📜Interesting History Lessons of Utility Service Locating.

Lets first understand and define the meaning of Utility Locating and Utility Mapping.

Definition of: “Utility Locating” & “Utility Mapping”

The following definitions are taken from Google Dictionary.

What is the definition of “Utility”?
..the state of being useful, profitable, or beneficial.
The word Utility comes from the Latin word ‘Utilis’ which translates to “Useful”.
What is the definition of “Locating”?
..discover the exact place or position of.
The word Locating comes from the Latin word ‘locus’, which translates to “Place”.
What is the definition of “Mapping”?
Definition of Modern “Mapping”.
an operation that associates each element of a given set (the domain) with one or more elements of a second set (the range).

Definition of Modern “Map”.
represent (an area) on a map; make a map of.
The word Mapping comes from the word map, which comes from the Latin word ‘Mundus’, which translates to world.

The combined fundamental definition of Utility Locating is..
The simplistic answer is “Useful Place”, or to “Discover the exact place or position of a useful, profitable or beneficial state”.

Who are the first known Utility Locators and Mappers?

Who were the first culture to create utility maps, The first earliest recorded utility locators and mappers came from Australia. 🪃 The Aboriginals, An unprecedented DNA study has found evidence of a single human migration out of Africa and confirmed that Aboriginal Australians are the world’s oldest civilization.

🗺️ The connection of the First Nations Map, shapes their values, relationships and identity. There are over 500 different First Nations clan groups or nations. Each of these groups have different cultures, beliefs and languages.

My guess is they started by drawing art on the ground of things that mattered to survive, then solidified it with rock cave art. Aboriginal rock art has been dated to around 30,000 years ago, although there are possibly much older sites on the continent.

These acted as guiding spirits in there culture and maps were later innovated in the same way called the dreamtime. In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Baiame (or Biame, Baayami, Baayama or Byamee) was the creator god and sky father in the Dreaming of several Aboriginal Australian peoples of south-eastern Australia, such as the Wonnarua, Kamilaroi, Eora, Darkinjung, and Wiradjuri peoples.

The innovation has continued and the culture is still around in form of dot paintings, making it the oldest living culture of civilization. 🧿 These dot painting maps are not only a great art form but a way of life from the land. These are in my mind the first utility locators and maps.

Some of the symbols used that I found interesting are, Traveling tracks, Sitting places, Campsites, meeting places, rain, rivers, water, watering holes, running water, clouds, rainbows, mountains, windbreaks, sand hills, different animal tracks, bush-tucker, honey ants, yam plants, men, woman, elders, spears, shields and my favorite people dancing. 🕺🏽

Another interesting thing is how they communicated these maps through Songlines/Traveling sing, Songlines are the Aboriginal walking routes that crossed the country, linking important sites and locations.

The term ‘Songline’ 🎵 describes the features and directions of travel that were included in a song that had to be sung and memorized for the traveler to know the route to their destination. It sure would make communicating and mesmerizing maps more fun.

Innovation of technology and equipment of locating underground utility pipes and cables.

In 1831, Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction, the most widely used technology used for locating underground utility pipe and cables.

The story goes that a politician ask Michael Faraday about the usefulness of his discovery, and he answered, ‘At present i do not know, but one day you will be able to put a tax on it’.

The earliest record date of using electromagnetic technology to locate buried cables dates back to 1910c.

The photo below shows the first electromagnetic induction cable locator, made from a wooden truss, wrapped with a coil. Just listen to hear when the induction is taking place, the stronger the signal the louder it gets and therefore the closer you are to the pipe relative to your locators position.

More portable locators were made over the years, The Sharman Main Finder is just one example. The user instructions are unbelievably simple and pale in comparison compared to what locators need to know now. ‘Just clip the generator to the gas bracket in the nearest house or onto a street lamp’.

This worked well in America because most power was overhead and they had designed streets wider and space utilities separate enough that locating cables and pipes was easier due to spacing of the utilities. When congested the signal can spill onto nearby conductive materials, making it hard to pinpoint locations of close proximity of utilities.

Years leading up to the Second World War 💣

The next innovation by Germans, out of necessity, with cable and pipes in narrow streets, they needed to develop lower frequency, higher powered locators that required considerable expertise to obtain results.

Dr Gerhard Fisher of California who obtained the patent issued for an aircraft radio detection finder, designed the Metallascope, the first high performance buried pipe and cable locating kit. He used the latest scientific developments and his company started in 1931c.

Fisher Research Labs, producing the M-Scope, He retired in 1967 and left and indelible mark on the electronics history. An updated descendant of the original Metallascope stayed in business till 2006 when acquired by First Texas Holdings.

Utility Locating in Circa 1964

One of the engineering sections of Bell Laboratories studying the problem of accurate location of there newly buried cables, recognized that twin sensing aerials would give more positive plan definition and also measure the depth of the target cable. The design, which was called a depthometer, was engineered and manufactured by the Western Electric Company for use by Bell Operating companies in 1964.

Cryptomnesia or 100th monkey effect 🐵

It was another 12 years before the first commercial twin aerial antenna locator was made by the Electrolocation Company in Bristol, England. The company that later became Radiodetection Ltd. Who apparently developed the twin arial system without being aware of the earlier Bell Labs Developments.


Radidetection ltd, ABC XYZ of locating buried pipes and cables






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