Oral History Transcript — Dr. Jon Peterson
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a
transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview
must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event
will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons
including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings
about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from
a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript
Access form | Project support | How to cite | Print this page
See the catalog record for this interview and search for other interviews in our collection
Jon Peterson; October 21, 1997
ABSTRACT: Interview focuses on Peterson's contributions to the installation of the Worldwide Standardized Seismograph Network (WWSSN) in the 1960s. The WWSSN, a network of 120 stations, provided seismologists with a wealth of seismic data. It was financed through the Department of Defense's Project Vela Uniform, which aimed at an improvement of the detection of underground nuclear explosions. Vela Uniform managers selected the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey to install WWSSN stations around the globe. The WWSSN headquarters were located at the C&GS's Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory, where Peterson trained the installers and directed the installation effort. He describes the origin, installation, and operation of the network as well as his interactions with DOD managers during the 1960s.
Barth:So today is Tuesday, October 21st, 1997, and I am sitting in the office, in the
library of the Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory with Jon Peterson. And Jon, I would just like to start out with a question about your scientific background. What brought you into seismology?
Peterson: I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in geophysics, and I went to work originally with the Bureau of Mines. I worked as a physicist. We were trying to determine stress in underground openings. While I was there I got interested in going to Antarctica for a season, the South Pole, and that program is operated by the Coast and Geodetic Survey, and I went over and interviewed with them to go to the South Pole. But between the time that they made their selection, between that time and when they made the selection I got married, so that kind of did away with that project. But they remembered me, and they called me up sometime after I was in there and asked me to come to work for them because they were starting this new program that involved the WWSSN, the Worldwide Standardized Seismograph Network. And I agreed to go to work for them because I knew ultimately I would end up out in New Mexico, which is a place that I wanted to live. So I went to work for them, and I guess I was the first one hired for that program. And for some reason or another I was given the job of training all of the installers that were later hired to install the equipment in that program. And that's how I got started in it. And then after about a year in Washington I went to work at, to stay at the Geotech Corporation as a government representative for a year in Garland, Texas.
And after that year was up I came out here to the Albuquerque laboratory.
Barth:This was in which year?
Peterson: I came out here in June of 1962 to Albuquerque. The lab had been in existence for a year at that time.
Barth:And you came with a whole staff of —?
Peterson: No, I came by myself, but when I moved out here from Geotech I brought the technical support for the WWSSN program with me essentially. I had been supporting the installers out of the Geotech Corporation in Dallas. And then when I came out here I brought that support program with me essentially. It was just me and one technician from Dallas, but then we set up, we brought a lot of equipment and we set up a laboratory here and all kinds of support for the people in the field. So the program was essentially moved out here at that time.
Barth:And how did then the development of the Worldwide Network develop from this point on?
Peterson: Well, we were just getting, the first stations had been installed when I came out here and we were heavily involved then in installing stations around the world. We had at that time I think about 12 installation teams comprising one government, one Coast and Geodetic Survey employee, and one Texas Instruments contract employee. And they were just about all out and working for those years, '62, '63, '64, and then the program started winding down and we installed the last station in 1967. There were a lot of other activities out here at the laboratory when that was going on: the Alaska earthquake, and there were several different earthquakes; we had experiments going on in the Aleutian Islands. The laboratory had a lot of functions other than the installation of the WWSSN, and we were fortunate to have all these people, because we used a lot of them for some of these other projects as well.
Barth:What kind of projects for example?
Peterson: Well, we would do what we called aftershock surveys. When there was a large earthquake someplace we sent out instrumentation and people to operate the instruments to record the aftershocks, and they would often be out for two or three months recording aftershocks. That happened at the Alaskan earthquake, it happened for earthquakes in the Aleutians and Chile and in Venezuela and a number of countries. We also did experiments for ARPA at that time. There was a very large experiment up in the Aleutian Islands that we were involved in.
Barth:The LONGSHOT? No, which one was it? Which test? There was a 5-megaton and a 1-megaton. [It was LONGSHOT: October 29, 1965, Amchitka, Alaska, about 80 kilotons]
Peterson: I can't recall myself what one it was. We were out there in '64. The summer of '65
installing stations in the islands, up in the Aleutian Islands and operating stations up in the Aleutian Islands. I can't recall much of the details of that project. I wish I could.
Barth:And how was the interaction then with other government agencies during this time in terms of setting up the Worldwide Network, what's about AFTAC [Air Force Technical Applications Center] for example. Were AFTAC people involved in setting up the stations?
Peterson: No, we had very little involvement with AFTAC during those years. Only peripheral. Then there was a good reason for that. AFTAC had the responsibility to do a lot of monitoring on a classified basis where we were totally in the open, unclassified, and in order for us to operate in other countries we always tried to stress our ties to the scientific community rather than to the military. So we never hid the fact that we were getting money from our Department of Defense essentially; on the other hand, I never offered this when I was discussing or negotiating with people about stations and things like that. We just simply wouldn't talk about that aspect of it. The people we dealt with in the other countries knew where the money was coming from essentially, but they wouldn't raise questions and we didn't raise questions, and it just worked better that way. So we had very little interaction with AFTAC during that period of time, and they weren't involved in our station installations at all.
Barth:Coming back to ARPA, to interaction with ARPA: ARPA funneled the money to, or they had the money to install the Worldwide Network. Were there any contacts between people like Charles Bates from the detection office or —?
Peterson: Oh yeah. We had a lot of interaction with Dr. Bates. He was the director of the ARPA office when the WWSSN program really got off the ground, and he took a very active interest in the program. He visited many of the stations after we installed the seismographs and he was out here quite often checking on the status of the program. He was quite involved in the [program].
Barth:Was he what you would call a program manager, ARPA program manager in this respect, or did he have other people who would closely monitor, basically?
Peterson: There were other people. Our direct contacts with ARPA were through other people,
through assistants of Dr. Bates. But he took a very active interest in the program himself.
Barth:Can you remember names?
Peterson: Well, Don Clements is a name that comes to mind, who was very much involved in it for a number of years.
Barth:Did these people have a background in seismology as well so that they?
Peterson: I don't know exactly what Don's background was, but I assume it was some related to
working seismology, was related to science.
Barth:Any contact with the AFOSR [Air Force Office of Scientific Research] or AFCRL [Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories]?
Peterson: Yeah. The AFOSR not such much during the time we were installing the WWSSN, but we had a lot of contact with Bill Best in later years through what we call a High Gain Long Period project and the SRO [Seismic Research Observatories] project. He was very much involved in a lot of the research, instrumentation research that was done at universities, and we got quite involved with him as well.
Barth:The High Gain was primarily a development from Lamont, as far as I understand?
Peterson: It was a long period seismograph system developed by Lamont, and it provided much
greater magnification, much higher magnification than we would be able to achieve with the WWSSN. And they were able to do this by isolating the seismometers, by putting them in tanks, the airtight tanks, and putting them in vaults in which they had special ship type doors put on to give more of a time constant, a longer time constant for air pressure changes, and where in the WWSSN the highest magnification was 6,000 I think. In the HGLP the magnification at the same period went up to maybe 50 to 60,000.
Barth:Oh. That's an order of magnitude better.
Peterson: It was an order of magnitude better. We got involved in that and then we took over
essentially the program from Lamont and installed many of the stations and then supported the
stations after they were installed.
Barth:What time period is this?
Peterson: This was in the early '70s. As I recall it was probably '70, '71, '69, '70, '71, something.
Barth:So only late in the '60s the High-Gain became [important]. Where they Sprengnether
Peterson: Right. I think most of the work that Lamont did was around '68, '69, as far as research was concerned.
Barth:So it substituted the Sprengnethers or the Sprengnethers would be taken out of the —?
Peterson: No, these were entirely different and separate seismograph stations.
Peterson: They were usually installed where there was a WWSSN system already operating, but
they were entirely separate. The other feature of the High Gain Long Period system, a very important feature, was the fact that they recorded digitally. It was the first time seismographs were installed on a global basis that had digital recording. They had digital recorders, they were 12-bit ADCs, and not a lot of dynamic range, but it was a very new and a very important feature of the High Gain Long Period.
Barth:Let's come back for a moment to the installation phase. These were Geotech instruments, or at least manufactured by Geotech in Dallas, I guess?
Peterson:Geotech had a contract for the bulk of the instrumentation. The only thing that they didn't supply were the long period seismometers and long period galvanometers.
Barth:So the instruments, we have three Benioffs, three component Benioffs, three component
Sprengnethers, there was a broad-band and intermediate-band as far as I recall, plus galvanometers and recording drums and the big electronic rack.
Peterson: Yeah. No broad band or intermediate band.
Peterson: Just three long period and three short period.
Barth:Okay. And then how were they transported to the distant locations? To get something like this to the North Pole is a major undertaking.
Peterson: Yeah. Well, they were flown in not to [???] to the South Pole think, but we don't have a station on the North Pole; we have a station on the South Pole. They were flown in. Seismograph stations are often isolated, and so it becomes a real problem. I recall on some: railroad hand cars were used, I think some were sledded` across the lake in Finland to put a station in a place called Nurmijarvi, Finland, and some went by boat. A lot of different ways of getting instruments to —
Barth:Are there any records? Probably the installers had to write some kind of report about how hard or how difficult it was to install the instruments.
Peterson: Yeah, they had to write a technical report, but it was all pre-formatted. It was a pre-
formatted report where you just filled in, because what we were really concerned about its calibration.
Peterson: And so we spent a lot of time then recording a lot of different tests at the stations.
Unfortunately we didn't get a lot of — Some of the installers would write letters separate from the
reports explaining their experiences and this sort of thing, but we never got a really good collection of this sort of thing that really got all of the experiences down. There was a lot of discussions between installers about the best hotels and the best places to visit and the best restaurants in Bangkok and Kinshasa, Zaire, and all these different places, but we never got anything really documented on it. It's unfortunate.
Barth:Yes, unfortunate, because it would be a fascinating story about geophysics in the 20th
Barth:Are there still any of the installers around or —?
Peterson: Well, most of them are retired. I don't think that there are any installers here at the
laboratory anymore, working at the laboratory. Most, the majority of them are retired.
Barth:Your colleague [Charles R. Hutt] said we might have here a list of the names and background of the people. It would be interesting to look at this to see just who these people were and describe a little more in detail.
Barth:You said they had basically three people in the installation teams. Two?
Barth:Two plus a State Department person or —?
Peterson: No, the State Department was never involved.
Barth:So they had nothing to do with the installation? I can imagine it would be a major problem to get the stations, let's say, into India or Pakistan or Iraq, Iran.
Peterson: Yeah, yeah it was, and we dealt with the embassies in these countries. They were always informed of — Most of the agreements, and the WWSSN in those days you could do things a lot easier than you can today, and they were simply letter agreements. As I recall, letters went out from the Coast and Geodetic Survey, possibly signed by the director of the agency, but I'm not sure of that, to the director of the organization that operates the station in India or wherever it was. And in the case of India for example it would be the meteorological, the government meteorological department. So that was a government agency itself. And if they wrote a letter back saying that they agreed to accept the station under the conditions that they provide, they operate the stations, send the data and this sort of thing, that was all there was to it. There wasn't any formal agreement. It was very informal. But then of course right away copies of the letters would go to our embassy and to the State Department, and so they were aware of exactly where the project stood in the country. And we depended a lot on the embassies for help, for assistance in getting equipment in and for some logistical assistance getting data out.
Barth:Through Customs, getting instruments through Customs?
Peterson: Getting through Customs, and then in most cases the embassies helped us get the data
back from the station. The people at the stations would take the seismograms to the embassy and they would actually put it in a diplomatic pouch and send it back that way, frequently. Not all cases, but frequently. So we got a lot of assistance out of the State Department, and in particular the embassies, but the State Department itself was never very much involved in the mechanics.
Barth:So they didn’t have a special emissary who would be specializing on the problem to make contacts with —
Peterson: No, no.
Barth:That's interesting. So this basically went all on the level of scientists coordinating with other scientists.
Peterson: Right, right, right.
Barth:Let's think for a while about the development of the network. So when was it operational? When do we have the [network]? I think 125 stations were planned, but I think only 120 were installed in the long run?
Peterson: Yeah, I think there were 120 altogether. There may have been fewer than that. It may have been 115. I can't recall the exact number. But the last station was installed in 1967. But the first station was installed in 1961.
Barth:In the U.S.
Peterson: In the U.S. And the last station in 1967. But the bulk of the stations had been installed by 1965, most of the stations. I would hazard a guess now, I'd say that a hundred of them were installed by the end of 1965 and the last 15 maybe were installed in the last two years of the program. So it went in very rapidly once it — Actually, looking back it's quite amazing we were able to get the network put in that quickly.
Barth:So when could seismologists from other countries get the first results from the network?
Peterson: Well, they got them as soon as we installed the station in the form of seismograms from the instruments. And in foreign countries, some place we have a list of dates, and I'm looking for a copy of the book, but we have a list of dates that every station went in, and so I'm sure the first foreign stations went in in early 1962.
Barth:And then they would record the seismic events and send in seismograms once a month, once a week? I have no idea.
Peterson: The idea was that they would send them in every couple of months, and that was always a problem. We tried to get the data back as quickly as we could, and the stations were kind of reluctant to send off these original seismograms. And it was a big problem to overcome, because most stations kept their own seismograms at that period of time, and anybody who wanted to look at a seismogram would go to the station.
Barth:Which of course is impossible if you —
Peterson: And so it was a rather new trick to try to get people to give away their original
seismograms. We provided a photographic copying device where they could copy the records at the station. And unfortunately they didn't work too well. They did copy records before they sent the originals in to the Coast and Geodetic Survey, but it was always a problem getting the data back from the stations. And then we had a lot of difficulties in our data center. They really struggled to make microfilm of all these records, and there was a lot of equipment breakdowns, one thing or another, and so it turned out that a lot of the stations never got their originals back for about six to eight months.
Barth:So they were not happy about this.
Peterson: And they were unhappy about that, so it was always a problem. They would frequently hold their seismograms until they got their last ones back, and this sort of thing, and it became a serious problem. It hampered the program quite a bit. But ultimately we got all the records in.
Barth:Where was the data center actually located?
Peterson: Originally it started out at Washington and —
Barth:In the early '60s.
Peterson: Yeah. And then it was moved, there was reorganization during the '60s. The Coast and Geodetic Survey was merged with the Weather Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, and they took our seismic data center and merged it with the NOAA data center which was at Asheville, North Carolina. So they moved it down there. The people that knew how to do the work didn't want to move to Asheville, North Carolina, so that set everything back. I can't recall exactly what years these took place, but I think it was around '64 or '65. It was during the program, and so it caused a lot of problems. And then later in 1972 the seismology program in NOAA was transferred to the Geological Survey, so then the data center got moved again and it moved out to Golden, Colorado. And there were several moves involved and it kind of hurt the program.
Barth:How did the center work? So basically, from all over there were becoming piles of
seismograms and then they would try to film it on 70 millimeters or 35-millimeter film and then they would get requests, and, let's say, Lamont would just write the center and say we would like to have seismograms from the whole globe for the last four months, or how would it work?
Peterson: Well, a lot, not a lot, I can't recall the statistics. Someplace we've probably got them. But a number of organizations just put in blanket orders for copies of every seismogram. And not a lot. There are probably less than a dozen. And then other organizations, as you suggested, would write in and say they wanted seismograms for a certain period of time or they wanted seismograms for a particular event and they made copies for them.
Barth:There must be a very high demand for 1964 I would think, because of the Alaskan
Peterson: Yeah. That was very important. Unfortunately the Alaskan earthquake overdrove most of the WWSSN stations that were operating at that time. Even though they operated at what we would consider it a fairly low magnification, it's too high a magnification in a long period to record the Alaskan earthquake on scale. Virtually any magnitude 8 or greater earthquake would drive the whole network essentially off scale. There were some records that stayed on, but not many.
Barth:So then the network would be running basically smoothly let's say in '64 or '65, '66, and then suddenly funding problems appeared. What was behind these funding problems? Why was ARPA suddenly shutting off support?
Peterson: Well, ARPA didn't want to shut the program down, but ARPA's mission has always been to do research and development, to develop new systems and techniques and then get somebody else to, if they turned out to be valuable they would get somebody else to operate them. And it was always assumed that once the network got installed and got up and running and all the support was available and this sort of thing that the Coast and Geodetic Survey would take over the network. There was a problem: the money problem was in Congress essentially. Actually I think as I recall I'm just kind of conjecturing and trying to get my memory back. I wasn't intimately involved in all the dealings in Washington. I was out here. But it was pretty well set up that what would happen, Congress would, we were in the Department of Commerce at the time, and that the Appropriations Committee would provide money for the network. And this was about 1966, something like that, so that ARPA could switch the program over to the Coast and Geodetic Survey. And under the original plan ARPA would maintain its funding. This would be essentially new money. ARPA wanted to get their money back that they were investing in the WWSSN and start other projects. They didn't want their base lowered
by the amount of money required for the WWSSN. Everything would seem to be working fairly
well. For some reason, the story I have heard is that for some reason the Coast and Geodetic Survey wanted to delay the turnover one more year to it could have been 1965 to 1966 or 1966 to 1967. In any event, during that year delay the chairman of the House committee died and a new committee chairman took over. The new committee chairman was one of these fellows that was adamantly opposed to any kind of foreign aid, and he looked upon this program as foreign aid. They, I think decided that, or he decided or the committee decided that if ARPA were willing to lower their base of their money to turn over money to operate the program, that would be acceptable, but ARPA, the Department of Defense didn't want to do that. So it became a crisis situation, and in 1967 we just lost all our funding because ARPA didn't have money programmed for the project beyond 1967, and so it became a real problem.
Barth:What happened then? I mean then NSF tried to jump in?
Peterson: Well, not immediately. There was a space of about a year where we just had no funding for the foreign stations. In fact the Bill [NOAA Appropriations Bill] was written, as I recall, I can't be absolutely certain about this, but I think a Bill was written, NOAA was involved at that time, that allowed NOAA to provide support for the domestic stations but not a penny for the foreign stations. And the Bill specifically stated that money could not be used for that purpose. So I mean it really killed it. It wasn't just a question of the agency manipulating funds in order to keep the program going; they just were not allowed to do it. And so for about a year we didn't have any funding for the foreign stations. Fortunately we had enough supplies, photographic paper and things, so we kept the program going. Because we didn't have to buy new equipment or supplies. And then our agency, NOAA, did fund the domestic stations. Then NSF stepped in and provided funding so that we could establish re-support to the foreign [stations]. Actually we never had - The support continued, there wasn't a gap in the support of the foreign stations. But after that NSF stepped in and then — But from that point on the program was never adequately funded. Because it wasn't a line item in the Appropriations Bill for the program, so any agency involved in it had to scrap, scrape around for the money to operate the program. But there was so much interest in the program in the scientific
community that it would be impossible to stop the program. I mean it just would have been virtually impossible. So the program kept going, but it was never adequately funded and a lot of stations kind of, the situation sort of deteriorated. The important thing was we weren't able to get funding to upgrade the equipment. And so the network slowly became obsolete.
Barth:The operation of the network, as I could take from your articles, were about a million dollars per year, order of magnitude? Did this include primarily the data center operation and photographic paper and so on and so forth, the stations around the world, or what would be included in this?
Peterson: Well, I can't recall the numbers off the top of my head, but that sounds right, and yeah, that would have included — Did I say —? I don't recall whether that included the data center operations. I think it did.
Barth:And considering the foreign stations?
Peterson: The biggest item, the biggest cost item was the photographic paper. That was very
Barth: I'm kind of surprised because wasn't the WWSSN set up in a way that the foreign stations
would only get the new equipment if they could maintain and continue operation by themselves? So did they rely on the photographic paper coming through ARPA?
Peterson: They relied on the photographic paper, and no, the agreements were that they would
operate the station, they would provide the power, the space, the vault, and the operators to operate the station. But that all the supplies and all of the photographic paper and replacement parts and this sort of thing would be provided by us essentially. And in an awful lot of the stations — I'm thinking in terms of you know Pakistan, India, places like that, they wouldn't have been able to operate if they had had to provide their own photographic paper. There was a period of time, I can't recall exactly the dates but there was a period of time when silver had gotten very expensive. I think somebody cornered the silver market or something. And it had an enormous impact on the cost of paper. Each station required six sheets times let's say 400, and always some spare, 2400 sheets of paper a year, and I think originally we might have been paying 25 or 30 cents a sheet or 40 cents a sheet, and it went up to a dollar and a dollar and a half and this sort of thing, so it got extremely [expensive]: $2400 or $2500 per station, plus the shipping, which was quite expensive. To supply a station it would cost four or five thousand a year, and then a hundred of those, so it was a very big, very big item. That was the biggest item. And that was one of the reasons why when we did get some money, and I guess it was in the 1970s, we went to thermal recording. Actually —
Peterson: The paper [was] much cheaper, yeah, than the photographic.
Barth:So the photographic paper is basically an Ilford or a Kodak emulsion or —?
Peterson: It was Kodak paper that we used.
Barth:Specially designed for seismographic work?
Peterson: I don't know whether they designed it especially for us or not. A lot of people at that time used photographic paper for seismograph recording, and Kodak provided — I'm not sure whether it was a special development or not.
Barth:There are always problems of course with photographic paper when you have to operate in areas with high temperature fluctuations. Was there any problem showing up there?
Peterson: We didn't have that much of a problem with the paper. What we did have problems with: Customs officials that would open the boxes of photographic paper to see that it was photographic paper and destroy a lot of it. But it was very well packed. It was never opened from the time it left the factory. It was packed and it was sealed up in special wrapping, and so it was very well protected.
Barth:And concerning the instrument, what kind of order of magnitude are we talking here? I mean if you have a vertical Benioff [seismograph] in the Geotech form with a cover, order of magnitude in dollars, how much would an instrument like this be?
Peterson: Oh, I can't recall the cost of those instruments. I think the whole station, the number that sticks in my mind is that the entire system cost about $20,000-$25,000 back in 1960, yeah.
Barth:Which is comparatively small of course when we look at Vela systems, other Vela systems. One ocean bottom seismograph could be of the same order of magnitude.
Peterson: Absolutely. The stations that we have been installing recently we normally figures couple hundred thousand, a hundred and fifty, a hundred, two hundred thousand dollars for a seismograph station equivalent of modern equipment.
Barth:Who were your closest associates here at the Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory during this time, let's say 1960 to 1970?
Peterson:When I came out to the laboratory there were I believe seven or eight people working here. The only one that's still here is Alvin Garcia, he worked in the shop. The director was Judd Wirz, and we brought in all these people, because all the installers headquartered here at that period of time. So we had a lot of people moving out here. I became the director in '67 I think of the laboratory and well, we had a lot of people, a lot — [laughs]
Barth:It's hard to remember, yeah.
Peterson: It's not so hard to remember, but there were a lot of people involved in the program. Hal Butler and John Hoffman and Cliff Cran were three of the people in the program that stayed with us for quite some time afterward.
Barth:They were geologists or engineers?
Peterson: Most of the people that we hired were geophysicists that had been working in the oil field, in oil exploration. And it turned out that just about the time that this program started in the late '50s and early '60s there was a real depression in the oil industry, and so there were a lot of these guys available. They had never had any experience with this kind of seismic equipment, but a lot of them had had experience operating the exploration type seismic equipment.
Barth:So that was much higher frequency instruments.
Peterson: Yeah. Much higher frequency instruments. But they worked in very well. It worked out very, very well, and we had a lot of very good people working on the program. And most of them stayed, most of the people who belonged, who worked for the Coast and Geodetic Survey stayed in the organization after the program ended and went to observatories, operated observatories that the government operates around the country and in Hawaii and in places like this, Guam, Alaska.
Barth:Coming back to your own career. You stayed here in the Albuquerque lab until 1994?
Peterson: Oh boy, I wish my memory were better. Yeah, I retired I think in '90. When did I move up to Colorado? In '93. I was up there three years. I must have retired in 1992. I worked for a year as what they call a re-hired annuitant, because I wanted to finish a report on earth noise, and then at the end of that year I essentially didn't work for the Geological Survey anymore and we moved to Colorado and then moved back this year ago. Yeah. So I was here for about 30 years, 31 years.
Barth:Did the earth noise study develop out of the Worldwide Network work or —?
Peterson: Well, actually all of us that are involved in installing seismographs are very interested in earth noise, because we are all trying to find better sites for our instruments and so it's something that we just probably are involved with more than most people in seismology, because we have a real interest in earth noise.
Barth:I tried once to follow the history of noise studies. It's really very complicated, because it started already with people like Gutenberg in the '20s or even earlier, and constantly new sources were found and it looks like a very messy, complicated subject because there are so many different sources.
Peterson: Yeah. What I did was model the earth noise. I wasn't as concerned about the cause of the noise as I was of modeling the noise as a function of frequency so that instruments can be designed better, the broad band instruments in particular.
Barth:So you designed instruments yourself?
Peterson: I used to, years ago, back in the '60s and '70s, but no, not for a long time. Yeah, when I first came out here to this laboratory there weren't many companies that were actually building seismographs, so —
Barth:Which come to mind as…
Peterson: Well, Geotech and Lehner-Griffith, the forerunner I think of Kinemetrics and
Sprengnether, those were the three. But they cropped up kind of late in the late '50s. The Coast and Geodetic Survey, as I recall, got involved in seismology, the first government agency got involved in seismology during the '30s and '40s. I think there was a tsunami occurred I think in the early '40s that affected Hawaii, and it was about that time that the Coast and Geodetic Survey got interested in locating earthquakes because they wanted to be able to predict the tsunamis. And so that's how they got involved and they established networks. The big networks at the time were the Jesuit networks around the world, and it was very interesting because I've met a lot of the Jesuits who were involved in our stations. It was really a good network, good group of people and the Coast and Geodetic Survey got a lot of its data from the Jesuit network until it had its own network established.
Barth:I was thinking about Father Macelwane and William Stauder and —
Peterson: Right. These were St. Louis people, but Father Cabro at La Paz, Bolivia, and Father
Ramirez in Columbia, they are around the world. In Ethiopia there is a Jesuit station. They were all over. And so a lot of our WWSSN stations went into these locations that were in observatories that have been operated by Jesuits. And many of them still are. And I think Indonesia was a Jesuit station. And there were a lot of them around the world.
Barth:What kind of professional affiliations did you have during your active period in the '60s and '70s? Were you involved with the Seismological Society or the Society for Exploration
Geophysicists, or were there other organizations?
Peterson: Well, I think I belonged to the Seismological Society and the AGU during that period of time, but our laboratory here was principally instrument development and managing networks,
installing and managing networks and we didn't get involved a lot in research here, particularly
seismological research. Any research we did was usually instrument related. We got to know all the scientists because we dealt with them, they were at their stations because almost all of them had WWSSN or the newer type of stations after we put it in. So we knew these people. Well, we didn't have a lot of research affiliations or things like this, because it was just a totally different environment. It was instrument development and —
Barth:Is this true also for people like Hugo Benioff and other instrument designers?
Peterson: Well, he was sort of before our time. I mean that was really before. I don't think Benioff - No, we didn't have any interaction. While this laboratory was here we never had any interaction.
Barth:Yeah. Who comes to mind is Stuart Smith from Caltech as well. I think he continued
Peterson: Well, we had a lot of interaction with Stuart Smith, but it was later with the IRIS
[Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology] program, because he was president of IRIS for a period of time when we were engaged in developing the new instruments for IRIS.
Barth:Well, I think we covered quite a bit of ground. And thank you so much for your information. Thanks a lot.
Peterson: Yeah. You're welcome.