Liesbeth was born 23 years ago on the island of Texel (NL), where she also comple¬ted her secondary education before moving on to advanced training on another Wadden Island: Terschelling. She studied there at the Willem Barentsz Maritime Academy, the only Dutch institution with a surveyor training course. In 2017 she joined Boskalis as a surveyor in the Survey department. Her work consists primarily of hydrographic surveys, which are also known as geophysical surveys. That involves surveying the seabed and mapping it with optical and sonar equipment. In addition, the two Boskalis subsidiaries Gardline and Horizon Geoscience conduct surveys for the offshore energy market. As well as geophysi¬cal surveys, they also conduct geotechnical surveys, which include drilling, vibrocoring and cone penetration testing. Liesbeth has worked on the Colón project in Panama and on various projects in the United Kingdom, where she was often the only surveyor. ‘I learned a lot but I wanted to learn more by working on a larger project with guidance from an experienced surveyor,’ she says. ‘I then worked in Qatar, Borssele and Bahrain, among other places, and now I’m back in the UK.’
Measurements at sea and on land
Can you explain in brief what a surveyor does?
‘Well, in very simple terms: we do measure¬ments on land and on water using sound and GPS signals in order to produce maps and charts. On the water, the job involves using single- or multi-beam sonar equipment. You measure how long it takes for the signal to bounce back to determine the water depth. To make accurate measurements, we use things like motion sensors that record the effect of the movements of the survey vessel. In deep water, we may also use ROVs for surveying. Our work involves a lot of really advanced equipment. We make surveys in a wide range of locations and, in that way, we map out part of the seabed. We also often work on land, for example to measure the height of a land reclamation site or an artificial island during a project. On a lot of photos, you can see us standing somewhere on land with a GPS pole. Those poles are exactly two meters long. The GPS positioning antenna is located at the top. Our backpack contains a very accurate GPS receiver. We usually work with real-time kinematics (RTK) systems that allow us to determine locations to within a centimeter. On land, we some¬times use drones to take aerial photographs so that we can map a large area. That means surveyors don’t have to go tramping through fields as often these days. How-ever, we still have to do that sometimes, for example near airports where drones aren’t allowed.’
My work as Surveyor suits me down to the ground.
What does a typical working day look like? And is the job physically demanding?
‘On a project, our working day is twelve hours, and we work six weeks on, four weeks off. On some projects, you spend a lot of time surveying outdoors, often in a chartered boat. You then process the results in a project office, for example if you have to map out a complete area during the tender phase of a project. The work can be quite tiring from time to time. You need to be in good shape – and fortunately I am. In Bahrain, we had to stand in the mud at low tide for the in-survey. That involves wearing special waders and that’s no fun in the heat. Sometimes, there can be a period of several days during which you may have to spend a couple of hours every day moving around like that. At one point, I got stuck in the clay. It wasn’t dangerous: the water wasn’t deep and, fortunately, I was able to get out in one piece but things like that can happen. At times like that, you have to be creative. We finished the job working from a small boat and that was fine. But our job isn’t always that glamorous. It’s a tough profession and that sometimes involves discomfort. But Boskalis gives you the freedom to find the best solutions for local problems yourself. We see interesting places, the atmosphere on projects is usually great and there are a lot of fantastic colleagues working at Boskalis. We often work with the same people for a while on any given project. When we move on, we meet all kinds of new colleagues and crew members on locally chartered surveying vessels. Some¬times, we sleep somewhere in a hotel or an apartment; when we work offshore, we sleep on the vessel. The unpredictability and variety are the other things about this job that appeal to me.’
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