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This surveyor's plane table frame belonged to Captain James Cook. The frame held paper firmly on the top of the plane table, a level surface used for surveying with an alidade (sighting rule) and compass. Cook adapted this land surveying method to rapidly chart Pacific coastlines as a continuous running survey from the deck of a moving ship.
Before leaving for the Pacific in 1768, Cook wrote to the British Admiralty requesting a set of instruments, including a plane table, that would enable him to survey lands touched on during the voyage. Cook's charts of the coasts of New Zealand and New Holland (Australia) were drawn up in sections using the plane table method, which required Cook to sail the Endeavour close to shore.
Demonstration of how the plane table folds down for easy storage and transport.
Photo: George Serras.
Artefacts illustrating Captain James Cook's great skill as a navigator have been acquired by the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.