reach our audience of Professional land surveyors and Geo-Technology professionals with your GeoJobs career ad. Feel free to contact us if you need additional information.


Social Bookmarks

Amerisurv on Facebook 

Amerisurv LinkedIn Group 

Amerisurv Flickr Photos 

Amerisurv videos on YouTube 



The American Surveyor © All rights reserved / Privacy Statement
Spatial Media LLC
7820B Wormans Mill Road, #236
Frederick MD 21701
301-695-1538 - fax