NZ’s tallest mountain measured

By on 20 January, 2015

Mount Cook

The National School of Surveying at the University of Otago has measured the summit of Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mount Cook, also called Aoraki, suffered a large rock avalanche that changed the peak’s topography and height in 1991, so the university wanted to measure the changed height.

Following the avalanche, a resurvey found the mountain to be 3,754 meters high – down from the surveying estimate of 3,764 meters in 1881. The university undertook the unique challenge of validating the new elevation. Photogrammetry and remote sensing were the only viable methods for measuring the summit as it is considered sacred by the Maori tribe of Ngāi Tahu and standing on it is prohibited.

Using Hexagon Geospatial’s ERDAS IMAGINE and IMAGINE Photogrammetry (formerly LPS) software, along with GNSS receivers, the university determined that the actual height of Mount Cook is 3,724 meters. For the university’s remarkable efforts, Sirguey received the top award from the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors in 2014 for teaching and education and the New Zealand Spatial Excellence Award 2014 in the Education and Professional Development category.

“ERDAS IMAGINE is the cornerstone of the project. It started from there,” said Pascal Sirguey, senior lecturer at National School of Surveying, University of Otago and project leader. “Using the photogrammetric capability, we were led to look more closely at what the model was telling us. The software gave us the right answer in the end.”

The University of Otago is the oldest university in New Zealand, founded in 1869 by an ordinance of the Otago Provincial Council. Its School of Surveying offers the only academic qualification leading to professional recognition as a professional land surveyor in New Zealand, following a period of post-graduation training and examination by the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors. The courses offer a broad range of disciplines – surveying, land planning and development, survey measurement and Geographic Information Systems – that equip graduates for a professional career.

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