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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Marie Tharp

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Interview with Dr. Marie Tharp
By Tanya Levin
At South Nyack, New York
May 24, 1997

 
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Marie Tharp; May 24, 1997

ABSTRACT: Tharp is able to go on an Eastward cruise. Describes the ship, conditions on board, and the science performed. Recounts how certain scientists reacted to life at sea. Her participation on the cruise. Women on the Eastward. Describes where people worked in the Lamont mansion. Her opinion that W. Maurice Ewingís secretary, and later wife, Harriet disrupted the relationships between Ewing and his students. The atmosphere at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) described and reasons given for Ewingís departure from WHOI. Ewing chooses not to compete with WHOI in the fields of physical oceanography and biology, areas in which WHOI excelled. Explains why Menardís research on the Pacific Ocean for Scripps Oceanographic Institute was more complicated than Lamontís Atlantic work. Pacific is less straightforward and not symmetrical. Details the student riots at Columbia University and the closing of the Bermuda station. Discusses classified research, the ease and generosity of funding, and concerns about military funding of research during the Cold War. The First International Oceanographic Congress mentioned. Meets Soviet Union scientists, Vladimir Belousov, Lev Zenkevitch and Gleb Udintsev. Bruce Heezenís Latin American student, Nicholas Munoz recalled. After Ewingís departure in 1972 for Galveston, Manik Talwani becomes interim, and then permanent, director. Her opinion for why Talwani was hired and later fired, given. Following Ewingís departure, Tharp is paid through Columbia University. Heezen, as well as Tharp and other women, can now take cruises on the Vema. Tharp makes Vema cruise 34. The release of data. Discusses the data used and the challenges to interpreting the data in the making of the 1977 world map. Details of the maps change over time in response to an increase in information and knowledge of the ocean floor. Recounts the mapping of fracture zones and the rift valley. Discusses mistakes made, particularly that of the drawing of the Indian Ocean ridge and the fracture zones in the South Pacific.

Transcript

Session I | Session II | Session III | Session IV

Levin:

This is May 24, 1997 and this is an interview with Marie Tharp. And this is a continuing interview. And Iím Tanya Levin, and weíre doing this in Nyack, New York.

Tharp:

South Nyack.

Levin:

South Nyack. Thank you. I was wondering. Your first cruise — it was on the Eastward? What was that like?

Tharp:

Oh. Well, thereís a picture of the Eastward on the stairs up there. In case you want to see it when we are disengaged.

Levin:

Okay.

Tharp:

And, oh the Eastward was a ship designed by Bruce [Heezen] and [Robert S.] Menzies. It was a hundred foot long motor boat with all the attachments needed to do research at sea. And, you know, it had a boiler room and an engine — it wasnít a sailboat — and it had a galley where they cooked. They had a banister around the galley so pots wouldnít land on the floor when they were cooking during a storm, and they had a booth where we ate, you know, at intervals. And Bruce had let me go on the cruise because girls werenít allowed on the Vema at all by Dr. Ewing, ever.

Levin:

Really? Had you wanted to go?

Tharp:

Oh sure, but there had to be another girl. So the other girl that went with me was Hester Raring, and she was Bruceís secretary. So she and I went and we shared a bunk, I mean a room. And I was on top bunk and she was on the bottom bunk. And we had one john between us. And then in the next room over were two guys, and they shared the same john as us. And we had a sink in our room. So it was nice. And it was a whole bunch of Bruceís students and [Charles] Hollister was on it, and Allen Lowery and Jim [James] Casein. And somewhere I have pictures of all the guys on the cruise. I donít know where those pictures are.

The Eastward didnít have a motorized winch and so when they pulled up the coring rig or whatever was one, they had to do it by hand. On a slippery deck, you know, it was real scary with the shipís heaving to and fro, and all these guys attached to a rope, puffing up several hundred pounds of, you know, science. But they got cores and they had a camera station, a single shot camera station. And I guess they had a rock dredge and a sounder. And I donít think they were doing any refraction work, no. But what happened, they lost the coring rig over the side one day when the rope broke. And just before it broke, [William] Ruddiman had been sitting on the banister right under the bridge. And the captain told him, you know, hereís a rope under great pressure over the side, and thereís Ruddiman sitting there on the banister. I thought he shouldnít be there. Then the captain says, ďGet off the banister and get away from the rope, you know, itís over the side.Ē And about five seconds after he moved, the rope broke. He could have been killed by that rope breaking under tension.

Levin:

Wow!

Tharp:

So, that was a close call for him. But anyhow, now they couldnít take cores. So what did they do, they decided to take pictures. They had a dark room on board and some of the guys would develop the pictures. They kept taking pictures, and pictures, and pictures. And finally they got interesting pictures showing scour and rocks and ripples and what not. They were in such a hurry to develop the pictures, when they came up they had a big set of black bloomers that they put the film in, you know, to keep it from getting light struck. They got to chasing the Western Boundary Current. So they went around like that and they kept doing that. When we got home, Bruce and Charlie decided to write a paper because they had discovered evidence of geostrophic currents. And so they worked real hard and made a lot of illustrations. Ruddiman was an author on the paper too, but he wasnít quite as noisy as those other guys but Iím sure he had a lot of input. I guess he was a paleontologist. And so it came out, and it was, you know, one of those benchmark papers because it established the existence of the Western Boundary, geostrophic contour currents. I can give you a reprint if you donít have one.

Levin:

Oh, that would be great.

Tharp:

Oh, all right.

Levin:

Well, I imagine you had some input too on this.

Tharp:

Oh no, that was my first cruise. That was my first cruise. I didnít have much input. I knew what was going on and I was the only one that didnít get sea sick.

Levin:

Really?

Tharp:

One way to get yourself popular. It was interesting for me to be on a cruise. And so after that cruise on the Eastward, Bruce expected every time he had the Eastward for a cruise, he expected it to produce a paper. Not just a paper, but a benchmark paper. But, of course, if it happened I donít remember when. Because he didnít always take me on the Eastward. But he would take some girls, or two — they come in pairs. I donít know why.

Levin:

Well, did you want to go again? Did you?

Tharp:

Oh sure. The next time we got to go. See the Eastward was set up by Duke University with a lot of three weeks cruises scheduled for professors throughout the United States who could come on board with their programs and their students. Basically it was to teach aspiring oceanographic students what life at sea was like. Now we had some students go out on those cruises, and they couldnít stand life at sea. One guy who was skinny to start with, he was so sea sick he only drank Cokes, and so he opted for land geology, and the last we heard from him he was in Arizona. But that was one of the purposes of the student vessel, to find out if they could take life at sea. Bruce himself always got sea sick. From the first cruise he ever went on. But he liked it enough, he stuck with it.

Levin:

Was that typical, that a lot of people did get sea sick?

Tharp:

Well, it wasnít typical, but every once in a while someone would get so sea sick that theyíd have to change their profession. Troy [L.] Holcombe got sea sick, but he stayed with it, and he did real well. He did real well. He stayed with it even though he did get sea sick. Heís the head of the National Geophysical Date Center [NGDC] out in Boulder now.

Levin:

What did you do while you were on the boat?

Tharp:

Oh I donít know. I guess I stood watch. And you watch the records come in. And everybody has to stand watch for some four hour shift and you, so you tell the ET if somethingís wrong, you know. And I guess you just write down the time and the depth and everyone gets their turn at that. And Bruce would never take more than two girls because they couldnít pull the weight when they were without a winch. And the men, the guys, had to pull, heave ho, the gear on board the ship. And that was a manís job. One day, the ship was all full of great huge manganese nodules which we had dredged up which were as big as basketballs — they were gorgeous. But we ran into a storm and they were rolling all over the deck. So some volunteers had to go out and retrieve them from the deck before they were lost. Oh they did water samples too. Yes, they had some guys in there with Nansen tubes doing water samples. And usually I brought along the profiles in the area, and the sounding sheets, so that theyíd know where to go. So they wouldnít repeat the tracks. And Iíd have a profile of what it looked like. And then theyíd go between the tracks so it wouldnít repeat the profile. That was what I usually did when I went on any cruise. Paper work. Being a girl.

Levin:

It certainly was important that they didnít repeat the track.

Tharp:

Oh yes, because there was so little data. In those days, so little data. Every bit counted.

Levin:

Did you get the feeling that they felt that women on board were more of a detriment, more in the way?

Tharp:

No. I never had that feeling. They were always pretty nice to us. You know, both the crew and the scientists. No, the guys were always nice to us. Every ship I went on, the guys were always nice to us girls. You know, theyíd come and eat with you and stuff.

Levin:

I know you left Lamont about 1965, but while you were there in the early fifties, what was Lamont like?

Tharp:

Oh. Oh, oh well, first we were all in the big house. And, you know, we were less than ten people rattling around in that big mansion. And at first, we only had one phone on the second floor landing. That was unbelievable. And gradually more people came out. Bruce took over the Lamont daughterís bedroom and her bathroom because he liked the view up the river. And Dave Ericson took over the big room that had been the dining room. Frank Press took over another of the rooms. The Lamontís had four children. So the four bedrooms were occupied by Frank Press, Bruce and then another room was occupied by [Walter C.] Beckmann. There were several guys in the last room across the hall. Later, George Sutton was in the room across from Frank Press. Ewing took the morning room as his office. And that was, you know, I guess thatís where youíre staying isnít it, in the morning room?

Levin:

Right.

Tharp:

That used to be his office and on this side was Mrs. Lamontís bedroom, and on this side was Mr. Lamontís bedroom and a closet and a bath for each one. And then the morning room with that pretty fireplace. That was where Ewing worked. And he had a secretary in one. And in the other were different graduate students. Jack [E.] Oliver had that room for a while. And E.T. Miller and Doc usually had one or two secretaries in the other room. And then in the early days it was real nice because all the guys could go in and see Dr. Ewing like visiting a professor anytime they wanted to. And they liked it. But when one of the secretaries came up and wanted him to have office hours, then you had to make an appointment.

Levin:

— And that was Harriett [Ewing]?

Tharp:

— Harriett. And so they all hated her from the beginning. But she eventually married Doc.

Levin:

Did it get worse after she married?

Tharp:

I think so. I think so. It all changed. The professor/student relationship which was so precious dissolved. Or it became very forbidding. Some students could survive it and some couldnít.

Levin:

Do you think some left because they couldnít?

Tharp:

Oh, well not many because there was no place else to go. Thatís why very few people ever left Lamont. There just wasnít another place where you had a ship and data and stuff to work on. A few of them left, but not many, not many.

Levin:

Were they thinking about Woods Hole [Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution or Scripps as possibilities of places to go?

Tharp:

Yes, but we had come from WHOI for a lot of reasons — Dr. Ewing and his bunch of guys left WHOI because it was such a leisurely gentlemanís place. And Doc and Joe [J. Lamar Worzel] worked twenty-eight hours a day, and they had a lot of work to do during the war and stuff. And they worked overtime. And they didnít fit in. And I guess there was, there must have been, some conflict over what programs to use the money for, I donít know. But anyhow, Ewing left — he didnít think he could make it there — and when he got the appointment at Columbia, he came here. Regarding WHOI, there probably were a lot of reasons he left, and he brought Joe Worzel with him, and Frank Press and Angelo Ludas and Bruce, of course P.C. Wuenschell, Sam Katz, and I forget who else. Allyn Vine, the guy who built the submarine, he stayed up there. Ewing was very particular, when he came to Lamont, not to do physical oceanography — water studies — or biology. Because they had a head start up there.

Levin:

And he didnít want to repeat it?

Tharp:

Yes. No, he wanted something different. Because you know they had a Marine Biology Lab [MBL] there and theyíd done biology since the 1850s, and they had [Henry] Stommel and they knew all about the Gulf Stream and all this physical oceanography and currents. And so those are the programs that didnít get much support at Lamont. Because he didnít want to compete. And so Ewing was more interested in perfecting his ocean bottom seismometer and then his free-floating seismometer. And then finally the towed air gun as a sound source for the profiler records which would go through the mud to the bottom of the rock basement, He wanted to emphasize that since he invented it. He emphasized it and it got better and better and better. And John Hennion was the only fatality they ever had. During the TNT days when they threw half pound charges of TNT over board for sound source. But after Johnís death there was more interest in developing an air gun. So they developed one, a safer one, towed three hundred feet behind the ship, and it was much safer. The records kept getting better and better and better. And so Ė

Levin:

So what kind of relation with Scripps? Were they also trying to avoid duplicating?

Tharp:

Oh, well Bruce and [William] Menard were very good friends and they worked it out such that Bruce and Lamont worked in the Atlantic. That was as far as our ship could go in the beginning. Menard was out in Scripps and he sort of took over the Pacific Ocean. They were good friends. They are such big oceans, you couldnít be rivals or envious. But Menard had such an asymmetrical ocean with all sorts of problems. He wasnít as good at solving his problems as Bruce was because we had an easy ocean. Menard had a tough one. Itís very tough. And all those islands. And they couldnít figure out why they were in a line and some werenít in a line. And why the Mid-Ocean Ridge wasnít in the middle of the ocean like it is in the Atlantic. And they just couldnít figure all those things out at first. But our ocean was real easy. It was symmetrical.

Levin:

Thatís very helpful. Do you remember reading Silent Spring when it came out and was previewed?

Tharp:

On, not in detail. But that prose was great, wasnít it? Yes. That was before they realized the harm that would come from shooting off nuclear bombs, you know, for science. Let alone the war, but for science. They didnít realize it was bad.

Levin:

Or pesticides.

Tharp:

They didnít realize it was bad.

Levin:

There was a time of great upheaval especially among the students in the sixties. Did you see a lot of the social protests?

Tharp:

No. Not out here, but we sure heard about them. That was in Ď68. There was a riot first in California and then in Chicago and then here. And, you know, the students were protesting Vietnam and they were mad at Columbia for doing secret war research. So had to close down the Bermuda station, the Bermuda SOFAR station. And those guys came from Bermuda and worked around here in the area and kept a low profile. And then the head of it went to Washington, and I donít know what they do in Bermuda now. Maybe itís biology. I donít know what happened after the students threw out the classified war research, because thatís where they did all their classified work. And there was a lot of unrest there. The best account of the riots at Columbia was written by this guy, Archibald Cox, the one that [Richard] Nixon fired that Saturday night. Heíd been a lawyer and he wrote this detailed book as an observer of the riot. He really understood the riots. And I didnít go down during the riots. I didnít think it was safe. The students would go down. Bruceís students would go down and see what was going on but I didnít. And you know, it got so that the professors would have to carry fountain pens in their coat pockets filled with tear gas or something in case they got attacked.

Levin:

Really? So they were quite concerned about being attacked by the students?

Tharp:

Yes. And, you know, theyíd jump out of windows. It was quite violent. But if you ever can get that book, it was such a good description. I had a paper back version for a long time. I havenít seen it lately. I guess I gave it to somebody or something.

Levin:

Were the people at Lamont as worried about attack?

Tharp:

No. No. Not out here. But on the campus they were.

Levin:

I know that they did close Bermuda. And there was, even among Lamont, there was a question as to whether they should continue the classified research.

Tharp:

Oh, well you couldnít do it after they closed it. And I guess other classified research went on but they just didnít talk about it. No one knew where it was being conducted. Bruce was on the NR-1, which was a classified nuclear sub, and we never were allowed to mention the name and of course it was doing the classified research. There was a lot of classified research going on. You couldnít stop that because there was a Cold War. And even if the dumb students didnít know it, boy, you know, it took twenty more years for the Cold War to get over. So they had to do classified research elsewhere.

Levin:

It certainly was a big part of the funding as well. Getting the contracts from the government and the military.

Tharp:

Well it wasnít very hard during the Cold War. It wasnít hard when we started. We were the first ones to get funded by the Office of Naval Research because Ewing and Worzel and his people had done so much to develop SONAR [Sound, Navigation, and Ranging]. And they themselves won the Battle of the Atlantic beating up the German submarine wolf packs, and they never got credit for it. They were very important, you know, they were just as important as the atom bomb stopping the Japanese nonsense. You know, they just dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and that ended the war. And so science came out on top. And, you know, funding was very generous for everybody. It was most generous for the seismologists though because they discovered that the nuclear bombs the Russians were setting off could be detected on our earthquake records, you know, underground records. They could do the timing and know when the bomb went off and everything. So then Congress gave the seismologists at Lamont, like Frank Press and after he left, Jack Oliver, a lot of money. Theyíve always been the best funded group there because of that. They could use the seismograph records to detect the nuclear blasts that the Russians werenít supposed to be doing. And it was, and then some guy in 1962 set up the World Wide Standard Seismograph Network [WWSSN], and they had one or two hundred seismograph stations all over the world. And that was just wonderful because they could pinpoint the earthquake epicenters very accurately. Before that, you couldnít locate them closer than two or three degrees, you know, at the most fifteen miles, maybe up to sixteen miles because they werenít that accurate. The primitive ones. That was a great thing when they got that seismograph network set up all over the world.

Levin:

Thatís interesting, [Jack E.] Oliver and [Walter] Pitman — they wrote to the Columbia student journal of their concern that military funding and investment by outside government agencies would stifle the spirit of free inquiry. Do you remember them writing that? Writing anything like that?

Tharp:

Oh, yes there was always that feeling. It was especially notable at Harvard. The president there — who was the president in those days? He didnít want any government funding because he thought — they didnít want any government funding because of the, it would stifle free inquiry. And Bruce and I thought it was ridiculous, because you either get government funding to do research or there ainít nothing. And so we thought they were really stupid. But it was a fact. It was well known at Harvard. And I think maybe thatís one of the reasons they never developed into a scientific organization as much in science as Lamont and Columbia and WHOI did.

Levin:

Do you think that this created tensions between people like you and Bruce and others supported this view that the funding was needed? As opposed to say Pitman and Oliver who were arguing against it?

Tharp:

I wasnít aware that and Oliver argued against it.

Levin:

They were certainly concerned about where the funds were coming from.

Tharp:

They were concerned because it was coming from the Department of Defense? Huh. I didnít know that those two were pacifists. I really didnít. Iím surprised. Huh. But I think they were in the minority because we survived. And Iím surprised at Oliver — you mean Jack Oliver wrote that? When it was his department that benefited so much from the World Wide Standard Network. You know when they set up all this other stuff, and found out how valuable his records were. I donít know what the reasoning was. Did they mention that to you recently?

Levin:

No, actually it was published in 1970.

Tharp:

Oh.

Levin:

Yes. They wrote it up in the Columbia University Press publication.

Tharp:

Huh. Well, I guess they have to be sorry they ever said that, or wrote it. Theyíll rue the day they said that.

Levin:

In about Ď65 or Ď66 there was a meeting in Moscow, the Second International Oceanographic Congress.

Tharp:

Yes.

Levin:

There was some sort of a controversy there with Bruce, and with Ewing. Do you — what happened at that conference?

Tharp:

Oh dear. Oh. Oh it was so complicated I donít know where to start. Who else have you talked to on that subject? I wonít repeat what anyone else has said.

Levin:

Is this where it started the difficulties between Bruce and Doc?

Tharp:

No. No. Those difficulties started, we donít know when or why. But they started in the late fifties.

Levin:

Really, that far back?

Tharp:

And they just got worse and worse. Itís just something you lived with. That wasnít the start of it. It wasnít the start of it. Moscow wasnít the start of it. But that was maybe one of the climaxes.

Levin:

In the Moscow meeting there was some dispute about data.

Tharp:

Oh yes, thereís tons of stuff written on that. And I donít know if Ron Doel has the right amount from the right people or not. I was thinking itís an interesting fact in the history of Lamont. Itís a very interesting fact. And I was thinking about it before you came since I had been getting some stuff ready for Ron Doel on that very subject. But I sort of gathered he didnít, wasnít interested in it.

Levin:

Oh no. [cross talk]

Tharp:

So I was going to get that stuff all together and put in order from the beginning.

Levin:

Oh no. [cross talk]

Tharp:

It takes me a while to find things in this heap, and I may have lost it. But I was starting out from the beginning and going straight through. And it got so much publicity. So much publicity. Time Magazine, Saturday Review and a lot of publicity. And I have all the stuff. I was trying to follow through on that theme. I was thinking the other day that I was going to give it to Ron Doel and I didnít think heíd be interested. I can dig it out again, but not now.

Levin:

Yes. Another time. Thatíd be great.

Tharp:

You mean youíd really be interested in that?

Levin:

Yes.

Tharp:

Huh. Really? Huh. Because, the first International Oceanographic Congress in the summer of 1959 was the first one held down at the UN. Bruce gave thirteen papers. It was a great triumph for him. Ewing sat in his tent and pouted all the time, and wouldnít even go.

Levin:

Why?

Tharp:

I donít know. I donít know.

Levin:

Interesting.

Tharp:

It was an interesting meeting. Mary Sears edited the big volume of those papers. She was at WHOT so she got everyoneís papers and published it in this big volume, edited by Mary Sears. Bruce published a lot of papers in it. So when the second Congress came along, the first had been such a bang for everyone because everything was new, there wasnít anything very spectacular and new except Bruce and the magnetic story. So I have all that stuff from the beginning to the end of that shebang.

Levin:

Well, then weíll get to it later.

Tharp:

I canít get it for you now because itís all mixed up. I sort of figured that. Well, I can dig it out again.

Levin:

Okay, thatís fine. I was interested though — you mentioned in an early interview about [Vladimir I.] Belousov and about how he came over.

Tharp:

Who?

Levin:

The Russian scientist, Belousov.

Tharp:

Yes, Belousov.

Levin:

Belousov. About how he and Bruce would go out and Belousov would have a tail always.

Tharp:

Yes.

Levin:

How did you know, how did you recognize that this was a tail?

Tharp:

Oh he wasnít allowed to come without a tail. Everybody in the State Department told us that. He was one of the first contacts with the Russians after World War II. You know that was in the fifties. And as far as we knew, they were all spies and evil people.

Levin:

So they didnít try to be subtle about it at all.

Tharp:

No.

Levin:

About the second man.

Tharp:

And he was a very distinguished scientist. Elderly man. Dr. Belousov.

Levin:

What was he like?

Tharp:

A very nice man. Dignified and smart and reserved and he had to put up with this pip-squeak of a tail and we all knew why he was there. And Bruce, to Bruce he seemed like his father. You know, he took him all around to the Empire State Building and showed him all around. It was the first Russian weíd ever met. Some people were scared to come to work that day because the Russians were going to come out and visit us. And then [Lev Aleksandrovich] Zenkevitch came. Zenkevitch was a biologist and he was a friend of Menzies. And they were thrilled to death to meet him. And the Russian contingent at the first meeting was very substantial. There were a lot of Russians there. And we were crazy to meet them. One of then, [Gleb B.] Udintsev, who was Bruceís friend, didnít get to come because he was not a party member. So they kept him at home. But he got loose later.

Levin:

Do you know how he got loose?

Tharp:

No. Just came as a scientist. I donít remember. I should have kept notes on all the times that he came. But I never did. Because he and Bruce were great friends.

Levin:

Do you remember any Latin Americans?

Tharp:

Only one who was Bruceís student. He was Nicholas Munoz. He was one of his early students who had to leave before he got his degree. He got his masterís and he had to leave to go back there before he got his Ph.D. But he did finish his Ph.D. at Madrid I believe.

Levin:

In Madrid.

Tharp:

Yes. As an off-campus student. But he was from South America I believe.

Levin:

Do you know why he had to leave?

Tharp:

Itís written down somewhere, but I donít remember. It might have been family troubles. I donít remember. If you want to know, itís available somewhere. Heís the only one I remember as a student from Latin America. Bruce lectured in Mexico. He went down there. He liked Mexico City. They had a great museum. But I never got to go to Mexico.

Levin:

In 1972 Ewing left. What was the effect of his departure?

Tharp:

Oh, what a loaded question. It just depends, depends who you are. Everyone will have a different view. Well the ones that were sad that he was leaving, went with him. Joe Worzel and Archie and, oh six or eight guys went with him, plus Harriett, plus a truck load of files. And I forget all the students that went with him and stayed with him in Galveston. And they sort of started another Lamont with one ship. Instead of just towing one sound source, they towed first two sound guns, and then more and more. So finally they had a swath of forty-eight on each side. So they could get a lot of good records. Do you want that door closed? You must be cold. Why donít you close it? Iím sorry. Thatís a big draft. [Pause to close door]

Levin:

What was it like for those who stayed?

Tharp:

Well, first they tried to get another director. They had an interim director, and I believe it was Manik Talwani who was appointed interim director.

Levin:

Why do you think they decided upon Talwani?

Tharp:

Well, Bruce said it was so Columbia University could get points because he was an Indian. You know with affirmative action you get points if you hire a non-American. Besides he was very brilliant. He was an alternate Rhodes Scholar from India. He was very bright. So he got the interim appointment, and then he got the permanent job. Bruce said heíd be a failure because he didnít know enough about American culture to raise money. And thatís what happened to him. He got fired because he couldnít raise money. Because he didnít know how to raise money. He didnít have any connections with the U.S. Navy. He was just a theoretical type. You know, that stuff was all beneath him. He was a scientist. He should never have had an administrative position. So he got fired Christmas Eve one year. There was a big scene at Lamont.

Levin:

How did it happen?

Tharp:

Well they just fired him.

Levin:

Really? The staff got together. Do you remember who was in on it?

Tharp:

Oh Bruce was there. And probably everyone at Lamont was there. And they just read him the riot act. Hasnít anyone told you about that?

Levin:

A little bit. There was also concern with the direction in which Talwani was going. How he wasnít really responding to the changes that needed to take place in Lamont.

Tharp:

Yes, you couldnít get a professorship through. And everyone was against him because of — he was no politician. He wouldnít help this guy get more help, or that guy get more degrees, or anything. And they even got a letter and ganged up on the whole fraternity outside of Lamont.

Levin:

Oh really.

Tharp:

So he was at that.

Levin:

That was quite something. There was also something said about the environmental movement.

Tharp:

I donít know when that came in because I was always on the bottom of ocean here. Iíve been isolated from the lab. I worked at home since 1965 and I never went back. Part of that time I was paid by the U.S. Navy. And then, when Ewing got fired, then I could get paid through Lamont. Ewing had stopped all of Bruceís funding through Columbia. Then I had to get paid directly from the Navy in Washington.

Levin:

Was there a thought when Ewing left that perhaps you might be able to go back to Lamont?

Tharp:

I couldnít go back because this whole house was work space. Every room had maps, fries, people. You wouldnít believe it. So physically I couldnít go back, but I did get paid through Columbia University instead of through the U.S. Navy directly. Actually we were always paid by the U.S. Navy. Ordinarily Columbia administered the contracts. After that, you know, I got to go on some cruises. The first time any girl ever got on a Lamont ship was after Ewing left. He was very anti-women.

Levin:

And Talwani was a little bit better about that? About women at Lamont?

Tharp:

I donít know. Because I was so isolated. I donít know how women made out then. I really donít.

Levin:

What did you say, Billie Press and the other women at Lamont did under Ewing?

Tharp:

Oh Billie Press was Frank Pressís wife. She had nothing to do with the science. She just had one or two children, lived on the grounds, brought up the children. Frank Press was a very bright guy, and it was always thought that when [Beno] Gutenberg died, Frank was going to be his successor. So Frank was only at Lamont seven years. You know, he got his degree, and then when Gutenberg left, then died or whatever, Frank left to go out and become director of the California Institute of Technology.

Levin:

Iím going to turn the tape over.

Tharp:

Ewing didnít let Bruce go to sea from Vema 18 until Vema 34. So Bruce got to go sea after Ewing left. We had a cruise together on the Vema — Vema 34.

Levin:

So you did go on the Vema after that?

Tharp:

Yes. Just once.

Levin:

Interesting. So Talwani loosened the restrictions under that on the ships.

Tharp:

I donít know how much Talwani had to do with that because Iím not sure when he got fired.

Levin:

Talwani was fired in Ď81.

Tharp:

In Ď81.

Levin:

So he was there for Ė-

Tharp:

Quite a while.

Levin:

Quite awhile.

Tharp:

I donít know who it was that loosened up the restriction. I think it probably was because Ewing locked up all his profiler records so Bruce couldnít use them. Ewing kept them locked up in one of his closets for ten years. And neither Bruce nor his students could use them. So when they were released, we had to get busy and hire a lot of people to, you know, go through the data so I could use it, you know. And, you know, read the depths and plot them on the map and stuff. He also had the photographs locked up in his other closet. So when Bruce and Charlie were writing their book, they couldnít use the Lamont photos. They used a few, but not very many.

Levin:

You were telling me too, off tape, about how it was your job to find the quotes to start the chapters off. And you were saying it was quite challenging.

Tharp:

Yes. It was. It was. That was our dinner time cocktail exercise.

Levin:

Really?

Tharp:

Because Iíd have to find several quotes before it would pass muster. You know we used everything we could think of.

Levin:

Where were you getting most of these quotes from?

Tharp:

I donít know. Just here and there. Bruce liked quotes. They just came to light. If you have a copy of the book. If not, thereís one in the other room. I donít suppose you want to take the time? Well, anyhow, I donít know who it was that got the data released, but I think it probably might have been somebody outside of Lamont. Because they set up the World Data Center in Colorado, with the rules that the person who got the data could only keep it for one year and then it had to be available to the scientific community. I donít know who set it up like that, somebody in Washington I believe. And after that was set up, then the data was available.

Levin:

Where was the data coming in from for, when you were doing the Ď77 map?

Tharp:

Well, I finished it in Ď77. I always had the Vema soundings, but I didnít have the profiler records which shows, you know, the shape of the mud on top of the basement. Basement sticking up and stuff. They were such nice little records to work with. And so I was using the regular Vema soundings in the form of profiles, which we had people plot up by hand.

Levin:

Which must have taken quite some time.

Tharp:

Yes. I have sent them all down to the Library of Congress.

Levin:

Really? About how long did it take to do this?

Tharp:

Oh there was always somebody, at least one person, plotting profiles. Some were excellent at it. You know, weíd always have the sign, the legs we wanted profiles of, because that would be the part of the map that I would be working on at that time. And then weíd let the rest of the cruise go until we got ready to use that. And, of course, there was a conflict. Bruceís people werenít allowed to use the computer, even after Lamont got one. So some times our guys would sneak in after twelve and get their records. However, most plotting was done by hand. That was because Ewing kept Bruce off the cruises. Thatís why he went into submersible work, and made many, many dives. On many, many different kinds of submersibles — Alvin and NR-1 and the Star V and the [voice not audible]. He had logged a lot of hours.

Levin:

What were the major challenges in completing this map?

Tharp:

To figure out what to put in the next blank spot. Just to finish it because we didnít have enough data for complete coverage. Weíd plot all the data we had, and then thereíd be blank spots. We didnít have any data. So Iíd go home, weíd come back here and work up that spot with what we could get. Then weíd go back again and Berann would paint it. And the biggest challenge was just to keep providing data for the blank spots, and also when we got new data, to upgrade the other spots that we changed our minds on. We changed quite a bit.

Levin:

Did you and Bruce ever disagree on what to put in the blank spots? How did you?

Tharp:

Yes. Guess who had the last word? Not me.

Levin:

Not you. How did you argue about this? Did you just acquiesce all the time, or did you, were you able to put out your own point of view?

Tharp:

Well, the first maps that were published, that would probably, if you had a copy of the Ď59 physiographic diagram — I couldnít even find one for Danielle the other day — then youíd see how things changed. The 1959 diagram, the South Atlantic in Ď61 and the Indian Ocean in Ď64. Youíll see how it changed. For example, the rift valley changed from being so long until it got down to the South Atlantic, where it is still a long valley but with some wiggles. Then when we recognized fracture zones we had to cut them off. The first one we recognized was the Equatorial Fracture Zone. It represented a big offset. We called it a strike-slip fault.

Levin:

That was one of your main discoveries, wasnít it? The fracture zones and also the rift valley?

Tharp:

First, it was the rift valley and then mapping the fracture zones and getting a trend which is mostly what I worked on — getting the trends. The position of them. First we had the rift valley, then you have to get the position of the offsets, and then the trend of the fracture zones, and then the spacing. And so, you know, Iíd do the best I could. Then Bruce decided to put in more fractures because he had the philosophy that there was equal spacing of the fracture zones, First Iíd put in the ones that we were sure of, then weíd plot earthquakes. Of course, after 1962 we had good locations for the earthquakes. So a lot of our maps show the accurate earthquakes. Consequently, we could do it more accurately so we came out with a very close regular spacing of the fracture zones. It just developed.

Now I made a big mistake in the Indian Ocean because I got so overwhelmed with fracture zones, I didnít recognize that there was a triple junction in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Ridge at the Rodriguez. So there is a whopping big mistake that I published, that we published. You know, where the two ridges come up like this, I had them cutting across like that. Thatís on the Ď64 map. But then we figured out, with more data, that it was a triple junction, you know, coming up like that. And thereís also another triple junction between the Scotia Sea and Africa. We didnít, I didnít make any horrible mistakes there, but there never has been enough data to do it in detail. But I donít know who first recognized the triple junction, because, you know, thatís a significant boundary between usually three plates, or at least two. Bruceís emphasis with an electric eraser was more on artistic presentation, you know, than it was interpretation. We decided on that, you know, we sort of had certain premises as we went on. But we didnít have any big fights. Only it took a year, almost, to convince him that the rift valley was real. But once he was convinced he agreed.

Levin:

I bet during those times you probably wanted to throw the erasers at him.

Tharp:

Oh, it never got that bad.

Levin:

Interesting. Did you know at the time that you were doing this map how successful it would become?

Tharp:

Was glad. See Bruce died three weeks after we took it to the printer. [Coughing] Would you like a drink of water?

Levin:

Yes, please. I think weíll pause it here.

Tharp:

Where do you come from?

Levin:

San Diego.

Tharp:

From where?

Levin:

San Diego.

Tharp:

San Diego? In California. Did you ever go to Scripps?

Levin:

Yes, I did. Have you ever been there?

Tharp:

Yes. Just briefly, a couple times.

Levin:

A long time ago, or just recently?

Tharp:

A long time ago.

Levin:

And did you go there for conferences?

Tharp:

No, we were on our way to the ship. Or on our way back from the ship. And Bruce always had buddies to see.

Levin:

Interesting. So Bruce had good connections with Scripps?

Tharp:

Yes. Quite good.

Levin:

More so than the rest of the faculty, or the people at Lamont?

Tharp:

I donít know about other departments. I wouldnít be able to say.

Levin:

Well I should say we were just looking at the map of 1977, while we were off tape, and you were talking about the crossovers.

Tharp:

Oh there in the east Pacific rise. Most unusual. Fracture zones I had mapped were single, linear, and parallel. So to have two fracture zones cross over and be so close together was very unusual. In fact it is the only place in the world maps that they occur — in the South Pacific.

Levin:

At the time you did, you had the data but you didnít believe they were actually crossing over.

Tharp:

It was so unusual. Because we always had parallel fracture zones. And I had the data to make it that way. And I thought the crossovers must be a mistake. We thought the navigation of the Scripps people was badly off. Bruce would never have let me put them on cross wise. Even though, you know, I just couldnít believe it. So they didnít get put on that way. And then the satellite data showed them crossing, a very unusual feature. What it is probably is that thereís two movements in the crustal plates. Two periods of movements. The second movement was at a slightly different angle and crossed over it. Iím sure thatís the way it got that way.

Levin:

It is very unusual. Well, I was wondering is there anything else that you feel that we havenít covered or hasnít been covered yet in the interview that you would like to talk about?

Tharp:

Oh, what a loaded question. Well I did want to go into the magnetic story, which started in WHOI and goes up to 1965. And I had all the data and notes on it somewhere.

Levin:

So would you like to, perhaps, take some time and get it together and do this at a different session?

Tharp:

Yes. How long are you going to be around?

Levin:

Most of the summer.

Tharp:

Oh you are! Humph! Youíll have a chance to find out everything about everybody.

Levin:

I hope so. So I think weíll end this session here. Thank you.

Session I | Session II | Session III | Session IV