Furrows in the Sky: The Adventures of Gerry Andrews
By Jay Sherwood Royal B.C. Museum, 238 pp., $19.95
Gerry Smedley Andrews served as British Columbia's surveyor general for 17 years, longer than any other person has held the position.
He was a pioneer in aerial photography, which helped surveyors explore areas that would have been otherwise inaccessible. His ability to analyze photographs was vital to planning Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy. After the war, and until his retirement in 1968, he helped map the areas of the construction megaprojects that changed the face of the province.
Andrews probably knew more about the province than anyone else. He started his work in the 1920s and 1930s, using packhorses and canoes to get into regions where roads simply didn't go.
In the last years before he retired, Andrews worked with computers, and helped introduce a system of permanent markers in urban areas throughout British Columbia. These reference points help today's surveyors know they are on the right track.
From his office in Victoria - and from his family home on Blenkinsop Road in Saanich - Andrews helped describe the far reaches of the province, as well as those that were almost in his backyard.
And that's an important point to keep in mind. There are many ways to create maps, and many uses for them. Knowledge of geography is vital.
Take, for example, the photographs taken of Victoria from 1,500 metres up, at noon on June 8, 1948. That was the time of the extreme low tide for the year.
The project exposed the capital city like never before. It included a tricamera oblique system, with one camera pointed straight down and two others at angles. There were also infrared photos from cameras pointed straight down.
As a result, the photography gave navigators of small craft an unprecedented amount of detail about what lies just offshore - and more information about the city itself than any previous photography exercise was able to achieve.
It could have been seen as an early edition of Google Maps, and Andrews was the driving force behind it.
He also helped with the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 1959. His Surveys and Mapping Branch prepared the maps upon which the royal visit was planned. Largescale, highly detailed photographs of the Parliament Buildings were taken so the precise details of the ceremonies there could be planned with accuracy.
The Queen spent time at Pennask Lake, close to today's Okanagan Connector highway, for rest and relaxation. Air photographs of the region were used to plan that visit as well.
Jay Sherwood, the author of Furrows in the Sky, is a former surveyor and retired school teacher. This is his fifth book, and like the others, it is based on historical research on surveyors and surveying projects.
Furrows in the Sky relies to a great extent on the writings of Andrews himself - everything from correspondence and diaries to official reports on the work of his office. As a result, it is not only about the surveying work itself, but sheds a light on the man himself.
In retirement, Andrews did not slow down. He remained driven by the curiosity and sense of adventure that had driven him through his lengthy career. He travelled through the province and around the world, and still had time to serve as president of the B.C. Historical Society and write a book of his own, Metis Outpost.
Surveyors build on the work of those who came before them. Andrews was following the footsteps of legendary surveyors such as Col. Richard Moody and Joseph Despard Pemberton, and through his dedication, he became a legend himself.
He died in Victoria in 2005, just shy of his 102nd birthday. He will never be forgotten in the surveying community - and Sherwood's work will give the rest of us a chance to remember him as well.
The reviewer, the acting editor-in-chief of the Times Colonist, is the author of The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia.
© Copyright 2013