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Interview of Dennis Hayes by Ronald Doel and Tanya Levin on 1997 June 26,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Discusses his youth and education in the mid-west and Colorado; his undergraduate education at the University of Kansas and his graduate work at Columbia University; his decision to go into geophysics; his work as chief scientists aboard the research vessels and his relationship with Capt. Henry Kohler; international cooperation in researach projects; the effect on Lamont of Maurice Ewing's move to Texas; his committee work for the National Science Foundation; teaching graduate students at Columbia; plate tectonics; and marine geology. Also prominently mentioned are Wally Broecker, Charles Drake, Gordon Eaton, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Arnold Gordon, Bruce Heezen, Marcus Langseth, Jack Nafe, Jack Oliver, Neil Opdyke, Walter Pitman, Baring Raleigh, Mark Talwani, J. Lamar Worzel.
This is Ron Doel and this is a continuing third installment of an interview with Denny Hayes and we are recording this on the twenty-sixth of June, 1997 in Palisades, New York at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Tanya Levin is here and doing the interview with me. One of the things we had a chance to discuss a little bit off tape were the origins of the international programs that Lamont [Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory] had become involved in. By the time that you arrived in Lamont in the early 1960s as I understand the informal arrangements with the Argentines for example were already under way.
Yes. There had been several programs working either coordinating or collaborating in some way or another with the Argentines. And those had started I believe, perhaps as early as 1959 or ‘60, and certainly ran until ‘61. [Crosstalk]
I’m sorry I didn’t mean to step on your words. Were any of them started directly as a result of IGY [International Geophysical Year]? Or did they come after?
I don’t know. The IGY, as you know, started a little earlier than that. But the IGY went on almost in perpetuity. It was the longest year in the history of the world. It was like a Mel Brooks year. At any rate, I’m certain that the access to high-level discussions and that was eased along by the general environment of the IGY. There’s no question about it in my mind.
Did you find that there was a certain reason why [W. Maurice] Ewing was particularly interested in Argentine cooperation?
No. I really can’t speak to that. Ewing was interested in everything. And he was definitely an opportunist in the sense that if there was — at that time we knew nothing about anything in the ocean. Instead of seeing a map like this. You know, the water colors were all blue. All the same color blue. And so virtually anything you could learn was frontier information. So his — he was interested in everything. He was interested on a global basis. And I’m speculating now, but my guess is that, you know, he had made many contacts during work, research work, during World War II and just after, and that whatever opportunities came along he sort of jumped on them. He sort of leveraged whatever was there and took advantage of them, and saw that by working with the Argentines or working with the Japanese, which we did fairly early on, the Australians, that they were likely going to learn more and get easier access and establish long-term relationships. And they did go on for a long time.
And it was economical in the sense that Lamont people would then be serving on others ships.
Well, it was economical in the sense that you had two ships out there somehow working together. And although there was an Argentine and U.S. ship there, there were two ships. You know, the data was sort of pooled and everyone was a win, win situation. And at worse, you picked up the tab for half of it.
Was any of this collaboration with the Argentines, did it involve their oil company which was government owned?
Not at that time as far as I know. It was all with the Argentine Navy. Those were the connections. And the Argentine Navy controlled all the ships and what research was going on. I don’t believe — I could be wrong on this — but I wasn’t aware of any independent sort of strong academic or independent agency. The military controlled the navy and if you knew the people that were connected there and could persuade them; that’s how it happened.
Your principal contact there was with Alberto Lonardi as I recall.
There were several contacts there. He’s the one that I remember most, most vividly, and had personal contact with. But there were a couple of others. Walter [C. Pitman III] might be able to help you on that because he was at sea during part of that time. You know that they were working with him.
What sort of person was Lonardi? What sort of a scientist was he?
My recollection was that he was a legitimate scientist in the sense that you could sit down and talk about a science in a credible fashion and was part of it, but he was, he was not, as I recall, in the fray. His thing was making things happen and arranging and expediting and hooking the right people up. And, you know, he participated as well, but I think his strengths lay in the organization and facilitating the operation. Boy, I’m really reaching back a long time with that.
Do you have much direct contact with him?
No. Almost none when I sent out a query for where the heck he was now, I got back a very nice e-mail thing. He heard I was trying to find him and here’s where he was and come see him. [Laughter]
When you think back, which were the international arrangements in which you did have a big part or a bigger part?
Well, the international arrangements, they were manifest in several ways. I mean, sometimes they were built around a field project in a certain area. So you wanted to work in the Argentine basin or in the Argentine shelf or the Falkland plateau, something like that. There was the work with the Argentines. But that may have then been followed up by post docs or potential students coming up to work on the data. And after a while, the collaboration broadened. And it was certainly the case with Norway which came along a little bit later, but we had very strong interactions with Norway, and I think a good part of that came out of the fact that Manik Talwani very early in his career spent a year’s sabbatical over there, and made lots of connections. He came back, organized joint projects, and then we have a small wave of very good, young Norwegian graduate students who came, who entered our program and that — they came in several flavors. I mean they came and they either got their degree here right through Columbia [University], or they came in some special way and did their work here and got their degree back home. You know, it was all sorts of combinations. But there were three or four of them.
I’m curious who you’re thinking of in particular when you say that?
Well, I’m thinking of [Ingve] Kristoffersen, who is, would be one of the well-respected senior scientists over there in Norway. He was a student.
He was a Columbia Ph.D.
Yes, he was. And then there was Olaf Eldhom, whom the records don’t show that he was a Ph.D. here. I thought that he was. But he may have come in a post-doc. And then there was this fellow who went to Alaska, who eventually found his way to Alaska — a fairly young man, who just died a few years ago, whose name escapes me at the moment [Jurgen Keinle]. It’ll come to me. But he came over here and did work as a student and/or post-doc. And there were a couple of others as well. But both Olaf and Ingve have certainly established themselves well within the community over there. They were very young.
You’ve sensed that they’ve had a considerable influence on the Norwegian research programs in geophysics?
Was there something identifiable about Lamont’s influence and the way that their research programs developed, either in the style of work that they did or kinds of problems?
Well, it was unique in the sense that, when the ship was out, it was Ewing’s dictum that you did everything at all times. So that if there was a Lamont track across the Atlantic Ocean you could be sure that every conceivable measurement that was possible to be made had been made on that leg. It was — and in most cases, it was an almost continuous data set. So when we started doing seismic, we were doing seismics before anyone else was doing it. We were doing gravity on board a ship before anyone else was doing it. We were doing magnetics and precision depth recording and lots of coring and lots of bottom photography. But the unique thing is that we were doing all of them all of the time, and almost no one else was doing that. And this was — it was sort of viewed as institutional data. And it came back and data type A was the responsibility of one group, and data type B was here, people working on that — it was sort of broken down. Whereas other investigators from other institutions, you know, it was their data. That’s the way they thought at the time, and they’d come back, and some people worked real hard and published it, and other people stuck it in their drawer and it was never seen again. So, if you look — I’ll show you in fact, I have one — if you look at the data holdings that are out at the National Geophysical Data Center for marine geology and geophysics, and you look at where they came from, it lists about twenty-five or thirty sources, the vast, vast, vast majority compared to any other institution came from Lamont. That’s because we collected it all this time from one to three ships going, and the ships operated three hundred and thirty days a year. Ewing used to say, you can’t collect any data alongside the dock.
And so that was the culture that the students learned about and carried away. And that is what gave some added value to the cruises. If you went out to do a particular thing in biology, well, when you were going or coming or when you were doing your thing, you were also doing all these other things, whether you had any interest in them or not. You did them, you recorded them, you curated them, you logged them, and you took them back, and they became part of the vast data library. And until — it’s sort of having a little resurgence now, people are going back and looking at whole data and looking at it harder and figuring how they can squeeze more out of it, but until, oh perhaps, the mid-seventies, this was a unique and extremely valuable resource in the sense that the cream hadn’t even been scraped off the top of all this data.
So in other words, if someone from biology was on the ship, he’d also be taking coring measurements as well. How were they trained to do this? Were they given formal training?
Well, they had a group of technicians, usually they were aspiring graduate students or sometimes graduate students, or junior technicians, and a couple, two or three scientists, and everyone on the ship had some area of data acquisition that they were responsible for. Sometimes for seismic it took several people. For gravity there was someone who was assigned the responsibility of making sure that the gravity meter was working at all times. So, if it wasn’t working at one o’clock, at two o’clock in the morning, that’s the guy they went to. Pulled his rear out of bed, and he better go fix it fast. You know, everyone was standing the watch and marking on the gravity records and the magnetic records and the PDR [precision depth recorder] and keeping logs. We had regular watches. Everyone did that, but everyone had a special responsibility too, to some piece of equipment or to a small team.
That person had to know about each piece of equipment, enough to know if it wasn’t working.
Yes. That’s right. That’s about the level at which he had to know. But you learned that very, very quickly. I mean you were up there and you sort of, your shipmates, it was in their best interests for you to know when it was working and when it wasn’t working. So you didn’t want them to call you out of the rack in the middle of the night when it was working perfectly fine. So, you know, and it wasn’t that complicated at the time. And virtually everything was recorded analog on some sort of paper records. There was not any fancy computer stuff or, and electronics was fairly simple. You know, it’s a vast, vast change from what exists today, the approach.
Was there continued cooperation once people like Kristoffersen and Eldhom went back to Norway, between Lamont?
Yes. They did a gigantic synthesis. I can’t remember if they were back or back and forth on the Norwegian sea for the navy that was quite a piece of, seminal piece of work. And then there have been subsequent projects that carried over on those early cooperations as recent as, maybe four or five years ago. Working north of Iceland, along the Greenland coast, looking at the conjugate margin of Norway to Greenland and drawing charts of seismic program.
Was this work you were personally involved in?
No. I wasn’t really involved in the Norwegian work. I was involved quite a bit with Australians and with New Zealanders. In addition to the Ewing and the [Robert D.] Conrad, we also had responsibility for the observatory and eventually me as an individual, had responsibility for running the geophysical program that was carried out aboard the Eltanin. And so from about thirty degrees south, a very large fraction of the data that exists in all disciplines — and particularly in geophysics — came from these ongoing surveys of the high latitudes aboard the Eltanin. I was in charge of that program. We had lots of Australians, since they’re interested down there in what was going on, collaborating with us, coming out, serving as technicians, coming over here working on the data. Jeff Weissel was a product of that system. And Dave [David] Falvey was a product of that system. And John Ringis. A couple of these people effectively did their Ph.D.s with scientists here even though they were students at the University, at Sydney.
And Jeff [Jeffrey) Weissel was a student of —?
Laric, L A R I C, Hawkins.
And Hawkins, Hawkins spent time over here himself. He spent a sabbatical over here, a year or so. And there were a couple people out of New Zealand that spent time over here for a year or so. And a lot of the operations were out of New Zealand or, mostly New Zealand ports, and we just established a working relationship there and sharing information and that sort of thing. But there were other programs, independent of the Eltanin. There were major seismic programs that Ewing arranged with Hawkins — I think as a consequence of his visit of over here. You know, you go back and get your resources and we’ll bring our toys and we’ll use two ships for seismic refraction experiments. That’s probably what was most of the joint operations initially involved in two ship seismic work. And that was at a time in which it was difficult or few institutions were doing seismic reflection profiling, where you go along and you (it’s essentially like echo sounding) but some of the sound waves penetrate the sea floor and give you an acoustic cross section that looks like a road cut. And that became the preferred method of exploration — seismic exploration — for a long time, because you could go along at nine or ten knots, and you could get this qualitative cross section of what the sea floor and the sub sea floor looked like. The disadvantage of it was that you had no ability to translate all these reflections which were measured in travel time (how long it took the sound waves to go down and bounce back) unless you knew what the velocity of sound was in each one of the rock units. And there were not very many techniques available for doing that. Now the seismic refraction method was something where you would shoot over very large distances, usually between two ships. And the nature of the experiment was that it told you the average properties of the crustal units. So the two things could be used together in some sense. But the two-ship, seismic refraction technique, preceded the technology that supported the seismic reflection. And so if you had two ships and you’re working halfway around the world in someplace or another, it’s nice to get one of those ships from another place. And that’s what happened. We worked with Canadians, worked with the Norwegians, worked with the Japanese, Argentineans, Australians, some work with the South Africans. All, almost all of those, had an element — a strong element — of seismic work. Deep seismic work trying to find out very fundamental things like what is the nature of the ocean crust, how thick is it, how thick are the sediments, what’s underneath, and very fundamental questions.
I hadn’t been aware that you were in charge of the geophysical program on board the Eltanin.
When did that responsibility fall on you?
The year after I got my Ph.D.
What did that entail?
Well, it entailed making certain that we had all the equipment and we had all the technical support down there. And that we got our ideas in terms of what features and what survey patterns we wanted to have affected. Because the ship was doing other things as well. It did geophysics all the time it was underway. But it stopped and did stations, took cores, water, chemical and biological samples. In the early days, because the areas they were going to were so remote, it made sense to do this in a multi-disciplinary fashion. Later on, scientists began complaining that — not the geophysicists, they don’t complain — biologists complain a lot. And the geochemists whine a lot. So. [Laughter] Never mind. They decided it was more in their best interests to have a concentrated biology cruise, for instance. But for many years we did these surveys, and if you look at the Eltanin track plotted — and I can show you some examples — they, you know, they were more or less doing a rough grid — north-south grid survey — of the southern ocean. And they operated between Punta Arenas, Chile, generally and Littleton Christ Church, New Zealand. And then occasionally they would go into South Africa and then into Australia as well. They had a hard time completing the survey over in the central and western parts of the Indian Ocean.
I should say you’re pointing to a large and very clear map of the world, including the oceans that you have on your wall. And you’re saying that there were difficulties in completing the work on the Indian Ocean?
There was a big — there was a big budgetary crunch in 1972 in the Office of Polar Programs of NSF [National Science Foundation].
At that, at that time it was still the Antarctic research program. It was not yet the Office of Polar Programs. It was the U.S. Antarctic research program, and they had exclusive responsibility for oversight and funding of research activities in the Antarctic and, in theory, in the circum-Antarctic Ocean up to sixty-six degrees south latitude. So they had a huge financial crunch unexpectedly in mid-year and without any consultation — they took the Eltanin out of service. I guess it was about December of ‘72. And at that time, they’d been gradually working their way around from east, say from South America westward, and had gotten just about almost over as far as 75 degrees East and had a couple of cruises in this area. Here’s ‘75. But they hadn’t really done this sector in here.
You’re pointing to the area pretty south of —
I’m pointing to South Africa, and to the extreme south eastern Atlantic. So it’s been a long time in between getting data in those regions. And then of course there were many places that they wanted to go back and look at again. And the navigation was extremely poor in those early days because they relied still primarily on celestial navigation down in these regions. The weather was often bad. You could go for several days without getting a fix. Could find yourself off fifty miles from where you thought you were. So there were a lot of things like that. In spite of that, the overall data quality is excellent. It’s amazing. And another thing that placed the Eltanin data set in a position of importance — early on we made up these data books. You see up there at the top?
You’re pointing behind you. The red bound books.
Yes, the red bound volumes. They weren’t all bound. But those, those are reports of all of the data. Take one of the small, yes, any one of those small ones. These were made available to people on request, and they gave information, in this particular case, for a variety of cruises. In this case cruises Eltanin 16 through 38. And in these books it had all the navigational information, all the tracks, all of the seismic data — of which here are some examples showing what I’m talking about — and then it had all of the underway geophysical data. Granted it’s in analog form, but it was all, it was all made available for the community to use fairly early on. Much earlier on than when there were starting to be data sharing policies put forward as mandates. So this got a lot of exposure and a lot of use by a lot of people. If you look at the Eltanin reports, they have over the years a number of citations. Not because they’re great scientific pieces of work, but because they’re organized, valuable collections of data.
That’s very interesting. How were those volumes, such as the ones you have now, actually distributed? Did they go into the central facility that those in the community used?
We got funds to — You see these are just bound versions of the paperback reports. So we got these paperback reports, and we had quite an extensive mailing list. All of the known people who were working in the high latitude regions and we sent them out to them. We made a lot of these things. I mean, we, as I recall, you know, we were printing something like a couple thousand, or twenty-five hundred copies of each one of these things. And had a huge mailing list that probably amounted to over a thousand, and then others on request. I may be off a little on the numbers, but it’s a lot; a lot more than you do now. You make an AGU [American Geophysical Union] monograph now, and it will be very unusual if they print a thousand copies.
That’s very interesting. And I’m curious. Were there any dissensions within the Lamont community over that policy? Or did most people feel very comfortable with the idea of sharing their data?
No, I would say there wasn’t much. There was a tendency to sort of keep the data pretty close to the vest. But we were, you know, we were hip deep in data and we also had the advantage while we were putting out these books for people to see, where things had been done and generally what was there and to use them for planning, all the under way geophysical data but we had it in digital form. [Laughter] This is reminds me that I used to have BB gun fights with my cousins on my uncle’s farm, and I always made sure that he got the BB gun that shot crooked beyond about twenty feet or so. We had (as I did, in essence) the straight shooting BB guns.
That’s a good way to put it.
And the Eltanin data was getting a lot of exposure because it was available. Data collected aboard Eltanin had been so key in demonstrating the bilateral symmetry of the magnetic stripes and the sea floor spreading.
Walter Pitman’s work for instance.
And so, the Eltanin 19 profile, you know, has been published so many times. But I can take and show you in these books examples of other profiles across the crest of the mid-ocean ridge that show the same features that the Eltanin 19 does. So there’s not just one profile in the world. There are lots and lots of them.
That is clear. I was very curious too about Lamont being, in your view, ahead of other oceanographic institutions in terms of distributing these data widely.
Well, yes, we made several data reports. It wasn’t just these. We made –
And you were saying that you were under some pressure from —
Well, they were sort of strongly encouraging getting this data out, but if you’ve ever worked with data, especially in those days, I mean there are ways to comply with making data available to the public that make it absolutely useless. You get a check in the box that says you did it, but you really didn’t. And we didn’t fiddle around with this, you know, doing it pro forma, we did it in a way that it was really useful. We have similar examples of Vema cruises that have been reported out this way.
Did you find that other institutions were doing it just to fill in the box? That their data wasn’t especially helpful?
What happens, as I said, most of them, the other institutions, were doing their scientific projects on individual project by project basis. And while we were doing that with individual scientists, we also had this kind of common thread, this kind of benevolent dictator looking over us that said, you must collect this and you must report this, and you must archive this, and you must process this, and you must quality control it, and you must be able to retrieve it and use it. That was there and that’s the way we learned how to do it. So the ability to do it was there and the culture was pounded into us to do it. It’d be much more difficult to do now because we’ve slipped back, in my opinion, to the kind of individual projects where there’s a lot of data that could be useful that is sitting around in people’s private offices, or in their desk drawers, or in their someplace, all with good intentions to get it out and get it published, and all this. There’s more of that, even at this place, than there used to be.
Was it a gradual change or were there particular times at which you noticed —?
Yes, well what changed was — eventually the projects early on were disciplinary oriented. So that you were going out and you were measuring, say, what the apparent changes in thickness of the sediments were across the mid-ocean ridge. That was your main thing. And secondarily, you were measuring gravity, and you were measuring magnetics, and you were measuring other things. So the data came back, and the gravity data went to the gravity group, and the magnetics data went to the magnetics group, and the seismic data went to the seismic group. Everyone archived it, and you could go look at it, and you could use it for the most part. But that was their responsibility. Ultimately what happened is the science projects got more complicated and they required all of these things. You know, you weren’t collecting them as an ancillary activity, they were a necessity.
They had become fundamental to the work.
That’s right. So the propriety of these data shifted from some group that was dealing with it as a generic data set and would do big magnetic studies using data collected from a hundred cruises, vs. the guy who was using the magnetic data as part of his little project. That changed. So it changed from a sort of a disciplinary survey and understanding, I would say, probably in the early seventies.
Very interesting. Has this —
And Ewing, before I forget one thing. Ewing was openly criticized by a lot of his colleagues for collecting certain kinds of data for which he had no particular use in mind. The irony is that magnetics data was one of those parameters that was being measured continually from all these ships. Whenever you left the dock, out went the magnetometer and it didn’t come in until you came in. And he was, even though it wasn’t that difficult to measure, to maintain the instruments — these weren’t huge costly things — he was he got criticized. I can’t tell you by who exactly, but there was a general feeling: What are you collecting data when you don’t have any specified, known specified use for it? And of course when the whole hypothesis testing of plate tectonics and sea floor spreading came along, then Lamont really mopped up because they had all the now relevant data.
Was there a particular part though that Ewing placed more emphasis on than others? At first, I know, he wasn’t too sold on magnetics, although he continued to use it, but did he place certain emphasis on collections of different fields?
No. He expected you to use the ship every minute of every day, and to collect every piece of data that you could conceivably think of. It wasn’t that he was against magnetics. I mean, he was sure there was some valuable information about the earth and how the earth formed in this magnetic data, that it would eventually be useful. What happened was that he was — since he wasn’t using that data himself for the most part — fairly late in this game actually. He wasn’t at the forefront of actually setting down and looking at this data, and realizing, “Oh my God, look what we got here.”
You’re holding your hands to your head because this was extraordinary data.
Yes, because most of the scientists who were apprehensive about aspects of the “revolution.” You’ve got to realize there are subtle distinctions between continental drift, plate tectonics, sea floor spreading. They’re all sort of woven in together, but they mean different things to different people and they mark different time lines in thinking. I mean early, [Alfred] Wegener and [Alexander L.] duToit. Reconstructions of the continents involved looking at certain biota that couldn’t have gotten in both places except if the continents had been together. That was continental drift and that was kind of a retrospective of, gee it must have been this way because that’s the only way it makes sense. But left with the problem, how on earth could you do that. How could you take these continents and sort of plow them like ships through this ocean crust. Then came the business of plate tectonics where the idea is that continents and the oceans all comprised a small number of plates that weren’t plowing through anything. They were just moving apart, slipping by one another, and occasionally converging and regenerating pieces of the crust. So that was plate tectonics, and that explains a lot about the distribution of the earthquakes, the seismicity. And then it provided an entrée, if that’s what was happening, to look at the mid-ocean ridges axes and say, well, if this is what is happening, a new crust is being formed here. And we have independent evidence that the earth’s magnetic pole is flipping back and forth, changing its polarity Then with time, these rocks should be magnetized in a fashion that reflects the nature of the magnetic field at the time those rocks cooled. And that was the sort of magnetic lineation corollary to the sea floor spreading hypothesis. And then, once you could identify that chronology, you could identify ages of the ocean crust from their characteristic magnetic anomalies; then the magnetics became extremely important because they told you how — what the ages were. Knowing distances told you how fast the plates had grown, how it was different. The scars that were left in association with the offsets of the magnetic lineations, the fracture zone tracks — if you want to think of them that way — gave you information about the rates and how quickly the rates changed along certain plate boundaries. I mean, this was a dream come true in terms of: here are some fantastic ideas that could draw together and integrate many, many observations that we’d seen on the earth that were unexplained. We had the data to go out and test it. Off the coast of California, there was a very detailed survey — in part by Scripps [Institution of Oceanography] and in part, perhaps by, one of the federal agencies, maybe the U.S. Geological Survey or it might have been NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration], I can’t remember. But if look at a map, and I’m pointing to this area sort of west of California and Oregon, out for several hundreds of miles. And you looked at the magnetic anomalies; we saw a pattern that looked like a zebra skin out there. You’ve seen them before?
Yes, on the Juan de Fuca region, extending out.
These are in color, but that’s what I’m talking about.
Indeed. Right. We happen to be looking at Bob [Robert A.] Phinney’s book, The History of the Earth’s Crust.
Yes. These, the colors here indicate that these are correlated. You would be able to see that if you looked at them in profile. For instance, if this, my hands together represented the map and then you looked at the cross-section of this, you saw my fingers; you’d be able to distinguish between my pinkies and my index fingers, because my pinky doesn’t look like my index finger. All right? It doesn’t look like it because it was formed in a slightly different time frame, any rate, these magnetic lineations were known for a long time. And offsets of these lineations were known for a long time. And it was right up until the early sixties that a lot of people thought that they were, at one time, formed together and then faulted. If you typically look at some geologic marker that has a counterpart someplace else and it is offset, you’d believe it was once together and it was subsequently offset. So it was a major revelation when sea floor spreading came along and showed how these could be formed in place and be offset from their beginning. With no need for this displacement of thousands of kilometers, to account for the observed offset and the correlated magnetic anomalies.
Indeed the years — it was just a few years after your dissertation that there was this ferment in the earth sciences.
Well, yes, it was starting. I think the major papers really hit the public domain probably in late ‘67, early ‘68. But there were — there was lots of work going on and lots of manuscripts and lots of people thinking about things and writing things. [Xavier] Le Pichon’s work was an important work at that time. And I think that’s one of the things that very much helped persuade Ewing, early on. There were others here at Lamont, I guess at that time would have been considered the old school or the old timers. Right now, looking back, they weren’t that old. [Laughter]
Well put. What was it about —?
Like [J. Lamar] Worzel for instance, who was late to come along. And I kept saying, Joe, just look at the data. Just look at the data.
What happened when you actually showed him these data?
Well he eventually came around.
But it wasn’t until the 1970s that [cross talk].
Yes. There were a number of devil’s advocates out there who were picking at inconsistencies in observations, or inconsistencies in the theory that they just couldn’t swallow it. It’s a little like believing in birth control and so you can’t be a Catholic. Okay? There is some little, maybe important, maybe not, little things, something out there that they couldn’t quite reconcile or they didn’t believe, or was unconvincing at the time. For instance, suppose you went out and you found sediments on the sea floor of an age that pre-dated the crust that they were sitting on. Well, that’s an irreconcilable fact. I mean, you’ve got to deal with it. And there were a few examples like that.
Were these the ones that Ewing had found in particular?
Well, Ewing had looked for a couple of them. And it turned out ultimately that they were explained by the fact that the place where they were dredged from was actually very close to a fracture zone, to an offset transform. They were probably taken from the opposite side of the transform in which the age was very different and compatible, rather than the other side where it was incompatible. But it took time to sort those kinds of things out. And there were problems. If you looked around the trenches all around the Pacific, you found that there were lots of places where the trenches that represented the places where the plates converged, where there was virtually no sediment to be found in the trench. And so, you know, it’s been out there and carrying like a conveyor belt even a thin layer of sediments, which it almost certainly had to. What happened to it? What was happening to it? Well, different things were happening to it at different places. In many places it was getting sort of plastered on and masked onto the landward side of the plate. And essentially the hard part of the ocean crust was going down, and the other part was getting scraped off and jumbled up to make these collisional zones, a mélange, all sort of jumbled up kinds of sediments and rocks together. But there were these people who looked at trenches and were trying to explain why they were formed, where they were, what their structures were and knew a lot about them. And they said, gee, this doesn’t make sense in terms of this theory. And I’m not going to buy into this until I get this reconciled. There was that kind of attitude. Rather than the people over here that said, wow, this evidence is so overwhelming, I’m buying into this. And, you know, there are some things over here we have to figure out that don’t fit, but that doesn’t negate the big picture here.
Did it seem to you after, say 1968, that there was only a very small number of people at Lamont who continued to question the framework of plate tectonics? Or were there more?
Oh yes. No, I would say there were very few, very few. And none of the people who were really full-time, active scientists in MG&G [Marine Geology and Geophysics] were questioning it at that time. [W. Jason] Morgan’s paper and Le Pichon’s paper, and then the whole sequence of papers by the magnetics group, with [James R.] Heirtzler and [Walter] Pitman, and then. You know, we were believers. Everyone was writing papers on different things. We started looking all the way across the ocean, and we found, for the first time, that on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, there was what we call a magnetic quiet zone. There were no magnetic wiggles. And I wrote a paper with Heirtzler about it at the time. In fact, I think it may have been ‘67 — I can’t remember.
We can check on that relatively easily.
Late sixties, maybe a little earlier. In which, without looking at the individual fingers in my analogy representing the anomalies, if you just look at the whole ocean, here’s Africa and over here is North America. And you see I’ve got fingers and I have a wrist and I have elbows on both sides, bi-laterally symmetrical. You saw this pattern in the magnetic anomaly. The unique thing was right next to the continents there was a very wide zone for which there were no magnetic anomalies. And the question is, why weren’t there? Were they formed there and destroyed by something? Or did they represent a time when the crust was formed and the magnetic poles were not shifting back and forth. So we’re speculating. There were some periods in time in history like that. There’s the Jurassic quiet zone. We at that time speculated that it may have been formed in the Permian.
It sounds clear that you were persuaded by evidence from magnetic reversals in fact being reversals particularly early on.
Oh there was no question about that. That got resolved fairly early on. And that was happening at the same time. That’s important that you bring that up, because the evidence for these magnetic reversals before had primarily been, come from the sampling of young lavas from around, you know, a dozen or fifteen sites around the world. Seeing that their polarity history fell into a nice, internally consistent, chronological distribution of these polarities. But the difficulty was that the age dating techniques that were available to them at that time, primarily potassium argon, didn’t allow them to date with the accuracies that they needed to get back more than about three and a half to eventually five million years, and eventually a little further. What happened: most of the magnetics world had bought into this, and a lot of other people were looking for ways to explain it away. Just think of this one piece of data. Now along comes someone looking at the magnetic polarity history as recorded in ocean sediments. Okay? These are not crystalline rocks with big magnetic signatures. These are ocean sediments with minuscule little magnetic signatures and the little pieces of sedimentary particles serving as little micro-magnets who got deposited preferentially in one direction or another because they are like a little magnet. If you took a bunch of little magnets and you settled it in a magnetic field, they’re going to preferentially line up. And if that magnetic field changes at another time, and you do the same experiment, they’re going to line up in another way. All you have to do is be able to measure it. And so they developed a new kind of magnetometer, the spinner magnetometer.
And the important thing was that they found that this same pattern that they got out of the lavas and that were dated by potassium argon were entirely consistent with the patterns that they got out of ocean sediments, which were dated primarily biostratigraphically. In fact, the ocean sediments showed that the pattern continued quite a bit further down. So it allowed them to extrapolate. So pretty soon they ended up having a magnetic polarity reversal history derived from looking at lavas and derived from looking at sediments together that was internally consistent, that allowed them to document the reversal history back to about ten million years. Now, ten million years is not very much in terms of the ocean. I mean, it’s maybe one twentieth of what’s there today. So they ended up then looking at these magnetic lineations, and essentially extrapolating that ten million year history back to eighty million years. And that’s what those papers of [James R.] Heirtzler and [Walter C.] Pitman and [Andrew] Dickson and [Thomas] Herron did.
Neil Opdyke was involved in that work as well, wasn’t he?
Well, he wasn’t involved in those papers. He was involved in the papers having to do with the magnetic polarity history as discovered in the cores along with Bill [William] Glass.
His graduate student.
Yes but, there was a bit of friction there about that because Bill Glass was one of [Bruce C.] Heezen’s students and I can’t remember who was — oh, John Foster and some other people were working for Neil. That was sort of in the midst of the holy wars, or the unholy wars. So you had to kind of slither about at night and talk to each other. That’s a short dark period of history in Lamont where there wasn’t complete and open exchange among everyone. But that was confined to primarily Heezen and a few people that he was competing with — you know.
That’s interesting. How did you communicate with members, like Heezen, in the community when it wasn’t as easy to do so, openly?
Through the students. Student to student.
That makes sense. Certainly a common pattern in such a situation.
Sure. We showed each other our results. I mean, we were too naive to be worried about who was going to get credit for this, that, or the other thing. It really wasn’t, wasn’t the thing.
You mentioned a moment ago, the difficulties relating to resolving the structure of the trench, the general trenches. I imagine you were thinking in particular about your dissertation work which had centered in the Chilean trench.
It went from Panama all the way down to Tierra del Fuego.
The Peru Chilean trench, I should say.
Yes. But it runs all the way from Colombia, all the way down. It just is manifest differently different places. And I wasn’t looking, at that time, so much at the trench as a manifestation of plate collision, as I was looking to see why it changed its properties so much over this three thousand miles extent. And, of course, it all had to do with what was going on on land. Whether it’s next to the desert or the rain forest. And ultimately some of it had to do with what was happening with the collision zone as well. It was one of the early dissertations that really incorporated a wide variety of different kinds of data. I wasn’t looking far enough out into the ocean to really even see the pattern of the magnetic anomalies, though I was looking at the magnetics close to the trench, and did some simple modeling. And I said, gee, it looks like it’s possible that there have actually been reversals here recorded in these. It was a very minor point of the thesis but –-
Right. And indeed you had become aware of regions of the trench that did seem to have virtually no sedimentation, and yet others that did.
And part of the concern was indeed to figure out what kind of mechanism could explain the nature of the trenches.
Well, yes, of course. I mean, the trenches existed as major features just like they were trying to figure out the existence of the mid-ocean ridges. It fell in that category at the time.
No, it certainly was critical.
And these were, you know, the places where the big earthquakes were occurring. And just the existence of the Benioff zone for a given.
I’m looking particularly, right now, at the 1966 paper. Was that actually written in ‘65? I don’t have the actual date.
What? You mean my dissertation?
And I want to make sure that —
In Marine Geology?
What I have in front of me is a Geophysical Investigation of the Peru Chilean Trench.
Yes, that’s published in Marine Geology.
In Marine Geology. That is the dissertation?
Yes. That was written in 1965 as a dissertation. And then I went to sea. I think I told you this story. I went to sea with a — as a chief scientist as a matter of fact, and was gone for almost three months. I came back with a full expectation that all my advisors would have read everything that I’d done and I would immediately proceed to a dissertation defense. Well naturally, out of sight, out of mind. A lot of things to do. And I came back very disappointed to find out that really no one had looked that carefully at what I’d done. So I had to press on them some. It ended up that I had a defense then just very shortly after the first of the year. I had a defense one day, and I made my corrections that night, and I had deposited the defense the next day.
It was fast paced.
It was, it was financially motivated.
Yes. I can understand that.
You couldn’t, you couldn’t get a Ph.D. salary until you deposited your Ph.D. thesis.
I imagine that was a long night, but yet a [crosstalk].
There wasn’t very much to do. I know I told you at the time I had quite a loaded group on my dissertation defense.
Quite a lot of fire power. But they were nice to me.
We pause just to change the tape.
There were a few others, but not many that really looked at a very large area, looked at some problem, and tried to say, to use many, many different kinds of data.
One of the things I was curious about. I’m looking here actually at the — at a Xerox copy of this, your article in Marine Geology. Was your feeling that one might be able to explain the structure of the trench by the faulted basic modeled by high angle normal faulting? I’m wondering what discussions you recall amongst those here at Lamont, Joe Worzel and others, Manik Talwani, in particular. Were there discussions already — and this is, of course, ‘65 and very early in this time period — about whether some of these structures that you were looking at might reflect drift or other explanations?
Certainly they were starting to think about the manifestation of — the trench being the topographic manifestation of plate collisions. This was being thought about. That was set primarily driven by the fact of the distribution of earthquakes in the Benioff Zones and the identification of those zones through the accurate location of their hyper centers. So, you know, it wasn’t too long before that that there wasn’t enough resolution in locating earthquakes to clearly identify these Benioff Zones and to discriminate, you know, the shallow deep, intermediate, and deep things into these dipping plains beneath the zone. So that was an observational fact. And that was why, when the plate tectonic concept came out, you know, it provided a framework in which to reconsider all sorts of things. It was like, AH HAH! So that’s why they’re there. Or, you know, they’re there, therefore we know there is a plate boundary.
In your early thinking was there a moment of epiphany when you realized that that plate tectonics was acceptable for you? Or was that a gradual process over those years?
It certainly didn’t go over years. I mean things were happening very quickly.
Things were going quickly over the months [crosstalk]
I would say it was over a period of a few months. I mean, there were different pieces of what came together to define the plate tectonics theory, that I was buying into as my friends, you know, as I’d seen the evidence that was irrefutable that the — about the polarity changes. You know, you could get rid of any doubts about that. So that was a fact. And then people started calculating some model anomalies that sort of looked like, you know it might work. But it wasn’t very convincing. Then things like Eltanin 19 appeared, and I mean, that was an eye opener to everyone. And everyone finally said, well, you know, this is it. You can’t deny this anymore.
Do you remember the first time you saw this particular data set?
Oh, I’m sure I saw it within a day or two after Walter ran it out. This was just about the time that I was taking over the Eltanin. But the data from Eltanin 19 had already been collected. Heirtzler was running that program before. And he was a senior scientist. And he, about that time, resigned to go over and take over Hudson Labs.
Hudson Labs. Yes.
At the time that he resigned to do that, that responsibility was passed to me. I was looking at lots of other data, and then once you get to the point where you know what to look for, it’s very easy. It was ironic. I looked at one particular profile some years later, that there was perfect symmetry in this magnetic profile, and there was what appeared to be a small rift valley at the crest of the east Pacific rise, way down south on the Pacific Antarctic ridge. But the magnetic signature over the top of this thing was not positive like it was everywhere else. It was negative.
Along this one particular segment.
On this one particular profile. I couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on. Eventually it became obvious that what had happened is that the ship, unbeknownst to us, had crossed a small offset in the axis of the ridge. And we sort of got off the central anomaly, and this apparent rift was not a rift in the crest, it was just a crossing of an unknown offset near the ridge crest. And so I was just saying thank god they didn’t look at that first instead of Eltanin 19. They’d have really been screwed up.
That’s a very good point. [Laughter]
I’ve saved that. Then I’ve got a few other examples of profiles from other than Eltanin 19 that I generated. I keep telling Walter [Pitman], show something else besides Eltanin 19. People believe it’s the only such profile in the world.
We were talking earlier about international collaborations. I’m wondering about some of the other early efforts, collaborations that Lamont was involved in. You mention LePichon, the connections with France, and there were also interactions with Karl Hinz, as well, in Germany.
Well, LePichon, we didn’t really have any collaborations with France that I recall except, I don’t know what were the circumstances that brought LePichon over here to begin with. I can’t remember if he officially got his degree in France or from Lamont. I think from France.
I believe that’s right.
He was over here for a three or four year period of time, studying and doing his research. What developed shortly after LePichon went back and they established the institute at Brest, for which he was the principal. Then there was this huge project on the mid-ocean ridge; the Franco-American project. What was it called? There’s a very well known name for this area out, it’s about thirty degrees north that they decided to study in very great detail. I’ll think of the name of it — ah yes, the famous project! The French interaction occurred as much on a national, nation to nation level, as it did individual scientists. They decided they were going out and jointly study a piece of the mid-ocean ridge in great detail. I’m not aware of collaborations that existed before. There were earlier collaborations with the Japanese, doing lots of seismic work over in the western Pacific, as there were with the Australians, there were with the Canadians. Eventually up in the Norwegian Sea, the Germans, Karl Hinz, got involved, as well, with the Norwegians.
How did you come to know Karl Hinz?
Karl is a — Do you know Karl?
He’s a wonderful guy. I would guess he’s a few years, not very many, but a few years older than I am. He’s a very big man to begin with, and handsome, very rugged. He’s just like a whirlwind. He just [makes sound like a swirling wind], comes in, you know, and he’s talking and throwing out all these ideas and doing everything. Anyway, I think we really, Karl and I really got to know each other in — when we both got involved in a project, in the early planning stages of that project went back to the early seventies, maybe ‘73 or ‘74. There was a big planning conference in Bangkok. And that developed into a long project focused on Southeast Asia. As it turned out — I believe I mentioned this to you before — we had interests in common tectonic problems. So we kept following each other around to the same parts of the world because we were interested in the same topical problems that were manifest best in different places. We both spent a lot of time working in around off Morocco and northwest Africa and the Canaries. We both spent a lot of time down in the Ross Sea. We both spent a lot of time over in the South China Sea working there. He did work with some other colleagues here up in the Norwegian Sea. We were trying to get a collaboration to go up to the Arctic, but unfortunately it’s not going to happen — at least not this year. So we’re still talking to him, interacting with him. He’s a wonderful guy; really, very, very energetic and very social. He used to travel and go to sea many, many months a year. I always asked Karl, the first time I’d see him, you still married, Karl? You still married? You know, it got to be a standing joke. The first thing we’d do we’d see other, shake hands, and ask are you still married. Are you still married? [Laughter]
But you will find he just comes in like a little twister. And there’s a big flurry of activity and whewwww [sound like wind] he’s gone, on to something else.
You had mentioned that, but off tape, so I wanted to be sure that we had discussed this.
Well, he is definitely unique among the different kinds of collaborations. When you get into collaboration with Karl Hinz, you can be certain that Karl and his colleagues and the Germans are going to do their part at least. I mean, they’re very — extremely reliable.
How long did it take for the Germans to become re-established as active players in marine geophysics, oceanography after World War II?
Well, they got re-established — I’m not so sure in marine geophysics — they certainly had some well-known people that emerged in physical oceanography. Georg Wust, for instance, came over and spent a couple of years and was Arnold Gordon’s mentor in the mid- sixties. And they had other very famous physical oceanographers, but the marine geology and geophysics — I certainly wasn’t very much aware of it at the time that I was working in the sixties, but the, the forerunners of the deep-sea drilling project started to emerge about in ‘68. And then there were surveys and before there were, there was really officially the International Ocean Drilling Program, International Phase of Ocean Drilling [IPOD] — there were many German scientists involved. I know I went to sea on the Glomar Challenger as a chief scientist very young, and I think I was the youngest scientist on the ship.
Is that right?
I think so. And we had several German scientists who were on there at that time in different capacities. I think the drilling project helped them a lot to re-establish there. So I would guess it was probably, they were established by the late sixties, early seventies. And probably quite a bit before that, and I just didn’t know about it. My recollection is that they were down doing work in the Mediterranean and around the northern Indian Ocean. But they, they really became global; they’re all over the place now. I mean, they really have strong global interests.
How well did you come to know Tony [Sir Anthony] Laughton?
I knew Tony fairly well. He’s — I had occasion to visit him and his scientists. He was certainly my senior by quite a few years. He was more probably Chuck [Charles L.] Drake’s contemporary, something like that. Chuck probably knew him pretty well. He was a very personable guy, interested in collaborations. I really knew the people that worked for him over there better than I knew Tony [Laughton], but I also was involved on a number of advisory panels for the ocean drilling program in which Tony was there, so we had occasion to be thrown together from time to time.
Did his program, his operation seem sometimes like a competitor to Lamont-Doherty at the time?
Well, there was always a kind of debate; he pushed very hard for GLORIA. That’s this big side scan system. GLORIA is a very long range side scan system in which you could qualitatively map very large areas of the ocean floor in relatively short amounts of survey time. But it was very qualitative and took a lot to interpret what you were seeing. He was a big advocate of that.
How did you feel about that system?
Well, I thought it was very useful and very interesting, but it certainly wasn’t going to be in lieu of other measurements, it was going to be in addition to it. It was a perfectly wonderful tool to do some reconnaissance and then decide where you wanted to go, and look with some different tool. But it was a huge, monster, white elephant kind of instrument at the time and then you needed a monster ship and a cast of a Cecil B. Demille production to launch it. But Tony is a very nice guy, and he was certainly well connected with people over here. I didn’t really feel that we were competing with him in that sense. We were going after separate pots of money. There were few opportunities that we interacted — I also interacted with him on some programs having to do with the GEBCO [General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans] work. He was important in early phases of that, along with a number of other people. It always seemed like a shame to me that the, you know, the Brits retired the people very early over there. He retired quite young.
That was quite a problem though wasn’t it?
Well, it still is, as far as I know.
Sydney Chapman’s retirement brought him to the United States.
Yes. It’s brought a number of people to the United States, you know, that were — I mean Tim Francis down at the drilling project in Texas came over. He’s in a fairly high management position. He came over here. He didn’t want to retire. You know, his time was up so he changed. And there have been quite a few who’ve done that.
I’m curious too about, in your view, whether Lamont tended to host more international visitors, including those from the Soviet Union, than the other somewhat other similar facilities at Woods Hole and Scripps? Is that your impression?
I don’t, I really don’t know how many people they had at these other places. I had the feeling they were involved. I had the feeling, for instance, that Scripps and the people that I knew were more, they were collaborating internationally, but kind of local: Mexican, Central American, northern South America. It was kind of regional, international collaborations. And probably the same way with Woods Hole. Much, you know, with Canada and the Gulf of Maine, and the Bay of Fundy and places around there. But I’m not certain. I do know that our scientific interests were truly global. If you just look at the history, and see where the ships went, I mean, that’s obvious from that. In the early days, say from the fifties through the seventies, if you looked at where Woods Hole ships, they were primarily confined to the North Atlantic with an occasion excursion into the Mediterranean. The Scripps ships were Pacific ships, mostly from Hawaii, westward — eastward I mean. And in the early days institutions had ships, and you went out on your institution ship, and it was an unusual thing if you should happen to go on someone else’s ship. That was, didn’t happen very often. That changed quite dramatically, I’d say probably about in the mid-seventies, where the ships began being viewed as shared facilities and accessible in principle to any bona fide user.
There does seem to be a very different style in even organizing these kinds of collaborative ventures from, say the fifties, sixties to latter periods of time. In terms of getting funders together and knowing what was required to make a joint undertaking work.
I think it was, it was much easier in the earlier days. It was seat of the pants, it was personal relationships, it was a handshake and a couple shots of rum over some bar, and you’re talking with the people who had authority and resources to make it happen, and they didn’t do a lot of dawdling around, they just did it.
Did the changes come by the late sixties, 1970s for the most part?
Changes to something more formal, you mean?
Yes, where it required much more coordination with patrons and government authorities.
Yes. It certainly was in place by the time the International Decade of Ocean Exploration began. And that was — the “I” in international was important. So this was no longer a marriage of desire. This was a shotgun wedding that was being forced upon you if you wanted access. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it also resulted in some collaborations and partnerships that were heavily unbalanced. There were the people who were the doers and the people who were the riders along, and sometimes there were the people who provided the access, which was important.
I imagine that built up resentments over —
What it does is it educates you, and so that it builds in a little selectivity for the next iteration.
You put it well.
You know, we didn’t necessarily expect in our collaborations in Southeast Asia to have equal partnerships with the developing countries. None of the developed countries who were working over there with the developing countries expected that. But they expected, you know, them to do what they could do, and some of them worked better than others. I mean, some, I would say, out of all the countries over there, probably the Philippines and the Indonesians were the most active in really doing their part and putting something into the collaborative programs. I’m not counting Japan now. I’m counting Japan as like one of— like the U.S. or Germany or France or whatever. Then the Koreans made an effort, but there was not much effort out of, out of Thailand for instance or out of Malaysia. They were still scratching their head trying to figure out what to do with Taiwan in this business. Taiwan was in and China was not in. And then eventually China got in but wouldn’t go in if Taiwan remained in. The politics got a little tricky. And the Australians were involved down in there as well. And so, it was a useful time I think. I think we did a lot of good science, for instance, around the Philippines, in which we got access, and we had counterpart scientists from the U.S. and the Philippines working on the island, not necessarily from our institution. We had a big project and there were people involved from Cornell [University] who were doing the seismicity and the land geology and tying it in together with the offshore. So these, the IDOE, the SEATAR [?] project that we had, I think and I’ve heard people who were in charge of those programs — does the name Feenan Jennings mean anything to you?
Indeed it does.
Well Feenan just retired by the way, from Texas. But he was head of that operation for a long time. And he used to tell me occasionally, he thought that the SEATAR program was the one of the only MG&G programs out of IDOE [International Decade of Earth Exploration - 1970s] that really did something useful.
How did you regard Feenan Jennings as a manager of science — of scientific projects?
I didn’t know Feenan personally too well. But I know a lot of people very well who do know him well. And I have heard nothing but the highest praise for Feenan Jennings — as a person and as a manager. Has a sort of unusual style, I guess.
A kind of, well — to my eye the sort of Will Rogers approach. He knew what was going on. You know, he wasn’t a strong armor kind of guy. He was sort of quietly keeping track of what was going on. And I think a strong arm and a strong guide and not really having much tolerance for sustaining mediocre work. So there were a few programs got started and then got axed because they didn’t, they didn’t cut muster. Now he wasn’t there for the entire time of the IDOE program, but he was there for a good part of it. Most people thought he was one of the better bureaucrats in Washington, both with his time with the Navy, and with NSF and the IDOE program. I liked him. I thought he was very funny too. He was fun to be around.
You mentioned in passing collaborations with the Japanese. And these were primarily in the field of seismology, right?
Yes they were. It was primarily Ewing and [William] Ludwig.
That’s Bill Ludwig you mean.
Yes Bill Ludwig and Bob [Robert] Houtz. And on the other side, let’s see [S.] Murauchi was a key figure. I could dig up some other names there. But they had several phases of joint operations and operations around Japan that went. These things didn’t tend to happen in a year or two, and then disappear. They were kind of ongoing investigations that happened every two, maybe three or four or five years, as the opportunity presented itself. So, you know, the whole study of some area or studies building up to the drilling in the Sea of Japan may have evolved over twenty or twenty-five years — both individual and collaborative studies and surveys.
And those collaborations principally influenced work in seismology. In other words, that people in Lamont in other fields didn’t necessarily have that kind of contact.
Well, we had a pretty strong contact with the Japanese. Because it seemed like we always had several Japanese scientists here. So it wasn’t just in the marine seismology. There was some solid earth geophysics. There was earthquake seismology. And there were people who were interested in tectonics, and I can’t recall any particular collaboration in physical oceanography or chemistry. So it was mostly the geological sciences — both marine and terrestrial. But —
I’m curious. Please.
— these things sprung out of what was truly viewed as a global playground. And you went and you went where the problems were and you went where you could attack the problems and where you could get some help and where, you know, the collaborations had some promise of bearing fruit for both sides. And I may be wrong because of a lack of information, but I don’t believe this was — I think Lamont stood out in this regard. If you integrate over the many years. Maybe with the distinctions becoming more subtle in the last ten years.
As other programs have become similarly international.
Yes, and as the federal funding agencies have mandated that you have partners rather they be inter-institutional collaborations and/or international partners. You know, there are big problems about worrying about access to places. It’s nothing like having a couple of big name scientists who are legitimately interested in the problems they’re pushing on the inside.
I was curious when you said that how generally you felt about these evolving policies within patrons like NSF [National Science Foundation]. Have those been policies that have been worked out in cooperation with active researchers like you? Or do you feel that there are outside considerations that have begun to drive?
No. I think they’re practical. I think it’s basically law of the sea kind of stuff. The easy considerations and that kind of thing are making — really all of the countries are saying we’ve got to protect ourselves. And, you know, I think of it. In the early days we went wherever we wanted to go. And in some sense you could even argue that that was exploitive. Although I don’t know of any particular examples in which you could translate it like that. But we gathered data. And certainly information is power.
You know, I was also thinking about the politically more difficult interactions of the 1960s in the Cold War — the relations with Soviet scientists. Who were the principal Soviet researchers whom you recall having visited or stayed at Lamont?
Well, Gleb Udintsev was here all the time. And Gleb was always — I think I mentioned to you before.
This was off tape though and I wanted to be sure that we spoke about it.
Yes, Gleb was here. And Gleb knew what was going on. He was a bona fide scientist and had access to some resources. But I personally, and a few others, often had the feeling, you know, Gleb was primarily looking out for Gleb. And so we were a little careful about the deals that you struck there to make sure. Eventually we learned to get what’s promised up front, before delivering on your own part. But Gleb’s still around. He’s a survivor. I think he was kind of on the political fence over there. Not himself personally, but his whole family. So, you know, as the wind shifted from one side to the other, he shifted from being in favor to being out of favor but never quite that far either way, a real survivor. There’s another guy over there that is the head of the Lithosphere institute that was a real, real wheeler dealer, an effective arranger of Soviet collaboration, and that’s Nicky Bagdonov.
That was when we were speaking off tape.
He’s still around. But his institute, his academy institute of the Lithosphere there in Moscow has shrunk to a very small size. Much, much less than it was. So its power base is kind of a hollow one now. But he’s still around. He’s extremely shrewd and very personable. He knows everyone. I don’t know how he does it, but whenever he comes over here, he’s got all his friends, and he always manages to have a bottle of vodka for everyone. I mean, he must have a trailer with a hundred cases of vodka. I don’t know how he does that. [Laughter] He says, oh, I got a little present for you.
So he was someone you came to know pretty well.
When did he start coming over to visit Lamont?
Oh, certainly he came over before or when the Soviets were negotiating the business of being part of the drilling project. So this would have had to been in the early seventies. And there was a, there was an International Geological Congress held in Moscow I believe in, maybe ‘68 or? And then there was another one. There were two of them. I may be getting them confused in my mind. I remember it was at a time [Vladimir] Belousov was still an extremely important figure in Russian geology and tectonics. And he was a very outspoken opponent of plate tectonics and sea floor spreading. And at the time that I’m recalling this conference that was over there, he was very present and talking about that, so it makes me think it was in the late sixties. But —
Of course, he continued to oppose it.
Oh yes. He was our Soviet counterpart to [Arthur E.] Meyerhoff.
Yes. That’s a good way to put it. Did he ever visit Lamont? Belousov?
I can’t remember for sure. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had. But I don’t recall a specific visit. His, you know — if he’d have come, he would have come with an entourage because his English was not —
Was not very good.
It was not the kind where you could sit down and converse on your own.
Interesting. Who were the Soviets with whom you could speak directly?
Well, Nicky could. I mean, Nicky Bagdonov could use all the little colloquialisms and he and Gleb Udintsev could communicate, although he had a very thick Russian accent. The people — two or three names I can’t remember — but I’m sure that they were there not because of their scientific credentials necessarily, but because of their communication skills. I have to look back. These were people who were representing the Soviets around the planning table in the drilling project. There was a lot of controversy back and forth and discomfort among the Department of Defense and Department of State about whether or not the Soviets should be part of the drilling, international drilling program, and was there going to be the opportunity for technology transfer that would be detrimental to the U.S. position.
I was curious how you and others at Lamont felt about this question of Soviet involvement?
We didn’t really see that there was that much technology that was going to be transferred that was going to affect how many missiles were pointing this way or that way. Scientists, I think, tended to be far more cavalier — not cavalier, detached, about the Cold War. And, you know, they exchanged ideas and information on a scientific basis. It was a natural thing to do it. And they didn’t tend to think, well, I’m speaking with someone who wants to annihilate me. Because the people you were talking to never really spoke about politics among the scientists, except if it was basically to criticize it. I mean, to question and criticize it. I had many Soviet scientists in my home, and, you know, they — Scientists, as a group — this is I know quite a generalization — but over these years, tended to be well positioned, relatively well heeled, having responsibilities. They were not part of the overall scene of socialism. They were little pockets, anomalies of capitalism embedded in this huge socialistic system. So, you know, they had an appreciation for coming over here and enjoying the good things. You know, the nice liquor and the wonderful dinners and the hospitality and all that. That was more, you know, they weren’t over here saying how can you do this and preaching the doctrine. So we tended not to think about it either because a point wasn’t being made about it.
I’m very curious if at any point you remember whether any Soviet scientists talked to you about dialectical materialism or different philosophical ways of approaching scientific questions? Did those kinds of issues ever come up?
Not very much. I think, what I recall, and it’s a little vague, was people talking about the internal politics of the various institutions within the Soviet Union, and posturing themselves for external support of their institution A over institution B. That kind of discussion I recall a little bit of. And so, you know, often a little flag would go up. What does he really want? Where is he really going with this? But not too much.
But it wasn’t so much a sense that people coming out of particular institutions might be under particular pressures, it was more very much on an individual basis.
Well, you see, we didn’t see that many. I would guess that the number of Soviet scientists that actually came here and interacted with us was less than a dozen. It wasn’t that many people. You know, there were people who got involved in the drilling project. That was their greatest visibility. There was a well known sedimentologist, [U. N.] Kreschninikov, who was heavily involved in the drilling project. I have to look back to name people. But the person with the most persistent presence, regular presence here, would definitely have been Gleb Udintsev, who was good friends with Bruce Heezen and Marie [Tharp].
How did Ewing regard Udintsev? Did his relationship with Heezen particularly color that relationship over time?
I can’t really remember any incidents or anything like that at the time. You see, Ewing left in ‘72. And so there may have been a visit or two, but my guess is his mind was elsewhere. That was not worthy of getting in that little skirmish, or making a little skirmish there.
I realize we’ve been talking already for a long time this afternoon and we may want to bring this to a close. But I’m curious if you recall in the mid 1960s whether there were discussions at Lamont, speaking of Ewing, of who might be his replacement as director of Lamont?
Was it already by the mid 1960s, that people began to look towards this or late 1960s?
Well, I would say maybe, maybe. Yes, by, certainly by the late sixties, by ‘68 or something like that. It was apparent that the situation, the general political environment between the main campus and Lamont was not improving all that much. It was a source of great aggravation to Ewing because he wasn’t given the autonomy that he wanted and the support that he felt he deserved and that he felt he had been promised from previous administrators such as [Dwight D.] Eisenhower.
Are you thinking of Grayson Kirk, or primarily [Andrew] Cordier and [William J.] McGill?
I think primarily Cordier and McGill. But I’m not even sure that it was just at the presidential level.
The problems, sort of day to day, inter [?] warfare was happening at maybe one level down: at the dean’s level, at the provost’s level, at the vice president of arts and sciences, at the vice president of finance. You know, someone digging their hands into your pocket, or telling you what you can and can’t do, and blocking appointments, or restricting appointments — all this sort of stuff that goes on in academia. There’s an easy way to do it, and there’s a hard way to do it. And there are sometimes real conflicts that can’t be resolved that are legitimate. Anyway, this seemed to heavily be tilted in Ewing’s mind against him. Columbia had established a policy, or articulated a policy of mandatory retirement for sixty-five, with some special dispensations that could be possible to sixty-eight, with the approval of all these people whom Ewing wasn’t getting along with. So, he put two and two together, and said, look, this doesn’t look too promising. He wasn’t ready to retire by any means. And so used his contacts — and he had many of them — to establish an opportunity to set up a laboratory in Texas, initially in Galveston. There certainly was some general talk. The talk that I remember, in particular, was whether or not — this was before any departure to Texas was known to anyone — was the question as to whether or not Joe [J. Lamar] Worzel should be given an opportunity to be, to serve as director. And there was a lot of strong feeling — there was some strong feeling expressed that he should not. I didn’t happen to feel that way. I felt that Joe and his job as associate director, ending up doing a lot of the not so pleasant jobs built a few enemies.
Some enemies there that —
Well I think it was a consequence of administering the duties of his position more than it was Joe Worzel. It could have been anyone in there. You got to go in and you tell them, well you can’t have that space. You got to go over to this space. And you got to do this and you got to do that. Certain things that are sort of autocratic, but necessary to do — part of that position, in any institution to this day, so the second banana gets all the dirty jobs to do. But I felt that Joe was an outstanding scientist whose style maybe gave the impression that he was not as strong as I felt that he was. I mean, I felt he was a very, very good scientist. He ended up doing a lot of administration. And he had a lot of unusual seat of the pants sense of making things work. When Joe went out, he could always make things work. He never failed to remind people of it who, you know — he’d really tick them off. If they’d spend days trying to fix something, and he’d go in there and he’d twiddle around for a few minutes, and it would work. And he’d inevitably say something like, this electronics is a snap, and he would saunter off. And the guy’s exhausted in the corner. [Laughter] You know these little abrasive things. But I thought they were kind of endearing. I didn’t — it didn’t bother me. And I found that as I became a little more senior, and I wasn’t a student that, in fact, Joe liked — and you could kind of interact with Joe by giving him as much crap as he gave you. You know, he sort of gave people a hard time on a lot of stuff, and you could just turn around and give it right back to him. And that’s kind of what he liked. But most people -–
Yes, backed off and felt bad. So, anyway, I thought that he had sort of done his time, earned his right to have a round in the saddle there.
So if not Joe, who? Who were people thinking —?
Well, I think a lot of people would have thought that perhaps Chuck [Charles L.] Drake might have been a candidate, a logical candidate. If not, I think if anyone was to be heir apparent, but that’s someone that should have been considered. That’s in part because, you know, he was a good scientist. He was excellent with people. He was a very good communicator, very glib, sort of even tempered. He gave a very positive impression in all areas, you know. And a lot of people would go to Chuck to, you know, they had a problem, how are we going to solve the problem. Chuck would give them some guidance about how to do this without blowing up a bridge behind you. So he had those qualities of leadership and communication skills that I think many people here at the time would have thought he’s someone that would be considered, if not now, soon. I think at the time he left, he was still an associate professor, but about to become promoted. If he’d have stayed, he’d have become a full professor, or if he had leveraged his offer, he would have at that time. There’s no question of that.
Other people here? I mean there were other people in the administration, further down. I wouldn’t have seen them as being candidates myself. I think the mindset was that, even though the agenda of the institution was very broadly based disciplinary perspective, that marine geology and geophysics was our forte, and that it would be unusual to have someone in there leading the institution who wasn’t, have a strong interest in marine geology and geophysics. So there were other strong people around, of course. I mean, Jack Oliver was here at the time, who went up and became a, you know, an important leader up at Cornell and did some very good things there. I can’t remember, at that time, I can’t remember when Larry [J. Laurance] Kulp left, for instance, in geochemistry.
He was already somewhat inactive at the time.
Yes. He was a very strong personality. I think people would not have been very supportive. There were a few other seismologists. George Sutton, for instance, went out to Hawaii and played an associate director’s role out there for a long time.
I find it very interesting that it seems that internal candidates were primarily considered for that. Were there discussions about whether someone from another institution might be a desirable leader?
I don’t recall them. But when the search committee was established to replace them, an unusual thing happened. Manik Talwani was named as acting director. And Manik Talwani was on the search committee. I think in the course of the deliberations and all that, people came to the conclusion that, you know, he was as a good a person as you were going to find. So, it was sort of a strange evolution. I don’t know the details of it. But, you know, I think he was acting with no intention of being considered. He was on the committee. He ended up being considered and selected. And I think for the most part that people here were quite comfortable with that. Because he had a — was held in very high regard. His scientific credentials were good as anyone or better than almost anyone here, I would say. You know, I told you before I thought that he was — of the people that I could think of — he was the one that came closest to Ewing in terms of his intellectual prowess.
Yes. This was something that you had mentioned off tape. That you felt he was on the same caliber and level as Ewing and [Sir Edward C.] Ballard. And you had also mentioned you feel that that’s -–
Yes. I’m sure people would argue that. But, you know, they would put up some other examples of people and I’d argue that. Certainly he was arguably on that plane. Most people would agree to that.
Yes. Do you happen to know how it was that Manik was chosen as acting director?
I was wondering if that was something shared among the, among the younger scientists at the time.
No. No. I don’t remember that at all. I don’t remember how that happened.
When Manik took over, what kinds of changes were instituted?
I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.
When Manik took over, when he took over, was it a break from Ewing? Did it seem to be a continuity or —?
No. In fact, I think that’s probably one of the reasons why he was selected and why he was eventually selected to serve as the director was that, you know, he was a student of Ewing. He was a student of the system. It provided a certain sense of continuity even though important personnel were leaving. The culture of the place was not subject to some right turn, hard right turn. People felt comfortable, at that time, with a continuation of the approach that we’d had and the attitude. So, you know, there’s always a risk when you bring someone in from outside that they have — bring a totally different culture or way that’s not comfortable. No one felt that we were in a crisis situation; therefore, we were not in need of some deep retrospective evaluation or a major change in the course of what we were doing.
That’s an important point. I’m curious, do you remember any outside candidates coming through, giving talks? Was there awareness that outsiders were being considered for the directorship before Talwani became the permanent director?
I don’t remember any individuals. I vaguely have the idea that [Frank] Press’s name may have been kicked around. Boy I am just — I simply can’t remember. It wasn’t a big bandwagon thing if it was there, or I would have remembered. I think I mentioned before, not on tape, that when Ewing left there was a bit of a — I think a shock to him — in that when he left he presumed that he would take a larger fraction of handpicked scientists from this institution with him to Texas. Although he did take a number of them, there were a number of people, key people, like Manik, for instance, that he wanted to take that didn’t particularly want to go to Texas. And I had mentioned before I think to you, Ron that it was a bit of a strategic mistake on Ewing’s part in the sense that he had managed to capture a very strong sense of loyalty to him that was true. But I think he over valued that, and did not include a lot of people into his plans early enough so that when the time came, the move came as a shock to a lot of people, and the concept of going came as an even greater shock. Some of us — it was a rebound reaction, you know, well, gee, if you wanted me to go, it would be nice if you talked about this with me before it’s time to leave.
A very interesting point. I believe you also had mentioned, off tape, that Ewing had also managed to train many of these people to be independent thinkers and independent actors, and that that also helped to keep them separate.
Yes, well, that’s an interesting dynamic and interesting tension that existed at all levels of activity. You know how threatening is it to build and train your replacements. Or do you really want to, you know, operate with somewhat mediocre people around you who present no threat, but have no capability of stepping in. So there are two different philosophies. I’m not sure that Ewing ever adopted the philosophy that he was going to go with the thing that he was going to train people to be able to take his place. I think he thought he was probably immortal. I mean, I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. He just didn’t think about handing over the reins. But he did think about equipping and training people to be — get the very best out of them. In the process, in fact, he did train people who had the capability that were able to step in and if not duplicate his presence and his awesome record, were able to step in and be quite credible.
Who else did Ewing particularly want to have go with him? You mention Talwani. Were there others that he really wanted out there with him in Texas?
I can’t give you a list. I know that he asked me to go with him. And this was very — like I said, at that time I was on the research staff. I was not on the professorial staff so it was strictly soft money. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he wouldn’t have been after [Lynn] Sykes and perhaps Walter [Pitman] and the senior people that were young and very active at that time like Jim [Henry J.] Dorman and Gary Latham.
Why did you not want to go?
Well, by the time ‘71 or ‘72 rolled around, I was pretty well established in my own independent research project. I was pretty young here, and I didn’t want to have to build up the machine again. I felt I had established a pretty well oiled machine and was fairly well situated. I had been led to believe it was only a short amount of time before academic positions opened up that would be available for me.
Positions within Columbia?
Yes. I — you know, I turned down other job offers in that interim period of time from very good places because I was happy with what I was doing, and I was betting on the income. And Frank Press recruited me to go to MIT, and I was — almost went there, as a matter of fact.
When was this that Press tried to recruit you?
I guess it was about ‘67 or ‘68.
Was that a difficult decision?
It was a very difficult decision. Very, very difficult. And I was being recruited simultaneously, very hard, out at Stanford [University] by George Thompson and Allan [V.] Cox.
Building up an operation at Stanford at that time.
Yes. Yes. I sort of felt, in both cases — see since MIT at that time didn’t have a formal connection with Woods Hole that it meant — while these were outstanding places –- you know, it meant sort of stepping back and kind of re-establishing and building all the bridges and putting things in order. I didn’t see the need to do that now. I was on a roll in terms of ability to do science. And there were about four or five other offers in that short period of time. You know that window when you’re a few years post Ph.D. and people feel, you know, you’re probably on the market. But it was a very, very tough decision with both of those. I might have taken either one of them if I hadn’t had the other to contend with. [Laughter]
That’s interesting to put it that way. Yes. I can see that. It sounds almost as if that decision, those decisions were harder to make than whether to follow Ewing to Texas.
Oh, it was. I didn’t want to move to Texas, for one thing. You know. I didn’t grow up in Texas, but I spent time in Texas. I know Texas. I know Oklahoma. I know Kansas. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. It was a big negative for me. The others were small negatives. And, you know, if the circumstances had been right, I might have been persuaded. But, no, I think the decisions about, perhaps you’re right in your speculation that I had already been through what in my mind were much better opportunities in the long haul, on a career basis for me. I’d considered them carefully. Rightly or wrongly, I had rejected them. So that when this came along, you know, this was a sort of an upstart and it was. It had Ewing, someone you’d like to have on your team. He was nearing the end of his career even if he was going to be there another five or ten years and similarly with Joe [Worzel]. And so there was — you weren’t going into a really established first-class place, and you would have to be part of the building up process. Which often by itself is not so bad, it’s just, if you’ve already been there, you put a different weight on the price that extracts. So I think having been through, not just those two, but several other tough decisions about opportunities to go places, I decided pretty much to stay put.
Discussions particularly with individuals who did decide to follow Ewing out to Texas like Jim Dorman?
Oh, not anything in any depth. As I recall, the whole announcement and the sort of exodus occurred in a very, very short period of time. At the same time this was happening, I was in the early stages of a marriage separation that ended ultimately in my divorce from my first wife. And I too was of the mind that that was not smart. I wasn’t very clear on the antecedent there. The [that] in this case was changing everything in my life at one time. And a lot of people advised me, it’s easy to just pick up and change everything and do this and do that. And better to come to grips with this and bring it some logical conclusion. Keep some stability in some part of your life that you’re dealing with. There’s an interesting anecdote that tells you something about Ewing. It told me a lot about Ewing. At the time that this was all happening, and it happened in a very short, intensive period of time Ewing learned that I was in the process of going through marriage difficulties. And I’m telling you this man was stretched to the limit with all these arrangements and everything. He called me up, and he said that he’d heard about my situation, and wanted to know if I’d like to talk about it with him. And I said, yes, I would really appreciate that opportunity to talk to him about this personally. I went over. The man spent a full day with me — one full day at his invitation. And we just talked about life and things, and marriage, the dissolution of marriage. And it wasn’t so much what we said, it was that he really — he showed a concern and a caring and he gave of himself at a time when he had a hundred better things to do.
That must have been a remarkable time for you.
Yes. Yes, it certainly was. Well, I spent a lot of time with him on science. And occasionally we might talk about personal things too, but, you know, they were passing. To have him call me up in the morning and say he was concerned and, you know, wanted to see if he could be of help, and then to go over, and to really genuinely give of his time so generously made a big impression on me. I mean, I was already part of the choir, but that was impressive.
It sounds as if you really got to know him much better during that day.
I knew him pretty well. This didn’t surprise me so much, except in retrospect, and putting it into the perspective of what chaos was going on at the time. I mean, we used to play football over the lunch hour outside his office. I’m sure it annoyed the hell out of him. But he was also happy we were out there, taking a little break, having a good time, and all this. He used to walk up around our game to go to lunch while we were playing. We played the lunch hour, touch football. And the buildings and grounds didn’t like it very much because we were running around on the grass. One day, at the end of Lamont Hall, there were several windows broken out in the sun room, sun porch — I might have told you about that. And buildings and grounds came down on us real hard that we had, we had broken these windows. And we said, look, we play out here, yes, but we haven’t broken any windows. We don’t know how they got broken. And so the B&G guy at the time went to Ewing and complained about us and was absolutely certain that we had broken these windows and wouldn’t ‘fess up to it. Ewing called me up to his office, and he repeated the allegation, and he said, “did you guys break the windows or not?” I said, absolutely not. We don’t know anything about it. He says, okay, goodbye. About two days later the buildings and grounds guy was history. [Laughter]
You had mentioned that. That’s a telling story about your relationship.
He established these loyalties with various people, and then he acted on them very strongly. He told me a story when he was — he had a very good relationship with Eisenhower. And early on, they were trying to get some facilities. You know he felt they were below critical mass in facilities or people or this, that and the other thing. And so he made an arrangement. He told me this story. I love this story. He went down to talk to Eisenhower to negotiate for the things that he needed. So they sat down, and Ike said to him, well, Maurice, he says, tell me what you need. So Ewing went down a fairly long list. And Ike says, that all? Maurice said, yes. Ike said, okay. [Laughter]
And that was resolved.
And that was the end of that. This is negotiation. Okay, you can have it. [Laughter] I thought that was a great story.
One thing I’ve not inquired about so far. Was there any continuing relationship between Ewing and Eisenhower, once Eisenhower became president? Do you remember hearing of any –-
Not that I know of.
— kind of advising or discussions?
Not that I know of.
In that day that Ewing spent with you in talking about personal matters, did he talk about his relationship with Harriet [Ewing]?
No, not at that time. He talked about his relationship — see he grew up in west Texas; I grew up in Kansas — he talked about growing up and getting out of there. By this time he’d been married —
Third marriage at that stage of the game. And the marriage — he was still married — but wasn’t apparent to anyone that, you know, their marriage was hardy visible. No, he never spoke to me at all about Harriet. Harriet was — I’m sure not independently — a good friend to me. And I’m sure it wasn’t so much our relationship, but sort of Ewing had a list of people that he had made it clear to her that, you know, they had good working relationships and to honor those things. Because otherwise she was kind of known as a bit of the dragon lady, as I said, keeping away all the unsavory.
You had mentioned, of course, the relationships that she had with Bruce Heezen as particularly —
Well, she was sort of acting, of course, I am sure she was. She was married, I think, by that time. Maybe not.
Married to Doc?
Yes. Maybe not. I can’t remember. But she was certainly acting on his behalf, at least in her mind. Because I know Doc was extremely frustrated at his inability to deal with Bruce within the context of the system, the construct that existed at that time. It was one of these kinds of things; you’re running a big lab. You’ve been there as a founding director. You’re really the lovable dictator and highly respected. Things are very, very efficient, and you got a renegade over here embedded in a sphere of academic freedom who can really tell you, you know, or anyone to go screw themselves. And at worst, you know, you got a big court case with AAUP [American Association of University Professors]. So I’m sure it was extremely frustrating for Ewing to deal with Heezen, whom as I said, in my opinion, didn’t really play the game according to any rules.
You hadn’t been at the Moscow — the Second International Oceanographic Congress, had you? Where Heezen had presented what became the very controversial paper.
No, I hadn’t. I was not there. But certainly the news got back pretty fast.
What was the news that —? What was it that you heard?
Well, I can’t remember the details. But essentially, all I recall was the news that, that Bruce had presented. Let’s see if I have this story right here now. That Bruce had presented and represented as his own work the results essentially of the magnetics and the sediment cores that had, were the byproduct of research of Billy Glass and perhaps others, and in connection with Neil Opdyke to the extent that you know it was Neil Opdyke’s equipment that had all been put together and made available. That was — that’s really all I remember. That there were allegations of a real ethical breach and a question of intellectual
Intellectual honesty —
As a fundamental issue.
Yes. Actually, a stealing of intellectual rights or something. So I remember Neil Opdyke, was a highly excitable guy. And he reacted in a rather excited way. I think there had been some, I think — I’m not certain on this — but I believe that there had been discussion and some rather significant difference of opinion about this issue discussed between Opdyke and Heezen and Glass and I don’t know who else, before. It was unresolved, all right, as to, you know, who did what and who should get this credit and who should get that. So it was one these matters that was clearly an issue, but an unresolved issue, for which Bruce chose to present the findings. That’s basically what I remember about it.
Do you remember a petition that was circulated against Bruce before he returned home from the Moscow meeting?
You know, it sort of rings true, but I don’t really remember it. I certainly don’t remember being asked to sign it or anything like that.
When you think back to those latter years in Ewing’s administration, did you feel that Ewing was still in sufficient contact with all parts of Lamont to understand what was going on and use that information for good decision making? Or had he really become isolated from those who might have given him advice?
I think he was very well in tune.
Yes. He was in tune to the level that he was, while he wasn’t micro-managing, he sort of had a micro perspective. He knew what was going on everywhere in great detail in contrast to other directors here. I mean, if he was here, he was at the Friday afternoon colloquium. He was there. In fact, I’m sure I told you the story of him. He always had his pad and his book with him. I told you that?
You did tell me that about.
Yes. And he’d put the fear of god in the speaker, who’d say my name is such and such. And Ewing would start writing. I asked him what he did with all the stuff and he said, well, I didn’t do anything. I just write in the books to keep awake. [Laughter]
Because of the phenomenal hours, of course, that he was keeping. One other thing I was curious about in this time period. Environmental issues were coming into national attention, certainly by Earth Day in 1970. Rachel Carson’s book had been in wide circulation. Were there discussions at Lamont that you recall, over whether environmental issues ought to become a larger part —?
Yes, there were some extensive discussions, but they came — I think they were a little bit later. I mean, Walter introduced some of these issues as questions to be discussed. And I can’t remember when — I know they were discussed very early on in Talwani’s administration or maybe while Talwani was serving as acting. And, you know, we had a couple day retreats where we were talking about the limits to earth, or limits to growth and Council of Rome and all this other stuff. And whether or not we should be considering a change in direction, or if not a change, an expansion in what we were doing.
Do you remember how people felt about that generally? Was there a distinct group that didn’t feel that this was the right course for Lamont to take?
It just sort of seemed to die on the vine. I think that there was certain skepticism about, you know, the dire predictions of what lay ahead. And that they weren’t firmly embedded in the strong scientific hypothesis in fact, and, therefore, they were, you know, not to be taken all that seriously. At the same time, you know, people did meet and they did talk about it. And they did not dismiss it. But then it was sort of business as usual. It wasn’t — there wasn’t a big push; for instance, how to move into that area. There were no obvious avenues of which there are a zillion avenues now. You know, everyone has an awareness. And, you know, it starts from the president, the vice president and works on down. And there’s all the rhetoric and there’s all these avenues. And the time is very, very different. The awareness is different. And so even if you’d wanted to go off in that direction, the approach for doing so would have been far less obvious. It would have, I guess, probably taken some sort of significant institutional investment to seed some projects that might then grow into something that could be supported. I suspect that was a little bit of what happened or didn’t happen. I mean, I thought about it from time to time, but, you know, that was very insightful of Walter [Pitman] and a few other people about the importance. They were out in front of the issues, and the issues themselves were soft enough that the scientists were reluctant to play with the social scientists and get in that arena.
It’s very interesting that one of the concerns was over the inability to make this a rigorous kind of investigation.
Well, you got a lot of conflicting views whether you were talking about the finite limits to fuel, hydrocarbon fuel, and population growth. You know, all sorts of different assumptions. Even the effects of global warming were being considered at that time. There was a lot of, a lot of arm waving and a lot of ringing of the hands, and a lot of, I think there’s some real skeptics came, were born in the years around that time and that followed, who felt that the whole business about the energy was just totally manipulated by the big companies and by the countries with oil bearing resources. And, therefore, you couldn’t sort of take the big picture and stand back and believe it.
Yes. That’s interesting because, of course, the gas crisis was ‘73-‘74 if I recall correctly.
Do you remember reading any of the works of M. King Hubbert, because those were coming out at around that time.
Yes, I did read a few things. Funny, King Hubbert was quite a well-established scientist in his own right there in the early days of geophysics, exploration geophysics.
Because he was concerned with finite quantities of petroleum and natural gas, oil reserves.
Yes, well everyone sort of ultimately ended up, I think, dismissing the finiteness as a matter of finances. And so they didn’t really buy off. If you’re willing to pay for it, there was plenty there. There was a lot more. There were unproved reserves. There were places in the offshore that hadn’t been explored. There’s oil in the ground that hadn’t been taken out. Oil left in the ground that could be gotten out. All that it depended upon it was ten dollars a barrel or sixty dollars a barrel, or eighty. And so it became a debate about the system and its manipulation rather than the scientific reality of the fact that the resources are limited. The question is what is that limit and when are we going to get there and what alternatives do we have in order to prolong the availability of those resources to us.
That’s a very interesting answer. Do you remember reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or other works like that when they were coming out?
Yes. Oh yes. I also remember a time, for instance, in which I would have been a strong advocate of Greenpeace and similar. Hi dear, how are you? [Interruption to talk to Mrs. Hayes and introduce Ron and Tanya]
I had an awareness and a certain empathy, but I wasn’t committed to lead the charge off in that direction. And as I said, there obviously wasn’t anyone else who was committed toward that either. Walter was sort of pushing to have the ideas in things, but Walter doesn’t lead the charge. Okay? He has a different approach.
You said something very interesting a moment ago that Walter [Pitman] and few others were talking about environmental issues. Who else came to mind?
I’m trying to think back and deduce. I’m not certain about this. I think perhaps Jim [James D.] Hays may have been a piece of that. Walter and I talked together a lot. So I mean, I offered him some encouragement to, you know, to proceed with talking out the issues in that. Perhaps Bill [William F.] Ryan. I really can’t remember the group. There wasn’t — it wasn’t a huge group, though.
Were there any kind of informal meetings that all of you had with one another to talk this through? Is it something that —?
Well, we did have — I thought I mentioned — we did have what amounted to a one or two day retreat in which this was the sole topic.
This was the issue?
And in which some background information was presented and kind of framed what the issues were, and posed the question, you know, should Lamont be expanding its portfolio to include these things? Or something more drastic, actually, changing its direction to emphasize. At that time, you know, those were still part of the funding golden years, and, you know, there weren’t too many people who were inclined to jump on another horse at that moment. In spite of the fact that from a pure scientific and a point of view of genuine interest and stewardship of the earth, you know, it was there, but it was more, it was more gossamer than it needed to be to make something happen. You really have to — When you’re going to start off on these things, you’ve got to have someone who’s out there leading the charge day in and day out, and pounding on it, and insisting, and not saying, no. I mean, I think half the things that get done here and in the system come from tenacity.
You were saying about tenacity, that it really takes tenacity.
I mean, I think that’s why people — that’s why I can get certain things done sometimes that my wife was talking about. You know, people just eventually say, Jesus, here he comes again with another argument, a different argument this time.
Flexibility and creativity in terms of pursuing. Do you remember what topics seemed to be the most important among these environmental issues? Was it — were they issues involving the oceans, for instance, or was it issues like, as you mentioned, petroleum [cross talk]?
I think it was not limited to petroleum resources. It was population growth and the associated — I don’t recall it being so much the ability to feed the population — as it was the problem of dealing with the environmental pollution and waste products of an unbounded world population. Those are the things that I recall as being the principal things. Sort of pollution, population and energy.
Do you remember, was Oswald Roels still here at the time? Did he take part in those discussions?
Let me think. I’m trying to remember when he left. I think he left before that.
That’s interesting. So there really wasn’t a biology presence at that time.
Yes. And I’m not sure Oswald would have provided it any way. Oswald was a — had lots of wonderful ideas, and, you know, he was pushing his aquaculture business. And he was very entrepreneurial and he — you know, if you were lining up — I’m trying to think of the two categories. It was something that thinking about the earth from a very — let me see, applied take advantage, utilization perspective versus an altruistic concern for the earth. He’d fall much further to the left side than he would to the right.
Clearly, from what I’ve heard and read, Roels had a very utilitarian view towards the environment.
Yes. That’s a much better description than I have — that’s the perfect word.
I was just wondering too, we were talking, of course, about the books that were coming out at the time. Of course, there was also the book that Dean [Jacques] Barzun presented which was Science the Glorious Entertainment. Do you remember reading that or hearing about it?
I don’t remember reading it. No.
Do you remember any discussions about it?
Or Barzun’s views toward science on the campus?
What you deduce from that can mean just that I don’t remember. That segment of my brain is dead. I don’t remember though. And again, you know, in some of these discussions I’m trying to, I’m trying to distinguish between what I do remember fairly well and what I would create as a little post-revisionist history. But I would infer with a little scientific integrity. [Laughter]
I hear you. Well, there are a number of issues that I want to continue to discuss with you in further interviews. But let me thank you very much for this long session that we’ve had today.