Oral History Transcript — Dr. Marie Tharp
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 is available.
See the catalog record for this interview and search for other interviews in our collection
Interview with Dr. Marie Tharp
Marie Tharp; June 28, 1997
ABSTRACT: Discusses issues involved with mapping the ocean floors. Describes scientistsí disbelief of the rift valley. Who used the maps. Mapped the Atlantic Ocean first. Explains why they mapped in a physiographic manner rather than doing contours. They produce four maps of the Arctic Ocean. Russians provide data. National Geographic requisitions and disseminates maps. Painter Henrich Berann paints the sea floor maps. Indian Ocean mapped as part of the International Indian Ocean Expedition. Briefly mentions the biology component of the Indian Ocean Expedition. Lists the order in which the National Geographic printed their maps. They only map part of the Pacific Ocean. They receive data for the Pacific Ocean from multiple sources. Discusses GEBCO. How they used sounding profiles obtained from the Russians. The dispute with Leonard Johnson about drawing fracture zones on the Arctic Ocean geologic map. Recounts more recent mapping efforts for the Arctic Ocean. Lists the order in which they mapped the worldís oceans. The making of the World Ocean Floor Panorama. They furnish the base map for the making of mud maps. Discusses William Haxbyís satellite map of the ocean floor and the use of computers and satellites in modern sea bottom mapping. More on Berannís painting. W. Maurice Ewing disparaged continental drift. Their maps helped show mobility was possible. Mentions Bruce Heezenís 1958 paper on continental displacement. Ewingís policy of internal review of papers to be submitted for publication irked Heezen and Tharp. Heezen retains ties to Columbia Universityís geology department. Tharp took one course at Columbia, but found the commute too tiresome to take more classes. Describes Walter Bucher and his research. Discusses how Heezen attacked problems in a way that showed his background in geology. Seismologists enter into continental drift studies late. Their work with Sam Gerard. Tharp mentions Lamontís contacts with scientists in Latin America including, Nestor Granelli, Fernando Vila, and Alberto Lonardi. Details Vilaís work. Her opinion for why the Argentineans came to Lamont and why Ewing was interested in furthering relations with the Argentines and scientists in Capetown, South Africa. Describes dealing with apartheid when docked at Capetown. Meets Russian scientist Gleb Udintsev. The Lamont biology group has strong connections to Russian scientists, particularly Zenkevitch. Heezen and Charles Hollister obtain photographs from the Russians when Ewing restricts access to Lamontís sea floor photograph collection. Her opinion of why Ewing was against the taking of color pictures. Discusses McCarthyism. Believes that Ewing disliked women scientists. Discusses the careers of Mary Sears and Betty Bounce at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Explains that the Russians had more women oceanographers. Explores how women gradually gained a foothold in oceanography. Mentions Heezenís idea that Manik Talwani was fired as director because he was a poor fund-raiser. Ewing would not give women important work to do. There were no African- Americans at Lamont. Religion was not a problem because all professed atheism. The theochemists, the geochemists that came from Wheaton, were not respected. Controversy at the Second International Oceanographic Congress contributes to Ewingís harassment of Heezen. Questions arose as to the proper assigning of credit to Heezenís graduate students, Bill Glass and John Foster. The worst part of the harassment was losing access to the Vema and data. States that Lamont received a lot of media coverage in the beginning and that the discovery of the rift valley got a lot of attention. Media now focuses more on space. Views her most important contribution to the earth sciences as the discovery of the rift valley and the attendant mountains. Maps brought continental drift within the realm of possibility and contributed to the definition of plate boundaries. Believes that Lamont leaders lack an interest in preserving the institutionís history. Thinks that the history of the Vema is important to record. More on the harassment of Heezen by Ewing.
Levin:This is the twenty-eighth of June, 1997, and this is a continuing interview with Marie Tharp and we are in South Nyack. And Marie, a few minutes ago we were looking through your notebooks that you had compiled on making the maps, and you said that was just part of what you did.
Levin:And you said it wasnít in there what other people thought of the maps?
Levin:What did other people think of the maps?
Tharp:Oh, some of them didnít believe the rift valley.
Levin:Really? Who didnít particularly?
Tharp:Oh, actually [Jacques) Cousteau didnít believe it. And he had a map on his wall on the Calypso coming across the Atlantic Ocean. And he had in tow the Troika, a movie camera on a sled on the bottom of the ocean. And they came to where our rift valley was and they found it. And so he took movies of it. And they were beautiful movies of big black mountains with white snow drifts and blue water. And he took photographs of it, and so that helped a lot of people believe in our rift valley at a time when a lot of people doubted it. And that was in 1959. He showed those movies at that first International Oceanographic Congress in New York in 1959. It was an unscheduled talk and it was held in the evening at the Waldorf Hotel.
Levin:Did he give credit to the people at Lamont for this valley?
Tharp:Oh sure. Yes. So we used this picture that he took on the back of the Face of the Deep. Thatís a picture he took on the jacket showing pillow lavas.
Levin:During the years, who or what groups of people have you found that have used your maps?
Tharp:Oh, the Navy. The Navy printed our map, and thatís the final copy and they made their own printing and sent it all over.
Levin:Do you remember particularly what they were using the map for?
Tharp:I donít know. They had courses at Annapolis in oceanography and they used it. They had a field book in West Point and they used it. Or we gave them permission to use it in their book, their textbook for ocean floor studies. And then general schools and colleges, here and there. Well, mostly itís the Navy and schools, and some oil companies would put it in their board rooms which was always flattering. So the oil companies used it and other oceanographic institutions used it. Just to tack it up and stick pins in it, where theyíre going. But itís had wide usage. Itís also been shot down and used as an illustration in a lot of textbooks, you know page-sized illustrations when theyíre writing a chapter, theyíll use it. Weíve been able to give them permission to use it.
Levin:What was the exact order in which you worked on the maps? Which?
Tharp:Oh, it depended slightly on the Vema. Because it was a sailing vessel and also had an engine. But the first ocean we did was the Atlantic. And could you turn off those lights and turn this one on? Now, where were we? Oh, the first ocean we did the western Atlantic and then we did was the eastern Atlantic. Then we put them together and did the North Atlantic. It was done on the base map of the 6750 series of the U.S. Navy which was at a scale of one to five million, about an inch per degree. So we used their maps as a base map. But we ignored their contours. Partly we didnít believe them, and partly because at that time contours in this country were classified and you were not allowed to publish data in the form of contours. So we had to do it in the form of physiographic diagrams a la A.K. Lobeck.
Levin:Why didnít you believe their contours? What did?
Tharp:They didnít have enough data to make significant contours.
Levin:Were you given a reason for why the contours were classified at that time?
Tharp:Oh, well that was still left over from World War II. So much of the war had been fought by submarines that the bottom of the ocean was confidential, you know. But the U.S. kept ours classified longer than anyone else. Most everyone else, even the Russians, declassified their contours before we did. Ours were declassified in 1961. But even so, we kept on using that sketchy method of physiographic diagram techniques because we liked it. It was a very demanding technique where you had data. You could show everything. And it allowed you to invent and extrapolate where you had no data.
Tharp:We did the North Atlantic in that style. And thatís when the Vema still had sails. But we used other maps too. And in the Floor of the Oceans, there are maps which show the tracks which we had available to use.
Levin:Did you ever try to ask the government to release, to get the data released a little bit earlier?
Tharp:Oh no. Oh no. We just adopted a different method.
Levin:Really? What method was that that you used?
Tharp:The sketching method.
Levin:The sketching. Interesting. You were talking as well off tape about the Arctic Ocean map. How — you said you finished that after Bruceís death with his students, with Fornario?
Tharp:Oh, the first Arctic Ocean map was the one done with the National Geographic. Do you want to get that? [Interruption to answer phone].
Levin:Okay, so you were talking about the Arctic Ocean and ?
Tharp:Well, the first Arctic map was part of the National Geographic series in 1971. And that was a map about this size. And that was strictly a panoramic map of topography. Thatís the first one that we published. There were other maps published of the Arctic, but that was the first one that we published.
Levin:The Verna didnít go up there that far?
Levin:So you were using ships from the Navy?
Tharp:Oh, whatever we could get. We used Russian data because Bruce would use the Russian data. When he had the tracks and the contours, he would just write down the data and the depth on the line which gave us an accurate number in an accurate position which the contours showed, and then heíd re-contour it to the way he thought it should be.
Levin:So he got the data from the Russians and then.
Tharp:So they had published some maps on it, but we had to put it in our own format.
Levin:And these Russian maps were unclassified? Is that how you got them?
Tharp:Yes. Iím trying to think. One of those reprints which you have, The Extension of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge into the Arctic Ocean, is a very early reprint. And thatís on the list of Bruceís reprints with Dr. [W. Maurice] Ewing. Thatís one you should have.
Levin:Okay. Yes, I have that one. Okay. So when you were doing this with the list of coworkers printed on the map.
Tharp:Oh, the second Arctic Ocean map, we did the Arctic Ocean basin map which was fifty inches by sixty inches. We contoured it with every bit of data we could get. We published it as a contoured map in 1975. And, of course, we used everything we could get on that. And it had an extensive bibliography printed along the side. I think I gave you a copy. I think we still have just a few copies left. It was in contours on a polar projection. The third map of the Arctic Ocean was the Geological Map of the Arctic which was the last thing, no, in your book — not this book, the other book. Whereís my. Oh, itís over there. If you want to look in the back of your book, the one on magnetics. Itís the very last entry in there. Itís the Geologic Map of the Arctic Ocean. And so by then, once we knew about the magnetic reversals and had the ability to use the reversals to make a geologic map, we did that. So the third map was a geology of the Arctic. Bruce had been gone several years when we got to that. So we did the Arctic Ocean four times. First as a panorama with the National Geographic, then as a contour map with American Geographical Society, which was very large and as detailed as we knew how to make it. We worked on that quite a while, and then the Geologic Map which was done after Bruce died. The Geologic Map of the Arctic Ocean was published in the Geological Atlas of the World. By that time, we had the reversal, the magnetic reversal story, so you could take away the mud and sediments and map the bedrock like a geological map. The fourth arctic ocean map was the contour map in the GEBCO series polar projection.
Levin:How did the National Geographic get involved in this mapping project? Did they come to you and suggest it or did you?
Tharp:No. No. What happened was that during the International Geophysical Year the National Geographic wanted to make a map of the Indian Ocean to illustrate an article in their magazine, the National Geographic. So I had just finished the physiographic diagram of the Indian Ocean, which is my pen and ink sketch. I donít know who they showed it to, whether Bruce showed it to them or they approached Bruce, but down in Washington, they liked the map, but they thought theyíd like it in a different media. So thatís where they had, in their files, a letter from a little girl who said, ďIíve been looking at your maps, and my father can paint better than you can.Ē And so the Geographic sent their chief cartographer, [Albert] Bumstead, over to meet this man, because the Geographic was very sensitive to letters from children. They sent Bumstead over there to case the joint, and he found this fabulous man, Henrich Berann, living in his home outside of Innsbruck, Austria. He lived outside the city on the second terrace in a town called Lang. He had a beautiful home and a separate studio, and he did serious paintings there. Very serious paintings. But he couldnít make any money with his serious paintings, you know, in the style of [Leonardo] Da Vinci. So he took up doing mountains for the Austrian ski tourist trade where they would pay him to draw the mountains with every trail, hostel, tree, rock, whatever. And heíd paint these, and the Austrian Tourist Bureau bought them and sold them to the Austrian ski resorts. And so thatís how he made his fortune was with those, rather than his serious work. But since he lived in the Alps and knew how to paint so well, the National Geographic hired him, and he was such a wonderful man. We worked with him for ten years. We just loved him. A very great artist. So we would work with him. First we did the Indian Ocean with him. And he would copy our, my sketch map. And you can compare the two. Because I think I gave you both of them. Mineís real big and the ones in the National Geographic are about that big. They had a captive audience.
Levin:Youíre showing about, is that about 8 by 10?
Tharp:This is about 18 inches by 24. Thatís about the size of the National Geographic, ones that Herr Berann painted. And they were folded up and stuck in the October issue for four years. Every October theyíd stick one of these ocean maps in there. And people liked them. And so gradually they got us back to doing the other oceans.
Levin:But you actually started on the Indian Ocean?
Tharp:Yes. Thatís the first one we did with the National Geographic. But in the meantime, weíd done the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, and had just finished the Indian Ocean, when, thatís when the National Geographic decided they wanted to do a map too. But it was specifically political — the Indian Ocean expedition was organized, the American, what is it? The International Geophysical Year was organized to promote international cooperation among different countries. And I think it succeeded. Instead of working here and here and here. They got together. Because in the ocean you had to use everybody. And so I think it succeeded. But the one thing they hoped to find a lot of floating food, fish and what not, to feed the starving Indians. But they never found any grand food supply.
Levin:Was that what the biology IGY component was trying to do?
Tharp:Yes. That was one of the purposes. But it was a failure because there wasnít any massive food supply in the Indian Ocean.
Levin:Was [Ostwald] Roels involved in that?
Tharp:I think he came in either before or after that. I donít know when Lamont got into that with him. I donít remember.
Levin:Was Lamont trying to get involved in the food issue?
Tharp:No. All we did was contribute a map. It was an international gizmo.
Levin:Interesting. And so the National Geographic they asked you to do the Indian Ocean.
Tharp:They copied my panorama. And then they printed it and published it. You have a copy of that. It was quite well received.
Levin:Did they hook you up with the painter Henrich Berann?
Tharp:Yes. We worked with him.
Levin:And the National Geographic sent him to you?
Tharp:No. We went over there and worked in his studio. We were paid consultants. We had our expenses paid and a modest fee. And he did the painting.
Levin:For the National Geographic.
Tharp:Yes, and he did the painting.
Levin:So just to get this straight. The National Geographic had seen your maps that you had already done in the Atlantic, and they decided they wanted that too?
Tharp:No, not at that time. They were doing the Indian Ocean first because of the IGY. They were doing it. So they did theirs first, which we had done third. And then after they had done that, it was well received. Then they had some flub dubbery and decided they wanted to do the Atlantic Ocean. And when they did the Atlantic, they put the north and south together. We had done the north separately and the south separately.
Levin:And then so, I see. And then so then they went from Indian to Atlantic.
Levin:Then did they go to Arctic?
Tharp:No, they went to the Pacific and they copied my Pacific. The Pacific was a hard map. You know, different ocean. And so we never did the whole ocean. Neither us nor the Geographic did the whole thing. We did the West Central part, you know.
Levin:What did you do to sort of winnow out the eastern part that you didnít do?
Tharp:Oh, they just didnít do it. They just cut it off. I havenít looked at the Pacific for so long, I canít answer without looking at it. But you have a copy.
Levin:The data that you had collected from the Pacific Ocean, was that data that the Vema had collected or ?
Tharp:Some of it. And we were lucky to cooperate with Scripps [Institution of Oceanography] and we had quite a bit of data from Scripps. We also had some early Dutch soundings from the Snellins. And we had U.S. Navy Glacier and some U.S. Navy ships went down there to serve one of those stations. They went straight from San Francisco [California] right across. But they had good equipment. The Glacier I think was the name of one of the first.
Levin:So when you were.
Tharp:Of course we always had the Navy master sheets which we got from the Navy. We also had the GEBCO sheets which we got because Bruce was involved. In fact, this house had the maps from all the GEBCO countries. There were nineteen countries involved in the GEBCO program, and Bruce had managed to get soundings from all of them and they were here.
Levin:Was the Soviet Union a member of GEBCO?
Tharp:The soundings we got from the Soviet Union didnít come through GEBCO. So I doubt that they participated. I donít know. But I donít think they did, because GEBCO was a bootleg project. You didnít get a grant from your own country to do GEBCO because you didnít get a grant from that. You were supposed to have enough money to do it with the grants youíd gotten from your own country, and it was a bootleg project. So if you didnít have any grants from your country, you couldnít do it. And thatís the one that was in the basement of Monaco there in Monaco. Thatís where the headquarters were.
Levin:But you were able to get soundings from Russia?
Tharp:Yes. In the form of profiles. We had to annotate them and pick off peaks and valleys, and then plot the track and put the peaks and valleys along the tracks so we could use them. They published them in a book so the book had to be taken apart, copied, pasted together as a long strip, then put a grid on, and plot where the track crossed the latitude and longitude, and then read off the soundings. The soundings had to go from uncorrected fathoms, to corrected fathoms, then into corrected meters. Not all of them, but just the important ones. But they were quite useful in the holiday areas because we didnít have data there. The Vema hadnít gone down that far south.
Levin:On the third map of the Arctic, the geological map, was there any sort of disagreement between you and your partner working on it?
Levin:I believe it was one of the graduate students.
Tharp:And who would that be? Iím trying to think.
Levin:Was it Fornario?
Levin:When you were working on the geological map of the Arctic, you were working with a grad student?
Tharp:Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh, let me see. Youíre thinking of the geologic map. Right. I was thinking, I thought you meant the contour map, which is the second map. The second map was a contour map. We just worked on that. No fuss, no muss, no anything. We just went ahead and did it. We had a lot of teams working, a lot of guys working on it. But the geologic map had the advantage of the topography from the Arctic map from the first time, and the advantage of the depths from the contour map. And then they had the chance of using magnetic dating and the reversals from the magnetic dates. And we had the extension of the mid-Atlantic ridge into the Arctic. Then we had the fossil ridge, the Lomonosov Ridge and then we had Chukchi cap. And theyíre all presented.
Levin:Was there any question about where the rift zones were going?
Tharp:Oh there were questions about that. Oh, the rift zone went through, I couldnít get Leonard Johnson, who was a co-author, to agree that there were fracture zones. Because he said that the magnetic, airborne magnetics, did not show fracture zones. But he didnít know that Bruce had written on the first page of that book on magnetics that you have, that the reason we didnít trust the Cartwheel Project was an airborne magnetometer could not register topography and magnetics simultaneously and accurately because the airplane is going, you know, several hundred miles an hour connecting magnetics data! And the topography had been collected by a ship because it was just doing magnetics. So naturally it got a very generalized picture, and nothing agreed with nothing. So thatís why, that was the reason that Dr. Ewing wanted that airborne magnetometer brought down, put on a ship, and towed behind a ship because the ship was going very slowly, and with very accurate navigation could produce accurate soundings. And the magnetometer, you, theoretically, if there was any correlation, youíd be able to match every peak and valley. It turned out you couldnít, but anyhow it was an attempt to make it more accurate. So when Leonard Johnson put all that faith in airborne magnetics in the Arctic Ocean, I was here and he was in Washington and I didnít have an opportunity to tell him what a dumb idea it was.
Levin:So he went ahead and published a version.
Levin:What was the reaction afterwards? Was it disputed because of the?
Tharp:Oh, I donít know whether it was or not. I really donít. Because now theyíre really doing the Arctic Ocean with a bang. And thereís been another geologic map and successive physiographic maps. And bathymetry maps done by those guys out in San Diego, using the Russian submarines and working with the submarines under the ice to make a good map of the Arctic Ocean. They really have advanced a lot, because they can show everything using new data and using these ideas with the submarines. And so theyíre making progress in mapping a very tough ocean. I had some copies here which they sent me. So then I took it upon myself to send them copies of everything weíd done. I have never heard from them since. But I thought they could at least know we tried. And Hank Fleming worked on that. And Dan Steele. Thatís a good lab, thatís a presently active lab. Thatís, you know, using Russian submarines and our submarines to map under the ice, in the Arctic. Which is a neat trick to take soundings, to take samples. Theyíll get something highly worthwhile. The maps Iíve seen are very good.
Levin:Have you had communication with Fleming and Steele? Have they talked to you about different map techniques?
Tharp:No. No. No. Theyíre just the maps that they sent out.
Levin:I was wondering, you had mentioned the International Geophysical Year and what a success it was to have workers all over the world instead of just in once place. Was it a success all over the world, or were there areas that still werenít being investigated?
Tharp:Oh, mostly the International Geophysical Year as far as I knew focused on the Indian Ocean.
Levin:You thought that.
Tharp:On the Indian Ocean. For a lot of reasons.
Levin:What reasons do you remember?
Tharp:Well it was just an interesting ocean. And it was available to the Indians and the Germans and the South Americans and the Africans and the United States, and, you know, the French — every country had a ship in there.
Levin:Did you mean accessible in that ships could get there easily or ?
Tharp:A lot easier to get there from Europe than to get over through the Pacific Ocean. And, well maybe the Pacific Ocean was in the International Geophysical. But not to my knowledge. We were only working in our space.
Levin:What was the order in which you mapped the oceans?
Tharp:Oh, first it was the North Atlantic, then the South Atlantic, then the Indian Ocean, then the Pacific, then the Arctic, and then the Antarctic. And then, like I say in that book, we wanted to do the whole world. So the next was to do the whole world.
Levin:Iím interested. You worked a lot on the physiographic diagrams and you did some of the mud maps too, right?
Tharp:Oh no. What I did — that came later — after we had published the world ocean floor panorama. We published a gray plate that was the same size as the big colored World Ocean Floor Panorama [WOF] and used that as the background. Same plate, same size, only gray so they could put the surface lithology from cores on it. Standard geologic symbols as they analyzed all of the whole world cores. And they did chemical work on it too, on the whole world. But I didnít do anything except furnish the base map.
Levin:You just worked on the physiographic diagram?
Tharp:No. No. I only did bathymetry.
Tharp:Yes. But the bathymetry we did was in the form of physiographic diagrams and then we used that to show Berann how to paint it. He had to paint it from our, my, black-and-white map and I wasnít a painter. I just worked with the soundings of all the oceans and put them in the form of a physiographic diagram. And thatís what he used when he painted the World Ocean Floor Panorama.
Levin:How did, you had worked for so long on the physiographic map, how did you feel about working on the mud map?
Tharp:Oh. I didnít work on the mud map. I just let them. They used my base map. I wasnít involved with that. I was mad that they didnít show the location of the cores. We were always taught that you should show the source of your data. But they didnít. They showed the camera stations instead. So we put in a proposal to make a better map and use standard geologic colors, but it got shot down. Vladimir [W.D.] Nesteroff, a senior author on the mud map, tried to get it published in France, and he got shot down too. He couldnít get money to do it. Marlene Dreyfuss Rawson had also worked on the map. She did all that geology, and she had passed her oral exams. She knew two languages, sheíd taken all her courses, and she could have written her thesis and defended it and gotten a Ph.D., but she chose to get married instead. So the mud map never got writ up, and it never got revised. However, we sold a lot of copies to the Germans.
Levin:Why the Germans?
Tharp:We donít know. They just liked it.
Tharp:They liked it.
Levin:Interesting. What, how did you feel about William Haxbyís satellite map when it first came out?
Tharp:Oh. Well I thought it was a pretty good map, using a different parameter, you know, gravity. Just one parameter. I thought it was pretty good. But if Bruce [Heezen] had been here he would have taken all that extra data and we would have amalgamated it with ours. Because none of those recent maps, the Haxby map or the Sandwell and Smith map, none of them used anything except computers. Haxby used the gravity and Sandwell, I donít know what all he used. But they missed the sediment story which we showed so well, which Bruce showed so well because he spent so much, a part of his early life, maybe a third of his time, working on sediments. The distribution and nature of sediments. And none of these maps tackle that problem.
Levin:How do you think things have changed with the advent of satellites?
Levin:How do you think maps have changed since the advent of satellite photographing?
Tharp:Say your statement again.
Levin:How do you feel that mapping in general, the techniques and just the general effect of having a map done by satellite, how do you think that has changed mapping?
Tharp:Oh. Well, I think itís certainly made it more exact. Thereís a map in there you can look at. Itís in Gailís nook in there. It shows that it can be done. But of course it has a lot of differences. Iím all hooked up with wires or Iíd go show you. Youíre hooked up too arenít you. The trends on that map are the same but theyíre shown differently as just real fine, straight lines. But they just show the trends, they didnít try to exaggerate them to make them look like mountains like we did. Because Herr Berann lived in the Alps and Bruce knew he was a painter — so he knew what mountains looked like. And so, you know, you paint a picture of a mountain, itís a mountain, you know.
Levin:And you lose that in a satellite image?
Tharp:Yes. You do. Itís very exact. Itís fascinating that itís so exact. But see up here on this wall is a picture of painting of Berann of the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy. That top picture there. See thatís him painting the mountains.
Levin:Right. Same picture as painted by Berann.
Tharp:Itís the very top one on this other ledge.
Levin:The one of the deer?
Tharp:No. Not the deer. The one on the other side. I donít think you can see it.
Levin:Okay I see a picture of a mountain.
Tharp:The original is, you know, a 8 foot by 10 foot picture of the Dolomites and it looks like mountains. That was his style for serious mountain paintings. And, of course, you know, he had that artistic perspective, and heís a good artist.
Levin:I was wondering. What professional organizations did you belong to?
Tharp:Only the Society of Women Geologists. Iím a non-joiner.
Levin:Really? So you never got involved in AGU [American Geophysical Union)? Okay.
Tharp:Or the AAPG [American Association of Petroleum Geologists) or the GSA [Geological Society of America). Bruce was a member of all those groups.
Levin:Did you ever attend any of their meetings of these professional groups even though you werenít a member?
Tharp:Not very often.
Levin:Did you ever present any data at a conference?
Tharp:I did once. Hank [Henry] Frankel and I did once.
Levin:Really? What was that like?
Tharp:Oh that was the AGU down in Baltimore in the spring meeting. It was one we did together there. And then we wrote it up later as a popular article. Somebody came up to us and asked if they could use that subject as a popular article in Natural History Magazine.
Levin:What was it like to present that paper?
Tharp:I told him I wouldnít work with him unless he presented it. I wasnít going to present it. But I would be happy to make the slides and help write it and so on. But I didnít want to do the talking.
Levin:So you didnít do any talking?
Levin:What was the paper that you presented?
Tharp:It was a Natural History article on the discovery of the rift valley.
Levin:On the rift valley?
Tharp:And then Hank went on to discuss [W. Maurice] Ewing as being a fixist until the day he died.
Levin:Do you think that was true?
Levin:Some people think that towards the, at the end of his career, Ewing changed his mind to become a mobilist.
Tharp:Well he — he almost was forced to.
Tharp:He was forced to.
Levin:Who forced him?
Tharp:Oh, the papers by Johnnie Ewing, and, you know, once continental drift got accepted, and it was accepted so quickly, that it went in to plate tectonics. Continental drift had been rebuffed for forty years or more. Violently rebuffed. You could get fired for believing it. And then gradually, and that was one of the impact of our maps, the South Atlantic really had a big impact because the rift valley went right down between them. So that enabled us to move continents apart. Everyone could see it. Everyone including the thirteen million people reading the National Geographic. So those maps really, I think the maps really speeded up the acceptance of continental drift because they got published so widely. And somebody looked at them with their eyes open. Is that still working?
Tharp:But I think that was one of the effects of our map. And continental drift got accepted so quickly after people realized what the bottom of the ocean looked like, spread apart. Then the seismologists got into the act and helped. Then the paleomagneticians from England saw the divergent poles. England had one North Pole here and America had another North Pole here. And if you put them together, these paleomagnetic poles, then youíd see that they originally had been together. It helps explain why they were different — because the continents had separated. It was the English that showed it.
Levin:I was curious about a paper that Bruce had written in 1958. And itís a French paper in which he talked about continental displacement. How did that come about?
Tharp:Oh, I donít know. He just wrote the paper and it got accepted and it was given.
Levin:In the French magazines. But it was never published?
Tharp:In English, no. But the translation I had done was done after he died to put in his volume.
Levin:Itís interesting. He uses the term continental displacement instead of continental drift. What was that?
Tharp:He could have been fired for using the word ďdrift.Ē
Tharp:In 1958, my gosh.
Levin:Was that his concern that Ewing would fire him?
Tharp:Well, of course it was. But it was everybodyís scientific concern. It was so thoroughly unaccepted in this country.
Levin:Did, how was it done? Did Ewing read the papers and ?
Tharp:I donít know if he read that one or not. He did have a policy of internal review and a board for approving papers. Which made Bruce mad because it smacked of censorship. Once you get into this business of academic freedom, itís a very touchy subject. You know, you shouldnít interfere with someoneís academic freedom. All the time Bruce was there, it was very important to preserve the academic freedom of the students to work on what they wanted to. It was important for a professor to work on what he wanted to, and not be told what he couldnít or could publish. And it was a very sensitive concept. I donít think that Ewing knew how such a concept, violating the constitution, could be accepted in academic circles.
Levin:Bruce often thought that his papers were being censored?
Levin:Thatís interesting. Now I know that you and Bruce were the only geologists there at Lamont. What was that like?
Tharp:Well, Bruce had his professors down at Columbia. So he had those — his buddies to talk to and to tell him that what they were teaching was wrong, because Lamont had more recent and more correct data.
Levin:So he retained his ties to Columbia and geology even when he was at Lamont?
Tharp:Oh sure. Yes. He got his degree. And then he taught, voluntarily, lectured voluntarily. And that was a path to getting an appointment as a professor. You know, you go from being a lecturer to an assistant professor and so on.
Levin:Did you keep your contacts with Columbia and the geologists?
Tharp:No. I started out trying to take a course down there, and accidentally I took a course in wave mechanics which turned out to be on a molecular level instead of a global level. And then when we moved out here, it was just too much of a hassle to work out here and to go in there and take a course. And we could only take courses at night. I never kept up going to school at Columbia. I never took courses. Work and school were too far apart physically.
Levin:Who specifically did Bruce keep in contact with at the Columbia and geology department?
Tharp:Oh Walter Bucher. And Walter Bucher was a great man, a structural geologist from Switzerland. And he was very, very — he was a non-drifter, but he was a good structural geologist.
Levin:As a geologist in a geophysical setting, were your different ways of perceiving data, were they — were there specific instances when that unique perspective added insight to peopleís work?
Tharp:It was just part of our general training to be a geologist what was a generalists. I canít think of any precise instances.
Levin:No, Iím fine. Thank you.
Tharp:No it was just part of our background. I canít think of anything specific. Except, you know, in his very first paper he acted like a geologist. He found an outcrop on a continental slope and he got a sample and he dated it. He then got someone to identify the foram as Eocene in age. And dated it. He was acting just like a field geologist with one little dinky ship for a few months in the summer. He took enough photographs and samples and stations to produce this paper, which, in fact, documented the issue of continental slope which was a new concept.
Levin:Were there times in which looking at things differently than the rest caused a conflict, a challenge?
Tharp:Now, letís see. Oh, thatís such a loaded question. We were disappointed that we couldnít get more seismologists into the act. And, this isnít answering your question. I donít know how to answer it. As I said before, the seismologists did not accept continental drift and never referenced any papers before 1961, and by that time weíd published two maps and, seriously, the idea of continental drift was being accepted. But it was this one guy, Lynn Sykes, who was the brave one in seismology who published his first motion studies in the equatorial Atlantic, you know, to show that they were puffing apart. And he dared to do that. And that sort of broke the ice. He was a very bright man. Very bright. He was the first one to break the ice.
Levin:Why do you think the seismologists as a group [Interruption to say hi to someone]. Why do you think the seismologists as a group were more difficult to get through to?
Tharp:First of all, it was hard working in this group with Dr. Ewing who was an anti-drifter, who was a fixist, and very hard to be a drifter working in his group. So there was a certain cordiality between Ewing, the director, and their own guys because of that. Then the other explanation which Jack Oliver gives in his book, Shocks and Rocks, is that they were glad they hadnít gotten in sooner because they had to fix, adjust their seismometers so they would be more accurate. I donít know anything about seismology, but presumably, the instruments were greatly improved during that time, which was very helpful. And now I donít know any other reason.
Levin:Iím interested in that Sam Gerard was a geographer, and as a geographer as well, did you feel a closeness with him?
Tharp:Yes. He was a good guy. He eventually became in charge of all the equipment on the Verna. And, of course, he was an author. He was into physical oceanography, you know, water stuff. So he was an author on one of the papers and several of the technical reports in the Vema in the fracture zone because, you know, they found the water going through there. But he was a sea-going scientist, and a heavy duty instrument man.
Levin:And you collaborated with him on a paper?
Tharp:Yes. Because he had, you know, he had worked on the problem, been on the cruise, realized that this great valley of the fracture zone went through from one end to the other based on water samples as well as topography, and mud, and the direction of the currents. I couldnít live without these lovely men paying their rent. I canít. Letís see, whatíll I do. Iíll have to put it here because thatíll do for now.
Levin:What do you remember about Nestor Granelli? What was he like?
Tharp:Oh, charming man. He was often up here for dinner. We were all part of that group. Somewhere in Bruceís tapes — I donít know where — he may have more to say about the South Americans than I remember, but one of them was his roommate, and you should look him up when youíre down there.
Levin:[Fernando] Vila, his roommate from Argentina?
Tharp:Fernando Vila, yes.
Tharp:He was older than Granelli and [Alberto] Lonardi, but Vila was Bruceís roommate for a year. He was up here specifically to build a ship going gravimeter. And he worked all year on it. And what happens, you know, itís a pendulum, and the pendulum swings back and forth. And he had to get a very exact pivotal place, out of quartz, for the pendulum to swing. And it had to be very accurate. And he had to have a chronometer. The swing had to be timed. Thatís how they measure gravity. And then they still couldnít get the results they wanted. After working for a whole year, they forgot about the Brownian movement, and so it was very disappointing.
Levin:What was Nestor Granelli like as a scientist?
Tharp:Well, just a regular guy. Liked to do his part, go to sea. And I forget what papers he was involved in, but the Argentineans came up here partly to learn oceanography. You know. So they could go back home and do what we were doing.
Levin:Was Ewing particularly interested in Argentine contacts?
Tharp:Well, I think his prime interest was to have a base down there.
Levin:What sort of base?
Tharp:A naval base. So heíd have a friendly port to come in to get supplies and fuel and people. Ewing had a very friendly relationship. Theyíd go down there to meetings and talk, and you know, it was — on all aspects of it — it was very friendly and productive. I think the boat the Atlantis was given to Argentina, got a new name, and the Eltanin, which we sailed on, was given to the Argentineans. So theyíd have good research vessels. You know, the United States thought enough of them to give them two of our prime oceanographic research vessels.
Levin:Did they ever get the base down in?
Tharp:Oh, you donít have a base. Itís just a place where you can come in and be friendly. Itís not like fighting a war. Itís just a friendly place.
Levin:But you talked about a naval base.
Tharp:Yes, but they can be friendly as well, in peace time, as well as in war time. You know, itís a facility. You should probably say a facility.
Tharp:— I never got to go there. I wish I had. Bruce didnít either.
Levin:Did Ewing ever look for similar agreements or facilities in Africa?
Tharp:Oh, we had them in Capetown [South Africa].
Tharp:We had those before in Capetown. And, of course, everyone there was told they couldnít violate the federal law such and such. They had to be very — at that time it was strictly apartheid — and they had to be very careful with their black associates. I guess now that must have changed, and they have black as well as white. They had a very strong oceanographic department there, who believed in continental drift long before anyone else. And theoretically they were surprisingly advanced.
Levin:How did you first meet the Russian Gleb Udintsev?
Tharp:Oh well, letís see. He came over shortly after the International — 1959 was the first international meeting in August in New York. But I believe he wasnít allowed to come to that because he didnít belong to the party. But he came over a year or so later. And Bruce also had traveled to — the Oceanographic Congress in Ď59 and Bruce was invited to go to Russia as an individual to lecture on oceanography in 1961. So he went there by himself and gave lectures.
Levin:How did others like, for instance, Lamonters feel about your connections to Russia?
Tharp:Oh I donít know. There were strong connections in the biology department. There was Zenkevitch, who was a noted Russian biologist. And he actually was one of the first Russians to visit us out at Lamont. Zenkevitch. And then later, I believe it was his son, a marine oceanographer, who came. They were famous Russian oceanographers who knew biology. And when Udintsev came he liked our book, The Floor of the Ocean. He took it back, translated it into Russian, and took our map and printed it and put it in their museum.
Tharp:He and Bruce got along fabulously.
Levin:Thatís wonderful. You said that, before, about the Russians, when you couldnít get photographs out of Ewing because it was all locked up.
Tharp:Oh, that was when they were writing that book.
Levin:It was necessary to get the photographs from Russia. How did that come about? How did you work through that?
Tharp:Oh that was Charlie [Charles Hollister] doing that. Charlie and Bruce, they had connections. Connections with Udintsev and Zenkevitch. Those guys were friendlier than Ewing.
Levin:And you were able to get the photographs out of Russia?
Tharp:Oh, I donít know how they did that. Through the U.S. mail I guess. But somewhere I have a — well, Iím glad you have Bruceís book, and you must read it carefully.
Levin:And youíre talking about Face of the Deep.
Tharp:Yes. Because somewhere in the, among his letters, is Bruceís letter to Dr. Ewing, saying — they had wanted to dedicate the book to Dr. Ewing, but heíd been such a bastard and not given them any data, that they werenít going to.
Levin:And thatís actually written in there?
Tharp:Not in the book. Oh well, thatís the thought.
Levin:They just thought about doing it.
Tharp:But they couldnít dedicate it to him because he was quite firm, you know, the restriction on American pictures. We finally figured out why Dr. Ewing would never take colored, deep sea photographs, even though he invented the machine. He invented the machine, the camera — he and Joe [J. Lamar] Worzel. Thatís all in Joeís memoirs. They had designed it, and we thought Doc was such a puritan that he wouldnít allow any colored pictures. But we think now it took so long for them to be developed — they had to be sent back at the end of the cruise — so we figured Ewing was too impatient to see the results and wouldnít wait for them. Bruce did sneak in a few colored pictures. Some of them are hanging on my wall.
Levin:At this time, of course a very turbulent time during the fifties with rampant McCarthyism. Were you ever worried about the House Un-American Activities investigation? About what it could do to your collaborations with Russia?
Tharp:Oh, I never thought of that. But we didnít like [Senator Joseph] McCarthy because we compared that to the censorship regarding continental drift. And, you know, people in science who didnít believe, or believed in something that wasnít accepted, it was an element of McCarthyism, of anti-Communism, that you could get fired from your job for believing something that somebody else didnít. A very, very serious academic freedom principle was violated. But it was part of the same era of McCarthy, you know, being so anti-Communist. None of us accepted Communism, but to punish people who might want to study it or like the movie people who wanted to portray it in movies, they took a beating. There were a lot of movie people — writers and actors — who lost their careers because of that. And it just wasnít right. And itís ironical that one of the guys who helped shoot down McCarthy was Corliss Lamont. He was the son of Mrs. Thomas Lamont who gave us the estate. But Corliss was a philosophy professor at Columbia and a humanist. So he knew his background when he jumped on McCarthy. You know, he went to court and gave them hell.
Levin:Do you remember discussions among people at Lamont? Did you talk to people about McCarthyism, about academic freedom?
Tharp:No. No. Probably Bruce did, but I didnít. Sometimes Bruce and I would talk. Yes, but I didnít. I didnít have much to do with other people, because I was isolated at home. So I really didnít have much to do with anybody.
Levin:What was Ewingís view about women in the scientific field?
Tharp:I think he hated their guts. Thatís my private opinion. But Mary Sears at WHOI [Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution], she was a biologist and she wanted to go to sea so bad she snuck on board as a stowaway — and, of course, when they found out she had snuck on board, they went back to port and dumped her. But she became a famous biologist. And she was the editor of the whole volume for the 1959 oceanographic congress. She edited the whole volume.
Levin:Was Sears working with WHOT at the time or was she working for Lamont?
Tharp:No, she had never worked at Lamont. She was always WHOI.
Levin:So this kind of thing was endemic. That women were not accepted really.
Tharp:Right. And the Russians showed up with more women on their ship than the Americans, but thatís because they had more women than men because we shot up thirty million of their guys during World War II. And so women there got to have jobs that meant something. And if a woman was an engineer, sheíd gone to school and she got a job that used engineering. And they were on the ship as oceanographers, serious oceanographers, or as members of the crew, which was not true in America at all. And Lamont never had women until Ewing died. He didnít allow women on the Vema. The only chance I got to go to sea was in Ď65 when Bruce took me and another girl on the Eastward, because for three weeks he was chief scientist, and the ship was owned by the National Science Foundation and he could take girls. But WHOI had always had one girl, Betty Bounce, who worked during the war because she was an expert on explosives. They used explosives during the war, and then later, she used explosives to help with the seismic refraction. So she knew all about that. And she got to go to sea as chief scientist, really in the Indian Ocean. She got to go to sea as chief scientist. She was good. Sheís the only one I know that could go out of there at that time. Of course, and then the Navy gradually took women. One at a time or so. And, but Lamont was the last one to allow women in any way, shape, or form.
Levin:So did Ewingís sentiments extend over into [Manik] Talwaniís time?
Tharp:No, Iím quite sure they didnít at all.
Levin:But it just — it took a while. Because Ewing didnít leave until Ď72.
Tharp:Oh, of course, Ewing was Talwaniís professor and he had been director while Talwani was there. So Talwani had also probably picked up a lot of his ideas. But he didnít know how to raise money to keep the place going. So thatís why he got fired. And Bruce said that he wouldnít make it as director because he had no idea how to raise money. He was strictly an academic and didnít know how to raise money. You know, as a director, thatís part of their job. That is their job.
Levin:How — you felt that Ewing did not like women in the scientific field. How do you think that he — how was it shown through his behavior, or what he said?
Tharp:We werenít given any important jobs.
Levin:In terms of extending out the work?
Tharp:Yes. I canít think of any women there that — there were a lot of women, but we worked individually with one boss. You know, Joe Worzel had Annette [Trefzer] who did drafting and computing and library work and typing. And he had two girls that punched the Monroe calculator before the age of computers came in. And Frank Press had Ruth Simon and she was quite bright. She was a girl who put out the seismic bulletins. And he was quite good letting her do all that because she was bright. Jack Oliver didnít have any girls. Bruce had me.
Levin:Yes he did. What about other minorities, such as blacks or Jews?
Tharp:No, one hardy ever showed up. I donít know if thereís any blacks there to this very day. I havenít been around. Coming from Texas you wouldnít expect him to.
Levin:Really, from Texas. What about the treatment of religious minorities such as Sam Katz?
Tharp:Oh, they didnít care whether theyíre Jewish or not or Catholic, because they were all atheists anyhow.
Levin:Really? Except for, of course, the theochemists.
Tharp:We treated them with great disrespect.
Levin:Did the theochemists, the Wheaton [College] school, did they have any, did you pick up any missionary attitudes trying to convert the rest of Lamont to their?
Tharp:No. They knew they had no luck trying to convert us. But none of us tried to convert them, other than to make fun of them. You know, theyíd go to a party and give them a drink, and theyíd pour it in the nearest palm. And they — I canít believe it was true that [J. Laurence] Kulp founded the geochemistry building so he could date the day the earth was formed, four thousand and four years ago. I heard that, but I donít believe it. Because he couldnít have been that dumb. But maybe they were. In Wheaton, out there in the Bible Belt, they take the Bible seriously. But we made a lot of fun of them. You know, they dedicated the new geochemistry building, they had a big storm. And so they were having some of the dedication out in a tent, and Bruce would say, ďWell, God blew down the theochemist tent, the night it was dedicated.Ē [Laughter] But he was just joking, you know. We just didnít. Wally [Wallace S.] Broeckerís a serious scientist and did very good, but I donít know about his religion — if he gave it up or not.
Levin:I was thinking after about the Ď65 controversy, the Second International Oceanographic Conference in Moscow, what was Chuck [Charles] Drakeís role in this?
Tharp:He just went there. I donít know if he presented a paper or not. But obviously from his comments, he was there, and heard Bruceís paper. And thought. ďWell the best way to get even with him is to just to say that he stole his studentís idea.Ē
Levin:To get even with Bruce?
Levin:Why would he need to get even?
Tharp:Well, because Bruce had always been his enemy as the fair-haired child. For a while, Bruce was obviously in line to be the next director, but he didnít want to be. And of course, the harassment killed that idea. But Chuck Drake I think didnít have Bruceís scientific ability or his working ability. Iím sure he didnít write three hundred papers. I donít know what his field was. His name is on some refraction papers, but thatís a team effort. I just donít know why that guy was in science. He was a politician.
Levin:And, of course, when they came back, there was some, there was a lot of issues involved of course. There was some — even before Bruce came back — there was a petition that was circulated. Did you hear about a petition that went around, that was started by Jim [James D.] Hays?
Tharp:No. What was that?
Levin:It was a petition sent around, written about protesting what Bruce had done, about leaving off the names of the co-authors of the paper.
Tharp:I didnít know a thing about that. Jim Hays was Bruceís first grad student.
Tharp:And he had worked with him to establish the dating of the forams and their extinction and their lives and so on. I was not aware that Jim Hays had done that or felt that way.
Levin:Were you in touch with Bruce during the time of the meeting?
Tharp:Was I what?
Levin:In touch with Bruce. Did he send any telegrams or cards during the Moscow meeting while he was away?
Levin:What did he say? What was he communicating to you at the time?
Tharp:I just, I tried to tell him that people at Lamont were upset over something, and I didnít know what it was. I thought I should ask Chuck Drake what to do. But Chuck just merely said, ďWell, Bruce brought all this on himself, ruf, ruf, ruf.Ē
Levin:Really? Did he tell you what? Because at that time, did you know what was going on? You said you just knew people were upset.
Tharp:No. I knew they were upset. But I didnít know or understand, why, because I considered Bruceís talk in Moscow, like in his notes, was to tell what his students had done. Because [Neil] Opdyke had gone ahead and told what [Dragoslav] Ninkovich had done in the Pacific and sort of had tried to screw him out of it. So they just went on blaming professors, but it was just a pattern of behavior to blame the professor. It was the only way they could think of to explain something because they were so jealous. But Bruce could always see the purpose of things and what to do. And he was very bright. And I think they were just jealous that he was bright.
Levin:And one of the arguments that they used against Bruce was that Bruce hadnít given credit to, particularly his graduate student Bill Glass.
Tharp:Thatís such a lie. He broke his neck defending him.
Tharp:[Robert J.] Uffen was a Canadian geologist who you should read about. Heís well described by John Lear in that paper. So, just as I said in my letter to Joe Worzel, Bruce attributed a lot of it to Uffen, and they thought it was saying I had. Because Uffen had been a preliminary investigator too. I donít remember exactly how he fits in, but he is written up at the beginning. So by all means, study that John Lear article, because thatíll put it in its proper perspective.
Levin:What did you think of the media coverage at the time? Did you think it was fair to what you considered was the truth?
Tharp:Well, I thought Bruce got credit for it. I didnít see anything wrong with it. To link evolution to reversal. And to have had it proved by forams which we all had studied. And then to say that we had that spread of tektites, big blast of tektites from outer space. Did that cause a reversal? But they still donít know what causes the reversal. Thatís all theoretical.
Levin:But in terms of Opdykeís contention that Bruce had only taken credit. He gave himself as the only person on the paper. Of course, you thought that he was also giving credit for Uffen. But in terms of giving credit to other graduate students such as Glass and [John] Foster.
Tharp:Iím sure that he gave credit to them. Because that wasnít like him. Because we were mad that Opdyke had gone down and given papers about their students. And we didnít want that to happen to Glass.
Levin:Did you ever sit down and talk to Glass about this paper?
Tharp:No. I hardly knew Glass. Because I was working at home. His wife worked for me for a while, a great girl. We worked up there. And we were doing the Antarctic.
Tharp:— upstairs in that room. And it was just the bare room with the floor. So she and I worked on the floor, comparing profiles from New Zealand to McMurdo Sound in Antarctica and had a lot of them. Then after I found out she was pregnant, I didnít think she should work on the floor any more. So we got horses and plywood and put things up at table level. But sheís an author on one of the papers. She also helped her husband. He needed support from his family and she helped him with the work.
Levin:In terms of the overall pattern of harassment, how important was this one conference?
Tharp:Say that statement again.
Levin:In terms of the overall period of harassment, which extended several years, and involved several [crosstalk].
Tharp:It started in Ď58 and went on until Doc died, when Doc was fired.
Levin:Row important do you think, in terms of the grand scheme, how important was this one conference?
Tharp:In magnetics? Oh, in terms of all the harassment?
Tharp:It got a lot of media coverage. But in terms of the harassment which went on all the time, first was Bruce got screwed out of using the Long Lines — a cable ship — to do a survey for Bell Labs on Vema 15. He got screwed out of that and the students got screwed out of data they needed to do their thesis. I think that was horrendous. I thought that was terrible. I got screwed out of data to do the map for about ten years. I thought that was horrendous, but eventually we got it and used it. And then Bruce not being able to go on the Vema. He went on Vema 18 and his next cruise was Vema 34, and Vema 36 the ship was decommissioned. So he was screwed out of half of the life of the Verna. He had started out doing quite well. It was just one continual thing after another.
Levin:So, in terms of the general scheme, it wasnít as important as, perhaps, not getting on a ship or not getting the data.
Tharp:Right. But it had a lot of media coverage. And a lot of media coverage was speculated because they didnít know. They just didnít know what caused the reversal. See, when you get into the realm of speculation, you get a lot of publicity, but the real dirt is restricting data from people who want it. And here you had an old man who thought all this tax data which was paid for by taxpayers was his personal property, and that used to make me mad. It wasnít his personal property to hide from the students or from me. I think thatís the worst thing he did.
Tharp:I think that was the worse thing he did. And also I think the other thing is it set a pattern of harassment. It set the pattern of one scientist stealing from another or saying that they stole from another. It set a pattern of unethical behavior. I think that is unfortunate. Itís still going on. Just like that thing I showed you about Mark [Marcus] Langseth, you know, the guy who died. That big write-up by him, by somebody, that he was the first to go on a submarine. Thatís part of the Lamont system of ignoring the past and screwing it up. Thatís why theyíre so unarchivally motivated. Because if you donít want any archives preserved for the public, you claim other ideas as your own. You claim that idea so you can get money to do your work, do the work over again. It set a pattern and I hate to see the pattern persist. And it does.
Levin:It does? Did you see that pattern in other institutions, or just particularly at Lamont?
Tharp:Now that I wouldnít know. I know it existed with Vladimir [W.D. Nesteroff] and [first name?] Bouchard, Vladimirís boss at the University of the Sorbonne. Vladimir had a very serious conflict there. And thatís in France. And actually [Aleksandr P.] Lisitsyn in Russia had a serious conflict with his boss in Russia. Maybe it is a general pattern. I donít know. I donít know anything about the Asians. You know, I donít know anything about them.
Levin:Was the media or publicity encouraged at Lamont?
Tharp:In the beginning we got all the media publicity we could use. Because you can tell by my scrapbooks. I used to save everything. And then Harriett [Ewing] took a lot of it with her, the Lamont scrapbooks. Because in the beginning we got excellent coverage. And I donít know how much of that youíre going to want to put into a history of North American oceanography in the twentieth century. But it was an element. The media coverage was excellent. It was better in the past than it is now I think. Because now oceanography has been taken over by Space. Like July 4th this instrumentís going to land on Mars and send back whatever they find. You know, itís an unmanned instrument. There is a lot of publicity now on Outer Space, and the cooperation with the Russians, you know. About every day you hear about Outer Space. You hear about that a lot more than you do the ocean.
Levin:You think interest in oceanography is waning?
Tharp:I donít know what to think. I donít know whether it is or not. I think work is still going on, but the media coverage is focused now on space.
Levin:Well, I thank you for this interview. Iím about to end unless thereís anything you want to say. But thereís one question, I just wondered, thinking back on your career and what youíve been able to accomplish, what would you think was the most valuable contribution to the field?
Tharp:Wow! Wow! Well, of course, talking about media coverage. The discovery of the rift valley got coverage, and, you know, at the beginning and even later on when Hank [Frankel] and I wrote the article on the discovery of the rift valley, that got good media coverage, and it was important. But as Bruce said, establishing that the rift valley and the mountains it was associated with went all the way around the world for forty thousand miles, he thought that was pretty important because you could only do that once. You canít find anything bigger than that, at least on this planet. And but then there was the idea of the maps that we made together, and our team made. And they got such good publicity and coverage, sold in the millions. I think the maps helped bring continental drift within the realm of possibility because it got such wide coverage. National Geographic and American Geological Society. In 1959, the North Atlantic map — it had, you know, several thousand, maybe thirty or fifty thousand copies printed, which went to the elite geologists. This was important. It gave them something to think about. Thatís in Ď59. And then in Ď64 the South Atlantic, which showed the rift valley, that I think as much as anything helped to bring continental drift within the realm of rational speculation. Well if thatís what it looks like, it must be true. So, I think it helped bring continental drift into the realm of speculation. And since that was possible, then, with the help of the seismologists, they got into plate tectonics. Because the earthquakes were the plates boundaries — see — and so the plate boundaries developed very quickly after our maps came out. Because you could see that they coincided. The rift valley coincided with earthquakes. The ring of fire around the Pacific Ocean coincides with earthquakes — the deep focus earthquakes. So it was very important that the World Wide Standardized Seismic Network allowed them to map these earthquakes. Which before we had only done with the, you know, first attempts of the Jesuits. The Jesuits did a lot to get world wide coverage of earthquakes. They were knowledgeable as possible for 1540, and they were disciplined. So they went wherever they were sent and set up earthquake stations. I think theoretically what was important was to have helped promote continental drift, and to quickly follow it with plate tectonics. I think theoretically what was very important. You know, itís a revolution, actually itís a revolution. If you want to talk about religion. It compares with the Copernican revolution when Galileo only suspected that not the earth, but the sun, was the center of the universe and not the earth. But then Copernicus proved it with a telescope. And once it was proved, that was a big revolution. You know, man was no longer the center of the universe. That was something. So we contributed to a revolution in geological thinking. Because now theyíre using the ocean and plate tectonics to redo the geology on the land. See you redo it on the land in light of what you learned in the ocean. And itís created a revolution. Which, you know, helped solve a lot of problems on land that they never could figure out.
Tharp:When you think of the ramifications of what we did and its influence, I think thatís important. Because it — I wish Bruce were here. Heíd have — you know what Bruce would like to do, heíd like to have the tax free data and the computerized data of those maps in there to put with ours. And we could use theirs, because we know where the problems were where we had to guess. Boy, we did a lot of guessing.
Tharp:Because we didnít have a satellite going around the world every ninety minutes and recording stuff. We had shipís data going around the world once a year. But we still couldnít have done it without Dr. Ewing. Now thatís another subject — to get the Vema records, you know, preserved, and in order, so if someone wants to write the extraordinary history of the Vema, itís all in order and accessible. I have it largely in order but not quite. And I think it would be better if that were at the Smithsonian rather than at Lamont, I really do. I just donít think that they would throw it out. When they got the new ship, you never know. God help the Lamont people if they want to get an archival facility. More power to them.
Tharp:But I donít know how they can do it. It takes severe leadership and loyalty to the past. And those two factors do not exist at present in either one or more people.
Levin:Thatís interesting. What, how do you know that this leadership doesnít exist there now? Are you in touch with?
Tharp:Iím not. Iím not. Iím speculating. Honest. Iím speculating. I just donít know who has the interest.
Levin:Well I thank you for this last session. Is there anything that you feel that? I know you havenít seen the transcripts yet, but is there anything that you feel that hasnít been said or covered, any subject?
Tharp:Let me see. Well, speaking of the Verna again. That data and information exists in a form that Iím not familiar with, but I have it and itís valuable. And I have limited comments on the Vema which I think are very important.
Levin:What do you think is most important to get at about the Vema story?
Tharp:Itís the greatest ship, second only to the Challenger in 1870. Because of the amount and quality of the data. And any comments on how the ship was run, and the rigorous schedule, and the cruise plans. Itís all very important. We havenít discussed that. Somebody should.
Levin:I think throughout the history, there have been mentions of the Vemaís history and about how it was acquired and the basic history of it.
Tharp:Itís something. And the title is ďQueen of the Academic Fleet.Ē And of course there are a lot of stories, lots of stories. And then Captain [Henry C.] Kohler who was the captain for so long and so cooperative. Early captains didnít realize they were supposed to go out and do what the scientists told them to do, and not just beat it from port to port. They had to learn it was a research vessel, that you did what the scientists wanted. And that was a breakthrough.
Levin:Did you ever meet with [Henry] Kohler?
Tharp:Yes. I was on the one cruise with him.
Levin:What was it like to work with him?
Tharp:Oh, I thought he was a great guy. You know, he ran the cruise I was on, his wife was there too. And she slept somewhere and tried to keep out of the way of everybody. But, you know, they did their best. After the Nova Scotian crew was replaced gradually by the crew from Guam and Asia, then they got so that they were allowed to drink because the Asians liked to drink, you know. Things changed. There was so much history to the Vema, out of Nova Scotia, working out of Nova Scotia. And the early history of the Vema. Itís very interesting. That would make a great book in itself. And the discoveries could be incidental, you know. Just like Eric Linklaterís Voyage of the Challenger, which is, you know, itís a popular account of the Challenger and very readable. I think it was a best seller. But there should be a book like that about Vema. And we didnít touch on that. And thatís the sort of stuff that an intern could, I think, help get in shape.
Levin:Well then, I thank you for this interview session.
Tharp:All right. I was just thinking what else we didnít talk about. We didnít go into the details of the harassment.
Levin:Do you think thereís more to it that we havenít covered?
Levin:What in particular strikes you about it? What would you like to have known about it?
Tharp:Well, it was so awful that the harassment of Bruce by the director divided Lamont into the pro-Ewings and the pro-Bruces. Or you could say the anti-Ewings and the anti-Bruces. And so itís hard to judge who had — who had an independent theory.
Levin:Who did you see as your main protagonists, the ones that were on your side?
Tharp:What was that question?
Levin:Who did you see as your main protagonists, the ones that were on your side, that continued to come and visit?
Tharp:Well they couldnít be a protagonist if they were on your side.
Levin:Well as opposed to an antagonist.
Tharp:Oh. I still donít understand those words.
Levin:Oh, thatís fine.
Tharp:Ewing, of course, Worzel was his chief henchman. And yet I still have a high regard for Worzel and what he did in oceanography. But, they were against Bruce for reasons I donít know. But thereís some discussion of why I worked at home. And finally they fired me, and I got paid by the Navy directly. The other thing, Ewing wouldnít sign Bruceís contracts. So Bruce had to go directly to the Navy, through Columbia University, because Ewing wouldnít sign them. Or if he did, heíd take off Bruceís name and give it to someone else. But all that paper work, you know, administrative harassment.
Levin:Who helped you Marie?
Levin:Who helped you and Bruce? Was there anyone there who?
Tharp:Oh, Bruce had one student from South Africa, David Needham, who helped him greatly answering all the letters and arguing with him and standing up for him. And actually there were four guys that went down to Columbia University to complain about the way Doc was treating Bruce. It was Bill [William] Ryan who went, and Jeff Fox, and I think Needham went and some other guy. I think there were four guys that went down. They were the initial ones who went down to see [William J.] McGill. No, not McGill, who was the guy? [Grayson] Kirk. To complain to him about the way Bruce was being treated. So they — students took it upon themselves to point it out. Those guys did.
Levin:So it was mainly the students. Was there anyone in administration or other professors, other senior staff?
Tharp:Yes. There were. They gradually got on Bruceís side. [John] Imbrie and, of course, [Polykarp] Kusch who was vice president of Columbia University, a Nobel Prize winner. And he was very much on Bruceís side, clear to the end. And then when they got rid of Kirk and then McGill, President [William] McGill, was against Bruce at first, but he finally won him over. And then when McGill quit there was an interim president, Andrew Cordier, a retired law, international law professor, who was acting professor for a long time. And he and Kusch did their best to beat up Ewing. But see thatís all a lot of stuff that I personally wasnít involved with, but it still occurred.
Levin:How do you think that harassment affected science at Lamont?
Tharp:Well, it chased some science off to other institutions. The first one it chased off was the magnetic people.
Tharp:It chased them away.
Levin:Although [Walter] Pitman stayed.
Tharp:Pitman stayed — Ryan stayed. Jeff Fox when he got his degree went to Rhode Island. And Leonard Johnson was my assistant for seven years, but he couldnít get his degree at Columbia so he got it at Denmark or Norway. I mean he got his Ph.D. Then he went to work for the Navy. And we were such a close group. Yes. I donít think thereís anything wrong with the science that got done here. Itís just that there would have been more done here. People got chased away.
Levin:Were there any other groups such as magnetics that got scared off?
Tharp:Oh. Well it took nerve for the seismologists to eventually come out and be in favor of drift. As I say, Lynn Sykes is at the head, forefront of that. Lynn was the first guy with the first paper on first motion studies. Now I donít know about how the harassment affected other disciplines.
Levin:But when you talk about how magnetics was chased off, how do you, why do you think that that particular group, the magnetic group, was affected more than, say, another group?
Tharp:Well they were affected by this, like I said, first there was Bruce and Doc collecting the records. And they wrote a paper. And they had the wrong answer, but anyhow, they got the data out. And then the data got out in Ď59 at the meeting. And Iím going to have to change my dress. And they got out then. And then so much data got collected and wasnít worked up by students — Julie Hirschman and Maury Davidson. So thatís when Nafe, Jack Nafe, hired [James R.] Heirtzler. And Heirtzler at least got the data out, organized and ready. And I believe that heís the one that hired Pitman. But I told you Pitmanís story which is quite interesting, you know. He sort of took over when John Hennion got blown to bits on Vema 17. And he was on that cruise. So he sort of grew up in the atmosphere as he got promoted.
Levin:Did you see part of the problem with the magnetics field as having some of the most ardent supporters of Bruce in that field? For instance, Fox and Ryan were in that area. So do you think thatís why that area was particularly most affected?
Tharp:No, actually Fox and Ryan were students and Ryanís thesis was the Mediterranean. He wasnít particularly involved with magnetics. His main thesis was the Mediterranean. Heís done several papers since then in the Mediterranean. You know the one with the Gilgamesh in the Black Sea. You saw that. And then the one when they built the Aswan dam in the Upper Nile. Then when the Atlantic Ocean poured into the Mediterranean. Heís done a lot of work on that. And Fox was a grad student. I donít know what his thesis was. But it wasnít magnetics. He was one of Bruceís great students. He wrote a real good chapter on Bruce as a teacher from a studentís viewpoint, and it was published in Oceanus. It was very good. Very good. I have no idea how Ewing affected the core lab. Thatís a field beyond me. Of course the cores were involved with magnetics because of the forams. Jim Hays, one of Bruceís students, and Charlie managed to write the book, even if they didnít get to use all the Lamont photos. And I got to get the map published.
Levin:So science did go on in spite of the harassment?
Tharp:Everything went on. In spite of the harassment, everything went on. The ships went to sea, people came home, wrote proposals, got money, wrote papers. It just went on. Things got done. You know, things got done. A lot of things got done. But to get the whole picture, you have to talk to a lot of other people besides me. Because I only know about maps and I was working at home alone. Say, if weíre going out to dinner, Iíve got to change my dress.
Okay, weíll just end the session here.