From the contours on a map, or with an altimeter, or with a GPS Receiver. If you would like more information on any of these please say which and I will provide.

if you are something of a masochist then you could do it the old fashioned waystand at mean high water ( which i believe is on newlyn pier, but i could be wrong) with a theodolite, then take measurements of the furthest point in line of sight in the direction of the place you wish.( having a freind with one of those stripey poles helps).Measure the straight line distance to the point. then stand at that point and measure another point, again in line of site in the right direction. carry on doing this till you get to the point you want. simple trig allows you to calculate the height( height of point = straight line distance*sine of the angle subtended.). If this sounds laborious, it is. but the himalayas were mapped in this way to an accuracy measured in feet.

Utter tripe, incitatus.

In what way it his answer tripe? That is exactly the way that heights had to be measured before accurate altimeters were invented...though I would dispute the accuracy level given as when K2 was measured by GPS it was discovered to be over 50 metres taller than first thought and until everest was remeasured was the highest mountain for a few days.

Tripe.

Being an ex civil engineer, I can vouch that incitatus' answer, whilst a little simplified, is more ot less correct. I know; I have done it. Did you know that when Everest was first measured the height was calculated at 29000 feet exactly. It was thought this sounded like a guess, so the official height was 29002 feet.

Are you seriously suggesting that this is a sensible answer to the question? Its no wonder you are an ex civil engineer.

Maude, rather depends on why alextwo has posed the question. The 'spirt level' technique is the most accurate way of measuring height and this technique will have been used to measure the height/depth of most common land features  if you are interested in how maps where constructed this is the method that would be interested in. Contour lines, altitude or GPS are also valid (they either depend on the spirit levels techniques mentioned above or are much less accurate) . You would of course use these techniques if you are trying to determine you own current height above sealevel e.g. you are a hillwalker or climber. As Alextwo has not responded, I suppose we shall never know.

maude dearset, dont throw accusations of cowstomachlining around unless you know whereof you speak. this was the standard method until a few years ago. indeed reconning from trig points can still be more accurate than gps as the american military code gps to diminish its accuracy for non military purposes. Many altimeters work either by gps, reckoning height from ground and reconciling with a map (useless here) dead inertial reckoning (similarly dodgy) or pressure variation (very suspect)

Maude i suggest you do some research as i can too vouch that this was the system used to measure height, prior to satellite photography and more recent techniques. After that a bit of humble pie and an apology perhaps?.......

So somebody left Newlyn Pier with a spirit level and measured steps all the way along to and up Everest and got it right within 2 feet?

So the British surveyors had access to GPS technology and high precision altimeters in 1856 when the Himayalas were first surveyed and Everest's height was established as being 29002 ft ????

We are in 1856, Spongey, and I have removed Nelson from his column and am standing there instead in my little gold dress. How would you arrive at the total height from the general paving of Trafalgar Square to the highest hair of my curly blonde locks?

Easiest way to do that is stand suitably far from the column that you can be seen on the top of it, measure the angle from groundline to you, then use Pythagoras' Theorem to calculate the rest, but that has absolutely nothing to do with sea level. Simple trigonometry.

Not enough detail, Shy, to convince me that you know how to do it. Still in 1856, how, then, would you calculate the height of the general paving in Trafalgar Square above sea level?

I stand far enough back from you to see the top of your pointy head. planting the theodolite(or protractor) on the ground i take a view through the telescope to the top of your head. i resist the temptation to shoot. I note the angle to the top of your head. Given tht this is 1856 and laser rangefinders have not been invented I adjust my position until the angle is 45 degrees. the distance to the centre of the column is now equal to the distance to the top of your head from the top of the theodolite. If you add on the height of the theodolite you get your height. This should be accurate to inches. If there is no room to get a 45 degree angle, or it is impractical, the distance to the top of the hill along the line of sight can be used. The vertical distance is equal to the sine of the subtended angle multiplied by the straight line distance. I could ask you to hold a peice of string which we could later measure ( this is done for short distances such as on building sites) or i could do this by taking bearings from two different buildings/p[oints a known distance apart and calculating the distance using euclidean geometry. Really i fail to see what is difficult about the concept. we surveyed the trees in our school playground like this when I was 9 and it is very basic maths.

For crying out loud Maude what do you want, diagrams? It is true that that is how they did it (in 1856) and yes it can be that blooming accurate. try reading a book on simple trigonometry to understand it.

Hands up who thinks someone (no names) in this thread is taking the mick, ever so slightly?

No diagrams, thanks, Daft. I am waiting for the man from Newlyn Pier. When he left he meant to turn off the main pier light, but, by mistake, he turned off theodolite and has had to go back.

DArth. And it's Mr Vader to you. btw that joke was Christmas Cracker.....
