1. Bearing or Azimuth?

Which one should a surveyor use to express directions? It shouldn't matter as both express the same thing abeit using a different format.

The bearing's biggest advantage is that it's immediately recognizable as a dirrection: N 24°18'30"E, S 56°05'24"W. An azimuth, on the other hand looks like an angle (which it is) with no indication what it represents unless it's specifically called out as a direction: 242°45'36" vs 242°45'36" Az.

Bearings are a more traditional way of expressing directions, espacially in property surveys. Check any metes and bounds description or subdivision plat and chances are 10 times out of 9 that bearings will be used for directions.

Azimuths have a computational edge. Bearing angles are limited to a maximun of 90° and can be clockwise or counterclockwise measured from either end of the meridian. Azimuths always start from North and are clockwise. As we'll see in the Traverse Computations topic, that makes simplfies computations somwhat. And we'll see later how azimuths are a little more efficient for other traverse computations.

So which direction format to use is basically up to the surveyor.


2. Now what?

This topic introduced basic definitions and conventions of directions and converting between angles and directions. How directions are used was not discussed. Combining directions with distances allows determination of complex areas and three-dimesional surface configurations. Most property surveys depend on distances and directions to define boundary extents.

Traversing is the traditional method of collection neccesary measurements. Combining and reducing measurements in the traverse computation process includes direction determinations. This is covered in greater detail in the Traverse Computations topic which builds on the concepts from this topic. Systematic procedures, mathematical checks, and typical errors are also discussed.