Oral History Transcript — Dr. A. V. Zhivago
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A. V. Zhivago; January 20, 1999
ABSTRACT: In this interview, A. V. Zhivago discusses his career in oceanology. Topics discussed include: first and second Soviet Antarctic expeditions; International Geophysical Year; Mirny station; oceanology; Antarctic continental shelf; Henry William Menard; plate tectonics; A. P. Lisitsyn.
Levin:Okay, this is Tanya Levin. And this an interview with Dr. Alexandr Visidovich Zhivago. He is a professor at the Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences. And he was born the 14th of August, 1914 in Moscow, Russia.
Zhivago: In Moscow, yes.
In Moscow. And we are talking a little bit about his work that he did.
Zhivago: Expedition, yes. And I was the participants of three expeditions. The first, second and third, during the International Geophysical Year in Antarctica. In our expedition, we had to do both parts of expedition, marine and continental. And I acted in marine part of expedition. The first cruise began in Kalingrad in 1955, 30th November. Onboard ship Ob. This is very big ship. The ship has a displacement of 12,000 tons, and have many laboratories and many rooms for scientific stuff and members of crew, yes. And we begin the third oracles, as I said, on 30th of November. It was very, very promise indeed for all of us, because after that, all my life be connected with the works in Antarctica. My dissertation at Canada, when I became doctor now of science, it is devoted to the southern ocean. You know this United States, you know all my life. We started our cruise, and our first stop in Antarctica was Shelkelton Ice Shelf, ice and water, I don’t know. This is Myrny and this is the Ob. Now it was sixth of January, in 1956. Our first visit to Antarctica. We were the first Russians who landed in Antarctic Continent, Lisitsyn, I, and other participants of expedition. Antarctica in this place, it is a very, very high volume of ice and shelf ice in the coast. We started work, but the storm stopped our activity in this place. And about three or five days after, we change our place of landing. And Myrny is our first scientific station near Hassalayan [?] Islands on the Shelf of Davis Sea, this place where they came and built the laboratories and rooms for scientific stuff on continent.
Levin:Did you help to build the station?
Zhivago: Yes, yes. The first two or three months, all the expedition helped take in part to build this station Myrny. And I think that, I think that after two or so months, as I said, we began our scientific work in Antarctic Ocean. In this first year of Geophysical Year, our work was Indian sector of Antarctic Ocean. It is a southern ocean. It has three sectors: Pacific sector, Atlantic sector and Indian Ocean sector. And in the first year, we worked at this place. First of all we investigated the shelf zone of this.
Levin:Of the Indian sector?
Zhivago: Of the Indian sector, yes. And it is a very interesting belt around Antarctica in this sector, because there is no other example in other ocean, in other continents. The depth of shelf, not 200 meters as usual, but about 500 meters depth. Around the continents inside the shelf, there is very, very interesting valleys oriented parallel to the continent. And after that, change your direction to the ocean, like this. It is trenches, in Russian, trenches as we name it, name them. After that, we investigated this part. On other map, the connection this Kargalin Ridges with continent was shown on all of maps, but we discovered that it is not right. And this is very interesting depression between continent and Kargalin across.
Levin:How were you doing your studies? Were you taking depth sounding?
Zhivago: Yes, echo sounders was a main method of measuring the depths of the ocean. We have English system of echo sounders, very good. And after that, we used our core tubes for taking the samples of sediments. And on the first cruises of the first expedition, we have about 100 samples of the sediments in this sector. We had detailed investigation of 20 degrees east longitude, between head Cape of Good Hope in Africa and Antarctica. This is our control — many years we work on this. And during this work, we let some other vessels in other countries, for instance, Japanese vessels, and had very good scientific contacts with their scientific stuff.
Levin:Did they do science the same way that you did, or did they have different ways of doing science?
Yes, they’re in field of ocean, and also geology and geomorphology as and our [???] so.
Levin:Was their equipment the same? Did they use —?
Zhivago: Equipment, no. I suppose our equipment was better, yes. At this place, we discovered two very, very big mountains. Our discoverers, we name it Ob, as the name of our ship, and second Lena, because the second ship of expedition, for continental stuff predominantly, was named Lena. And we named Ob and Lena. It is a very uncommon plateau. Such a structure of these two big organis [?], and very high. And Ob 307 meters from the surface of the ocean had it’s top, and Lena 224 from the surface to the top of this organis. We have visited Kargalin Islands. This is French scientific station, very good and very interesting station. But they are interested predominantly on the rocks from the islands, not from bottom of ocean.
Levin:Do you know why?
Zhivago: They have not ships, small boats only. But they weather of in this place very, very bad, very bad. They had speed of wind about 50 or 60 meters per second and more, yes. After work at this place, and some landed in this place, we finished our first expedition. And we cruise from Myrny, from Myrny to Ogden [?] Gulf, this continent, yes, and had on this place 42 scientific stations. After that we traveled to Hamburg. And after Hamburg, to Leningrad. And this is just right here. On 8th of June, 1956, we finished our first expedition in Leningrad. With this prolongation of the miles of this first was 33,300 miles.
Zhivago: Yes. Well the second expedition, our second expedition, we started probably from this Leningrad and went in Myrny short, very short station. After some days we begin our work, predominantly in Indian also, and Atlantic sectors. Now I have a note, I have a written the results of the station and prolongation in miles included, but the main interesting from this cruise was most work in this part of the ocean, between the Land of Victoria of Antarctica and New Zealand. We had work on this very interesting submarine geological construction. This is two trenches: Pior trench and Makwari trenches, and submarine mountains also have a name of this is Makwari ridge. We have here the depths of Makwari trench and Pior trenches and discovered the maximum depths of six kilometer and 70 meter depths on this. At this place, there is contact this structure and this structure. And there is point of…
Levin:Contact? Where they cross?
Zhivago: Special term in tectonics, in tectonics a special term.
Levin:Black shore zone?
Collision, yes maybe. Not that it is not so, yes. Maybe very big fracture, [???] fracture in New Zealand, maybe continent and this. But now stopped and this is another structure, another, not connected to this outlying fracture from New Zealand. This is South Pacific ridge connected with EPR (East Pacific Rise). In the third cruise of this expedition in the end of the Geophysical Year, mostly in Pacific sector, Pacific sector predominantly, we have visit Easter Island and worked in this basins southern basins and Russian parts of Bellinghausen basins yes. And we have visited South America; Chile, Peru. And after that, go to the north and the islands to the Mediterranean, and after that in Leningrad, to Leningrad.
Levin:Who decided where you would go on the boat for each expedition?
Zhivago: Who decided for my participant in the expedition? No one has directions, I suppose, because the prolongation on the first cruise was nine months. The prolongation of the second cruise was nine and a half months. And the third cruise which was eleven months. But it was very interesting expedition. Why, is the main interesting from the expedition. And now this makes one other map I will show you.
Levin:We are looking at a map that Alexandr made.
Zhivago: Show this structure of this around Antarctica, there is lot of basins, basins. To the north, the crests, the ridges, the ridges of mid-ocean, mid-ocean ridges. This part, West Antarctica, Scotia Sea, surrounded by continental structure of Berdeyu bank and northern crest, northern ridge of Scotia Ridge. But there is no structural connection between this part and this. This is South Sandwich Trench. It is a separate structure. These are great depths, about 8,325 meters. This is coordinates. We have known of these main depths. If these are main depths, depths of all Southern Hemisphere.
Levin:And we are looking at a map as the Antarctica that was published in 1974 of which Zhivago was an author of it.
Zhivago: This is Alexandr Zhivago, and he is head of this other work. And my collaborators, Vinogradov Alec [?], Timotatov, yes. You may have this map.
Levin:Thank you. But how did you do this map? Your boat was here for the first expedition of Indian Ocean. And then through the Atlantic the second, and then here through third.
Zhivago: So the new materials and with information from other maps before.
Levin:You used other maps before?
Zhivago: Yes, yes, before, yes.
Levin:But if there were sections —
Zhivago: But we have many, many new maps. And the old maps not — it is a very new one, you know? It is a map in this idea of to show the structure of the ocean. Not be only about territory, you know, the structure too.
Levin:For the areas that you did not have data for, where there’s no data, no information —
Zhivago: No information on any part of this.
Levin:How did you decide how to sketch it in? What did you do when you came to a place where there’s no data?
Zhivago: We worked with many old literature and maps.
Levin:Did you write to other scientists who worked in other parts of this area during the IGY?
Zhivago: During IGY or after IGY? After IGY, I have visit twice, yes. I have learned from this. I have on Antarctica about 50 maps and prints, yes.
Levin:Did you know Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp.
Zhivago: Yes, yes, yes Bruce Heezen yes, Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp. I know them. I visited them.
Zhivago: At Lamont. And I was back to visit Menart, you know William Menart, Bill Menart.
Zhivago: I have translated his book.
Levin:You translated his book The Ocean of Truth?
Zhivago: Menart’s Geology Only. Translated and edited by Alexandr Zhivago. He made it international work. This is for you, some notes. This is for you. The schematical map of Indian Sector.
Levin:Did you ever do contour maps or physiological maps?
Zhivago: Yes, sure.
Levin:This is it?
Zhivago: The schematical map of the planet
Levin:Wow, it’s beautiful.
[???]. And this is structural tectonic map of Antarctic.
Levin:Interesting. It is really —
Zhivago: Ridges of mid-ocean tide in summer. But now I keep it in a strange place.
Levin:Then these maps were mostly published in the ‘70s?
Zhivago: Yes, and when this was published in Antarctica, it was now in Lisitsyn, this Atlas. Now this is geomorphology [inaudible].
Geomorphology. And we have specifications, Ob in the pictures. The fracture by magnetic specifications. This is schematical map of the Atlantic sector. We have a schematic map [???] the same. But now, you told me you had interest in Scotia Sea.
Levin:And your maps, were they different from the maps that Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp published?
Zhivago: We have not our common map, but Heezen presents me with maps he constructed with Marie Tharp. And I have sent him my maps, Menart too. This is more for structure of the south Atlantic and Scotia Seas.
Levin:And you’re showing some of your —
Zhivago: Structural map.
Levin:And some great maps you’ve made.
Zhivago: This is Scotia Sea.
Levin:Ah and we can see the fracture zones.
Zhivago: Yes, is fracture, yes, yes, yes.
Zhivago: This is magnetic identifications.
Levin:What did you think of the work done by Matthews and Vine…
Zhivago: Ah Matthews and Vine, yes.
Levin:…regarding this magnetic?
Zhivago: Yes I have it right here, yes magnetic. Matthews and Vine. Yes, these are both…
Levin:When you heard their work, what did you think of the theory of plate tectonics.
Zhivago: Of this plate tectonics, yes? It is the field of Zang and Chang [?], you know? And Zoraktin, Alec Zoraktin, my friend. He has some books on plate tectonics, Zoraktin, but now — won’t you keep this. But now he’s not, and never has invited in home — at home.
Levin: Was it unpopular in Russia, not common to study plate tectonics? Beloussov was against it.
Zhivago: Oh yes, yes, yes. It was very popular to hear of plate tectonics in Russia, in modern day Russian scientists. It belongs to the geology of the ocean, yes, and lots of things.
Levin:Well, what do you remember about the people who did not believe in it, like Beloussov who was against, who did not believe in it?
Zhivago: Against? That was not our country [?]. I don’t know exactly, but Professor Vlad [?] Lazhinsky [?], from the Institute of… he did not believe in plate tectonics.
Levin:He did not, right.
It is very big scientist, but he doubt plate tectonics and magnetic identification with [???] notes.
Levin:And how did you become interested in science?
Zhivago: Oh, God. Well, after my finishing in the university, I had a study of…or formulate experiment in Scientific Lakes. I graduated Moscow University in the faculty of geomorphology and physical geography. And on the first stages of my scientific work, I investigate the Scientific Lakes in Russian, the Russian word Hinesh [?]. For instance, Rebiasky Lakes and other. I have some brains [?] on it. And after that, in 1953 or four, I start to prepare my future expedition to Antarctica.
Levin:Why did you have an interest in Antarctica? Why Antarctica?
Zhivago: Antarctica? Because it is a white spot in geomorphology.
Levin:And in school, at the university, who was your advisor, your mentor?
Zhivago: In the university, Professor Ivan Shutkin, geomorphologist. And academic Professor Masarovich [?]. Of course this historical geology, geology of our country, Russia, as assigned in the past. And after that, my friend, Lisitsyn. We have all our life worked together, starting back Antarctic, and after that, Pacific and South Atlantic, and many expeditions. Unfortunately, now our positions are not so big and we’re hope that we’ll be better for this position in the next year. But now I had no expedition nearly six years, you know. I have learned to be school materials now, though. Lisitsyn had an expedition a very short while, about three weeks or one months this year, last year.
Zhivago: Arctica, yes.
Levin:And do you have students? Asperanti?
Zhivago: Yes, I had it. One of them, Yahed [?], now I don’t know. But I had some asperanti graduated, one of them, Marisevah, now in Australia, geomorphology. We had some scientist, I acted as open end of his dissertation and chief in the purpose stages of dissertation, came to that in doctors too.
Levin:When did you begin to work here at the Institute of Oceanology?
Zhivago: At the Institute? In 1977. And before it was Institute of Geography Academy of Science back in the early ‘70s, from 1938. 1938, Institute of Geography Academy of Science, and from 1977, Institute of Oceanology.
Levin:And so did you work here after you got your final degree? After you graduated, finished school?
Zhivago: After I graduated, I worked in Institute of Geography first. And this I had a liberty, geomorphology liberty. I was head chief. But now, after my 65 old, I now only scientist.
Levin:And when you look back, when you think about your career, your work, over your entire life, what do you think has been most important to you, of all your work?
Zhivago: I not understand completely.
Levin:What has been, for you, the most important work, scientifically that you have done during your career or your life?
Yes I have, many, many expedition, and only 24 cruises in oceans and it was very long ago this reach. And as a result of these expeditions, I have my works, now I work with Lisitsyn, [???] I suppose.
Levin:Thank you very much for this interview.
Zhivago: Excuse my bad English, excuse me.