Exploration of British Columbia’s coast began in 1741, when a Russian Navy expedition led by Danish cartographer and navigator, Vitus Jonassen Bering, approached the BC coast. He was followed by Spanish explorer Juan Perez in 1774.
Surveying in what is now British Columbia was initiated when Captain James Cook, in His Majesty’s barque “Endeavor”, charted Nootka Sound in 1778. In 1792, a Spanish expedition and a British expedition under Captain George Vancouver met in Georgia Strait, and cooperated in charting much of Georgia Strait and Puget Sound before sailing to Nootka Inlet to discuss ownership of their new found and claimed lands.
Further early hydrographic surveying to map our coastline was done by Captains George Vancouver, Provost, Richards and Pender. Two famous explorers and geographers who contributed to early mapping in the interior of British Columbia were Alexander MacKenzie (1793) and David Thompson (1800). The latter was a pupil of the first official surveyor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
In 1851, Mr. J.D. Pemberton was appointed Colonial Surveyor for the Colony of Vancouver Island. His title changed to Surveyor General for the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1859.
Colonel R.C. Moody was appointed Acting Surveyor General of the B.C. mainland Colony. In 1864, Mr. B.W. Pearse became Surveyor General of the Vancouver Island colony and Mr. J.W. Trutch became Surveyor General of the mainland colony. When the two colonies united in 1866, J.W. Trutch became Surveyor General of the Colony of British Columbia.
In 1871, when the colony of B.C. joined confederation and became a Province of Canada, B.W. Pearse became the first Surveyor General of the Province of British Columbia.
In 1858, a company of Royal Engineers was sent from England at the request of Sir James Douglas (first governor of British Columbia), to conduct engineering works in connection with the Fraser River gold rush. Twelve or so of these men made surveys on the mainland; when the company was recalled to England in 1863, some of them remained behind and five or six were called to practise as land surveyors.
Prior to 1891, the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, or Surveyor General, authorized surveyors to practise by appointment. Surveyor thus appointed were designated Land Surveyors (“L.S.”). In 1891, the British Columbia legislature passed the first Land Surveyors Act whereby a Board of Examiners was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. This Board, under the direction of the Surveyor General, was responsible for examining new surveyors. Surveyors admitted under this Act were designated Provincial Land Surveyors and were entitled to use the initials “P.L.S.” In 1905, the present Corporation of Land Surveyors of the Province of British Columbia was incorporated by an Act of the BC legislature wherein the Board of Management of the Corporation was given authority to examine candidates for admission as articled pupils and as commissioned land surveyors. Surveyors admitted after 1905 were, and still are, identified by the initials “B.C.L.S.”
Today, a British Columbia Land Surveyor must have received his or her “commission” from the Association and be a member in good standing in order to practice the profession of land surveying. The crude but effective technology of the past, such as the staff compass, open plate transits and Gunters chains, have now been replaced by GPS (satellite positioning) receivers, electronic total station instruments, electronic data recorders, and powerful computers for calculating and plotting the results of field measurements. Nevertheless, the traditions, honour and devotion of the past members is still found in today’s members.