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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of Charles Drake by Ronald Doel on 1997 May 20,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Recollections of his childhood, early introduction to geology, his education at Princeton, and Columbia, the development of geophysics and seismology as a field of research, his work at Lamont, the development of the geochemical lab at Lamont, the offshoot companies that grew out of Lamont, the politics and processes of gaining federal funding in the 1960s, the political ramifications of earth science, geochemistry, global warming and environmental concerns, working on the research vessels (Verma), his work in velocities, the development of plate tectonics. Among those prominently mentioned include: V. V. Belousov, Wallace Broecker, Walter Bucher, E. C. Bullard, Maurice Ewing, Burce Heezen, Harry Hess, Laurence Kulp, Angelo Ludas, John Nave, Jack Oliver, George Wollard, J. Lamar Worzel.
This is Ron Doel and this is a continuing interview with Charles Drake. We’re making this recording on May 20, 1997 in Hanover, New Hampshire. One of the things we didn’t get a chance to talk about in the earlier interview, certainly not in depth, was the proposal back in 1959 that Lamont might actually be split administratively off, reformed as an institute, separate from the Department of Geology, I think.
Lamont started out as a research arm of the department of geology. And for the department chairman this was very complicated because that meant that the paperwork, the Lamont budget, was included with the departmental budget which the department chairman was ultimately responsible for. But the department chairman didn’t know anything about the Lamont budget, and that made it sort of a mess.
Was this still Paul Kerr at the time?
It was Art [Arthur] Strahler —
— when it split. Paul Kerr had a different vision of what Lamont was than [Maurice] Ewing did. And Paul viewed it as really an integral piece of the geology department, and Maurice viewed it as more focused on geophysics and geochemistry and more independent than Paul did. But when Art Strahler got to be chairman, he just couldn’t deal with this mess. So they decided to split it off and make it a separate research institute within the framework of the university.
How did Ewing feel about that? Was he pleased?
Oh, I think he pushed it. See Ewing wanted to be independent, and Kerr wanted the institute to be under the chairman of the geology department. And so there were some frictions there because of this. And, in fairness, Paul had done a lot of work raising money to get Lamont started in the first place. So.
He had? And were those petroleum connections by in large that he was working?
Oh yes. Petroleum, oh Colombian, what have you, mining, that sort of thing. Anyway, but he raised a good deal of money to get the thing going so he felt logically that certain possessiveness. And Ewing wanted his independence. So university decided to make it an independent institution which solves the problems and created some other problems. The biggest problem it created then was, had to do with people, because the department chairman was responsible for the academic program and for the faculty in the program, of which Ewing was one, and Ewing was responsible for Lamont and its good health and its people. And some of the same people who were department chairmen were also working in his institution at Lamont. Where the conflicts arose was when you dealt with new faculty appointments because Ewing wanted people who would strengthen the research position of Lamont, logically. Department chairmen wanted people who could handle the academic, the teaching requirements of the department. And regrettably when you got into a conflict on those issues, the department chairmen dealt with the dean of the faculty and Ewing dealt with the president. [Laughter] Well, you know who wins in a case like that. So there were some serious frictions. That’s the only time I really fought with Ewing was over, when I was department chairman, was over this question of appointments. And he would want to push some very good person who wasn’t really appropriate for the teaching aspects of the department. And I would want to appoint somebody who was more appropriate for that, but less appropriate to solve his problems at Lamont. So there’s a natural source of friction in that. And that lasted right through until he left I guess. And —
You were dealing with that in the late sixties, ‘67 through ‘69 —
Oh yes. You know. And —
— when you were chairman.
Department chairmen would come in and serve two years and go to some other school. Like John Imbrie went to Brown. Jack [John] Nafe stuck it out. I went here. Jack Oliver went to Cornell. And then they made Marshall Kay chairman because Ewing had a few years to go to retirement so they knew he wouldn’t leave. And then they went without a chairman for a while.
Is that right?
Yes. Had a committee. And then, finally, they rearranged the administrative framework so that you had a director of Lamont and you had an associate director for academic who was the department chairman and associate director for research. And you put it all together then so everybody reported to the same place. And that worked better.
That’s very interesting that you feel that it was based in significant part, the pressures coming from being chair, that helped inspire people to go to other schools. People like John Imbrie and —
Yes. It was an impossible situation. And you can’t argue that either side was right or wrong. That’s the other impossible thing about it. Because each was acting in the best interests of the organization that he was responsible for. You just had a situation where it was a mismatch. And if they’d all reported to the same person who could say, “C’mon, get your act together, and let’s see if we can’t work this out,” that would have been fine. But it didn’t work that way.
You were chair from ‘67 through ‘69 as I recall.
Yes. I did the last year of John Imbrie’s. He left, and I did the last year of his appointment and then a year or so of my own.
Were they nominally one year appointments?
No, they are three year.
So I should have done another year. And then I came up here. And that was a significant part of it. The other part was, you know New Hampshire is where my family is from and there’s only one place in northern New England I would go to which is here, and the opportunity arose. So.
I’m curious when you were department chair, how did you resolve those sorts of conflicts and issues when they came up? At least what was the working accommodation you were able to —
Well, we tried, and it did vary depending on who got to whom first. In the petrology position for example, Ewing wanted Mia Shiro. And Mia Shiro is a very distinguished metamorphic petrologist who discovered paired, the reason for paired metamorphic belts in mountain systems. And so we brought Mia Shiro over, visiting appointment, and put him to work doing research and teaching petrology. Well, as a teacher he was a disaster. First of all, you couldn’t hear him unless you were in the front row, and secondly, if you did hear him, it was very difficult to understand. So the students had a tough time dealing with that. On the other hand, his research was impeccable. Well, Ewing wanted to give him a permanent appointment to be on the faculty, and it was my feeling that he was not satisfying our needs for petrology, that in the teaching side. So I won that one. And Mia Shiro went up to Albany so he was still close enough by that we could deal with him. But on another one, when Norman Newell retired, I wanted to approach Tony [Anthony] Hallam who was Britain and a very distinguished, still is, paleontologist. So I talked with Tony to find out whether he had any interest and he did, that’s H-A-L-L-A-M, and —
Oh yes, indeed.
I’m familiar with the name.
Yes. He did have some interest. And so I went to see George Fraenkel, the dean, said, “Well now that’s Norman’s retiring, we’d like to consider bringing Tony Hallam over to take his place”. And he said, “Oh that position’s gone”. “What do you mean it’s gone?” And he said, Ewing put Jim [James D.] Hays in there. Well, Jim’s a good guy too, a micro paleontologist at Lamont and deserving, and a good teacher. They loved micro paleontology — they discovered macro paleontology which we also had to deal with. But that was sort of a shock to, you know, here you think you know what’s going on as department chairman, and find that the rug’s been pulled out from under you. So I lost that one, and I found it very frustrating.
Did you talk to Ewing about that afterwards?
Oh yes. [Laughter] Look, he’s building his place and doing what he viewed as necessary to make it a distinguished institution and he did well. And I was trying to do the same thing for the department. It’s, again, there’s no right and wrong in this. Just —
I’m just wondering what it’s like having been a protégé in the Lamont community and coming up through the ranks, and then dealing with Ewing in that capacity?
Oh, different people had different problems with it. And I think to a large extent how you got along depended on what you were actually doing, what you were interested in, and what he was doing and interested in at the time. I think with Bruce [Heezen], Ewing was very much interested in everything that Bruce was doing, and Bruce felt that very strongly, that he was never going to get out from being the student under the old mentor. I think Jack Oliver felt that way for a while when Ewing was concentrating on earthquake seismology, but then he moved away from that to the oceans, and gave Jack his head and then Jack didn’t feel that pressure any more.
And then they moved into the separate building in the 1960s.
Yes. That I suppose was some help. But I think mostly it was what people were interested and directly involved with, you know. And it works down the line too. I think George Sutton felt a little smothered under Jack. And Garry Latham felt a little smothered under Jack and George, and down the line you know. So it’s always a problem when you have a mentor who you stay on with because the mentor continues to think of you as a student rather than a colleague. And the one guy who could do this was Joe, you know, and Joe basically decided when he was a sophomore in college to devote his life to Maurice, and did. And Maurice was not always as grateful for that as he should have been. Because Joe, he just said “Okay, I’m going to give my life to Maurice.”
When you say not as grateful as he might have been, I’m wondering what you’re thinking of?
Oh, I think he took him a little bit for granted for one thing. I know on the Thresher search, there was a boo-boo made. I told you about that before. And Maurice behaved very badly towards Joe I thought. It was a mistake anybody could have made. And Maurice was more worried about his image than propping Joe up at a difficult time. And we actually did find that Joe went in and slapped the pictures down on Maurice’s desk and said, “I quit”. [Laughter] I mean it was that bad. But Maurice was always able to talk Joe out of it, so he talked Joe out of it.
How active was Norman Newell in Lamont interests?
Not much. See we had another satellite at Columbia which was the Natural Museum, the Museum of Natural History [New York, New York].
And the paleontology was mostly done through the Museum of Natural History. So you had people like Malcolm McKenna, and Roger Batten and Norman and Ed [Edward] Colbert who all had dual appointments at the Museum and at Columbia. And it’s easy to get down there on the subway. So most of the paleontology, the collections and the teaching, was actually done down there, except the undergraduate courses. But Columbia didn’t spend time on undergraduate anyway. So Norman’s connection with Lamont was a little bit thin.
One of the things that we had briefly spoken about in the previous interviews was that early effort to develop biology at Lamont in the 1950s before Ostwald Roels and [Paul] Burkholder came on in the 1960s. Do you remember discussions about bringing in Gifford Pinchot, Jr., the son of the forester when he was at Yale to launch one of the microbiology programs?
Oh remotely. I know — Ewing had the feeling that to be a real oceanographic institution you had to cover all aspects of oceanography. And he also felt that as long as you’re taking an expensive ship out and doing things, you ought to do as many things as you possibly could at the time to get the unit cost of data down to a reasonable number. And so those are worthy objectives. But he was not a biologist, nor was anybody else up at Lamont, and so he had to poke around to see what he could do to get started there. And I vaguely remember the Pinchot thing, but I don’t remember any details about it. And then he knew Paul Burkholder from the Academy. And Paul was interested in possible drugs from the sea, and Maurice figured well, why not. We’re going out and collect things and we can do that. And so he persuaded Paul to join us, and Paul got the, some sort of a biological effort started.
Earlier on, back in the 1950s, funds were coming from the Rockefeller Foundation to begin. When Bob [Robert] Menzies had first joined. How well did you know Bob Menzies?
Oh pretty well. [Laughter] You’ll get a lot more from Bill Layton than me. Bill was pretty close to Bob for a long time. And Bob came from Scripps [Institution of Oceanography]. And Bob’s particular interest was in the sea floor flora, which is good because that’s what we were interested in too. And he made a special effort to look for organisms that had survived on the sea floor through time, and meanwhile seemed to be extinct in the surface rocks. So this led him to dredge in the trenches for what turned out to be neopalina. And neopalina’s an uncoiled snail which was actually quite rare in the fossil record. Originally found in Sweden from rocks which in retrospect we now realize were deep water rocks and came to the surface. So the number of fossil specimens is probably less than the number of dredged up specimens. And the reason it hadn’t been found was not because it wasn’t extinct, but because the rocks are not well preserved in the sediments that come up from, pushed up, and metamorphosed and so forth. So it was an interesting find. Bob, well I think you’re best leaving that to Bill to talk about.
I’m curious what sort of person you found him to be?
Oh, he was a hard working biologist. He drank a lot. [Laughter] I think part of that was Lucille. Bob had been married before and his wife split and ran off with a mathematician I think. And so he married Lucille and they were out at Scripps, and when they came to Lamont, Bob would go out to sea. Lucille would get very unhappy and you talked to her and say “C’mon, you know, when you married Bob you knew he was an oceanographer and spent his time at sea.” And she said, “Yes, but out at Scripps he’d go out for day trips and then come back. And here he goes out for months at a time.” So she’d send cables to the ship saying “If you don’t come home tomorrow, I’m going to leave and go home to mother,” and that sort of thing which did not help his frame of mind at all. But as I say Bill will fill you in on that. [Laughter]
That’s interesting. That really was one of the differences between Scripps operations at that time.
It depended. They ran some long cruises too.
If, whatever, if we’re talking early fifties, nobody had enough money to run a very long cruise. For us it was up to Newfoundland, down to Bermuda, down to Puerto Rico and back home. And it wasn’t until the International Geophysical Year came along that you could see far enough ahead to be able to send the ship on a long cruise. And the first IGY cruise we got to South Africa and about ran out of money. It looked like we were going to have to fly the crew home and sell the ship. But ONR [Office of Naval Research] luckily came up with some extra money and we were able to make it home. And then there was a certain amount of lying, cheating and stealing which is the only way you get going on things like this. We got some money to work in shallow water off the east coast, which we used to go to the Mediterranean. Bureau of Ships money. And one could argue that that was not totally honest, but we did it anyway. And got back and instead of running into a hassle, the Arabs and the Israelis were beginning to fight each other and the Navy all of a sudden wanted some information about the Mediterranean which we just happened to have because we’d been there.
Worked out rather well.
So they forgave us our sins.
That was back in the, was that before ‘54, ‘55?
Oh this would have been about the Suez time.
Yes, right about the time of the Arab-Israeli thing. Because it was in the fifties. And that would have been about ‘56 I think.
That raises a few interesting questions. One that I meant to ask you was, did you meet another person who was being considered for hiring on the biology program by the name of Fred Sisler?
Fred Sisler. Gosh that rings a bell. I just don’t know enough about him to comment. But it does ring a bell.
Yes. He had been working in a few areas of microbiology and apparently had been working in the CIA in the early fifties before the end of his contract.
Where was he located, do you know? In Washington?
It rings a bell, but I just don’t, can’t remember enough to help you on that one. Bill might.
You mention about the IGY cruises. One of the things I was very interested in were the first cruises that started going down towards South America, Latin American cruises. How did the cooperation that began to emerge between Lamont?
It was through the Argentine navy. And at least a part of it was due to a guy named Fernando Vila. And Vila was an interesting guy. He was a geophysicist. And the Argentines bought a Worden Gravity Meter which is one of these made of fused quartz. And Vila, being Vila, had to open it up to see how it worked and he opened it up and he broke it. So he quickly reassembled it and put it back on the shelf. And then he noticed that nobody was using it. So he opened it up again and looked at it real carefully and being a clever guy, he rebuilt it and he made it work. And so we were working in gravity at that time, and Vila had the idea together with Joe [J. Lamar Worzel] and Doc [W. Maurice Ewing] that what we were using to measure gravity then was a big machine, a Graf machine, which was a heavily over damped gravimeter sitting on a big stable platform. And the stable platform was kept stable by servomotors which kept it level. And the servomotors were run off a gyro which maintained its balance. Well, if you could build a gravity meter small enough, you could put it right on top of the gyro, and then you wouldn’t have to have all this massive [cross talk]. So the idea was that Vila with his gift for working with quartz and little tiny pieces might build a gravity meter that was this big and could sit right on top of the gyro and get rid of that full stable platform. So Fernando came up and had a little shop out by one of the garages there called Fernando’s Hideaway. [Laughter] And he worked on these things. And he was a real artist with the, making zero length springs and doing all this other good stuff. I remember one time taking a visitor out there, showing him around Lamont, and I took him to Fernando’s Hideaway. Fernando was working on a little tiny gravimeter. It was in a clamp and there was a little scope to look at it through. So he picked up a pair of tweezers to show the visitor what the thing was, and held it over the thing. He dropped the tweezers and the things just disappeared into a cloud of dust. God, I felt so bad. [Laughter] Oh dear, anyway. So that was part of it. But part of it was we had one ship. And we were doing seismic refraction. And to do seismic refraction you had to have another ship.
And at times we used the Atlantis, worked out joint cruises with Woods Hole. Or we had some other joint cruises. But Ewing had the idea that there were other countries that were interested in these things too who had ships, and if you could join forces with them, we could supply the gear to do the work, and they supply the ship, and we’d go somewhere. So we set up joint cruises. Started with the Argentines, and that worked out very well because they were trying to expand their ocean business. And they had a few really good people like Vila and had some very interesting people in the navy itself, and people like Daniel Valencio at the university who was in paleomagnetism. And so they, and plus the fact that they were having arguments with Chile. And one of the — the southern border of Chile and Argentina had been in dispute for a long time. And it was resolved back in Teddy [Theodore] Roosevelt’s time by Teddy and Queen Victoria who put the boundary between Chile and Argentina through the middle of the Beagle Channel. And that was fine until you get out to the mouth of the Beagle Channel where there was an island. And the question was did the channel go north of the island or south of the island. And the Chileans argued it went north of the island so they built a lighthouse there. Argentines would come and blow up that lighthouse, saying the channel went south of the island. And they built an Argentine lighthouse there. And you needed a lighthouse there. This went on for a long time. Well, the Argentines were interested in how the geology of South American extended down towards the Antarctic Peninsula. So, to see whether you could raise some arguments that because of continuations in the geology, you could argue that this was Argentine waters rather than Chilean waters. And so they — maybe they just used us to sell it to their budget people. But anyway it did generate their interest in working with us down there. They also had an interest in that their biggest oil field was the one near Comodora Rividava, St. George Basin, which they had drilled on shore, but hadn’t done anything with off-shore. And I’m not sure they still haven’t done anything with it off-shore or very much. And the question is there a big sedimentary basin out there, and if so, what is the potential of this for petroleum. So they had another economic interest there and collaborated. The only people you could collaborate with in Argentina at that time were the Navy people because they didn’t have any civilian effort. Subsequently they started their lab at Bahia Blanca and got the old Atlantis from Woods Hole.
Oh is that right?
Which was renamed El Astral. Yes. May still be working. I don’t know.
That’s very interesting. I didn’t realize that’s where the ship, the original Atlantis had gone. What was the initial contact between Vila and Ewing or others at Lamont?
Well, that’s a good question. Joe’s the guy to ask about that because Joe was the one working most closely with him. And I can’t recall whether we ran into Vila during the negotiations with the Argentine navy or we ran into Vila first and that lead to the negotiations. I’m a little vague on that, but Joe would know the answer to that. We also worked with the Chileans down there. And you’d run a cruise with the Argentineans and then they would tie up in Ushuaia and get our gear off the Argentine ship. And then we’d have to steam across the Beagle Channel to the other side to Puerto Williams where the Chilean ship was and the Argentine ship couldn’t go in there and just transfer the gear to the Chilean ship. Had to come over the Verna, over to Puerto Williams, and then be transferred. And so we worked with them some too. But we worked with a lot of countries. Worked with Spain on several cruises and a cruise in the Gulf of Cadiz in the mouth of the Mediterranean. We worked with the Canadians up in the north and also did some work with Australia and New Zealand. But the Argentine thing was the biggest venture we had which went on for some years.
Biggest in terms of the numbers of cruises that were done?
Yes and then the nature of the collaboration. You know, we had Argentine people would come up to Lamont and work on data. Our people would go down there. And it was just a good show all around. In fact we had several Argentines who well like Lonardi.
Yes. You ever find him? Where is he? Is he — he was in Washington for quite a while.
Had been, or is now back in Argentina?
Oh he’s back in Argentina?
How about [Nestor] Granelli?
He’s also down there, Argentina. I’m wondering what you recall about that.
Well Nestor was in the navy. Alberto, Alberto’s uncle was it, was president of Argentina?
Is that right?
I think so. I believe it was his uncle. And Alberto spent quite a few years working with us. Walter Pitman was probably the guy closest to him if you want to get some inside dope on Alberto. Nestor was a navy lieutenant. That was considered a good career in Argentina. And a real promoter, which to survive in the Argentine economy was very useful. And he spent some time up at Lamont. In fact, he got married in New York. And my biggest recollection of Nestor was I guaranteed a car for him. Well, he wanted to borrow money for a car, and he needed a US guarantor. And I wasn’t all that sure about Nestor, but I went ahead with it. And so I guaranteed it, and actually it worked out very well for him because he bought it here then he could ship it back to Argentina and bring it in as a personal automobile. Well a car that cost, you know, twenty-five hundred dollars in those days in New York was worth fifteen thousand in Argentina. So he made a few bucks on it. I shouldn’t have worried about it. [Laughter]
Things one learns this.
Yes. Hector Iglesias would be somebody to talk with. Hector was a young kid whose father was a naval captain. And his father I think got run out of the navy for — during one of the revolutions down there, he was in charge of their ice breaker. And the army had taken over Buenos Aires and the navy was not so sure they wanted to collaborate with this. And the army was afraid that the navy might come in and chase them out. So the army ordered him to haul a refrigerator barge out and sink it in the channel so the navy couldn’t get their ships in. So he didn’t want to do this, but he was under their guns. So he hauled this thing out there and then he’d back off and zoom in on it as if he was going to ram it and sink it. And he’d give it all back full just before he hit it. He’d just nudge it, you know, so nothing would happen. And so he was staffing you know. And then on one of these nudges, the bow of the ship hit one of the ammonia tanks which blew up and it sank. [Laughter] And then everybody was mad at him.
His own ship sank or?
No, his ship didn’t sink. But the refrigerator barge. Well, everybody’s mad at him. The navy because he sank this barge and the army because he stalled so long before he did it. So he had to get out of the navy. And he went with Dupont. But his son came along with us and sailed on the cruise where John Hennion got blown up.
Which Walter [Pitman] was on too. Walter. And he was a young kid then so he certainly ought to be around somewhere.
That’s good to know. Was Ewing particularly interested in the ocean floor off the coast of Argentina? I know he wrote a number of pieces in the sixties where he was talking about patterns of sedimentation there and relating it to the question of climate change when he was working with them.
Well, I would think he was interested in the comparison between what’s happening down there and what was happening off North America because we had a lot of data off North America. And it was an opportunity to look at another place that was comparable. I think he was also caught up a little bit in the heroic aspects of oceanography because nobody had done any oceanography in the southern ocean since the old Discovery. And the Discovery didn’t do much bottom work. They were interested in biological stuff for the support of their whaling industry. And it’s a fascinating place. And here was an opportunity to work down there and show up those wimps at Scripps and Woods Hole who seemed to concentrate on staying in the tropics in the summertime. [Laughter] So Vema really did a lot of pioneering work down there which eventually the National Science Foundation realized the opportunities to be had and they converted the Eltanin to do that kind of work.
Oh that’s interesting. So the Eltanin‘s conversion you feel came about in part because of what Vema had accomplished.
It sure did. The original Antarctic program didn’t have much ocean stuff in it. Just around the fringes. But I think the work Vema did in particular demonstrated that there was a lot to be learned out there. And so National Science Foundation got the Eltanin which was originally built as a vessel to resupply DEW [Distant Early Warning] Line stations.
Which has a connection with the Vema actually?
I want to hear about that.
Yes. Louie [Louis] Kennedy who formerly owned the Verna. He’s the one we bought it from. The ship he’d had before Vema was the Old City of New York which was the ship that [Admiral Robert] Byrd took down to the Antarctic. And it was one of these wooden vessels with sides three feet thick, you know. It was built to withstand the ice. And Louie got hold of it. And this was just when they were setting up the DEW Line stations and they were worried about how you’re going to supply them. Louie had the ship. So he had a very lucrative contract in supplying the DEW line stations because he had the only vessel that was capable of going up in the ice that way. So he rode this for a while, and then they built the Eltanin and there was another one. I can’t remember its name now to do this job. And Louie’s contract was terminated. Well, he thought he’d use the Old City of New York as a cargo ship, but it didn’t have any capacity because the sides were so thick. So he had it down in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and he decided to tow it up to Bridgewater which is just south of Lunenberg and they towed it out of Yarmouth Harbor and they got outside a little bit and a kerosene stove in the vessel, quote, “fell over,” unquote, and started it on lire, and it burned to the water line. So Louie collected the insurance and used that to buy the Verna. So the Eltanin — had it not been for the Eltanin. [Laughter] There’s that circle there.
Very interesting circle about that one. One thing I was curious about too, how many of the cruises to Latin America had you been on? How personally involved were you in the seismic refraction work that was being done?
Not very many.
In South America.
I mean we’d come — we’d go across the Atlantic to Recife, Brazil say, but that was just a port stop. Spent some time in the Caribbean. I was really only on one of the Argentine cruises and that was coming from New Zealand around Cape Horn and we met that cruise in the picture behind us.
Okay we’re looking behind us now. Which photograph is it? Oh, I see it. Yes.
Going around Cape Horn.
Hadn’t sailed yet. But we met the Captain Canopus in the vicinity of Cape Horn and we were supposed to do some refraction. It was terrible weather. Awful. So I talked to Henry [Captain Henry C. Kohler] and he says, “Tell you what. Why don’t we get them to shoot first?” So he said, called up Doc on the thing and he said, “All right, we’ll be two and you can shoot into us.” We held to. And there’s no way you get a hydrophone quiet. But anyway, Henry was right. Because they started up, were going to shoot, and they put up their first charge and it went right off the ship, right off the stern. And they couldn’t go anywhere.
Well, the captain of the Canopus said, “C’mon, we’ll blow the rear end off the vessel if we keep this up.” So Ewing had to give up on that. And he went up in the lee of the Cape and did some work up there where it was a little calmer. And then it let up some so we were able to do some work. But mostly, I used to get the last leg of the cruise. I was interested in the east coast, you know.
I realize that was what you really specialized in.
Yes. And you’d get that on the beginning and the end of these long cruises. And I was also interested in things like the Red Sea and so forth. But as a result, the Argentine cruises came at a time when, in the middle of the academic year, when I was involved in teaching or department chairman or that sort of thing. And the end cruises usually came in November, and I could usually catch them, you know, arrange my schedule for that. And do it. So I didn’t make very many of those. I made the Canadian ones, you know, made arrangements for the cruises up north. And the Spanish one in the Gulf of Cadiz and Red Sea. But it was mostly Maurice and Joe, John Ewing. Walter was involved in a number of those. John Hennion. Oh Bill, Bill Ludwig.
What had gotten you interested particularly in the Red Sea? And working in that part, in that geology?
Well, if you look at the ocean ridge, the ocean ridge goes down around Africa and comes up into the Gulf of Aden and goes into the Red Sea. Well, if you want to find a place where you can see the geology on the shores and do some reasonable work that might solve some problems that were related to the ridge, that’s a good place to do it.
I worked in East Africa too for the same reason.
Indeed. Was that part of the — you were deeply involved in the Upper Mantle Project?
That was because of — it was because of that actually. A funny thing. I worked in the Red Sea first. And there was interest in East Africa. And I wrote a little thing about the world rift system.
That was back in ‘65 as I recall. Or am I thinking, or was it an earlier one that?
A little, a little bit before. About ‘64.
Before the Indian Congress.
The Indian Geological Conference. And I’d written a thing about the world rift system.
Was this an individually authored piece that you’re thinking about?
Yes. Yes it was. And anyway, [Vladimir M.] Belousov was trying to stir up interest in working in East Africa. Because he was interested in the rift system too. They had Lake Baikal in the Soviet Union and there were these other great lakes in Africa which looked very similar. So he was trying to promote a program for working in East Africa. Our State Department was concerned that the Russians were doing this for political reasons and so they were looking for a counter. Well, that’s how I got dragged into it. I’d written this thing about the world rift system. And went to the Geological Congress in New Delhi with the idea of promoting not research specifically in East Africa, but research on the total world rift system. And I think there was also some feeling that if you had some visibility there, you might get involved in anything that did show up in East Africa. Well, so we did that and one of the things that came out was Belousov was still interested in East Africa and he wanted to have a conference in Nairobi to discuss this. So it was agreed that we would have that. And I went along on that. And I was the secretary, I guess, of the meeting. He was the leader.
You mention the State Department interest. Were you carrying any instructions from the State Department during this?
Never directly. Always second hand. Again if you want the details on this, [unclear] is your guy. Anyway, so flew out to Cairo and got to the airport there and met Belousov in the airport where he slept on a bench all night. Because they wouldn’t let him out of the airport. And then we went down to East Africa and there was a lot of suspicion because they just found a big cache of Soviet weapons in the basement of the vice president. [Laughter] So I don’t know how much real intrigue was going on, but the impression was that there was something, and I don’t think Belousov had any interest in that at all. I think he was sincerely interested in doing some research.
He struck you as being apolitical.
Yes. As much as you can be in the Soviet Union. I think his family were not potato diggers before the revolution. And he, I liked Belousov. I think he made a terrible mistake by crushing the plate tectonics for so long. But as a person I liked him very much. And his wife was wonderful. She was an art historian and had been a curator in the Hermitage for some time. But anyway, so we had that conference and I discovered how Belousov worked because he sat down before the meeting and decided what the report would have in it. And then he skillfully organized the meeting so that it came out to match the report.
He was good at that?
Oh he was very good at that. He had no English at all when this whole business started, but he quickly realized just as [inaudible] in Russian, he realized that if he was going to have any influence internationally, he had to have English. So he learned it. And he learned it well. I mean the subtleties of the language and the idioms and all that sort of thing. And he did a whole lot for the Soviet Union internationally and science in general. But he did have this fixation about plate tectonics. He just didn’t believe that at all. I asked him once. We were in Zermat on a field trip. I asked him why this was. He said, “Well, you know, in the beginning I was a nappist, so called, believing in these big horizontal structures. But after a career at working the Urals and out in Siberia and so forth, I couldn’t see any evidence for this.” So it’s the geology he looked that influenced the way he thought. And like all of us, he figured the geology you see around here must be the way it works throughout the world, you know. And so he became very negative toward it.
His influence was evident clearly within the Soviet system, the Soviet geologists as well.
Oh yes. He was in charge of the Soviet geophysical committee for ever since I knew him, I guess. And because of his fluent grasp of English, he was readily accepted in international circles and so he’s the guy you turned to if you were going to work abroad. And he controlled his institute which is the institute which dealt with this kind of thing. And that’s a hard working system. If you’re sitting on top you’re in charge. And actually the first paper on plate tectonics that was published in the Soviet Union was published by the grandson of a revolutionary. His name was Potemkin.
And he published this. He was in Leningrad, he wasn’t in Moscow. And he published it and it was scathing in its criticism of the rejection of plate tectonics. And once he’d broken the ice, then people took off.
Interesting. Had Belousov died already at that point?
No, he was still there. In fact, we had a major meeting down Buenos Aires in the early seventies. And he gave a paper just abusing plate tectonics down there. And several of us gave papers promoting it. And this was a meeting to try to figure out how Latin America could advance in geophysics and geology. Learned something there. We had a meeting about off-shore work, you know, the oceanographic panel. And I turned to some of my colleagues, Argentine navy colleagues, who we worked with for some years, and I said, you know, everybody who cites this joint effort is a type section of how things should be done. Tell me what was wrong with it. And well, they were ready. The thing that was wrong was that we would come down, we’d bring our gear with us, we’d take them aboard, and we’d go out and do all this good stuff, and we’d pack up our gear and take it home. And so what are they left with? Nothing that they could work with themselves. Well, we couldn’t leave the gear there because it didn’t belong to us. It was the property of the navy or the university or what have you. But in point of fact, had we been able to, the best thing we could have done for them was leave the gear and let them make mistakes with it and find out how to use it. And do well.
That’s a really interesting point. How much gear did, say, the Argentinean navy have of that sort to do —
Nothing basically. Nothing in geophysics. They could sample water and do some biological work. But, what did you need to run a navy? So, no, they didn’t have anything. And no civilian effort until they started the lab at Bahia Blanca.
And that was in the early sixties?
Or was it later than that?
Later than that. It would be, my guess is around ‘74, ‘75, sometime around there, that may be a little late.
I was curious about — Did you talk to some of the younger geophysicists in the Soviet Union? Say those who were working in Belousov’s institute. Did they talk to you about their own frustrations with?
Let me give you an example, not from Belousov’s institute, but from the institute of geology which was controlled by a man named [?] (Aleksandr) Pucharevsky who was a Belousov disciple. And at the — it was the Oceanographic Congress in Moscow. Dave Scholl who’d done work in the Aleutians and Creighton Burk who did his Ph.D. thesis on the Alaska peninsula and Carl Bowen and I got to talking with some of the Soviet geologists. And they said, “Well, why don’t you come over to the institute some morning and we’ll have a little seminar on — we’ll talk about the Kurils and the Kamchatka and Komandorskwes and you can talk about the Aleutians in Alaska. We’ll compare notes.” So we said fine. So we went over, and it was pretty good.
When was this happening roughly?
This would be the Oceanographic Congress in Moscow which would be ‘66.
Yes, that’s right. So we went over. And the meeting opened with Pucharevsky getting up and saying how they worked at the institute which was according to the principles of the late academician Schatsky. And then we got up and said our thing about Alaska and the Aleutians and they got up and they talked about Kurils and Kamchatka in a curiously uninspired way. And then after the formal part was over, we gathered around the maps and started talking, and when we did that, it was very different. We were actually talking one on one and so forth. Very different from how it was when they gave their talks. So we did for a while. Then we had to go and they said, “Hey, can we do this again?” And we said “Sure, when?” “How about tomorrow morning?” “Fine. What time?” “How about six-thirty?” Why so early? Pucharevsky doesn’t come in until nine. [Laughter] So you get the picture.
Sure do, yes.
And in —
Now were discussions already going on in ‘66 about drift? Were they aware of Hessel’s sea floor papers and?
Oh yes. Yes it was in ‘63 that the ice broke. ‘63 was the year that Cox and Doell and Dalrymple did their magnetic reversals. Drummond Matthews and Vine did their Indian Ocean thing. And shortly after that, the whole correlation business opened up and then Jack Oliver and Bryan Isacks and Lynn Sykes did their subduction bit. And so by that time, things were pretty well in order. Not accepted totally yet, but the basic principles were established.
Those were established. I was curious more how much these people that you were dealing with were aware of what was being done in the west?
Oh they knew what was going on. They — they’d get the US publications. They may have to go to the library to read them. But they knew very well if they wanted to keep up on what was going on, they had to see this. So they knew. But, if you want to, in the Soviet Union at that time it really was important to become a member of the Soviet Academy because it allowed you to travel and it gave you money, good position in the country. You didn’t get there by arguing with your mentor. So as I said a very hierarchical position which tended to stifle some of the younger folks.
I meant to ask you. Did you actually get there at six-thirty the next morning for the discussions?
No. We got there at seven. [Laughter] Six-thirty was a little early.
Yes. But you did get a few hours of good discussion in before the director?
That’s very interesting. I was wondering if this is the paper that you had in mind. Indeed it was a 1964.
Yes. It came out in September, but it was written originally for the upper mantle committee. See, it says “inspired by the resolution of the upper mantle committee concerning inclusion of studies of rift systems in the program of the Upper Mantle Project”.
And Belousov was thinking of East Africa when he thought of that. And this is sort of a counter because this said, “East Africa is fine, but let’s face it, we’ve got a system that’s global in extent and we ought to study the whole thing rather than just East Africa.” So that’s what got me involved with the Geological Congress which was in December I think. Because they had a field trip up to Kashmir, and the people on the field trip got snowed in. And so they couldn’t fly out and they got a bunch of coolies out shoveling the snow off the air strip, but they’d just about get it shoveled off and it would snow again. And they finally got them out by sending the Indian army up with four wheel drive vehicles and trucking them out. And they got back just in time for the closing ceremony. But they had their own little congress up there. There was enough of them that they just gave their papers to each other up there, and it was probably better than the one we had. So I know it was December and this was published actually in September.
One thing I’ve been very curious about was the way in which that whole inter-related set of ideas that we’ve been indirectly talking about, acceptance of magnetic reversals and interpretations of the rift system as a global phenomena. When did you find that you could accept the idea of magnetic reversals for instance? And I’m curious what sort of discussions you remember happening at Lamont?
Well these things evolved. The idea goes back to the turn of the century. Really when both Brunhes and Maniyama found reversely magnetized lava. And it got revived again. [Percy M.S.] Blackett and [Sir Edward C.] Bullard had a big argument about the origin of the magnetic field. I may have gone through this with you before. Anyway, Blackett ended up with a machine. Bullard won and Blackett ended up with a magnetometer that he needed to do something with because his original premise was shot. So they started working with Icelandic lavas where they found some reverse lavas up there. And big arguments about whether the lava that was already down there magnetized, served to magnetize the one above it the wrong way or there was no general agreement on this. And at Lamont, I remember in particular, there was a sea mount in the Indian Ocean, just before you come into the Gulf of Aden. And we dragged a magnetometer over this thing and they got beautiful magnetic anomaly, except that it was backwards for that latitude. And that was embarrassing. George Peder who had been towing the magnetometer, he argued that this is the case of reversely magnetized lavas. And Ewing didn’t like that much. And part of the problem was that one of Ewing’s students was a guy named Nelson Steenland, and Nelson had written a GSA memoir with Henderson and I think Bill Bromeley and Izzy Zeets on the interpretation of magnetic data. And all the assumptions about magnetic anomalies were based on the idea that these were induced, not — And so you had a double whammy here. First you had to admit that the anomalies you’re looking at could be induced. And secondly you had to admit that the field could have reversed. Well, big arguments about that. And interesting development, look up that paper because Ewing didn’t want to publish it at all. And I think they finally weasel-worded their way into saying isn’t this curious.
This is the George Peder paper?
George Peder, yes. He’s a Hungarian refugee who came to Lamont. But the British had a different mindset. You know, they believed you could get magnetic reversals. And the Canadians, you know Larry [Lawrence V.] Morley made the suggestion that maybe magnetic reversals were involved in these anomalies. But he didn’t have the data to be able to support it. Got shot down.
This is around the early sixties when Morley makes this?
That’s right. Just before Bryan Matthews. But then they had the data from the Indian Ocean. And made a very good case for magnetic reversals as being caused.
How did you feel about the development once the Cox, Doell and Yarpole, once that work was coming out? Did you find that you were able to disagree with Ewing then?
That’s funny. I don’t think I can give you an honest answer. And the reason is that once you accept the model you tend to brush off the objections that you had earlier. We did find the same linear anomalies in the Red Sea that you found in the oceans. And if we pursued it just a little bit more, we probably would have come up very clearly with the answer to this. We interpreted the Red Sea. Now bear in the mind, the Red Sea’s fairly narrow and just opening up. And you’d get these magnetic anomalies which we interpreted as dikes coming up through continental basement. And, you know, it was sensible there where it wasn’t sensible out in the — And it worked out pretty well in terms of being able to model the magnetic anomaly. But then we also tried to model the gravity mount. And when we did that it didn’t work because the stuff that was most magnetic should also be the most dense. And if you believe the gravity picture, then things were backwards. So we had a real problem there, but that never got off the ground. This was after we published our Red Sea paper and working at it further along. We also had, as I say, the British were all ready to accept magnetic reversals. Tom [Thomas] Allen who was British and who was working with Teddy Bullard was going to go on a cruise of a British vessel through the Red Sea after we had gone. And so he and Teddy contacted us and asked for our tracks and where to go in order to best compliment the data we had. So we sent them that and the next bunch of data and we put it all together and it was a paper with Tom as a co-author. But then we wanted to comment about magnetic reversals, the possibility. And Tom, although he was from Britain, was not ready for that. So we argued for a while, and finally Tom said, “I’m going to take my data and go home.” And by then we’d watered down the paper to where we thought it was acceptable to him, but he took his data. So if you look at the figures in our paper, you can see places where his data has been erased from. It was hard drafting in those days. You had to do it all by hand.
You didn’t just throw out the thing and start from scratch, the way you can do it with a computer. So we never made a statement as strong as we felt in the first place. And we didn’t have his data to back it up in the second place.
That’s very interesting. Do you recall when that was? I know we can look that up.
Well, the paper came out in. Let’s see the cruise was in ‘58. Must have been about 1960 or a year later, ‘61.
You say there were statements that had been watered down that you wanted to make. What sort of statements did you have in mind?
Well, we were looking for explanations for these magnetic anomalies, and one possibility which was mentioned not as the possibility but as a possibility was that you could explain these by magnetic reversal. And this was particularly relevant in light of the sea mount that George Peder had found on the way in. Which seemed to support the idea? And I think Ron [Ronald] Girdler was involved in that paper with George too. So Tom didn’t want to say anything about that possibility of magnetic reversals. And so we watered it down so that was out, but by then. I don’t think he got along with Ron very well. He was negotiating with him, and so they got split off.
Did you ever come into direct contact with [W.] Keith Runcorn?
Oh yes. First met Keith back in the fifties. I was assigned to go pick up Keith at the pier, in those days people used to take boats across the ocean, ships. And I was assigned the job of going down and pick him up off the Queen something or other and bring him up to Columbia where — GSA [Geological Society of America] headquarters used to be right there at Columbia, and they had a spare room there, a guest room, and so he was put up in the guest room. And he was coming over at that time to go out and sample in the American West. In those days you needed rocks that had quite a high degree of magnetization to work with. So he was going to work with the continental red bed that you find all over the Southwest and ranging some distance stratigraphically underneath to plot them. Polar wandering was actually one of the first real indications of continental drift, not from the magnetic reversal. It was the fact that the polar wandering pads for different continents were different.
Were different. Particularly which was known for Britain.
Yes. So, you know, you couldn’t explain that by the pole moving relative to the earth’s outer shell. You had to explain it by the continents moving relative to each other. So he was working on that problem back then. And we’d see him periodically. And he was usually fun to have around, except for the secretaries. If he moved in somewhere, he’d immediately commander a desk, commander the secretaries, put everybody to work on his stuff. And they all hated it.
Is it something that happened to you at one point?
I never had a secretary of my own, so — Well, no I did once. He came once when I was department chairman and tried to take over the department office, but I wouldn’t quite let him do that because I needed it for other things. But Keith was — he was a bright guy. He took over Cambridge when Teddy Bullard went to National Physical Laboratory, and so he was acting head of it for a while. And then when Teddy came back, he went up to Newcastle. And went up there. He was very smart when he went up there. He spent a lot of time in the States and saw how departments worked here. He didn’t want to go up to a department where he was the old professor and that was it. So he said he’d only come up if they would allow him to have a school of physics, not a department of physics. And so they agreed to this. Well then he had a professor of geophysics, a professor of theoretical physics, a professor of experimental physics. He could basically build a US-type department by calling it a school. And get around the rigidity of the British system.
Yes. Kingsley Dunham had done sort of that thing when he was at Durham. Because he set up the geology department there so that he had a professor of geology and a professor of geophysics who would alternate as being chairman. And so that broke the ice a little bit too. And at Cambridge back in the sixties, mid-sixties, you have three departments: Department of Geodesy and Geophysics, Department of Mineralogy and Petrology, Department of Geology. With Harry Whiddington, Deer, and Bullard as the three professors. And all the younger people wanted to combine it into one department, and the old guys didn’t trust each other. [Laughter] So you had to wait until they died basically.
That’s very interesting. Was that something that you picked up when you were on — it was sabbatical wasn’t it that you were over at Cambridge?
Yes. It was pretty obvious, you know. They were all afraid of Teddy and rightly so. Teddy was a guy who knew how to get what he wanted. So they wouldn’t consider merging. But as soon as they all disappeared, why they put it together.
How limiting was the fact that there were three departments in existence when you were there? And this was the late, this was ‘68 or so?
Yes. Actually went to the Oceanographic Congress in Moscow from Cambridge which saved me a lot of money. Because they thought I was British and they didn’t hit the British for such high hotel fees as they hit Americans for.
That’s very interesting. It was a staggered, staggered rate.
Oh yes. How limiting was it? Well, the younger guys used to communicate with each other. And I guess the most limiting thing was for the students because you had three physical localities which were not right adjacent to each other. So the students who were in geology tended to talk mostly to students who were also in geology. And those in mineralogy, petrology with each other, and the same with geodesy and geophysics. So geography is very important in an academic institution.
It really is. How far apart were they?
Well, the geodesy and geophysics was out at Maddingly Rise which is out on the edge of town. And geology was closer to mineralogy and petrology, but they were downtown in a university building.
Probably a good time to talk a little bit about that sabbatical that you had at that time. How did that come about? What particularly were you interested in doing?
Well, I’ve always been interested in trying to pull things together. You know, sort of a synthesis which is very difficult to get any support for. It’s still the case. It’s relatively easy too. It’s not so much the case now with the computer systems we have. But in those days, if you wanted to go out and get new data, you could always get [inaudible]. If you wanted to try to sort out what was already there and make some sense out of it, it was almost impossible to get any support for it. So I got a fellowship from the National Science Foundation.
Was this the senior post doc?
Senior postdoctoral fellow, I think. And so that gave me the opportunity to go somewhere and sit down and try to make sense out of a lot of the data that we had had never been really pulled together.
Well, because of the department of geodesy and geophysics. You had Teddy Bullard there. You had Maurice Hill there. Drum Matthews there. In fact, a lot of the guys who are in leadership positions now. You know, people like John Sclater who’s down at Texas, and Dan McKenzie. John, the name slips me. Tony [Sir Anthony] Laughton was over there and Tony had spent time with us. Anyway, it was a good logical place to go. And Jack Nafe was going to go over too and we had collaborated on a lot of things and this looked like another good opportunity to collaborate some more.
Clearly that was when you were doing the synthesis work. When you produced the set of papers that came out a few years later. Differences between the oceanic and continental crust.
Did Jack actually go to —
Oh yes. We were there at the same time. And he went back one more time. Maurice Hill blew his brains out while we were there. A real tragedy. Well Maurice — our landlord, Christopher Cornford, was Maurice’s doctor, and Maurice had something funny going on in his head and they ran some tests and they couldn’t find anything. And then they thought they found something and they asked him to come back. And he was sure that if he went back, they’d lock him up. He’d never get out again. And he didn’t want any part of that. So he put his affairs in impeccable order and blew his brains out. It was a real tragedy. And he may have been right, but you never know. But we were all pretty close to them, especially the Nafes. And Sally Nafe and Philippa Hill still see other. Sally’s out in Vancouver now. Philippa’s father made a mint because he discovered how to take the old ore piles, the waste heaps, in the mines in Cornwall and extract the tin from them. At a good profit. Because they took the most obvious stuff, but they didn’t really clean it out. So he — he owned the whole town down there. So it was a place to go. You know, if you looked at who was doing much in the geophysics in the oceans in those days, there was hardly anything in France. [Xavier] LePichon was at Lamont then. The Institute for Meereskunde in Kiel was tooling along, but they didn’t have their big ship yet, and they were coming. Not much going on. And then in the United States, Woods Hole, Scripps and Lamont were the only ones who were doing anything really significant on the geophysics side as opposed to other aspects of oceanography. So if you’re going to go somewhere, why the logical place to go —
That’s very interesting. MIT wasn’t quite on the radar screen in that sense?
No. They’re independent. That effort with Woods Hole. Well actually, while we were in Cambridge, Paul Frye and Art [Arthur] Maxwell came over. And we had lunch. And they discussed turning Woods Hole into an academic institution. And I was arguing against it.
Well, yes. My feeling was that a lot of people were at Woods Hole precisely because they didn’t want to be involved in teaching. They wanted to do research. And these people would not be enthusiastic professors. And yet, Woods Hole was faced with the problem that if you become an academic institution, then you’re going to say, “Okay, you’re a professor and you’re not.” What do you do?
You already had experience along those lines.
Yes. So basically they just said everybody’s a professor. Well then that gives the wrong impression to students because they come and they go, “Here’s an academic institution” then go up and try to convince some “professor” that they want to work with him, and they don’t want to work with students. They want to do their own thing. So it created some problems, but I think combining with MIT was probably a pretty good idea. And that must have come about, oh a year or so later, ‘67, ‘68.
Yes. Exactly right. Besides Maurice Hill, who else did you find that you were working particularly close with while you were at?
Oh Teddy. Teddy Bullard. Drum Matthews. They were both interested in the — Dan McKenzie was a little more theoretical. John Sclater was just getting started in the heat flow business. Bob Whitemarsh was doing sort of near shore work which was interesting since I’d worked on the continental margin on the other side. See, well Tony Laughton of course. Tony was at the National Institute of Oceanography which is now the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences I think. Martin Bobb I knew pretty well. He was up in Durham. Went up and visited with him some. And Ron Girder I’d worked with. He’d come over to Lamont. He was at Durham. And Keith Runcorn I knew of course. But Keith wasn’t there. Keith’s never there. [Laughter]
Always seemed to be traveling, didn’t he?
Yes. One interesting thing that happened then was had to do with deep sea drilling. The MOHOLE Project died. And Maurice [Ewing] in particular, was very interested in doing some deep sea drilling. And he had the idea of talking to his friends in the petroleum industry to see if they’d be interested in putting up some money for this. So he talked to Mobil and they were interested. And he talked to Exxon and they were interested. And he talked to Gulf and they were interested. But they all said, “We’ll go along with this if Shell will come in.”
Shell was the big player?
Shell was the deciding player, yes. So Maurice and Harry Gibbon who was an old Exxon hand that worked at Lamont then came over to England, and the three of us went over to The Hague to talk to Steinberg who was the executive vice president of Shell. So he pulled together all his research people and his drilling people and so forth, and we made the pitch on what could be learned from deep sea drilling. And when we finished, why Steinberg went around them one by one and said, “What do you think of this? Is this a good idea?” Yes good science, you know. And the drilling people said it was feasible. All the way around. And so he got all the way around and he said, “Well, I think the consensus is that this is a good project and is feasible. Now, where in the budgets are you going to find the money for it?” [Laughter]
You’re turning yourself around in the chair as they were doing.
All of a sudden everybody lost their enthusiasm. They were all thinking it’d be extra money, and he was telling them they’d have to pinch it out of their regular budgets. So Shell didn’t become a player and that fell through. And probably just as well because that would have been an individual effort by Lamont and the thing is too big for that. It needed a joint effort by all the institutions.
The JOIDES then was the right?
Oh it, yes, it went through a couple more iterations before it got to JOIDES. I think I told you about that before. But it finally ended up with JOIDES and then JOIDES became international. And it seems to function pretty well. In fact, there’s going to be a, on July nineteenth, the JOIDES Resolution will be in New York. And they’re going to have a dinner on there, and I’m supposed to give a speech at the dinner. Deep sea drilling and where it’s gone and where it’s going.
That sounds like an interesting challenge. One of the things I’m very interested in is the, your own thinking about drift and plate tectonics. Clearly by the time that you and Jack Nafe were over in Cambridge, the papers that you were producing at that time explicitly mention drift as one of the likely explanations for some of the phenomena that you were —
Well, by that time. I’m not sure Maurice ever accepted continental drift. I’m not sure. He may have. But by that time enough people at Lamont had been working on various aspects of this that it was pretty much accepted as a concept. And, you know, you can go back even further. But Bruce [Heezen] wrote a paper back in ‘59 in French in which he talked about the expanding earth.
Exactly it, the expanding earth.
Basically it’s the same thing, you know, except that in order to get away from the idea of just plain continental drift and supply a mechanism, why he just made the earth grow and the continents would separate. So what this said and what the subduction part said was that you didn’t need to expand the earth in order to do this.
But Worzel did not accept drift or plate tectonics.
Well, bear in mind that Joe had basically dedicated his life to Doc. And if Doc was not accepting this, Joe was not going to, either.
I wonder, Le Pichon, he was an opponent as I understand for a while. It changed around. I’m curious what you recall of —
Well, Xavier came over to Lamont because Wust had come over. And George Wust was a famous oceanographer, in the classic sense, who had worked on the Meteor data and showed how the deep circulation of the ocean worked. And Xavier came over to work on physical oceanography. That’s what he wanted to study. He got over there and he saw these massive.
That he had seen masses of data?
Yes. Xavier got to Lamont and to work with Wust and then he saw these masses of data and the interesting things that were happening with the geophysical data, and so he switched his interest over to the geophysics instead of physical oceanography. And wrote a great many papers. In fact, I think his Ph.D. thesis was based on the papers that he put together at Lamont which dealt with examining the mid-Atlantic ridge. And the first batch of these papers didn’t have any continental drift in them. But by the time he got to the thesis, they provided the background which showed how everything fit into the idea.
Indeed. One of the things that I’m simply curious about is how from your perception the debate unfolded within Lamont. Clearly as you say Ewing and Joe Worzel didn’t accept it. Did it, by the critical moments in the AGU meeting and some of the other episodes of that sort, did it seem like Lamont was divided, or did it seem that there were simply a few leading people who didn’t accept it while most of the community did?
Again, it’s hard not to be revisionist on this.
I fully understand.
Let me try just looking at individuals. I think Bruce Heezen would be, would have been quite ready to accept this. Because his expansion idea was a little tenuous. But the mechanism through which ridges were constructed was basically the same as came out of the plate tectonics model. So he would have been enthusiastic.
Of course he was alive through ‘77.
Right. The magnetic people started looking at their data when the Vine-Matthews thing came through. And Jim [James R.] Heirtzler wrote it up that he got the Navy to do that survey south of Iceland. And the remarkable symmetry of the anomalies about the center of the rifts suggested something very strongly of something genetic about that.
Right. And Walter Pitman clearly.
So Jim and Walter Pitman.
And Neil [Neil D.] Opdyke.
Neil. And Neil was a Runcorn student anyway. So he would be more tuned to the idea of moving continents than he might have been at Lamont. I think they were coming through at fairly strongly. And Jack Oliver and his geophysics crowd, I guess what I’d have to say. Well, he decided to go to Tonga because that’s where the deep focus earthquakes were, and the results of their Tonga work showed that it was the first real demonstration that you had a slab being shoved down into the interior, based on data rather than emulating. So it seems to me it progressed about like science should progress. Somebody comes up with an idea and you think “Oh, what kind of an experiment can I run to try to test this idea and see if it’s any good?”
What about others who were fairly close in to Ewing remaining at that time? Mark [Marcus] Langseth and Manik Talwani?
Well, Mark was working in heat flow. And if you look at some of Mark’s early papers on heat flow on ridges, what they show is that the heat flow model that you have to come up with to explain the patterns are consistent with the idea of a drifting continent. So I would think he went right along. With Manik. The kind of thing that Manik was working on then did not require that you either believed or didn’t believe in drift. He was trying to model, do gravity models in the ridges. And so he came up with various possibilities and developed a nice way of calculating. But to get those models, you didn’t have to commit yourself on whether they’re created by drift or not. A certain logic in saying that drift is a contributor because when you seek reasons for the density changes, choices are basically chemistry or physical state. And I suspect when you look at the rocks that were dredged up or visible, you’d have to pretty much conclude that it was physical state rather than chemistry because the rocks all looked the same. So I don’t think there was a reluctance to, I mean, and there was eagerness to reject the idea. It seemed to me it was more, “Hmmmmm, what can we do to test this?” See whether things are consistent with this model.
Clearly, as you say, there were a number of centers within Lamont that began doing active programs.
Yes. People communicated pretty well then.
I’m curious when you say communicated well then — there was a time later where you felt that the communication wasn’t so good?
Well, that’s a function of size. You were walking around Lamont one day and all of a sudden being aware that I was seeing people I didn’t know. And that sort of startled me because I knew everybody at Lamont I thought. But then it grew. I think once you start getting separate buildings. Well, geochemistry was the first building. And they had to have a building because they were working in the kitchen at Lamont. But the next thing that happened was instead of everybody coming to the Friday seminars regardless of the subject; all of a sudden the geochemists were having geochemistry seminars. And then seismology started seismology seminars, you know. Well, every one of those things separates you a little bit, and you don’t see the linkages anymore because you’re not being exposed to the on a steady basis. And it’s a function of size. It’s too bad.
Did you personally try to do anything to counter effect those trends?
Well, you do what you can. Encourage people to go to these Friday seminars.
Particularly since you do have the interest in synthesizing.
Yes. I remember telling people who were giving these seminars what their audience is. You give an entirely different talk if you’re talking to a bunch of specialists then you would if you’re talking to a very broad group. [Wenceslas S.] Jardetsky used to be wonderful at this. Jardetsky, he’s a theoretical physicist, mathematician. And he’d get up there to talk about normal mode propagation. And he’d write this long equation on the blackboard. See people’s eyes pop out. People who could barely add and subtract. But then he’d go through it term by term, show you just what it meant. And so what he was doing was describing all the possible modes of vibration that this object could go through. And then he said, “Now manipulate this.” And you’d manipulate it a little bit and whittle it down into a form where you could actually describe this graphically in terms of wiggles and what have you. And it was wonderful. Because even if you didn’t totally follow everything he was doing, you believed it. And you understood where he started from and where he was going to. It’s an art.
It sounds like he really impressed you.
Yes. [Laughter] It’s very easy to talk to your own club. It’s much harder to talk to a bunch of people who have blank faces when you start.
Just thinking when you said that about, not only how prolific your own publication has been, but the times in which you did invest in writing single author papers. Like before the conference where you were summarizing points of view. Was this a working out of your own views toward certain topics? Some of the papers that — I’m wondering how much of that was
Well, nothing helps you to clarify things in your own mind more than writing it down. And if someone thinks enough of it to publish it, so much the better. [Laugher] I remember we had one meeting of the geodynamics committee, and everybody’s busy writing this report. So they’re banging away on the report. I sat over in the corner and wrote a little essay called “Ninety Years of Progress” to take G. K. [Grove Karl] Gilbert’s 1892 presidential address to the Geological Society and what he considered were the major questions of the time. And we’ll see how many of these major questions we’d answered. Well, about a quarter of them. [Laughter] But they grabbed it from me and published it in that report. So, nice.
It’s very interesting. You’re doing this actually while you’re sitting in the committee meeting. Suppose that being able to concentrate to do that enabled you to stay productive.
Oh yes. Well, there’s a lot of ways to write papers. One is to — and reasons. One is to get your own thoughts in order because they tend to be a little bit jumbled up in a way. Frequently you do the illustrations first. Because the, doing the illustrations teaches you something. You don’t learn anything if you get somebody else to draft it for you. But if you do them yourself, you discover all sorts of things as you’re doing them. And while you’re doing them you can think about, “What am I going to say about this when I actually write it down.” So it’s not a bad way to.
That’s very interesting. Are you thinking of a particular paper or a few when you say that? Where you did learn something that you hadn’t expected from drafting those papers?
When I was over in Cambridge, I was trying to synthesize all of the seismic work that had been done in the oceans and looking for patterns and trying to figure out why things were as they were. You don’t have a copy of it. The reason you don’t have a copy of it. I gave it to a symposium organized by [J. Tuzo] Tuzo Wilson down in Buenos Aires. And submitted the paper to Tuzo for publication. And Tuzo got off doing other things. And it never actually got published. [Laughter] I have a copy of it that Tuzo; he was so ashamed of himself, you know, that after a while he was ashamed to even communicate with people whose manuscripts he would sit on. Part of it was published somewhere else. But the whole manuscript never did get published.
It would be interesting to see.
I learned a lot, I learned a lot from doing it, though.
This is broad review that you’re talking about from G. K. Gilbert.
No, no. That was another one.
This was the, in gravity, the broad?
No this was a —
Rather, I beg your pardon, the —
Parts of it were published in a paper with Bill [William] Ludwig called “The Bottom of the Ocean” or something like that. “Seismology,” maybe. It was published in The Sea. I think maybe it was. I’m never going to find it now.
Don’t worry about it. You’re looking through filing drawers for it right now, but that’s. That’s very interesting. I am holding a few of the published papers back from that time. One back in 1968, “The Continental Margin of the Eastern United States.” You were chief author of that with John Ewing and Henry Stockard.
Oh yes, there’s a series of papers on that, starting with my thesis. This was presented in draft. And this was upgrading the original paper and still carried through the original error. Yes, and see this got —
That’s interesting. We’re looking at papers, one thousand, one thousand. [Background noise drowns out conversation] Geophysics of the North Atlantic Region, symposium on continental drift, emphasizing the history of the South Atlantic area. And that never appeared.
Nope. But bits and pieces of it showed up here and there.
And you say that was something that happened often with Tuzo. Or at least that there were others whose manuscripts were —
No. I think we just caught him at a bad time. He had a lot of other responsibilities and they handed this stack of manuscripts and I don’t think he had enough help to be able to deal with it. And so he was always very apologetic about that. It never did get published.
What was it like when you were collaborating with Jack Nafe on these papers? How did that collaboration actually work?
Very good. Very good. Jack was a physicist by background. And I was a geologist by background. So we complimented each other very well. I knew some physics and he knew some geology. And we kept each other honest. But we shared adjoining offices. And were interested in the same kinds of problems. And were able to approach things from different directions and come to a common meeting point. And a very fruitful and satisfying collaboration.
How did it actually work with the writing of the joint papers with Jack? Did one of you take a turn at doing the first full draft or did it come together in segments?
No, it was usually bits and pieces. And then for the final shot, one person had to do it to make the style even. Because the styles are a little bit different. So one person had to do the final, the final even draft, the final writing, to make it come out even. And that depended on what the paper was. There were actually two papers on this Montivedeo thing. One by Nafe and Drake and one by Drake and Nafe. And they just, they’re based to some extent on the same data with some additions and subtractions, but approaching the whole thing in a different way. That one didn’t get published either.
No. I don’t know what happened to that. Yes, I do. I must have a copy of that somewhere too. That got rejected because I was arguing for a phase change in the mantle as the reason for the velocity variations on the ridges and to explain differences in elevation at different points of the ocean. And the petrologists didn’t like that. They felt that my argument wasn’t that strong for a phase change. It was going from basalt to eclogite. And basalt is less dense and eclogite is more dense. But the chemistry of the two is the same. And subsequently phase changes did come into the picture, but I guess I was premature.
How long afterwards did they become more acceptable?
Well, by the time Jack did his paper on the sub ducting slabs, he was using phase changes as an explanation for two things. One was the deeper earthquakes in the slab that seemed to be compression as if you’re splicing something which would be an explosive phase change. And secondly to increase the density of the slab so it would continue to go down. So he used the data.
Certainly by the late 1960s this was more widely accepted.
There’s another collaboration that you had done with I. P.
Yes, Kosminskaya. I was wondering how that had come about. He was at the institute of physics of the earth at Moscow.
Well Kosminskaya was, she’s a she.
It’s a she. Thank you.
And she’s a marine seismologist who did a lot of work in the Sea of Odsk and around the Kuril Islands and that area. And she was in Belousov’s group. And we decided that one of the — either Upper Mantle; I think Upper Mantle meetings that we would collaborate on a paper. We were invited to collaborate on a paper. And this was a little bit embarrassing for her because she was in Belousov’s group and depended upon Belousov for her support. And my ideas and Belousov’s differed. So basically I did most of the writing on that, most all of it. And the first draft she had a little trouble with.
How’s that? Particularly because of interpretive?
Well, yes. A little too extreme to get by Belousov. So we altered it a little bit.
What counted as extreme for Belousov?
Well it’s how strongly you emphasized things like plate tectonics. He believed in deep endogenetic processes that everything comes up very clean [inaudible].
So it was really concentrated around the drift issue, the tectonics, not on the other factors. And after you had read that paper, and I’m not quite sure what meeting this was that it had been read at. There was a discussion which is printed in Tectonic Physics. I was interested when you said that because I recall that Belousov had been in the audience.
This was probably; this might have been the IUGG [International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics] in Zurich. Oh, there’s another illustration that came out of that paper after Drake and Nafe, ‘69. [Laughter] Never got published. There’s some Kosminskaya, refraction. I could find that out if it’s critical.
But I suspect that it’s, it was the — Surprised it wasn’t in the acknowledgments.
No I’m simply curious if the printed discussion raised any particular memories.
I don’t recall. I can find out though. I look on the. Let’s see, that was published in ‘69.
That might have been.
In general, how active did you become in the Upper Mantle Project work?
Pretty active. Starting in 1964. You know, the Upper Mantle Project began and was going nowhere. And Belousov was very anxious to have it go somewhere. So he really took the bull by the horns and reorganized it. And got Leon Noblov to agree to be the secretary general. And Leon agreed that Tom Hart could be the guy who did the work basically.
And then it, then it took off. It was originally organized in the same framework as the IUGG [inaudible] But then the leadership was wise enough to recognize that there were some special areas that needed special attention. Such as the world rift system, continental margins. And so commissions were set up to focus on these particular things. So it started as a discipline oriented program and then evolved to, started to evolve into a more problem oriented program. And I started getting involved in it seriously I guess in ‘64 at the New Delhi Geological Congress. And remained on the Upper Mantle Committee, the US Upper Mantle Committee, until the end of the program. And then Harry Hess asked me if I would chair the next thing which is the geodynamics. And I ended up chairing both the international and domestic versions of that. And that was sort of interesting. John Coulomb who is the president of IUGG and bear in mind that there was no IUGS [International Union of Geological Sciences] until it was established at the New Delhi conference. So it’s very young compared to the IUGG. And the ice of the mantle project was an IUGG project, and when IUGS came into existence, they had to have a special position. But the geodynamics project was an inter-union program, project sponsored by both the two unions. And I began when [John] Coulomb invited, oh half a dozen of us, to come over to Paris and draft up a basic document. And that group consisted of me, Dan McKenzie, Xavier Le Pichon, Brian Baker, who was the head of the Kenya survey, working in East African, Nagle, who as a petrologist from Switzerland, and the Soviet heat flow, Ubumova. And so we sat down and started drafting something up. And we had a problem right off. And the problem was that Ubumova had spent her life working on heat flow in the static earth. And we were talking about a program that was devoted to a dynamic earth. So I told Dan McKenzie, your job is to convince Ubumova that her life’s work has been in vain. [Laughter] Which he did. So we came up with the first draft, and sent everybody home. And we decided we were going to have to have another meeting to finish it off, and that meeting was in Cambridge. But the second meeting, they wouldn’t let Ubumova come. Belousov wouldn’t let her come. So we drafted up the basic document and presented it to the unions, to ICSU [International Council of Scientific Unions], and I guess we did that at the ICSU meeting in Madrid. And ICSU bought it and put some money into it. And the two unions put some money into it, and off we went. Interesting time on that one. When you’re putting together panels and committees and stuff, why Belousov would come up with the names of Soviet academicians, you know, so we’d put them on. And after a year we’d go through to see who had been productive and who hadn’t. And discovered there were a lot of these Soviet academicians that had not even answered their mail. So I fired them all. And I immediately got this letter from Belousov saying you can’t fire these Soviet academicians. And I wrote back to him, you know, they don’t even answer their mail, and they’re obviously not interested. And that’s what he was after was a letter that he could show them saying you don’t answer your mail and therefore you don’t deserve to be on this. He wasn’t mad at me at all. [Laughter]
That’s very interesting. Did he, did you get a sense of what kinds of pressures he was working under? In terms of dealing with the —
— system? Well, particularly that, but —
I don’t think he had. I always found him politically neutral, in terms of governmental type politics. But he certainly wasn’t politically neutral in terms of science politics or academy of science politics.
That’s what I was thinking of in particular were the.
I think he was pretty astute in the way he handled things there. And he was, as I say, he’d recognized earlier than most of them that a command of English was very important. And he did it in order to be able to communicate. And that gave him a real leg up on many of the others. If you look at the guys who really were successful collaborators, most of them did this. Gleb Udintsev, great English. [Georgi] Dmitriev, great English. Keilis-Borok, great English. So they were good. You’re going to have to share my sandwich I think, do you mind?
That sounds fine. Why don’t we take a break? We’re resuming after a —
— Delicious repast is the word you’re searching for. [Laughter]
I was about to say and didn’t have to. [Laughter] And thank you for that. One of the things we were talking about at lunch, and it was something I did want to get back to you on, was the later biology program as it emerged at Lamont. We’ve already talked a bit on tape about Burkholder. And you had mentioned a few impressions about [Ostwald] Roels and how he came into Lamont. That it was initially his contacts with George Sutton that this had happened.
I didn’t pay too much attention to what was going on there actually. And there used to be some papers that would flow out of it in congress, things that I didn’t know much about.
Right. And he had been explicitly invited in because of his interest in productivity of the sea, or using oceans for —
Yes, I suppose so.
— for protein sources. You had mentioned in Africa was supplying proteins to.
The fish meal, yes.
To those who wouldn’t, the locals, who would not eat fish otherwise.
Yes. They didn’t like fish, but they might eat fish protein additive which does not taste fishy. It’s just a white powder. And I suppose one thing that influenced it was the fact the Burkholder in a sense was doing the same thing. He was not looking for food. He was looking for drugs. So looking into the food side of things did not seem totally inappropriate. But I didn’t gather that it was an enormously productive program. Now that may just be my ignorance of what was going on.
Was there much interaction between Lamont people in other fields in the biology program?
It depends on the period. When Bob Menzies was there doing his dredging, there was quite a bit of interest because the critters he was dredging up were things that showed up on photographs of the bottom and perhaps were the burrow makers or the track makers that you found down there.
And he was actually sailing as chief scientist, wasn’t he?
So that period I think the collaboration was the closest. During Burkholder’s period I don’t think there was much serious communication. But, Burkholder would want some samples of things to work with. And then Ostwald’s, the biggest collaboration was when they got that artificial upwelling experiment going in St. Croix.
And that was with Sam [Robert D.] Gerard?
That was with Sam, yes. And Sam actually started that not as, for that purpose — that was a byproduct. What he was trying to figure out was how to get a fresh water source in St. Croix or St. Thomas. And the idea was that you have these trade winds blowing in, blowing moisture saturated air past the island, and if you pumped up cold water from deep down, it was the fact that it was cold that was important. Ran it through a big condenser up there and it would condense the fresh water on the pipes, and put that in a reservoir and use it. And then the water that went back down again, you could run into a pond and use it for, you know aquaculture. Well the first part of it never got built, but the aquaculture part found some support and actually did —
By this point, Sam’s own career was spanning many different fields, wasn’t it? Was he already in charge of marine services?
No. Well, Sam, gee. No his degree was in geography from McGill [University]. And Sam was involved in just about everything. In heat flow, he put a lot of time in at sea. He was a good fiddler. You know, making, fiddler not in the sense of violin but making gadgets that would work. And back in those days, he was not just running ships. He was doing things in science. Of course, back in those days, you all were carpenters and painters and what have you to do when it came to getting the ship ready to go to sea.
You mentioned, again off tape, that Ostwald Roels went down to Texas after Ewing had transferred.
Yes. I think he was specifically invited there by either Joe or Doc to take over the problems of Puerta Angela’s.
Which was the lab that had been; you said that that was the lab that Texas had set up. You felt in part for visibility in the —
Yes. Everybody who was down there was a tenured professor, but they didn’t do any teaching to speak of because the students were all back in Austin. So they took up slots which the others in the department they were in resented. Because they weren’t pulling their weight so to speak. It was not a good set up.
This on a rather different point. How much contact did you have with Jacques Barzun, who had, of course, moved into the provost’s position at that time at Columbia?
Yes. Not a whole lot. Jacques reputation was as a man of great brilliance with a basic contempt for the human race. And I think that was one of the problems that Columbia faced at that time. If Dave Truman had been provost instead of Jacques Barzun at the time of the strike down there, I think things might have been quite different. Because Dave was the most popular dean that Columbia College ever had. And the problem was that Grayson [Kirk] was always torn because he was out there desperately raising money to keep the place going. And Barzun had almost no personal warmth at all. So there wasn’t anybody to whom the students could relate. Except for Dave, you know, Dave was very good. But they pulled him in just too late, and then he got tarred by the same brush. And so he left and went to Holyoke. I didn’t see too much of Barzun. I saw more of Poly [Polykarp] Kusch when he took over as provost.
I’m just wondering given that, pardon me, not only was he provost but he had written Science the Glorious and other works that were critical of contemporary science.
Both philosophically and in terms of institutionally how it developed.
Well if you can go right to the president, he’s irrelevant. [Laughter]
Of course you’re talking, I believe, in terms of potential oral history interviews. I’m just wondering in this case, did that particularly rankle Ewing?
What, that Barzun —?
Barzun and the sort of things that he was writing.
I think if he felt that Barzun had any power over him, he would have been rankled.
But he really felt he could go right to [William J.] McGill and then it just didn’t matter.
Go right to the top. So that’s what I meant by irrelevant.
I understand now, that’s what you meant.
I expect that burned Barzun up too.
That’s very interesting. And another thing that you had said, I believe off tape, was that that situation changed greatly by the time that Bill [William J.] McGill became president of Columbia.
Well, as I say, Bill knew Maurice very well. Because they had been right down the hall from each other when he was head of the psychology department. And this was before there was a Lamont, so we were all in the basement of Schermerhorn.
And I think he knew the games that Ewing was playing with Grayson. And he decided that those games were non-productive.
Those were the sort of things of coming in, threatening to leave the university.
Oh yes. There are things you can do and things that you can’t do. And if you can do them, you try to do them. And if you can’t, you see can’t do them, why you say I can’t do them. Let’s see. Before Barzun was [George B.] Pegram. And Pegram and Ewing got along very well. But my feeling is that Ewing just went around Barzun. Now who was provost when McGill was —?
Was it John Krout?
It was after my time, so I don’t remember.
Krout certainly was negotiating regarding the Doherty gift.
Oh, now what was Peter Likins? Peter’s now president of Lehigh. And Peter was something. Mike [Michael I.] Sovern made Peter fire Manik because he didn’t have the guts to do it himself.
Is that right?
This would be later. Yes.
I’m very curious to hear about that.
Peter told me about that. I used to sit on Mr. [George Bush’s advisory committee with Peter and we would talk about this.
And what had happened in this instance? And this is the firing of Manik in ‘81?
There was a mutiny in — Manik’s problem was that he wanted to do everything that Ewing had done, plus spend some time with his family. Well, there aren’t enough hours in the day. And he was not a good delegator; he’d keep everything to himself. And as a result, there was a good deal of decay that set in. And people got upset about this. So there was a mutiny. And I think Wally [Wallace S. Broecker] was probably the lead mutineer. Anyway they went to Sovern. Sovern heard them out, and they decided that he had to go. But then Sovern didn’t have the guts to do it himself, and he made Peter do it. So Peter was at least, was he provost by then. Yes, I think he did like Dave. I think he was dean of Columbia College and then became provost. But then he moved to become president of Lehigh.
Interesting. You mention that Wally was likely quite involved in that. Are there others who come to mind?
I wasn’t there then.
So I really can’t say. I just don’t know. I’m sure there were, but I just don’t.
Surely. Sure. One of the other issues that I just want to make sure we don’t step past, was the time that you were on the advisory panel, the earth sciences section of NSF. Did that overlap pretty much with your, with the work in the Upper Mantle Project, did it?
That was a long time ago.
It was in the 1960s.
This would have been ‘66 or. Yes, it would have been on Upper Mantle at the same time.
One of the things, being in that kind of a position, you do get to see proposals coming in from a wide variety of institutions. I’m wondering what you recall generally about the way the field was developing in terms of trends.
Well, in those days, in those days, life was simpler than it is now. Because everyone would look at all the proposals that came in, regardless of the discipline. And then we’d split up to talk about these into groups, and the groups would shift periodically so it was different makeup’s. But essentially everybody had seen everything that came in. So it gave you a very full perspective of everything that was going on which is impossible today. There are too many proposals. And now things tend to be split up into quite narrow categories and looked at by experts from that field. And I guess the thing I remember best about it was that the proposals that took the most time were not the good ones, they were easy. Not the lousy ones, they were easy. It’s the ones that got mixed reviews. They were the most interesting. And you had to ask yourself why did they get a mixed review. Well sometimes it was because somebody’s ox was being gored. Sometimes it.
You were saying of course about someone’s ox being gored was one reason.
Yes. Or somebody was the member of the club.
Of the club.
And so there you’d sit and try to figure out what it was and was the proposal really a good proposal and the review bad because of these outside factors. And you did something about it. Nowadays, particularly with pressures from the Congress on the National Science Foundation, people and other support agencies, people become very cautious. And one of the ways you become cautious is to take advantage of the major manufactured product in Washington which is the ass code. And you do this by starting off by saying, well if it didn’t get good reviews by everybody, we’ll take it out of the pile. And that’s an easy way to thin the proposals down a little bit, but by doing that, you may be throwing away some of the best things you have. That is too bad really. You end up where people are basically writing for a small club that has control of a particular area at a particular time. And doing their best to make this small club think that they’re a member of that club and deserving its support. And the opportunities for somebody to move into a new field or try to cut across fields or something like that is very limited by that methodology of operation. It’s too bad.
Did you see that happening already during the time that you were serving or is this something that you felt really came in much later?
Well I think it came in later. When I was there, just the sheer number of proposals was such that you could read them all. You know, you’d get a stack maybe this high.
You’re about two foot off the floor with your hand.
Yes. And nowadays the stack would be up to the ceiling. So it’s just physically impossible for anybody to, who has a regular job, to try to go through all those things and figure them out. But it used to be possible.
How did Lamont fit within the broad community? I’d imagine that the exercise of seeing different proposals coming in gave you a better sense of the kind of work being done in other institutions.
Well, yes, no question about that. You, I think that’s one reason NSF went to this system of rotating investigators in there as program leaders because it’s a great opportunity to see what the whole, how the whole field is developing. Very educational experience. That’s with NSF. Now with ONR it used to be different. ONR, you’d go down to ONR, and you’d take about three sheets of paper. And one sheet would say what you did last year, and there’s be a long list of publications that came out of this, and the last sheet would say what you thought you might do the next year. They’d look it over and say, hey look, looks pretty good, and they’d write you a check for a million dollars and you’d go home. [Laughter] That was easy.
But they abandoned that. I went through this with you before so I won’t do it again. Which made it much more difficult for outfits like oceanographic institutions which have heavy overhead to function?
Indeed. And clearly that was a critical problem that places like Lamont began to face.
And I think it’s a quite vital point. I was curious as you did that whether you could sense strengths and weaknesses within Lamont in having a chance to better compare the kind of work being done there with the competitors.
Well, in general you didn’t vote on proposals from your own institution. So you and you’d know already what from what people said —
You knew already what people were.
— what proposals were sent in. So, it wasn’t very instructive from that point of view except to see how they, what you knew fit in with whatever other people were doing.
Yes. This is the sort of thing I was very curious about. If that seemed surprising at all to you or whether it was pretty much what you thought?
Well, let’s face it, Lamont was the powerhouse in marine geophysics. Not in oceanography. In physical oceanography we were a minor player, biology, very minor player. But in geology and geophysics we were, I would say, the major player. And so basically you’re looking at to see who was playing catch up. And our biggest competitor really was Teddy Bullard over in England. They had a relatively small program, but they had good access to ships. International Institute of Oceanography. And they had lots of good ideas. But, you know, both Woods Hole and Scripps were much broader institutions in the sense of what they covered in the oceans. We were not really an oceanographic institution.
Right. Right. That was clear. One thing I’m curious about too is how people at Lamont felt about some of the more unusual aspects of work that started to get done in the 1960s like Lynn Sykes’ participation in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Of course, Jack Oliver’s involved in that too.
Well let’s start — Frank Press and Jack Oliver are involved even earlier. In fact, when Frank first, I mean when Jack first went to Geneva, he came back and he was sort of bemused. I said, “What are you bemused about Jack?” And he said, “Well, I always used to think that scientists were exact and lawyers were arm wavers”. He said, “I come back and it’s just the opposite. You know, they want every word to mean exactly one thing. Where the scientists would say well ‘approximately’ and ‘about’.” But actually, you know, let’s face it, everybody at Lamont in that period had either been in the service or had been working on something related to the war. So there was certainly no antipathy to the government or things the government did or stuff like that. That didn’t show up until late sixties, early seventies.
I’m just — clearly there were a lot of other applied programs that were being carried out at Lamont. I was just curious if there seemed to be in any sense different from other undertakings that had gone on at Lamont. The way people proceeded. We’ve talked about Project Sunshine had been going on at Lamont. Larry Kulp’s lab.
Well, that’s the way basically how you start a new place like that. One way you do it is to do things that your sources of support find worthy of investigating. And the second thing you do is lie, cheat and steal. We needed a machine shop to build instruments. Well, how are you going, how you going to just get the basic stock? You know, rod and plate and things like that too so you can build things? Well, the way you did it was, every time anybody ordered some rod or some plate or whatever you needed, you’d order twice as much as you needed. And half of it would go in the supply room; the other half would be used. And you keep doing that and eventually you build yourself up to the point where you’ve got flexibility enough to be able to design something new and work with it. Where do you get your tools from? Well, Angelo Ludas who ran the machine shop had worked on the Manhattan Project down at the, one 125th Street where it started out. And he was the last one left down there when they closed it down. And he knew that there were all these wonderful machine tools down there. And so because we had a navy grant, we were able to go down and snag these ground shock waves and bullard waves and milling machines and all that stuff. So we had a shop for basically nothing. And then you had to do a lot yourself. When we started out, you had to equip the ship and put everything aboard. Build benches and stuff like that. Well who did it? We did it. You were a carpenter and painter and electrician, and you put the whole thing together and off you’d go. And that you could afford. Well we had these two small boats that we got from the navy. A picket boat and a torpedo retriever. And they were down at Brooklyn Navy Yard. And so every morning we’d go to class and we’d get in this surplus Jeep we had and we’d drive to Brooklyn Navy Yard, and we’d caulk these damn things. Caulk the seams, paint the hulls, and fix the engines. We got them seaworthy. We brought them up to Nyack. But we did it all. We didn’t have any money then so you had to.
Clearly that style was beginning to change already in the 1960s.
Oh yes. Well, Louie Kennedy ran that ship with a crew of four. And actually five, he had to have a cook too. And finally got up to a crew of nineteen. But if you’re going to operate on a year round basis on a global program, you needed that crew.
One thing I was curious about too is your impressions about how the Vema and the Conrad differed in terms of their capabilities. You spent quite a bit of time certainly on Vema.
I spent very little time on the Conrad. In fact, the only cruise I ever made on the Conrad was when we were out searching for the Thresher. And so I’m really, I spent more time on the Atlantis and Caryn out of Woods Hole than I did on the Conrad. When did we get her, do you remember?
It was about ‘62, ‘63.
Yes. Just about when the Thresher sank.
Yes. That was one of the very early cruises.
What happened? Oh, I know what happened. I got involved in the Upper Mantle and starting in ‘65. No ‘65 I was on the Vema. ‘66 I guess. No, ‘65 I went to East Africa. And worked in the rift valley. And then I went up to Iceland for a couple of years, for a couple of summers, working in the rift up there. So I wasn’t seagoing any more, and then I came up here. So that’s why I really didn’t see much of Conrad.
Do you know how the decisions were made for, to backtrack on that for a moment? Was it a different crew essentially, also in terms of the scientific component who sailed the Conrad vs. the Vema?
I don’t think so. I think the same people.
Or it pretty much was the same people who would go on the —
Who went out on the Conrad, went out on the Vema. I can’t recall now what the pattern — I don’t think you could push the Conrad as hard as you could push the Vema. Vema would go out for a year with the same crew and you’d never get away with that on the Conrad. So I’m sure that on the Conrad they had shifting crews. So that people would get a little time off. But I just don’t know enough about the Conrad to be able to help you much there.
Okay. You mentioned also in the late 1960s, clearly Columbia became one of the centers for the anti-Vietnam War protests. Protests against military funding.
That was post my time too.
Yes. It was probably occurring just around the time that you were. The height of —
Well, things really came to a head with the strike at Columbia. And I was there for that. Jack Nafe and I were sitting on a window sill of Low Library trying to keep the football players from beating up the hippies. [Laughter] And then the next day we wandered around with — It was interesting. Jack and I and Peter [inaudible] who was there then wandering around talking to some of these kids. And trying to figure out what’s going on. So we’re talking to this one kid and he’s about to get his PhD. in economics and he doesn’t know who his advisor is yet. Well, gee, that’s lack of communication in a big way. And then we’d talk with another kid about he said, he’d been beaten up by the cops. And Peter said, “Gee, at Lyden we used to fight with the cops every weekend, that’s pretty standard.” And the kid thought he was being very unsympathetic. [Laughter] And then a lot of our students, geology students, tend to be a little squarer than sociology student type, and they were wondering what the strike was all about. So I knew this kid who was the head of the strike committee for the SDS [Students for Democratic Society]. Got him to come over and talk to the students and the faculty. Explain to them what it was all about. And he was not a put- off kind; he wore a coat and tie. But he got up and told them they were wasting their time studying geology; they should be studying guerilla warfare and third-party movements and stuff like that. And jaws fell open.
Jaws are going down.
That was pretty much the end of it as far as our department was concerned. I did mention the Barnard ladies, didn’t I? Wally [Broecker] and I were teaching a course over at Barnard then because Henry Sharp had retired. So I walked over to Barnard and I see three of these young ladies in my course holding up a strike sign. Walked over and said, “Hi. What are you striking for or against?” “Well, we’re supporting the Columbia strike”. “Well, what are they striking for?” Well, they didn’t know. [Laughter] Then we talked a while. I said “Why you know what you need to do is figure out what you’re really after and make a list of your requests and give it to somebody you can trust and stand back and wait. If nothing happens, then you’ve got a reason to strike”. “There’s nobody we can trust”. I said, “How about Dave Truman,” he’s the most popular dean Columbia College ever had. “Oh no, no.” He had become provost so he was enemy. So I said, “Well, how about me?” They said, “That’s not fair.” So I went in the building. When I came out again, they were gone. I guess they’d thought it over.
Interesting. Clearly some of the protests were against the more directly military funded entities at Columbia or —
At the start, I don’t think that was a factor at all.
At the start. I think the trigger that made it start was the proposal to build a gym in Morningside Park.
Indeed, that was one of the —
That was the trigger. Okay. Then, what you had at Columbia basically was an incredible lack of communication. I think there’d been, there hadn’t been a meeting of the faculty, full faculty, since 1932 or something like that. Oh yes.
All the way back to [Nicholas Murray] Butler?
Yes it goes back to Nicholas Murray Butler. Very poor communication. A faculty which, I think was focusing much more on their own scholarly work than they were on the students. And a general feeling that nobody cared. And Grayson [Kirk] couldn’t help because he was trying to keep the place alive by raising money. Barzun’s no help because he has a basic contempt for the human race. So what do you do? When something explodes, zap. And then that gets picked up on by people who have all kinds of causes. And initially, at the very beginning, I didn’t hear anything about war or government or stuff like that. That developed.
That’s very interesting. That it really was, yes, yes, it makes sense.
I think there’s a lot of revisionist history been written about this whole thing.
That’s why these recollections and your own impressions are particularly important. You leave in the, it’s the summer of ‘69 that you leave to come up here to Dartmouth?
Yes, we came up here actually it — summer or fall, somewhere in there.
Right. You mention the reasons earlier why you — Dartmouth came to seem particularly attractive to you. Was it a difficult decision nevertheless to?
Well actually back in, around 1964, maybe ‘65, but Bob [Robert] Decker who used to be here, decided that he was going to leave. And the department had also decided they wanted somebody in oceanography. And so Bob called me up and he said, “We’re looking for somebody who’s interested, somebody in seismology and somebody in oceanography.” So I said, “Well, how about me and Jack Oliver?” And a little taken aback, but they said “Come on up!” So we drove up here way back then, in Jack’s Corvette. And talked to the department and talked to Leonard Rieser who was the provost and Jim [James] Hornig who was the dean. And we said, “We,” — Dartmouth was sort of lagged behind many others in terms of government support and that sort of thing — but we said, “You bring us up here, we could come up for one position and we’d find the money for the rest of it ourselves.” But they weren’t quite prepared to do that. They had always paid their faculty full-time for the full academic year, and didn’t know whether they wanted to start doing it differently. Well, anyway, so we chatted. And then went back down and saw Bob [Robert] Reynolds who by that time was chairman at a GSA meeting, I guess in that fall. And he said, “Well, the College had said that we have to hire at the beginning level, assistant professor.” I said, “You’re not going to get anybody up here at the beginning level.” Because the way the system worked at that time, you had to go to one of the ocean institutes to get ship time and be able to write papers and do all that sort of thing. So people couldn’t afford to come up here. I said “I’ll give you a list of ten or fifteen guys I think are best and you can feel them out and see what happens.” So I gave them people like Dave Folger, gee, Dave was born in Hanover. His father was a professor here. Loves the place. He couldn’t afford to come here then. Bob [Robert] Sheridan, one of my students, he couldn’t afford to come here then. And they went through that whole list and then that took another couple of years. And finally they came back. So it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing at all. And, but Jack — well Bob Decker, he first of all he said, “Gee, if Drake and Oliver want to come up here it must be better than I thought.” So he decided not to leave. [Laughter] And that sort of got Jack out of the picture. Anyway, that’s.
Did you feel regret though? Did you feel that you were missing, going to miss something at Lamont that you wouldn’t be able to replace?
Oh you knew that that was the case. You’re always going to give something up, but you find new things too. And you can’t sit around wringing your hands and saying what if, or looking back, and not move ahead.
When you had left, had the negotiation — were you aware of the negotiations with the Doherty Foundation about the funding to come to Lamont?
It was still Lamont when I left. And I knew that there were negotiations with the Doherty Foundation. Marshall Kay actually had some connections with Doherty. When he first came here from Iowa to New York, he was a guest of Henry Doherty.
This is not surprising. Marshall’s father was a geologist, too and in the petroleum business. And when he died, Doherty was the one that put the service together. I knew it was working, but it hadn’t come to fruition yet.
Was that something that Ewing talked to his close people about or was that something he kept was pretty close to himself?
Well this was a problem. The, as Lamont grew and as new buildings were put up, and particularly as Harriet [Ewing] tried to protect Maurice from outside influences to, so he’d have some time for his own work. Regrettably, she cut off his contact with his colleagues inside Lamont more than those outside. You could argue, well, that’s a decision you have to make, and maybe that was the right decision to do. But the price you pay for that was that there was Doc over in the big house all by himself, and there’s everybody else going around here. And with the students, you know, the students, you ask them who God is; they’d say it’s Jack Oliver or its Bruce Heezen or Larry Kuip or somebody like that. They’d never seen Maurice. So, in retrospect, at least that was a serious error in terms of separating him from the people who were there working with him. And as a result, unless you were involved in the administration of Lamont, you didn’t get into that very much. So Joe probably would’ve been into it. And Harriet certainly would have been into it. And Arnold Finck maybe.
Did you feel that Harriet was making some of the major decisions for Lamont by the time that you left?
I would say that she was making decisions that had a serious effect on Lamont. Which is different from saying she was making decisions for Lamont. But basically she was trying to protect Doc so he could be as productive as possible and keep going day after day. And so she made decisions, and those decisions had an effect on Doc and on Lamont. I don’t know — if she was telling you she was making major decisions for Lamont. For all I know, that could be in terms of administrative things.
No, I’m simply curious about your perceptions of how decisions were getting made at Lamont by this latter period.
I’m not sure anybody cared.
Yes. There was a big house over there which obviously needed to make contacts with the university and raise money from the Doherty Foundation and things like that. And then there’s everybody else getting on with the job of writing proposals and doing research. And I don’t think, it’s almost the way it develops in a place like this. Where you have a president over there who’s certainly there and certainly is symbolic of the institution and goes out and raises money and so forth. But his influence on my day to day activities is effectively zero.
That makes sense.
Which is not the way it was in the beginning. Because he was shipmate, colleague, everything else back then. But size takes that away from you. There was a lovely little story written once in the New Yorker, called “Director of Research”. And if I can find a copy of that, I’ll send it to you.
I’d like to see that.
It deals with this very thing. It’s a little story. I won’t look for it.
That’s okay. If you find it, that would be quite interesting. Did you have enough contact remaining with Lamont people to get a sense of what was happening as Ewing made his decision to go to Texas?
Oh really third hand. I think he went to Bill [McGill] and mind you this is all hearsay. But I think he went to Bill, and Bill told him he couldn’t do it. And then Maurice, being Maurice, he figured “I burned my bridges”. And so Texas had been after him for a long time to come down there, and so he decided to take it up for them. And I’m told he called a meeting of Lamont. And then he said “Texas has told us I can bring anybody I want with me. Who’s with me?” And that was a disappointment to him because it turned out that not many of these people knew him because he’d been isolated over in the building there. And that the number of people who wanted to go to Texas was very small. And I think that hurt him, but it shouldn’t have. I don’t think it was meant that way. I think it just reflected the fact that he’d been cut off from these people so much that. It’s like the president leaving here, you know? Who would volunteer to go with him where he’s going? Not very many. And not because they didn’t like him or anything. It’s just not what you do. But I think he may have looked at it as a negative, and it shouldn’t have been that way.
That’s an interesting, very interesting observation. Who seemed to be his key advisors within Lamont in those latter years that you were there?
Probably Harriet. You’re asking for more, right?
I’m just curious if it seemed to be a circle, a very tight circle of people, including say Joe Worzel or whether it really seemed to be?
Well, Joe was always close and he was assistant director, associate director, whatever they call. And I’m sure he was a lot of things. But again, the isolation was such that there weren’t a whole lot of people who were — I would think. I was department chairman. And you would think that that would put you in on something. But the two entities were so separate that it didn’t.
That’s what I was sensing from what we talked about earlier today. That decisions already being made for filling key positions. That’s very interesting. Were you aware too of efforts that were made after Ewing did make the decision to step down to find a replacement for him? Were you at all involved in any of those decisions?
Yes. I got — Lynn Sykes called me up once. I went down and consulted with them. And told them what they really needed to do was to rearrange the administration of the thing to make it more viable so that the department and Lamont would be connected at a level where both aspects of the program would receive equal consideration, but where the department chairman wouldn’t have to try to figure out what the Lamont budget is on his budget sheets. Which they did.
Were there plans, clearly there were plans to bring in as director other key people in geophysics? That there had been a… I was wondering how much you may have heard about the search efforts to [???]
The search efforts for Manik?
Before the decision was made for Manik to stay on as the permanent director rather than acting.
No, I can’t say that I know any more about that than I told you already.
An effort was made for instance to recruit Frank Press to be director.
That would be hopeless. Frank’s agenda was different than that.
Walter Munk had told me that he was brought in as a candidate for.
Yes, Walter would be interesting. It would be hard to tear him away from Scripps though I guess. Those guys, Walter and Johnnie Kanis and Bill [William] Menard, a few others. They had bought the end of Scripps Canyon back in the fifties when it was cheap. And they all built houses there. They’ve been trying to give the canyon to the town ever since but the town won’t accept it because they’re paying taxes on it now. And it acts like it’s a park. If they made it a park, it would be just the same as it is now, but they wouldn’t get as much money.
But they wouldn’t have the property tax. [Laughter] That’s a good point and that’s a gorgeous piece of property.
Oh yes. It sure is.
I wonder if there are international issues that come to your mind that we haven’t spoken about particularly that were really important to the development of Lamont in the fifties or sixties.
Well, the Cold War certainly had an influence. We started out; our first navy grant was Task Order 3 from the Office of Naval Research. And the purpose of this was to measure gravity on submarines around the world oceans. And our interest in this was to see what gravity could tell us about the structure of things like deep sea trenches, and continental margins and what have you. But the navy’s interest in it was that they were going to fly missiles and missile track if it’s a ballistic missile is going to be influenced by the gravitational field it flies through. So it was a good symbiosis. And so really it was the Cold War that did that. And the same with the SOFAR station in Bermuda. SOFAR stations eventually lead to the SOSUS network which we used for listening for submarines. Now became declassified so you can do things like track whales with it and so forth. But that was a gold mine because there was a lot of money there, and we’d take off from New York and go down to Bermuda and then stock up in Bermuda. Things we couldn’t afford in New York.
What sort of things are you thinking?
Oh parts, equipment, things like that. Gordon Hamilton used to get mad at that. Because he figured. He ran the SOFAR station in Bermuda. Figured the only reason we came there was to rip him off. So the Cold War had a factor. The same was true of Larry Kulp’s work. They financed the building of that laboratory by doing things for the Atomic Energy Commission. And that was also true in the oceans. The Atomic Energy Commission was concerned about disposal of the nuclei in the ocean, wanted information about how things worked, make sure it was safe. Now all those things are international. And without that kind of pressure, money probably wouldn’t have been there. If the money wasn’t there, you can’t do anything. That’s Brownley’s second law, got to have the money to do what you got to do.
It’s a critical one. I think that’s a very good point. You mention a number of the international collaborations. Latin America and then some of the ones with the Soviet Union. Were there any others that have come to mind that we haven’t spoken about so far?
Oh we worked with the French bathyscaph.
No, not the Triask, the Arshemed.
Triask we bought. But the — that was kind of interesting. The French had this bathyscaph with a mother ship, and thought it would be interesting to have a joint program with the, in the Puerto Rico Trench area with the US and so we got interested in this, and I volunteered for duty on that. And so we had a joint program down there which was very fruitful. And Le Pichon was dead against submersibles at that time.
Why was that do you think?
Well, I think he viewed them as, they’re expensive, you know, and they’re taking resources away from what he was trying to build up there at Drest. And so he was very negative. And he made a complete turnabout. You know, he became a — in fact I had a postcard somewhere from him, which said basically, how could I, how could I have been so wrong. They came to realize there were things you could do with submersibles that were extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do otherwise.
That raised a really interesting question. Was there a debate within Lamont over whether more effort should be put into hillings actually descending towards the ocean floor versus grim load instruments?
I don’t think very many people were interested in it. I was. But bear in mind that when we got the Conrad, we got the Conrad, we got stretched pretty thin. We used to keep a plot on Lamont, a productivity plot. And it was a plot of cost of operating Lamont versus number of papers. And I tossed out review papers on that. And very interesting to look at. Because, in general, it was a curve that went like this. But it was a curve that had blips on it.
And when you say like this, you’re drawing a curve that’s a nice slow rise.
Just goes up. Yes. But it had blips in it. So you look at where those blips were. Well, the productivity went way down when the IGY started.
Is that right?
Why is that? Well, that’s because everybody had money to go to sea. Everybody’s out at sea getting data. And then it went up. And when it came down again, it came down again about to the same curve. And then the next place that did that. Well, let’s see, the first time it did that was when we got the Vema.
Because people were out sailing.
Then the IGY. And then the next one was when we got the Conrad. And that slowed the curve for quite a while. Because you had two ships to keep busy and not enough bodies to keep them all busy all year round and write papers. So it narrowed the productivity somewhat when that happened.
Do you remember any debates back then over whether it had been a good decision to go ahead with the Conrad?
Did Ewing get discouraged about?
No, no, no, no. I mean it came back finally. But it stretched us for a while because we didn’t have enough people to keep it functioning. No, those were the days when, if you’re a graduate student with any kind of experience, you could go out as chief scientist right away.
You had done so yourself.
Yes. Right. And that’s great. You learn the hard way. That’s where Henry Kohler was at his best because he’d send out the ship with a new graduate student as chief scientist and Henry Kohler, who knew what was going on. And Henry would really teach these kids how to do their job and do it very well. And they’ll tell you this. I mean you talk to guys like Jeff Fox or some of these younger guys, and they’ll all tell you how great a teacher Henry Kohler was in getting them to do their job properly.
What seemed to be the most important parts of that job description of being a good chief scientist?
Well, there’s two or three things. One is, of course, you’ve got to; you got to have a general program of what you’re going to do. And you’ve got to fit that into the time frame of when you’re supposed to be in the next port. And then you need enough flexibility that if you find something unusual, to know enough whether to spend some time on it or not. Because you don’t have a whole lot of time, extra time, to spend. And then you got to keep some order in the scientific crew because that’s your responsibility. The captain has the ultimate responsibility and he could override you. But it’s your job to make sure they’re not a drag on him. And do their job and stand their watches, don’t let their gear go to pot, and help them fix it if it does go to pot. Oh, and the other thing, it’s a joint job of the captain, the chief engineer and the chief scientist, that is, if the john gets clogged up, they’re the only ones who seem to be able to fix it. [Laughter] I don’t know why that is. It seems like more than once that Chiefy and I and Henry would be down there, pulling johns off the pipes, reaming them out.
I hope that didn’t happen too often.
No, every once in a while.
There are a few other issues that I wanted to make sure we covered today. One is, once you’re here at Dartmouth, and you’re seeing development of Lamont, subsequent development, how did it seem to be growing or changing to you? Let me just pause to change the tape.
Well Lamont, in the period when I was there, was in a period of exploration. When I started out, you didn’t have to be very smart to learn something new in the oceans. All you had to do was be willing to go to sea and measure something and it would be new. And basically we were trying to figure out what was there. And this exploration mode continued up until the plate tectonics model got accepted. And once that was accepted, everything changed. And it changed from an exploration mode to a problem mode. Where, instead of going out and broadly examining the sea floor, you went out to do an experiment to try to prove something. And that’s a big change. And it took a while for the whole community, the whole ocean community, to come to grips with that. And there was a period when things like the Ocean Sciences Board at the Academy just floundered. They didn’t know where they were going. If you get to the top of Everest, where do you go from there? [Laughter] You know the problem.
Yes, I do.
So there was a lot of floundering around. And this affected not only the geology and geophysics people, but the geology and geophysics people had provided the leadership for the ocean business for quite a while, and when they floundered, the rest of them floundered too. And then new things started coming in. Things like the climate change that you found in the cores and the relationship between variations in deep circulation of the oceans to climate, and a lot of geochemical problems that the better tools allowed us to deal with.
But at first it was an intellectual crisis in a way in terms of knowing what to?
That’s very interesting.
Very tough time. If you built your life and your career on a mode of operation, and then suddenly that problems solved and you don’t need to do it anymore, what do you then? It’s technological obsolescence in a sense. You got to re-engineer the company.
But hearing you say that, that makes that article that you were sketching out in the corner of the one meeting in the 1960s, looking at G. K. Gilbert’s unresolved problems, to be particularly interesting.
Oh yes. I should find you a copy of that if I could.
Okay. I just put a note on here to look for that one. I was wondering if that was in part consciously on your mind as you were putting, as you were thinking about it.
I don’t know. But that could well be. You sit there and search for where do we go from here. And basically we’re still hacking away at G. K. Gilbert’s problem. But we’re getting a lot closer.
What you’re describing sounds more like a crisis within the broadest community. People at Lamont still had their own particular research programs going on. That it was more that the overall direction to get to the [cross talk].
Well, and you say, what, you know, there’s a bunch of crises that hit at once. There was that. There’s a money crunch.
This is by the late sixties that you’re thinking of?
Began about then. But the cost of operating an oceanographic ship. We used to run Vema for six hundred dollars a day in the beginning. And Vema, by the time she quit, was probably up to maybe eight thousand dollars a day. And Atlantis 2 was up to ten or twelve. And Maurice Ewing I suspect is maybe eighteen or so. That’s big bucks. And then, the politics of the thing required a new arrangement. And not just the internal politics of the institution, but NSF had to worry about external politics too. And if you sit there and say, “Well, we’re going to continue doing this the way we’ve always done it”, it looks like you’re rewarding these few centers with huge amounts of money for no other reason than that they existed. And if somebody new tries to come into the picture, forget it, it’s too expensive. Or if somebody from some institution that’s not an oceanographic institution wants some ship time, how do you get it to them. So that’s when the UNOLS [University National Oceanographic Laboratory System] was established, and that changed things a whole lot. Because that meant that if you’re at the University of Wyoming and interested in the micropaleontology of cores from the mid-Atlantic ridge, you could put in a proposal and get ship time and do it. And the institutions then became much more operators of ships than owners. And it’s fair enough because they’re not providing the operations money. They’re getting it from the federal government. And then it went a step further than that because the cost of converting a ship from doing geophysics to doing biology to doing something else is high, and you also can’t afford to equip every ship with multi-channel reflection gear. And side scan sonar and stuff. So then you start to get specialized ships. Like the Ewing is a geophysics ship. Atlantis 2 became the mother ship for Alvin. And that too was more efficient than the old mode of operations, but again, it put a different perspective on what it meant to be a place like Lamont.
That’s all very interesting. This specialization occurring on so many different levels. The buildings on the campus, the colloquia, the ships, instrumentation, familiarity with.
That’s the way life goes. That’s why bureaucracies get so big.
One of two final questions just for today. When you look back, is your impression that Lamont was working as a research school? Were there characteristics about it that made it unique in terms of in the way that one classically thinks about a research school?
Well, if you go back and look at the major institutions, Woods Hole started purely as a research institution, no school. Scripps started purely as a research institution, no school. University of Washington started as a department. But it was focused primarily on fish, the physical oceanography and biological oceanography connected with the fishing industry that was so important there. Lamont started as a school first and evolved into an institution. Rather than starting as an institution and then becoming a school. Scripps started in the 30s or 40s. At Scripps, you did your Ph.D. at USC or UCLA, and did your research at Scripps, sort of like the MIT-Woods Hole connection but not as formal. But there was no University of California, San Diego and people down there weren’t professors. But Lamont started just the opposite, as a department, a school, and then evolved into a — what it is now. And I think that made a difference in its character.
Another way of thinking about research schools, and what you’re saying is very interesting, is whether there was, putting aside the question of the mixture between research and teaching, whether there was something identifiable about it in terms of leadership and the approach to particular questions that made it where one could identify products, people coming out from it as being part of a particular research tradition. Did that strike you as being the case at Lamont? Or not really?
Well you had a leader there who had enormous energy and was eager to expend it. And who didn’t really demand it from you too, he just expected it. And if you didn’t put out that kind of energy, somehow you drifted away. And there were those that did. And this was both physical and mental energy. So I think the, the tradition at Lamont was one that was set by example from Maurice. And followed slavishly by his disciples. And I’m not sure that was true at others of the institutions. I think some of them were a little more comfortable let’s say.
And were not identified so particularly with any one leader.
Yes. We had an advantage that Lamont was not located at a resort. [Laughter] People didn’t go in the Hudson River to swim and frolic on the beach and that sort of thing. Whereas at Woods Hole, now that’s the middle of a huge summer place. And LaJolla the same way. And Miami the same way.
So that was an advantage I think. [Laughter]
That’s a good way to put it. One last thing I’d like to ask you today. Are there any particular philosophical religious viewpoints that you feel have been, or principles, that have been especially important to you throughout your life?
You looked a little startled when I asked you that question.
I hadn’t thought about that. Basically my old grandfather told me, “Stay out of debt and if you’ve got to steal, steal big.” Basic philosophical. I don’t know. I think that one thing that had a big effect on Lamont was the fact that so many of the people who were there in the beginning were fresh out of the war. And that did a couple things for them. One is it taught you that if you use your head, you’re not likely to be on KP. Second thing is that people who’d been in the war tended to be much more international than people who hadn’t. Just because they’d run into all kinds of people and all kinds of places all over the world. And they also had quite a work ethic — those good things. And Ewing asked me that once. He says, wondering why nobody volunteered for doing something. I said, “Well Doc, those of us who’ve been in the army. The one thing you learn in the army is never volunteer for anything; it’ll just get you in trouble.” But he thought I was joking. But it’s true. You don’t volunteer for anything. It’s likely to be bad. And it’s true. I don’t know. I guess everybody there had the same feeling of poking around in the unknown and finding out new things. And it was such a good period to do that. But it was fun. And if it’s fun, it’s not work. I don’t care how hard you do it. Everybody was having fun.
And that was still the case when you left in ‘69?
Oh yes. I didn’t leave because I was unhappy. I was unhappy about the arrangements between the department and Lamont. But I was really coming home. I liked northern New England. My wife likes it now. She was distressed at first.
Well, you go to a new place where you’re a stranger. And shortly after you get up here it snows. It was the worst winter for a long time around here. And we were living in a rented house while we were looking around. The whole thing was a not a good scene for us. She wouldn’t be anywhere else now. It’s hard for kids to move when they’re in junior high school and high school age. Because you’ve already made your friends and you move in with a group that have already established their cliques. And it’s not easy. You keep thinking, “Why don’t army brats, army brats are moving all the time. Why don’t they have this problem?” The reason they don’t have this problem is no matter where they go, it’s always the same place. Every base looks like every other base. And everybody in school is the same too. They’ve all moved from some other base. So with them it’s, you’re never really moving. You’re just shifting from one piece of geography to another. But when you actually physically move from one place you’ve been most of your life to another place, it’s a little harder.
It certainly is.
Depending on the age at which you do it.
No, indeed, there’s no such thing as an easy move of that sort. You’d invested quite a bit of time down at Lamont before.
Yes. Oh yes. Twenty years, man and boy. [Laughter]
Well, why don’t we end this session here? Let me thank you very much again for what we’ve done. And, as before, you will be getting a copy of the transcript from Columbia University before anything is made official. Thank you.