Surveying and Scanning an 18th century Scottish harbour

One of the most interesting projects I have been involved with in my 10 years of being a surveyor and engineer. A bit further from home than I am used to (441 miles to be exact) but nice to get out of surrey.

Mussleburgh is a historic roman fishing village 3 miles east of Edinburgh. surrounded by beautiful countryside, welcoming locals and at the heart, a 18th century harbour, which is the focus of our trip.

East Lothian council have asked us to create a 3D, high density point cloud, topographical survey, elevations, cross sections and drone survey. This is all to aid future building work they plan on doing. Including possible ladder replacement, new pontoon and other feasibility exercises.

The biggest hurdles with the job that we could foresee were of course the Scottish weather, the fact that the harbour bed is only visible when the tide is out and the impending hangover that may occur when the first day is over due to Edinburgh’s incredible music scene. Luckily these issues were easily worked around.

The topographical survey was a breeze. The drone survey was much more of a challenge. Trying to get the required percentage overlap of pictures required for photogrammetry when most of the detail is water was a tough challenge. We had to wait until the tide was fully out to get close to an acceptable tolerance. Even with this, the shiny harbour beds and flat plains made photogrammetry very difficult, but in the end, we managed to get a good result.

Next, we challenged the 3D point cloud. We set up good total station control with the topographical survey and commenced scanning with the Faro 130. Working against the tide we raced to get all sides of the harbour before the tide came in. We failed. The harbour filled with water much quicker than we expected, blocking our view of the harbour bed and ladders at the base, reflecting the scan detail making the 3d points unusable. A phone call to my wife soon followed explaining I would be back a day later. She wasn’t impressed with my time management or survey skills.

The next day after a night in Edinburgh, we finished the scanner work with no issues. Quick bit of processing in scene and we were ready to make the trip back.All in all a great job and I will post the results on our website, it’s well worth a look as it’s a great historic site.

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