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Interview of J. Lamar Worzel by Ronald Doel on 1996 May 15, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/6914-4
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Extensive, comprehensive interview on Worzel’s scientific and professional career. Recollections of extended family and childhood in New York; father’s interest in science and literature; early interest in mechanical things; recollection of upbringing during the Great Depression; impressions of high school science courses and interests. Attends Lehigh University as undergraduate; impressions of W. Maurice Ewing as physics professor at Lehigh, early l930s, including his working style; emerging interest in photography and experience in drafting; impressions of Alvyn Vine. Detailed recollections of work as student assistant with Ewing and Vine on refraction seismology, and impressions of George P. Woollard, Richard M. Field, William Bowie, and Ewing; election to Newtonian Society [mathematics] at Lehigh; impressions of science teaching at Lehigh. Recollections of research on undersea acoustics at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Ewing’s mathematical abilities; impressions of Felix A. Vening-Meinesz and of field research. Extended recollections of summer research as undergraduate assistant for Ewing, especially involving seismic profiling and underwater photography; relation between Ewing and L. Don Leet; recollections of Hurricane of 1938 at Woods Hole and of Woods Hole machining equipment; involvement in wartime research, including acoustics studies and experience with bathythermographs; experience in equipment design and modification, including award of patents. Extended recollections of involvement in undersea photography in the early 1940s, including reaction of biologists and war-time acquisition of German cameras; impressions of Ewing’s appointment at Columbia University, and transfer of research program to Columbia, 1946; recollections of post-war research programs at Woods Hole; meets wife [Dorothy Crary]. Impressions of graduate courses in geology and geophysics at Columbia, including seminars taught by Walter Bucher, Marshall Kay, and Ewing; extended recollections of instructors and experiences with fellow graduate students; reflections on instrument-building in geophysics, including maintenance of ship-based winches; impressions of Ewing as researcher and director, including relations with governmental and private patrons; becomes temporary consultant to ONR. Recollections of Angelo Ludas and his role in fashioning geophysical instruments; experience with deep-sea coring; impressions of relations between geophysicists and geologists at Columbia. Impressions of the founding and initial research programs of Lamont Geological Observatory [LGO], including geochemical and radiocarbon studies by J. Laurence Kulp and reactions of local townspeople to Lamont; development of biology programs at Lamont, and social life at LGO; relations between Ewing and Harry H. Hess; recollections of interactions with Maurice Ewing and John Ewing, and difficulties of position determination at sea. Begins gravity research of ocean floor, and impressions of isostacy debate in 1930s. Growth of LGO in the 1950s and changing relations between research groups; comparison of LGO with competing research centers in the U.S. and Great Britain; development of SOFAR and SOSUS programs; recollections of efforts to secure and finance R/V Vema ddd details from subsequent sessions; offers of positions from other universities; Recollections of gravity research program at Texas, mid-1970s. Also mentioned are: Henry Moe Aldrich, American Geophysical Union, RJV Atlantis, Austin Bailey, Walter Beckmann, Charles C. Bidwell, Henry Bigelow, Francis Birch, Rene Brilliant, Percy Bridgman, Sir Edward C. Bullard, Paul R. Burckholder, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Albert Crary, Merrill D. Cunningham, Reginald A. Daly, William Donn, Dwight D. Eisenhower, David B. Ericson, Margaret Ewing [née Kidder], W. Arnold Finck, Geological Society of America, Gordon Hamilton, Hamilton watches, Carl A. Heiland, Weikko Aleksanteri Heiskanen, Maurice Hill, Columbus Iselin, Paul Kerr, Borje Kullenberg, Thomas W. Lamont, Gordon Lill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Arthur Maxwell, Benjamin L. Miller, Robert Moses, Walter H. Munk, National Science Foundation, Louis L. Nettleton, Office of Naval Research, Chaim Pekeris, Beauregard Perkins, Hans Pettersson, Charles S. Piggot, Lawrence I. Radway, Ostwald Roels, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Robert R. Shrock, Lynn Shurbet, Louis B. Slichter, Staten Island Academy [High School], Harlan True Stetson, Henry Stetson, Nelson Steenland, Swedish Deep Sea Expedition, Howard A. Tate, Merle Tuve, J. Tuzo Wilson, Goesta Wollin.
This is Ron Doel and this is a continuing interview with J. Lamar Worzel and today is the fifteenth of May, 1996. And we’re continuing this interview in North Carolina. When we were interrupted last night, you were in the midst of recalling the story of your involvement in the Thresher search. And you had mentioned that one of the real difficulties was the fog and that that so many vessels were so close to one another in the search. What happened after that initial gathering?
Well, we managed to avoid crashing into each other in the fog somehow. And that whole first week was fog. Never let up in the whole week. This is out on the Grand, near the Grand Banks, of course, which is a foggy area. But at any rate it never let up. And one of the hazards for me was that I had the chief scientist cabin on the Conrad and it was right next to the fog horn. And [Laughter] all night long the fog horn was blaring in my ear. [Laughter.] But nevertheless, I got tired enough that I slept.
That’s saying something I suspect.
And there was a Navy destroyer out there with a Navy captain, in charge of the whole operation. His name was Captain Andrews. He later became a professor at Catholic University in Washington. But anyhow, at the end of the week, he ordered us all to go back to Boston. This was Friday about four o’clock.
Had you been able to do any searches of the bottom during?
Yes. We’d been searching the bottom for this whole week in the fog with equipment towed near the bottom. Nobody had found anything. Well, he ordered us back into Boston for I guess R & R because we were ordered out again first thing Monday morning to resume the search. And this was the pattern that went on for about the six weeks we were up there as I remember. The time is the part I’m not sure about. Whether it’s six weeks or five or seven or what. But anyhow, we did go back the next week and we didn’t have such a foggy time. We did have some fog, but it was not persistent. And we were having trouble. We had built a magnetometer that we could tow near to the bottom because we expected a magnetic signature from the Thresher. And, in fact, we had calculated what the signature would look like on the assumptions of the size of the Thresher and the amount of steel in it.
Were you given some of that information?
Yes. We were given that information. Of course, everybody in this operation was cleared. And I guess except the ship crews and they didn’t know what was going on anyhow. They just operated the vessel according to what we told them to do. But anyway, we had calculated this and indicated we couldn’t detect it with a magnetometer on the surface. That we would have to tow it fairly close to the bottom to have any chance. Well now the submarine, if it were sitting upright on the bottom, would have an elevation of, might have an elevation of about fifty feet above the bottom from the keel to the top of the conning tower. And so we decided we’d better tow our magnetometer at a depth of a hundred feet off the bottom. We calculated the — I didn’t, Jim [James R.] Heirtzler who was on board calculated what the magnetic anomaly would be like if we found it. And he drew a curve and fastened it on the front of the magnetometer so that whoever was on watch could tell if they saw any indications.
Any curve like that.
They could look at that curve and see if they should alert someone. Well anyhow, our magnetometer gave us trouble. The commercially available lead-ins leaked. This is now a depth of about 1500 fathoms where we expected the Thresher to be. So this went on and on and possibly that week or possibly the next week, I finally got disgusted. We kept changing the lead in. That was a defective lead-in. We put a new lead-in, and it would leak.
Was this magnetometer that Lamont had been using for other?
Yes. We’d been towing this magnetometer behind our ship, near the surface, measuring the magnetic field of the earth. Everywhere we went.
Right. I thought this was the same instrument, just wanted be sure.
Yes. It was the same one. But now we were towing it down near the bottom and with the long cable out, and that meant that in order to keep it anywhere near the bottom, you couldn’t move very fast. Well about two knots was about as fast as you could move the ship and keep it near the bottom. We had no time to prepare anything or do anything like that. So it was whatever we could build on board. Well anyhow, this damn thing kept leaking, and finally I got disgusted and said, well, these commercial lead-ins are no damn good. We’d better go back to what we used in the 1930s. And so I went down to the machine shop and turned out one of the lead-ins we used in the 1930s, and we put it on the magnetometer. Immediately it started to work. No problems once we got a decent lead-in on the thing. And we towed it around there for — I guess by about the third week, one of the navigating buoys came adrift, started drifting off. Well we went over and picked it up and picked up the cord. These were moored with nylon rope about half inch in diameter to the bottom. And we did it deliberately with nylon because nylon stretches and that gave us our taut-moored buoy. It gave us the elasticity for the stretch for the taut-moored buoy. Well we picked it up and pulled up the cable, the nylon rope, and it was almost enough to reach bottom but not quite. And the bottom end of the nylon rope had green stuff all over it. Well we radioed the NRL [Naval Research Laboratory] vessel because we knew their cable had green stuff on it and said you cut off one of the navigation buoys in your search. Oh no, we never came near it was the answer back. And so we let it drop. And we cut off that section of the nylon rope and rent the buoy. From time to time, Captain Andrews would call us over to the destroyer and talk to us about what we were doing and what we thought we might do, and assign areas so that we didn’t interfere with each other. Well anyhow on one of those times we handed the package to the NRL guy. And they, of course, they were at the conference. They didn’t open it. They went back to their ship and about an hour later we got a message: we humbly apologize. We did cut off the line. [Laughter.]
But the most interesting part of that was that meant we had, were one buoy short. And so we had to set the buoy and the object was to try to set it at the same location. The way you set a taut-moored buoy like that is you lay the buoy out on the surface and then you lay all the nylon line, all the amount you’re going to need to get to bottom out, and then you throw the anchor out which in these cases we were using junked automobile engines for anchors for these buoys because we thought they were heavy enough that they wouldn’t be moved by the buoy. These buoys are donut shaped and the donut is probably fifteen inches in diameter and the diameter of the whole donut is probably fifteen feet. And then we had a tripod structure on the top, and then the radar transponder was mounted on the top of the tripod, and the antenna was stuck up above the tripod. We also had a tripod underneath to which the anchoring cable was attached so that there was good leverage to hold the buoy up. So at any rate, we laid all this out, went back to where we believed the buoy was, threw the automobile engine out, and none of us could detect any difference in the position from the original one. And we got a message from both the other ships that you’ve done a remarkable job of duplicating our navigation system. How did you do it? We didn’t bother to answer. But anyhow, that was that thing. Then about the fourth week I had a problem because my father, who was I guess in his seventies then, was getting remarried. He found an older lady that he thought he could live with. And he had asked me to be his best man. Well, I had agreed I would be his best man long before the Thresher search came up. So I told Captain Andrews about this, and it was on, to be a Wednesday or something like that. So he said, well, that’s no problem. You could just transfer to the destroyer here and we’ll run you into Boston and you go do your best man thing and come back to Boston and we’ll take you back. Well, I didn’t expect that kind of service but that’s what they did, much to my amazement. And so they got me back to the Conrad. And of course the ship had continued to work. We had, Jim Heirtzler was in charge of one watch, and Chuck [Charles L.] Drake was in charge of one watch, and I was in charge of the third watch. And we had a group of people so that there were two or three other guys working with us. We were taking underwater photographs and we had cameras that could take like a hundred photographs on a lowering and controlled from the surface. And we had the magnetometer we were towing on the deep cable. And of course our sounders were working. And so we had all this gear working, and we were working around the clock, twenty-four hours a day. Well we were amazed at going in for the weekend. Our ship operates for a month straight with no breaks, and we only go into port because we have to revictual and refuel. And usually when we do that, it takes about two days for revictualing and refueling. We always allow three days for any possible hold-ups and so forth, and it gives every guy, everybody on board a chance to have some liberty. And that’s our normal mode of working. So we were amazed to go in every weekend like this. But anyhow, we don’t know about the guys on the other ships. We didn’t talk to them about it.
Was the search well coordinated with the other vessels, the other research vessels?
Yes. We were each given an area that we were supposed to search. How we searched our area was our own problem. But they were like two square mile areas for each ship. And as I say, there were four surveying ships there. But while I was gone to be best man to my father, our ship had put down a dredge and dredged the bottom for — I don’t know what reason — just thought it was a good idea I guess while I was gone. And when I came back, they had dredged up a packet of O-rings that had been in the spare parts of thresher and so marked. Now they couldn’t swear for sure that it had been on the Thresher, but it was Navy issue and there was no reason to expect a package of O-rings from anything but the Thresher. So this was a pretty good sign we were in the vicinity of the Thresher at least. And so we finished that week and we went in. And we came out the next week and we got into — incidentally, this was where the deep water comes between Nova Scotia and the Georges Banks, approximate location, where the search area was. And the currents in there were quite strong. Well our two knot travel speed couldn’t handle the currents. We would try to, in this one case, we tried to go around, turn the ship one way, and we just couldn’t get it to go. So we finally in desperation made a three hundred and sixty the other way, or I guess it was two seventy the other way. And we came around the other way and we got a picture on one of the underwater photographs of something that was sort of rectangular and kind of out of focus. And then in another frame we saw something that looked like a piece of metal, about four inches thick, that had been bent like this, with a jagged edge on it.
Right. And you are holding your hands out about four inches thick.
About four inches. Yes, about four inches thick. And it looked like it was bent. Well, it was just the last thing we did before we went in that Friday. And so we sent a message to ONR [Office of Naval Research], Art [Arthur] Maxwell saying that we had pictures that might be the Thresher. Well we hadn’t gone more than an hour before we were besieged with messages. Are you sure it’s a picture of the Thresher and so forth? Well, we’re not sure, but it looks very sure for us. Well apparently what was going on back in Washington was that ONR was reporting this to CNO, and CNO was saying well, how firm is this detection? And Art said, well, we’ve dealt with these people for many years and we’ve never known them to be wrong in those years. So we think it’s probably a pretty good thing. Well to make a long story short anyhow, they called in, called the press, and said we found the Thresher. The pictures are on the Conrad and they’re coming into Boston and they’ll be in Saturday morning at such and such a time.
How did you feel when you heard that?
I was not very happy because I had said they might be the Thresher. They look like it to us. Well anyhow while we were en route, we found that the rectangular structure that we had found was our own trigger weight that had hung up on part of the frame of the camera, and in the view of it, it looked like some structure with a rectangular frame, obviously man made you see. And that’s why it was somewhat out of focus because that was too close to the camera. Well when Captain Andrews came on board — when the people came on board to look at the, look at our pictures, we showed them the prints. And said, this one’s our trigger weight and this one was a piece of what looked like heavy metal folded back. I don’t see anything else but that rolled over piece metal and a jagged edge, and we think that may be part of the Thresher, but we don’t know. Well at any rate, they said, well, we gotta go through the charade. So they gave me a briefcase, and I walked off the Conrad with a briefcase and met Captain Andrews, and shook hands, and handed him the briefcase.
And what was in the briefcase?
Nothing. [Laughter.] And we went through the whole charade. And I told them that the one picture that we had thought was real was our trigger weight and that that was just no way — the second picture that I couldn’t account for, but it looked like a big part of a hull that had been splayed open or something. And at any rate, the powers that be there decided that well we had no evidence of the Thresher at all out of the whole thing. They were having a hearing up in Portsmouth at the time about the accident. I guess. What do they call it, an investigation or whatever? Anyhow, so they put me in a Navy vehicle with an officer and drove me up to Portsmouth, and I testified to the court that we had some pictures but that I couldn’t identify them as the Thresher. That was the testimony. So I went back to the ship in disgrace. Now I had been led into this by the people on our ship who had called me. I was out tending one of the radar beacons just before we left the area and they called me as soon as I got near the ship in our dinghy — not our dinghy, our, [pause to think] — these, dory, that’s what I’m thinking, in a dory. We used the dory. At any rate, when we got near to our ship in the dory, the guys on the ship yelled, we got pictures of it! We got pictures of it! Well, when I went on board they convinced me we had pictures of it. And then when I had sent a message to ONR saying we think we have it and so on. Well, at any rate, I was in disgrace for having cried a false alarm.
Do you think that hurt Lamont?
No, I don’t think it hurt Lamont. I think it hurt me. A great deal. And I always felt that the guys on board over persuaded me and Art Maxwell too in his message was so demanding that it be — that we had the Thresher, that I sort of acquiesced I think. So I think I was, I was responsible, there’s no question about it. But I was somewhat led down the garden path by the people surrounding me. So, at any rate, I went back to Lamont over that weekend and talked to Ewing, and I said I’ve disgraced Lamont here and I’ll resign if you want and leave if you’d like me to. He said, no, there’s no point in that. But, he said, but go back there and go find the damn thing.
How did he feel about that, that matter with the Thresher?
He never said anything other than go back and go find it. So we went, I went back that next weekend with my tail dragging. And went back on the ship and I didn’t have much enthusiasm for the search anymore. And we searched a couple of days and then again we got into the situation that we wanted to turn one way and we couldn’t because of the current, so we finally turned the other way. And on the turn we got a magnetometer a signature just like we had drawn on the machine.
What Jim Heirtzler had —
What Jim Heirtzler had drawn and we mounted right by the magnetometer. Perfect signature. And so we reported that that Friday when we went in. We didn’t send any radio messages after that one. We reported it to the powers that be. And they sent us down to Washington with our record. Because they were getting desperate. This had been now about six weeks in the search. And they were getting desperate to get the — the Archimed was employed by the Navy at that time. And they wanted to go down in the deep sea diving machine and look at the Thresher. So they were getting desperate to find it. Well they called us all down there and the NRL people said, oh we got a magnetic signature too. Well their magnetic signature was — I don’t know what it was. It didn’t look like any magnetic signature I ever saw in my life or any of the others. And ours was just — we put Heirtzler’s drawing up there and the other one, a perfect match you see.
How familiar were the NRL people with that kind of undersea magnetometer?
Well they had their own that they used. I don’t know whether they used it normally. I wasn’t that privy to what they were doing or whether they just built it for the search. I have no idea. At any rate, the group, the survey group met to analyze the data and decided that our signature was good and we knew where it was, and they would dive the Archimed at the location where we had found it. And so we all went out again, and the Archimed went out. And I got a message from the captain who was running the operation asking me if I wanted to go down on the Archimed since we’d found the — and I answered back not particularly, if I can be of any use, yes. Just to ride along, no. That’s pointless. And so they went down and they did see the thing. And then Captain Andrews dismissed all of us on the search. It was just he and the destroyer that stayed out there with the Archimed. And I guess the Archimed had probably a tender of some kind too. I don’t remember about that. But anyway they stayed out there and the Archimed made a number of dives and looked at the Thresher at some length. Well, then we returned. One of the guys in the underwater sound business in ONR had said we’ll give a case of whiskey to the vessel that finds the Thresher. We never got that case of whiskey either. And he had also said and I will give them a hundred thousand dollar contract without any strings on it. They can use it for whatever they want.
Did you get?
Never got that either.
Did you press for it?
I went in and asked what about it? He said I can’t give a contract without any justification. What can you say? You know he’s right. He can’t. But why did he say so in the first place? Well, [inaudible]. That was Swede Momsom [sp?] incidentally that — I guess it was Art Maxwell that said he’d gave a case of whiskey. No it was Captain Andrews, the captain who was in charge of the operation had said he’d give the case of whiskey and Swede Momsom [sp?] would give the hundred thousand dollar contract without any strings. And we got neither, I guess.
One thing I was curious about. Given the intensive work that was done in that part, did Lamont gain anything scientifically from the results of having done the survey so intensively?
Not, not really. And none of them did there. They just assumed it was a reasonable thing to do for someone that had been supported for years by the Navy.
Surely. But there weren’t side benefits of that sort?
I did get, I did get a Meritous Public Service Citation from the Navy for finding the Thresher which is hanging on the wall out there on the entry.
In the living room entry.
Which was — this all happened in May, June and early July, and I went off on my sabbatical in September.
Had that been arranged previously to the Thresher search?
Yes, yes. That had been arranged a year before.
Had did that come about?
What, my sabbatical?
Yes. What were you hoping particularly to do?
I had passed up — I had been qualified for a sabbatical previously, and had passed it up because I figured our work was too important for me to take a sabbatical. And they asked me if I wanted to go a sabbatical this time, and I had just made the first gravity measurements on a surface ship. And I had been measuring — for ten years I had been making gravity measurements with pendulums on submarines, and I had written in the paper about the surface ship, that in all probabilities this would supersede and no further gravity observations would be made on submarines. Well, I got a Guggenheim Fellowship for my sabbatical and I chose to go over to Cambridge, England because they spoke English [laughter] which made it easy to live. And it got me away from any chores or anybody trying to draw me back into things so I could work on my book.
And how well did you know the group of geophysicists?
Well, pretty well. They had been working fairly much in parallel with us on a much lower level. They were just funded much poorer than we were. But on a — they were getting like a two month cruise once a year in the summer when they were off from their teaching duties and that kind of thing. So they had a much less intensive group going.
And you’re thinking of Teddy [Edward Crisp] Bullard [Sir].
Teddy Bullard and Maurice Hill and Ben [Benjamin] Brown were the kingpins over there at that time.
How did the sabbatical actually go?
Well, I had — part of what I said, told the Guggenheim Fellowship was my reason for going was to study the errors that we had observed in the surface ship gravity meter. But I also intended to get the book ready. This book.
And you’re holding right at the moment, Pendulum Gravity Measurements at Sea: 1936 to 1959, which was published by John Wiley and Sons in 1965.
Well I finished that up while I was in England. And that took nearly all of my time. Excuse me a minute. [Interruption to speak to Mrs. Worzel.]
You were saying that you’d spent virtually all your time —
I spent nearly all my time in Cambridge getting that all together. Although I had said I would study the errors in gravity. And my gravity boys back home had discovered the cause of the errors in the gravity and had built an apparatus to correct for it meanwhile. So I lucked out in that respect. In that the results were satisfactory although I hadn’t personally done the part that I had said I would do. And I did finish this book.
What do you feel was most significant about it in terms of the way that it affected research?
Well, it was — I really can’t tell you. Because nobody has ever mentioned to me that they even ever used it or even looked at it in all the times it’s been out. But I felt that this was all the gravity data in the oceans that we had taken with submarines. [Felix A.] Vening-Meinesz had published all of the gravity data he had taken in submarines. And this brought it up to date that it was now all the gravity available at sea in these book. All the gravity that had been done by the U.S. was in this book. And between this and what Vening-Meinesz had published, all the gravity data at sea was published up to the arrival of surface ship gravity meters.
And what I thought I did with it was I had taken what I considered all the major problems in the ocean and made gravity surveys in all the problem areas and had devised the crustal structure in them. At continental margins in the mid-ocean ridge. Now I say I did, but it was really me and my students did. There were a whole series of papers that were written by, you know, multiple authors on a lot of them. But I was sort of the guiding light of the whole thing. I made all the arrangements for the submarine cruises and you see all the submarines there that we, right here.
Indeed. We’re looking at page one right now of chapter one, “General Considerations”, where you make clear you’re reporting two thousand eight hundred sixty-five gravity observations in about little more than a dozen submarines on which this work was based.
But we had taken measurements across island arcs, across trenches, across island chains like the Hawaiian island chain and so forth. And all of those data, there had been a bunch of publications scattered around, but they’re all summarized in here along with all the data that every observation that had been made, and all the justification for the observations and everything. And I figured that any ship at sea would have want to have a copy of this with them. Any ship at sea that was doing research work would want to have a copy of this with them.
Were you mostly using this to draw conclusions about the origins of island arcs or major —
I know you’ve done that in other publications.
Yes. Well, and essentially the other publications are all summarized here in a group.
What I’m looking for is that part. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find this book prior to our coming.
Well here I’ll show you. These are the individual cruise descriptions.
This is in the first part of the book.
Here you are.
Chapter three. Did your views change on any of the major geophysical problems during the year that you were, almost a year that you were in?
I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.
I was curious that if either in doing this work or in your discussions with the other geophysicists there, did your views on any of the major geophysical controversies begin to change?
No. No. We basically didn’t discuss what I was doing there.
That’s what I was curious. How much you really get to know or talk with —
I didn’t put my hearing aid in. No wonder I’m having trouble hearing. I forgot. [Interruption.] Some of the interesting things that happened when I was on sabbatical was Maurice Hill asked me to give a seminar about the work that we were doing at Lamont. Not just my work, but all the work going on at Lamont. And I had brought slides with me because I anticipated that someone might do that. And I had several other lectures I gave while I was over there. But not just the British but other nationalities [voice fades out]. Anyhow, they, I showed them all of the geophysical techniques we were using on both the ships. What we had done on the submarines, about our surface ship gravity, about our sounding, the three and a half kilohertz sounder, the — I guess we hadn’t done any reflection work at this point. But all the magnetometer work and all the coring and the heat flow measurements and so forth. And the thing that astonished me was after my lecture a number of the students came up and said, we thought we invented all these things and here you guys have been doing it for tens of years. We thought that — and this really astonished me. Because they had copies of all of it in their library there at Cambridge. They had all the copies of the Journal of Geophysical Research and Seismological Society and all the journals that we normally published in. And they were, apparently didn’t read them and they had never been exposed to them. And they were exposed only to lectures of their own people and they just made the estimate that their people were telling about this coring operation and that so and so. That their people had invented all this stuff and had generated all this kind of information gathering. And they were shocked and surprised as I was that we’d been working with this for years. And in fact they had essentially copied it. They also had a meeting down in London that was similar to this Westinghouse, show and tell thing where they get all the science — except it was all the universities who came and did the show and tell. And what shocked me most in that, when I went to that, which incidentally we had to wear tuxedos to go to. But at any rate, the thing that shocked me most in that thing was that, oh God what was his name? Tony Laughton at the Oceanographic Institute. Anyway he had come over to Lamont and we showed him how to take underwater photographs and how to build a camera. He spent a whole year over here learning about it. And he was showing underwater photography at this show as if he had just invented it. No implication that anybody else in the world had ever done it. This is what we’re doing down here at the Oceanographic Institution in England and so forth and so on. As if it was something brand new. Well I never, I was just — I couldn’t believe that people lived that way.
Do you recall saying something?
I didn’t say anything because as a guest I thought it would be extremely rude. I just filed it away in my memory and mentioned it back in the States when we got — to my colleagues back there. That I was surprised. And they called the Journal of Geophysical Research in the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics the yellow peril. At that time it had a yellow cover. And they were getting thicker and thicker as time went on. And they finally got that thick and they had to divide it up.
Right. You’re holding your fingers a little more —
About two inches.
About two inches across.
One month’s journal was getting about two inches thick. And finally AGU had to divide it up into different parts of the science.
Indeed by the late fifties and early sixties was that period of rapid growth. Why were they calling it yellow peril?
Well because they figured it was hopeless to try to read it because it was so voluminous. That nobody would have time enough in the whole world to ever look at it.
Very interesting. But the other thing that comes to mind though with that — how effective were the international meetings that were occurring? That’s the other way in which institutions of course get to know in general what other places are doing.
They were very effective, but students from other countries never got to them. Only the professors would get to them. And so the professors were indoctrinated well into what was going on in the rest of the world, but they weren’t passing it on to the students. These are graduate students and so forth, you know. They were just ignorant of what was going on in the rest of the world. And this completely shocked me because it’s so foreign from the way we had been doing things.
You mentioned that you also had a chance to lecture in other countries. Did you get a chance to — I’m curious which ones they were and whether you had a chance to —
I really couldn’t tell you now. One was in France and one I think was in Denmark. And that’s about all that I can remember.
It sounds as if you weren’t there long enough to really gain an impression of how their geophysics worked compared to Lamont?
No. No. It’s just bang across the channel and back.
Yes. Were there other differences that you observed beyond the major one you just described between how Cambridge operated and Lamont operated? Were there differences in the ideas, say towards drift or towards isostasy at that point that between the two?
Well, isostasy was the well established idea. Drift was not available then. They were just coming up with their ideas about drift which triggered the whole thing. And I was not aware even of it, that they were talking about this. I didn’t get involved in any of their talk about that, about the spreading at the ridge and so forth.
Did they have colloquia that?
Yes, they had colloquia.
Did you have time to get to them?
I went to every one of them while I was there. And they didn’t include any of these new ideas. They were all about work that had been done and had reached the publication stage. And that work was not yet in the publication stage when I was there.
Right. What sort of issues were they most concerned with, problems?
Well, they hadn’t gotten a precision sounder for instance. And their coring was not very efficient, I guess is the way to say it. One of the admirals in their navy took me out on their navy ship that was making observations and asked me to look at the way they were taking cores and give them advice. Well, that’s fine for the admiral to say. He took me. He went on the ship too. It was his ship. He was running the ship. And he took me out on the ship and he put me in his day cabin. You know they have a day cabin and a major cabin. And he put me in his day cabin to live in. And they were all very kind and generous. But the guys that were actually doing the work didn’t want to hear anything from me. It was just like the Chinese. I tried to tell them how to do things better and they just didn’t want to hear it. They had their way of doing it and they knew enough about how to do it. They were going to do it that way. Our trip was on the, I think it was the ship was named Discovery if I remember right. But my trip with them, we stopped at the Cape Verdi Islands. It was at about around Easter time that I was doing this. And they were having their Mardi Gras affair at Cape Verdi Island which is rather different from Mardi Gras in this country. It’s all a distinctly religious festival as far as they’re concerned. And they had, you know, various replicas of saints and various religious figures that they brought in on floats. And people put flower petals all over the streets and so forth. And you were walking in flower petals. And the floats were running in flower petals. And they were throwing all kinds of flower petals. It was distinctly a religious festival kind of a thing. I thought a Mardi Gras was something different than that. However.
I was curious. A moment ago you had mentioned the inefficiencies you were observing on the British ship. What particularly did you notice?
Well, for instance they put the coring pipe over the side and they’d build the coring weight up with a bunch of pieces of lead that they stacked on it. And this would take them half an hour to stack the lead on it. We used the chain pull and got it over and it was over the side in about a minute. It was all assembled at the rail before the ship ever stopped. And we could put the whole thing over in the water and get started down to the bottom in less than ten minutes from the time the ship came to a stop. In fact, we would usually start operations, getting everything over the side, before the ship was even stopped. And I told them that they could do it like this. And that they could put a rack over the rail and. They weren’t interested.
How many cores did Cambridge have at that point?
Not very many. I have no idea how many. They weren’t stored at Cambridge. They were stored somewhere else. See the British establishment is really one scientific establishment under the government. And all the universities participate in it, but all the data or a lot of the data are pooled somewhere else, not at Cambridge. So I never did see where that was.
You didn’t see their coring?
But I did know that ten cores was the norm for one of their cruises. And that would be only about five days worth for us.
In raising the issue of isostasy a moment ago, I was thinking particularly of the newer interpretations coming out from satellite measurements and the way in which the community had gotten interested.
No, none of that.
I was curious if that was going on?
No. None of that was available then.
Yes. Did you have much contact with Harold Jeffreys?
Well, he was my sponsor. I was a sometime fellow at, jeez I don’t even remember the college. And he was my sponsor. Apparently, he was detailed by Teddy Bullard that he would sponsor me. It wasn’t his choice. And so when he sponsored me, he went to dinner with me at the college, I forget what it was. And I went to dinner assiduously every once a week. They had dinner that I was supposed to go to, and I went to it every week and so on. And Harold Jeffreys never showed up again. So I really had no contact with him. I met him a couple of times in the department, mostly over coffee. The department would get together in the morning and have coffee about ten o’clock and then the department would get together again about four o’clock and have tea. And usually there were cookies or something to go with the tea. But that was the daily format at the place. At noon time all of the graduate students and so forth would get together and play soccer. Well, I figured I needed some exercise and so I played soccer but I was distinctly second class. And they only put up with me because I was a visitor. [Laughter]
That must have been interesting.
I had in fact played soccer in grammar school. Our school had only a soccer team. And so I knew something about playing soccer, but I just was distinctly wasn’t in the physical class of those guys. And they ran me ragged. Besides I was, I guess thirty-five, forty at the time. I was a little bit older than they were.
Yes, indeed. How much contact was there with the geologists at Cambridge?
None at all?
None at all. As far as I knew, none of the Geodesy and Geophysics people even knew the geologists.
So it was, there was a contrast then with the structure of Columbia?
Yes. Now I didn’t get in on any of their formal teaching methods which are rather different than ours. Maurice Hill is the closest one comparable to my career in age and experience. And he would, he’d have like four or five students that he would meet with regularly, probably once a week. And they would be reading, what they call reading, in various subjects: magnetics or gravity. And he would ask them what they’d read that week and discuss it with them. Well I never got in on any of that part. Only thing I got into was when there were lectures and I was asked to lecture a couple times. But aside from that, I didn’t get into any of their formalities of education at all. Other than to witness it as from the outside. But apparently they don’t, they have very little formal course work. And most of the work is graduate students studying on their own, however they feel they want to study and reporting to their professor once a week. And he might suggest to them that if they would try to do this problem or if they would read this other book or something, that it might help their studies. Apparently that’s the way they do it. And it’s rather different from all the formal work that we provide to our graduate students.
Having compared the systems, were there any developments or structures at Cambridge that you were tempted to want to try at Lamont?
No. I felt throughout that our system was superior and so far advanced from them, that there was almost nothing I could learn from them. Other than their different ideas about how to interpret data. They had some different ideas. Teddy Bullard always insisted that you had to have a theory before you went to do any investigation of anything. And I kept insisting to him you don’t have to have a theory at all. That the obvious things you’re going to look at when you’re looking in the ocean are the trenches, the island arcs, the sea mounts, individual islands that are independent of others, mid-ocean ridges. These features of things that you’re actually going to study and you have to study the ordinary features like the regular ocean basin type of thing so that you know what the normal thing is and then the abnormal thing of the ridges and trenches and island arcs and so forth were obvious anomalous areas that you were going look at. But you had to also study the normal areas so you could study the anomalous areas. Well I never could persuade him that this was the case. He always said you had to have a theory of how something worked.
Do you think that might have had something to do with the limited resources of the British to make the broader surveys that Lamont was able to do?
Possibly. I don’t know. Teddy Bullard was coming up with his bit of the fit of the Americas with Europe and Africa at that time. And doing that thing. And I kept pointing out to him all the places where there were overlaps. And the places where there were big gaps in the system. And he just ignored anything I said like that. And just said well, there are little problems yet, but this is the way it works. So I didn’t persuade him at all. He never persuaded me at all. [Laughter.] Although we had lengthy discussions at times.
I was going to ask you about that. Because you mentioned a moment ago that he had different interpretations of the gravity data. I’m wondering what.
Not of the gravity data —
Not the data. The interpretation of what the data —
Well, not gravity data. He hadn’t done any gravity data since, anything with gravity since his work in the rift valley [?] and that was when he was a graduate student.
And he was the same age as Maurice Ewing so.
I stand corrected. You were saying though that there were differences in interpretations that were part of the. I’m curious what particularly.
Well, about the mid-ocean ridge for instance. We knew the mid-ocean ridge was made of volcanics largely, and we knew that the mid-ocean ridges were a spreading phenomenon. And the problem was that we wanted, at least I wanted, to have the world heating up from the accretionary process and the radioactive process, the world is heating up. And the amount of expansion that you would need to accommodate the ridges and so forth was a modest expansion, although I forget the number now, but something like two percent over geological time. And to me that was a reasonable number. Well, they were coming up with ideas about the plate tectonics, but they didn’t express it as plate tectonics at the time.
No, that concept didn’t exist.
That concept didn’t exist.
Drift did however.
But they were struggling in the edges of it.
No, drift did because of course maybe they had been developed in that form.
Right. And they were trying to interpret it in terms of drift. That they were generating drift because of the generating thrust of the mid-ocean ridges. And so we had discrepancies in that. And they had a seminar of the Royal Academy, I guess, while I was there. And people came in from all over the world and participated in it, and Teddy Bullard asked me, he was the master of ceremonies at it, and he asked me if, afterwards — didn’t tell me in advance he was going to call on me. He asked me to summarize the meeting after it was all over. And as I got up, he said, now we don’t want you to run on too long now. Apparently, they’d had trouble with people summarizing going on and on and on. Well at any rate, I summarized it, in essentially a few, fairly few words. In an abstract form I guess you’d say pretty much. And when I got done, he said, oh I didn’t mean to have you keep it that short. I said, well I’ve said everything there is to say. In particular I had pointed out that the mid-ocean ridges — we had, people, all of us had found that the velocity of sound was in the ridges was on the order of five kilometers per second. And in the ocean crust the velocities were six kilometers per second overlaying Moho [Mohorovicic discontinuity] which is around eight kilometers per second. And that they were claiming that this was new ocean crust being made in the mid-ocean ridges that were spreading the continents apart, at least that became ocean crust, but how did five kilometer per second material become six kilometer? And how did material that was twenty kilometers thick come down to be only about three kilometers thick and so forth. Well, they never answered those questions. Those questions have still never been answered. They’re in my summary that was published in that meeting. Of all these kind of questions that nobody answered had arisen from everything that was said, or partly by everything that was said at that conference.
Yes. And sediments, the undisturbed sediments were important too in that issue, weren’t they? And Ewing was particularly concerned with that as evidence that did not [cross talk] interpretation.
Yes. And Ewing and I published that the ideas of Vening-Meinesz and David [T.] Griggs and people like that about Tectogenes just couldn’t exist according to the gravity data. And we showed with a combination of the seismic refraction measurements and the gravity data — we showed what the crustal structure would have to be in the great deeps, in particular in Puerto Rico. We also discovered that there was a trench on the south side of Puerto Rico, it was completely filled with sediments and was not obvious, but it was there in the sub-surface and we had stressed just how the whole crustal structure occurred in Puerto Rico. But we had totally demolished the Tectogene hypothesis in our paper, but we didn’t make a big issue out of it because we didn’t want to discredit Vening-Meinesz who had put his life work into saying the Tectogene was there. We had so much appreciation of him that we didn’t herald it and shout it to the rooftops that these ideas were wrong.
That’s a very important point that you. Did you talk to Vening-Meinesz during the time that you were over in England? Did you have a chance to?
I met him at scientific meetings during the course of that time. And yes I did talk to him. Well, and I corresponded with him several times. One time I remember we found a gravity value in the middle of the Atlantic, towards the eastern part of the Atlantic, that we got about a positive twenty miligal anomaly and he showed a minus six miligal, and they weren’t more than a couple miles apart. And I wrote to him and mentioned it and told him that I had carefully gone back over all our data to make sure that everything was correctly done, and I couldn’t change our value no matter how hard I worked on it. Could he go back and look at his data and see if he — if there was some mistake he had made. Well, he just wrote me a letter, as far as I remember he never looked up the data, he just wrote me a letter, I bow to your superior equipment and observations that I must have made an error there. But I don’t, I guess he didn’t have the access to the data any more. So, at any rate, he never looked it up. And he just said, I bow to your superior — well actually, what it turned out to be, when we got some more data later, was that we were on the flanks of a sea mount. We were close to the sea mount and he was farther away and that was the only differences between them. That ours was part of the rising curve of the sea mount.
Yes, yes That made a difference.
So we were both right. He didn’t have to bow to my superior information. Apparently he couldn’t look it up or something.
Did Ewing’s ideas towards drift change in the early 1960s? I don’t mean particularly during the time later in ‘68 or so when the critical issue became plate tectonics but how important? Well let me just ask that question first. Did you sense that his views changed?
I don’t think he did change his views until very late in the spreading business.
Yes. It seems. I’m thinking of certain, that there was and reflections, that he was writing right in the period from ‘60 to ‘63 where it seemed that the more he thought about the evidence from the sediments that he had been studying, the more it was harder to reconcile these data with an explanation of drift.
I wondered if that was your impression?
Yes. That’s exactly the way he felt about it. And he kept wondering why we didn’t find any older crust in any of our cores. That we ought to run into some older terrain in the ocean and we never could find anything earlier than Cretaceous. And he kept wondering where it was. One of the things that he kept mentioning and he never published anything on it — and it would be quite apropos today — is he kept saying there must have been meteors that were landing in the ocean and causing features on the bottom ocean. I keep looking for them and I never find them and I wonder why.
That’s very interesting.
Yes. Who was he talking with about these ideas?
As far as I know, just to me. This is all occurred just when we chatted together.
It’s interesting that at that period of time the debate was going on certainly between American astronomers and certain geologists over whether craters were impact formed or whether they were simply volcanic features on the moon which had significant implications for crater [cross talk].
Well I think he was quite convinced that those were all craters, almost all craters on the moon. And that any volcanism was caused by craters basically.
Yes. Did he have, did he mention contacts, discussions with people like Gerard [P.] Kulper or Harold [C.] Urey on this issue?
No. He never mentioned any of those to me.
And there weren’t colloquia at Lamont that directly addressed that?
No. Not that I remember. Now he was going to National Academy of Science meetings. And at those kind of meetings questions of this sort were probably, must have been discussed. But he never mentioned to me in any of our discussions.
Did Ewing ever mention why he didn’t publish the paper that he was planning on meteors? The lack of evidence.
Well he wasn’t planning.
He was just speculating.
He was always speculating that there ought to be craters and they would be preserved in the ocean, and why didn’t we ever find them.
Yes. I should have rephrased that just to say why didn’t he publish on that?
Well, he had no evidence.
But the absence of evidence can be significant.
Well, but what would you write? A one paragraph paper saying there ought to be craters preserved in the ocean and I don’t find them. [Laughter]
Some who published geological reviews that have used evidence of this sort. I was just curious if he had.
Well, by and large he didn’t write any of those kind of papers. He only wrote papers that were based on data. Very thorough supply of data.
He didn’t write any speculative papers really. Now he wrote a couple of papers that we ought to investigate this because there ought to be such and such a thing going on. I’m struggling in my memory over the problem he was talking about and I don’t remember now. But he and one of the other people at the Observatory wrote a paper in the American Geophysical Union that there ought to be some evidence of something or other and everybody ought to look for it. That’s the only paper I remember that he ever wrote like that. And as I say, I can’t remember what the subject was.
Do you remember roughly when that paper was? Was it in the sixties?
Yes, it would be in the sixties. Could be even the early seventies. But I think it was in the late sixties.
Okay. I’m wondering how you came to your ideas about the expanding earth? You mentioned a little while ago that you felt that this did provide a good.
Yes. A good framework for looking at the ridges.
Yes. Well, as far as I know, it’s completely independently of anybody. I never discussed it with anyone.
I was curious if that had come up in a conversation say with Bruce Heezen who was in the process.
Well, Bruce and I weren’t talking much then.
By that point, yes.
At that point. And so we were completely independently, but we were getting our — we were coming to similar conclusions. Now his conclusion was that there would a much bigger expansion than any I could see. And I would take a paper that I wrote that nobody paid any attention to and that was a very important paper I think was on the first gravity measurements made on the Compass Island. And we crossed the mid-ocean ridge on the way into the Mediterranean. And I pointed out that the gravity data indicated that the rough structure like the ridge persisted down under the Canary Abyssal Plain for several hundred miles at least. Because the gravity data indicated that there was still more structure. It was hidden under the sediment at this point. And nobody ever paid any attention to that or referenced it or anything as far as I could see.
Why do you think that was so?
I have no idea. Apparently it didn’t impress people. It just wasn’t an observation that sent them anywhere. Either that or it was so early that it didn’t fit into their notions about ridges and at the time. And when it came time, they weren’t going back and looking at historical papers. They were looking at the latest things that were done yesterday and today and tomorrow.
That’s interesting. Yes, yes. When was it that, roughly, that you published this paper?
That paper was published in 1959. I made the measurements on the U.S.S. Compass Island on a crossing from New York and the Strait of Gibraltar in 1958.
I was curious too if you were reading others who were writing about the expanding earth idea. Pascual Jordan was an interesting in the early 1960s. Walter Elsasser was also.
I hadn’t been reading any of those things because I was too damn busy making gravity measurements on surface ships and keeping the ships running and keeping Lamont running. At that point, the ONR and NSF decided to integrate all our contracts into one big contract — at least our ship operation type contracts.
And this was just after you came back from the sabbatical or during that time?
Well, it would be even before the sabbatical. And so, no, I guess it would be just after the sabbatical. And so I was having to write, to get together all the information from all of the departments and integrate it into one big proposal to ONR and one big proposal to NSF at that time. And that would take one month out of my life every year getting this stuff together. It was a full month’s job.
Everything else dropped.
Everything dropped in that period. And then I’d then have to try to pick it all up again. And of course data was still coming in from the ships.
No, clearly you had multiple hats that you were wearing through this period that didn’t have as much time as other folks.
I didn’t get a chance to read much other than in particular subjects I was working directly on.
Yes. I’m curious too just because there are so many ways in which people do get — become aware of who else is thinking about or writing about. I was just curious too if their names had come up. If you heard other people talking about.
Well I was acquainted with them and their names and so forth. But I was not —
Sure. I meant.
Concerned about what they were writing about.
Yes. That’s particularly what I meant. Whether their ideas.
No. I didn’t get indoctrinated at all from them. Which is probably a deficit in my character and career.
It is also a consequence of doing multiple tasks during this time. One thing just before we get back a little bit more to Lamont. You called my attention to the one chapter in the book that you wrote at Cambridge concerning interpretation, and I was reading on page 265 where you had written in talking about the island trench system indicating that they were out of isostatic equilibrium. And then you add an interesting sentence: “General agreement has not been achieved on what these other forces are and how they are applied.” I was wondering what you were thinking about when you were writing that.
Well, we were figuring. See the general concept of trenches in existence at the time was that they were compressional features. And looking at the crustal structure and so forth that we defined, it was very clear to us that they had to be some kind of a expansion feature. Now the ridge is an expansion feature and the crust is an expansion feature, it looked like just near to the continents there was expansion of the crust and the crust fractured in such a way that the fracture patterns were like this for instance. There would be excess buoyancy isostatically for that particular block. And so that block would rise as a horst kind of feature and the others would drop. Well in a trench it was the fractures would be like this.
Right. You’re holding your hands out in a down pointing the apex of the triangle in a [cross talk] downward direction.
So that there would be a deficit of flotation and that’s what was causing the trench. And that would explain the rise that occurred just before you moved into the trench because this would mean that the crust seaward of the trench had excess buoyancy just near the edge of the trench and the island arc on the other side had excess buoyancy near the trench. And it looked like that was the kind of — and the whole island arc with a trench on either side had excess buoyancy on both sides and so the whole island arc was held up higher than it in equilibrium if you talked about just the vertical sections. In other words, that there was buoyancy from parts of the crust in the area but not directly underneath, but off to the side a little bit in these kind of situations. And those were the kind of thoughts that I was having at least. And I think Ewing was too.
But those were what had come under discussion when you were at Cambridge?
And it was Bullard who was one of those?
Yes, Bullard and Ben Brown.
Who didn’t accept or how did they view those arguments?
Well, they just kind of shrugged their shoulders and said, that we always thought of them as compressional features.
But as you say, it was difficult to get past that.
By and large they didn’t look at the new data at all.
Is that right?
Yes. As far as I could tell anyhow. They just dismissed it, well we’ve already settled that. We’re talking about other problems now.
That’s interesting. I want to talk — if you want to go into that a little bit more about your role as administrator in 1964 when you came back to Lamont? This might be an appropriate time. Although you did mention at the beginning of the interview there were two things you wanted to make sure we included.
Well, whichever way you want to go.
Why don’t we first then talk about administering at Lamont and then we’ll go into those other two?
Well before I left I had, by I guess by default, achieved the position that I had to look at all the contract funds in the Observatory and whether people had expended — were committed to expending more than they had in their funds. And to get after them if they were showing that they were overextending or underspending for that matter, and ask them about what their plans were and how they’re going to make it up. And this made me I guess pretty unpopular. But apparently that did not get done while I was away on sabbatical. And when I came back, I found that between our ONR contract and our NSF grants we were more than a million dollars in the hole. I took drastic action which I thought was necessary. And essentially told everyone they were done spending except the salaries that were already committed. That there were no more new people, no more equipment bought and so forth. And in about a year I got everybody back solvent again. Well, in my view we were lucky that we made it then because that year when I came back, which was ‘64, ONR decided that we’d had a ten year ongoing contract and that was long enough. We would write a new contract. And so they were all closing all the old contracts up and starting the new contracts. Had they done that a year earlier, they would have discovered we had a deficit, we were in deficit condition. And I’m sure there would’ve been consequences. They never knew that we had ever been in the overspent condition.
This was something that Art Maxwell and others just didn’t know.
Nobody knew it except our internal people at Lamont.
Okay. People like Arnold Finck.
People like Arnold Finck and Jim [Henry James] Dorman was privy of it. He was representing the seismology group at Lamont in our — we had a salary committee that tried to deal with salaries on the Observatory-wide basis. Instead of this group being very generous and that group being very parsimonious and so forth. And having all kinds of interniscene warfare in the Observatory. We formed a salary committee and Jim was on it and John Ewing was on it and I was on it and Arnold Finck was on it. And we tried to adjudicate you know all of the contracts and grants to see that everyone was treated as nearly uniform as you could with people in different disciplines. But you know with what they were doing and their achievements, and at the same time the money that was available. And tried to get it so that it was a fairly uniform system and not one side was paying while the other side was using, keeping everybody as slaves. Well, in general, because of those salary meetings, we also had general meetings about contract matters and so forth of those same people at the same time. But in between them, I was the watch dog who would watch that everybody was living within their contracts or grants. And getting after people if they weren’t. In advance before they got into trouble. Except that one year.
When you were away.
When I was trying to make up for it. Well I came back in September and I got on top of all this about October and so essentially one whole year everybody was restricted by me from spending any money.
How did that affect Lamont’s scientific output during that year?
Not a bit. Essentially, people were living on the fat as far as supplies were concerned. And they had, already had people in their employ who were working on all their data and so forth. And had people going out on cruises. It didn’t affect anything of our operation. Basically, as I view it, we lived on our fat for one year. The inertia was so great that we could live that way.
That’s very interesting. In other words, if one didn’t know of the financial problems and one looked at Lamont’s publications, research, during that time, one wouldn’t notice.
One wouldn’t notice it at all. And nobody did notice it except the contractors, the individuals on our contracts and grants, who were prevented from spending their money, the money we didn’t have. They were very unhappy that they were prevented from doing this or that thing that they wanted. And undoubtedly that generated a lot of ill feeling towards me in the Observatory as a whole. And I’m sure that bore fruit when I finally left there.
When you look back on it, did it seem that that year was a watershed of some sort for your relations with the Lamont community?
No. It didn’t show immediately in any way. Nobody likes a watchdog and I was the watchdog. I guess I chose myself a watchdog rather than to see us get into deep trouble. And Ewing was just not, never paid any attention to the money problem.
This is a different sort of question. But during this period of time, from the 1950s forward, Walter Sullivan had been very interested in developments at Lamont and helped to get stories of them in the New York Times. How much contact did you have with Sullivan?
I didn’t have much contact. He was mostly talking to Maurice. And occasionally he would talk to me about something, but mostly he talked to Maurice.
He didn’t visit as often on the campus?
I never say him there on the campus once.
Is that right? Interesting. Were there any others in the media or in the press that you had contact with regarding Lamont?
Well, the Herald Tribune came when we were working with our, at the point after establishment of Lamont we got the two — the Pickett and the Retriever, small forty-foot motor launches. And we were doing, well I told you we did work in the Gulf of Maine with it and Long Island Sound and so on. And while we were doing the work on the Thruway bridge — where they were planning to put the Thruway bridge, the Herald Tribune sent a reporter and a photographer up, and they went out with us one day while we were doing our work there. And they said, when you’re firing explosives like this, don’t you kill a lot of fish? I said, never. You stun a lot but you don’t really kill them. Anytime I’ve tried to pick one up, they come alive immediately and disappear before I can get my hand closed. And but the very next shot, apparently happened in the middle of a school of fish, and there were fish all over the surface. Well, anyway, being embarrassed about it, I brought the boat over there and said, all right, go pick one up. And of course as soon as they touched him, boom, he turned over and went away. So they were pretty nice about it. They minimized it in the story that there was some fish stunned, but they didn’t seem to be killed. And they came alive and swam away and so forth. But it probably, you know, if they, the press in general would have probably written — I guess the press would have, under ordinary circumstances, made a big issue out of it. And I would’ve gotten probably a lot of harassment at the time that we were trying to do that work on the bridge.
Say in the fifties and through the mid-1960s, did press reports about Lamont generally help Lamont’s position or do you feel that they didn’t help?
I don’t think it made much difference.
It just wasn’t that much.
It wasn’t that — it didn’t seem to be that important. That it didn’t seem to affect anybody that had money, that might give us some money. Didn’t seem to affect people other than — it did seem to bring in a lot of graduate students. That they had read about this or heard about us in the academic world or something. We did, we were getting much increased flow of graduate students who wanted to come on board. Or work with us in the summer or something.
When did you notice the increase?
In the late fifties. Basically the International Geophysical Year established Lamont.
You had said that in another, briefly in another part of the interview and I’m curious what particularly you have in mind when you say that?
Well, suddenly there was a lot of money available to do research. Now I’m not saying wasted or anything in any sense. But where it had been hard to get money before, there was money to be had in the Geophysical Year for your work. And in certain ways it funneled our work in a little different direction. But it made the financing of the work much easier. And it opened up other areas that we probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to open up at least that early. That we could make observations. So we were a small, struggling institution, very struggling institution, before the International Geophysical Year. Afterwards we were established as a big ongoing operation and it also apparently stimulated funds for ONR and NSF so that they grew enough that we could grow at the level we had been established in the International Geophysical Year. But essentially it was, instead of our growth being like this.
You’re just slightly rise.
A very slight inclination.
It took a jump at the International Geophysical Year and it stayed at the upper level.
Did it keep rising almost — your hand was almost exponential in going up. Did it, how did the curve go through the 1960s?
Well through the sixties, it grew at a nice gentle rate. In fact I used to say we were growing at a ten percent rate about each year. And that was about the limit of what we could adapt to readily. That if we had been able to get more money and grow faster, that we couldn’t live up to it. Couldn’t justify it. If we had less money, we would have been struggling all the time.
So it was just about the amount of money we could adjust to comfortably.
Were there any discussions within Lamont over how fast Lamont ought to be growing? Was this a consensus in essence?
No. No. It was generated primarily by Maurice Ewing. Anybody that came to him and said, I want to study something. He’d say sure, we want to study that. Let’s get a contract. Let’s get a grant. Let’s do this. Let’s do that. And anyone that came with any kind of an idea to him that was an expansion into another area, he was all gung ho for it. And he was always anxious to add something so that the ships became more efficient. Could do more things without any additional or very little additional cost or time. And that’s what lead us into the multiple — well I did most of the work on getting multiple wires and multiple operations going on each wire. I did a lot of it. And a lot of other guys did a lot of it. But it basically — Ewing kept pushing us. Isn’t there something else we can put on the wires while it’s going to the bottom. Look at the water in between. And yes there was and we did add a lot of these things.
I was thinking particularly in asking that question a moment ago your point that the growth rate for Lamont through the 1960s seemed to be about right. That if you grew too fast you could run into both administrative, logistical — the sort of institutional problems that can come from.
Well, we wouldn’t have been able to generate the capability, the scientific capability, at a faster rate than that.
So it really was.
People were already well occupied and there was not that much that you could add to it faster than about ten percent. Well that was my judgment for whatever it was worth.
Yes. I was very curious about that. Yes. One quick question before we do go back to cover those points that we hadn’t yesterday. When you were in — one contribution that you wrote in the early 1960s on the question of interpreting the ridges and your feeling, your argument, that two to three percent expansion of earth’s radius could account for the phenomenon being observed. You mentioned that you were discussing these ideas with John [E.] Nafe and Manik Talwani. What do you recall from those discussions with Nafe and Talwani?
Well, basically they couldn’t refute it and they didn’t have, as far as I could see, had no particular judgment on it to themselves. They had no agenda they were trying to push. And I wasn’t pushing very hard on my agenda. I was taking the position that the more facts you had pretty soon there would, be no doubt about how the thing worked. Because the evidence is there. You have to make this conclusion.
Indeed. Let’s turn back then for a moment and make sure that we cover what we hadn’t yesterday. You had mentioned that the first item you wanted to mention was SOFAR.
SOFAR bombs yes. We had built the SOFAR detonator and we didn’t record it. So I’ll got back over it again. That the Navy insisted that these had to fulfill their safety requirements. And so in the Woods Hole detonator they wanted to know what was in it. And we told them that we had a little piece of PETN [pentaerythritol tetranitrate] and then we had a regular — one of their detonators in it. And then we had some cap pistol ammunition. Well they demanded to know what the contents of the cap pistol ammunition. We didn’t know. We called the fireworks manufacturers and they told us what was in it. And we told our liaison officer who was dealing with the Navy on this, and he was there with the Navy man who said, well we don’t know much about the safety of those things so we’ll call the Bureau of Mines who may have been dealing with this kind of things. And he overheard the conversation with Mines. When they told him the contents of the matter, the guy on the other end of the Bureau of Mines laughed and said, that stuffs so safe we make them make cap pistols with it. [Laughter] And so anyhow the detonator stuff passed. But then the Navy despite the fact that we could find no way to make the Woods Hole detonator go off other than to throw it in a fire and raise the temperature high enough that it would just self-fire.
Right. You had mentioned off tape that you were also hitting with a hammer.
I gave it a real torture test of hitting it with a hammer, hitting it with chisels, dropped it off the top of the oceanographic building that’s three floors up onto concrete. And nothing, nothing made the cap pistol ammunition go off. And I always used the generalization when they would say how safe do you think it is? I said, for God’s sakes. Everyone of us as a kid ran around with our pockets full of cap pistol ammunition and nobody ever got hurt. How could you say it’s unsafe? [Laughter] And it’s true. Every male that I know of ran around with cap pistol ammunition in their pockets. Well, anyhow, in the long — but nevertheless, the Navy said that we had to have a charge that was self-arming. In our earliest experiments — this was one point I wanted to make is — in our earliest experiments we had to decide on what size bomb to use for the SOFAR experiments. And just arbitrarily Ewing and I decided that four pounds sounded like a nice handy number. And we chose four pounds as the standard SOFAR bomb. And that was eventually adopted by the Navy, not only for the standard SOFAR bomb, but as the standard charge size for calibrating with explosives all kinds of — all sorts of sound measurements made in the Navy. And it became the standard in the Navy. Four pounds was the acoustic size bomb used for any calibration or anything. And it was just as arbitrarily chosen by Ewing and I originally in the SOFAR work as you can imagine. And there was no reason to keep it at four pounds through SOFAR work, but it had been working good. Why change it?
You had the experience with it.
We had the experience with it and had a lot of data from it. And that to compare our old data with new data it was better to have the same charge and so on. But anyhow, they said the four pound bombs we were going to use in the long run, if we wanted Navy personnel to fire them, they would have to be self-arming, even though nobody knew how to make a Woods Hole detonator go off except by fire or pressure. And they said that it would take several years to design such a thing. Again this offended me, and I said I can design it in a couple of hours and build it. Well I got these small smoke bomb that was available through the Navy that was used by aircraft to make a big mess of smoke to mark a place. In the water for something they wanted to mark, no matter what it is. And they had a nice sleek bomb shape and tail fins already built in. And they were cheap. And so I adopted that as the bomb case and we sawed it across because it would only hold about a pound of TNT. And we lengthened it about six inches longer than it was so that it was now about fourteen or fifteen inches long and it held four pounds of TNT. Then I built in the tail fins — I had them — I say I built, but the shop built it to my specifications is what really happened. But we built it so that there was a channel perpendicular to the axis of the bomb, across the bomb. And in that channel we installed a piece of square tubing, brass tubing, that went the width of the bomb, the four inch diameter of the bomb. And in that brass tubing we had a slug of brass that just fitted and moved easily back and forth in the tubing. A piece of brass about inch and a half long I guess it was. And attached to it was a silphon bellows so that as it dropped in the pressure of the water would collapse the silphon bellows and move the brass block over and we had a hole drilled in the brass block and so it would move over into line with the detonator. And then at right angles up the central core of the tail fins there was a hole about an inch in diameter there and we just had a spiral of springs bronze that was shorter than a detonator, or one of our detonators, and it had a cap on it that we could open and put a Woods Hole detonator in it, stretch the spring up so the spring was pushing the Woods Hole detonator down against the metal block in the thing. And when the pressure moved the block over so the hole in the block registered with the detonator, the hole was much bigger than the detonator, we didn’t just try to make it fit. So the detonator was in line with the hole. It would be pushed on down into the base of the charge where we had a piece of PETN that was — when we had the bomb filled with explosives, they had a piece of PETN just under the hole where the detonator would come. So that the detonator was butted against the PETN which is essentially an explosive that explodes easier than TNT. So it acted like a little booster charge. So it was very similar to the demolition charges that we’d been using. That’s where we got our ideas from obviously.
Yes. Indeed. And this became pretty much the standard.
And this became standard. They would take those on airplanes and on Navy ships and so forth. And any personnel would use them. And they could put the Woods Hole detonator in just before they threw the bomb over. They could put it in before they left port or airport or whatever. Whatever suited them.
But your contribution and Lamont’s contribution was in essence standardizing the —
That wasn’t. No, this is still while we were at Woods Hole. This is during the SOFAR work.
Indeed and I stand corrected on this then. I know quite what you’re saying. Yes, indeed, that was at Woods Hole.
Yes. And this became the standard. And after the war, Woods Hole wanted to use the bombs fired at a number of different depths and they had Woods Hole detonators made up in different tube thicknesses for a number of different depths. See, we made all the ones we used to go down at the axis of the sound channel which would be about eight hundred fathoms. And they had some made up for five hundred fathoms, and two hundred and fifty fathoms, and a hundred fathoms.
Yes. Indeed that’s the early part of the SOFAR contribution well before.
And those bombs were used for a lot of experiments and were used well into the time when Gordon Hamilton had the station in Bermuda and so on.
That’s in part how I should have phrased it. How long did this remain standard?
Still is as far as I know.
Is that right?
Acoustically they still use a four pound bomb.
As far as I’m aware. Now I’ve been out of contact for fifteen years so maybe it’s changed but at least until I retired in 1979 it was.
But that’s significant. That’s certainly until the say circa 1980.
And that was my point that such an arbitrary decision got into the system as if God made it that way.
It’s not the first time.
I’m sure it isn’t the first time. But apparently almost all regulations end up like that. That things that you have to live with for the rest of your life were absolutely arbitrary decisions.
Choose them carefully indeed. You had another.
The other situation that the soon after we had built the Precision Depth Recorders we realized that, and especially after the Worzel Ash situation, we realized that we needed to be able to look at the upper part of the sediments we certainly — that was within reach of our core at least pretty hard to see if there was anything we ought to try to core, target. Something to look at. To go for besides just sheer chance or —
Or distribution or.
Or relation to some other structure or something.
So this is very early 1960s.
Probably the late fifties. Around 1960.
Right around the time that the Worzel Ash papers were published?
So the sound head for the twelve kilohertz sounders that the Navy had built was about fifteen inches in diameter. And I said well if going down to twelve kilohertz gives us so much better resolution and penetration than the twenty kilohertz that had existed in World War II, even lower frequencies would do better. How low a frequency can we get a transducer for? Well the size the transducer that I figured would not be prohibitively impossible would be about four feet in diameter and that turned out to be about three and a half kilohertz frequency would be a transducer of that size. And to put that on our ship, we built what we called a bathtub. It was a — well you know these old bathtubs that had feet on them?
If you take the feet off, that’s what our structure that we would attach to the hull of the ship would be. To bring the transducer beyond the bubbles that hugged along the hull of the ship which would blank out the sound. So we wanted to get below them and yet we didn’t want something that would be wiped off of the ship easily by just a log in the water or anything.
How far did you mount it from the hull?
Well, we mounted it.
Is this on the — which ship is this mounted on?
Well, first the Vema and later on the Conrad. And now it has been adopted throughout the community and almost every oceanographic ship has a three and a half kilohertz sounder besides the twelve kilohertz sounder for penetrating the bottom for a hundred feet or so. To see whatever structures are in the top hundred feet. And again this was a fairly arbitrary decision of what was, what I felt comfortable putting on the Vema became the standard that’s been used by the oceanographic community.
But that was in some sense determined at least at that time by the available, by what one could build. Or not?
No. The size of the structure that you needed for the sound heads that was reasonable to add to a ship in my view.
Restrained by, right, the —
Logistics of mounting it on and preserving it so that, as you say, doesn’t get knocked off by a log.
And I got some money to build us a four foot with diameter transducer. And we got our, I guess our electronics department built the electronics that fitted. It’s now available commercially everywhere. But at any rate in those days we built our own. And we mounted this bathtub so that it was — it was probably three feet off the hull of the ship. And we mounted the twelve kilohertz sound transducer in it too to get it out of the bubbles since we already were building it for the three and a half kilohertz, we just mounted the twelve kilohertz behind it. And this bathtub was open in the back so it was completely flooded with water. But it did provide a fairing for shucking off all the turtles and things that might damage our equipment. And it did provide some fairing for the water passing the ship so that it was a reasonable attempt at fairing. Let’s put it that way.
Did it work as well as you expected it?
Yes. It worked very well and we — well, everybody, as I say as far as I can see, everybody’s still using it to look at the upper part of the sediment. Wherever they take soundings, they can take three and a half kilohertz soundings as well and it works very well. You can’t get the detail of the ocean floor soundings that you can get with twelve kilohertz which is shorter wave lengths. But it does penetrate the bottom. It’s for the penetration of the upper part of the bottom, everybody adopted it and used it. And is still using it as far as I can tell.
Then you could see changes in the way the sampling was done after that was available?
In some instances yes. In others since it didn’t have anything to do with that. But it showed interesting structure in the bottom that several papers were written about, just the results with the three and a half kilohertz sounder.
Who particularly took up the work with that? Were those your papers do you mean or by others?
Well, at Galveston we wrote two or three papers on the basis of the three and a half kilohertz. And people at Lamont had written several papers. And in, I guess, in other institutions have too because they’ve all adopted it.
Right. I had meant right after the time that you developed and first used [cross talk].
No, there were no papers that quickly came out from it. But it became so useful on board to supplement what we’d get from the twelve kilohertz that everybody liked it and kept using it. And see about the same time, they had developed the sparker source for doing reflection work. And the sparker source was quite dangerous because you were dealing with five thousand volts of power with lots of condensers providing the power. So that people could easily get into trouble with it. And it always required towing another cable behind you with the sparker source on it. And some kind of a hydrophone towed another place because the sparker would damage the hydrophone. And the only competition for looking at the upper part of the sediment was the sparker. And it was so difficult and expensive and dangerous that this just made wonderful sense I guess is the best way you can say it.
This is a slightly different question. But how during the mid-1960s, this period of time we’re talking about right now, how did contacts with Soviet communists change? Did you notice a difference from the 1950s levels of contacts by the 1960s?
Well there were almost no contacts in the 1950s except at scientific meetings.
IUGG [International Union of Geology and Geophysics] for instance?
IUGG and so forth. And I remember at a lot of those IUGG meetings for instance the Soviets would get up and give their paper in Russian. And they’d have an interpreter there that would interpret them in English. Well usually the interpreter didn’t know the subject matter obviously and would interpret it in a kind of a crazy way. You know, they’d might say a bell for a transducer you see or something. They were trying to say something that makes a sound. You know, the one thing first thing they think was a bell. Well at any rate frequently people, the man giving the paper, would correct the translator. Obviously he could have given the paper in English if he wanted to, but he insisted he was going to speak in Russian. And the French were just as bad. They always insisted in giving all their papers in French and having it translated into English. But everybody else was giving all their papers in English, and it’s gotten to the point now that as far as I know everybody gives their paper in English. Very rarely that you hear a paper given in any other language.
Were there any meetings that were particularly influential, international meetings, for you in the 1960s?
Yes, I guess you’d say the one in Rome was. In two ways. One way, Art Maxwell was a finishing graduate student and he came to live in the same boarding house as Ewing and I and we had breakfast and, well breakfast, on the balcony together every morning while we were in Rome, for the two weeks we’re in Rome. So that’s when I got to know Art Maxwell well. So that was one big influence. And as you know, Art became the director of the geophysics branch at ONR later and so forth. And so being well acquainted with him didn’t ever hurt. I still have Art Maxwell on the board of directors of the little corporation that I head.
This is the?
PGI [Palisades Geophysical Institute, Inc.] yes.
But at any rate, that was one thing. The other thing that happened to me was Dr. [Anton] Graf came up to me during the meetings and asked me how we suspended the pendulums on the submarines. Did I use a Cardanic suspension? Well, I was, at the time, I was not really conversant with what a Cardanic suspension was. And that it is essentially two axes at right angles that have capability of movement like a universal joint so that the movement down here can be independent of the movement out there. So he was thinking of suspending a gravity meter so it could move in all directions without interference under a Cardanic suspension. Well we didn’t, we had sort of one on the pendulum. We had an axis at about the center of gravity of the pendulums, just a little above the center of gravity of the pendulums in one direction. And at right angles another one and a frame between them that went between. So it had the same effect but it wasn’t a true Cardanic suspension. Well at any rate, he asked me and I explained to him how we suspended the pendulums. And we got talking and he said, well, you know I made some gravity measurements on a surface ship on the Lake Starnberg — He said to me I’ve been making these measurements with them and it looks pretty good to me, and I think that maybe we could make some measurements using a Cardanic suspension to prevent the motion of the ship from bothering it.
And I said, yes, that would do. But why couldn’t you measure on a submarine. And he said, well, I don’t know, I guess you could. And I said, well if I can make arrangements to get you on a submarine, could you bring your gravity meter on the submarine. And you make your measurements and I make my measurements with the pendulums and we compare them to see how good they compare. He thought it was a good idea. And so when we went home, that contact was crucial for me getting into the surface ship gravity meter business. If I hadn’t gone to Rome, it wouldn’t have happened. So at any rate, when I got back, I talked to the submarine command at New London, and they didn’t see any — at that time, they couldn’t see any reason — this would have been in 1957 I guess — they didn’t see any reason why it couldn’t be worked out. And so they set us up in a submarine that was going to Mallorca and Dr. Graf had joined the submarine in Mallorca and I could join the submarine in Mallorca and the submarine would go do some work in the Mediterranean and then make its way up to England and land at Portsmouth in England. And I laid out a track that made some sense to make some gravity measurements and we arranged it all and we went to Mallorca to join it. Well that was an interesting experience in its own right. When I got to Mallorca, nobody spoke English. I had this two thousand pounds of gravity gear and very sensitive equipment that I always insisted whenever I flew with this gear, I always got a letter from the company, like Pan Am or American Airlines or whoever, that I could supervise all the loading and unloading of the equipment or anything into the baggage compartment that our apparatus was in.
So that I could see that it was handled properly. On several occasions I saw the baggage handlers grossly mishandle a lot of things. For instance, I saw them take a box that said it had storage batteries in it and it had ears on the one side so that you couldn’t set it down on that side. I saw a guy take his feet and knock those ears off and deliberately turn it over. The way they didn’t want you to. That was a deliberate. I’ve also seen them just push a box that said handle carefully, and it had the little champagne glass to show how delicate it was. I’ve seen them just take their foot and shove it off the plane and let it fall ten feet onto the concrete. Well you know the equipment that was in those things were damaged by that, and I wasn’t going to have that happen to my equipment. Well, anyhow, when I was there it didn’t happen to my equipment. I saw it happen to a lot of other equipment while I was watching. And I had a lot of problems with people along the way. The people in the airport would come up to me and say, you can’t stay here while we’re loading baggage. And I’d pull out my letter from the president of the company that says I could and mostly that would handle it. But in one case at Charleston, South Carolina, they said I don’t care what the president says, it’s illegal for you to stand here and I’ve got to show you off. I said, well I guess you better get the police then and have them come and eject me because I’m not going to go. He said, all right, that’s what I’ll do. And he disappeared. And of course the plane got loaded and we took off before he ever came back. Whether it took the police that long to respond or whether he just let it drop. But it doesn’t matter. But I had that kind of situation several times. And when I got to Mallorca I had the situation that we got in at midnight on the plane and nobody spoke English on the field that I could find. And the baggage handlers couldn’t speak English and they were handling the gear.
But using hand signals and so forth I got them to handle my gear. And they probably handled it more gently than all the people I could talk to in my whole experience. And I did this thirty or forty times, different places. Go to Hawaii, go to New London, go to Key West or whatever. But that was one of the interesting experiences. The submarine came, I got there at midnight and that night the submarine came in during the night and was tied up to the dock in the morning when I got up from sleeping. And I got into a taxi and told the taxi I wanted to go to the submarine. Well he didn’t know English, so I tried it in French and apparently he knew a little bit of French and I tried it in German and I can’t talk very much, but I figured submarine would get through to him. Well he apparently did not know the submarine had came on and he could never fathom the submarine. So finally I got him to take me out to the Naval base there and immediately when he saw the submarine, AHHHH. So I got there. But then Dr. Graf appeared with his gravity meter at the place and the captain said, I’m sorry but I can’t let him come below decks. This is 1957, figure not too far after the war. I can’t let him come below decks without appropriate authority. I said well COMSUB [Commander of Submarine] Group, I forget the number, the one in New London said it would be arranged. Well, I’ll have to send them a message and arrange it. So I had to explain to Dr. Graf that he couldn’t come below decks, that I could take his equipment below and get it out of the weather and so forth.
And we were going to establish his part of the operation in the forward torpedo room and mine was going to be in the ammunition locker which was about mid-ships. But I could take it down there, but that he wouldn’t be able to come. Maybe tomorrow we could get an answer to our message. Well the message came back, kind of garbled or something, and the captain said we can’t operate this. Well, anyway, I asked Dr. Graf if I could set up his equipment for him. And he thought that I could manage that. So I set up all his equipment in the forward torpedo room the second day, while another message went back to the mainland and came back. And finally the captain reluctantly gave permission for him to come down on board as long as he stayed in the forward torpedo room and the officers mess which was just aft of the forward torpedo room and did not wander around the boat looking at all the things and learning. Of course, the Germans at that time had better information on our submarines than we did. Probably not true of all the equipment used on submarines though.
Probably not although they were —
And Dr. Graf was the least likely to be a spy of anybody I ever knew. But at any rate, we put his gear on and my gear on, and we made observations at about a hundred locations between Mallorca and Portsmouth, England. And I sent a message to Teddy Bullard while we were coming in that we were landing at Portsmouth. And knowing he had done some gravity work and that Ben Brown would be interested in it, said we were coming into Portsmouth at such and such a time if they would like to see the gear, we would be glad to show it to them. And they showed up and oohed and ahhed properly and then left. And at that time, they didn’t know and I didn’t know what we could measure with the gravity meter. But Dr. Graf reduced all his data and I reduced all my data. Now his equipment was suspended on a Cardanic suspension and he had no apparatus to make what we call the second order corrections for the gravity which Ben Brown was the one who first pointed out that they needed to be made. They could be as high as twenty miligals in a bad sea. And then most moderate seas it was four or five miligals. But at any rate, he had no equipment to make that measurement. So I took the Brown correction as it was called data from my data and applied to his data and then compared his observations with my observations. And we published a paper in the IUGG journal showing that there might be three of four miligals difference between the observations but that was within the probable error of the two systems. I always figured ours was good to about two miligals and he figured his was good to about a miligal as a gravity meter.
As a fingerprint.
In a stable situation. Well, at any rate, it looked pretty good. And the last statement I made — I wrote the paper and then sent it to Dr. Graf and he looked it over and approved of it and made a couple minor changes but nothing very significant. We published the paper.
You published it as a jointly authored.
As a jointly authored paper. And on the last sentence in the paper I said, with this equipment on a gyro stabilized platform, it is probably that observations could be made on a surface ship. So much for that. So I went back to the States and this got published.
What kind of reaction did the paper get?
Very little from the community in general. Most people weren’t interested in measuring gravity at sea. Nobody could do it but a few of us. There were only three Vening-Meinesz’s apparatuses and one the Japanese had and that actually wasn’t functional. One Vening-Meinesz had and he was keeping it. He let Bos Coletta use it on a couple of cruises, but he was keeping it for the Dutch themselves and the one I had.
Were the Soviets doing gravity measurements at sea in the fifties or sixties?
Not to my knowledge. Not at sea. They did a lot on land but not at sea. Well at any rate, to finish up this story, about that time or soon thereafter — oh, I know, I published mine, a short article, in the ONR publication that came out with little timely articles about what was going on in the IGY. And I published about these measurements and the statement that probably a surface ship could measure gravity. And the IGY was getting underway wholeheartedly at that time, and Merle Tuve had put in a grant to make a surface ship gravity meter for the IGY. And he approached me and he said, look I got this grant for surface ship gravity meter. You say this one might do it. Why don’t I hand the grant over to you and you give it a try and see if it can be done. And so I said, sure that would be great. So he approved that and I wrote to Dr. Graf and found out that I could buy a gravity meter that he would build that would be a duplicate of the one he had for himself for about ten thousand dollars. And I think Merle Tuve had about twenty thousand dollars in the grant. And so this gave me quite a reasonable amount of leeway. So I was acquainted with SP [Special Projects] and I knew that they had stable platforms, gyro stable platforms.
Let me pause just for a moment. [pause] We still have a squeaky cassette but as long as it’s recording. If you can say a few words right now.
One, two, three.
It’s coming in much clearer than that. So we’ll just put the cover down and we’ll go.
I had been doing, well I had been involved with the SP for, oh excuse me. [Interruption for phone call.] We were talking about the gravity meter and I knew that the Special Projects had stabilized platforms on some of their ships and I contacted them to see if there was any chance of me getting my gravity meter on a stable platform on one of their ships to see whether a stable platform would in fact work. Well, it turned out to be very apropos because they were just establishing a project to try to get gravity measurements for the nuclear submarines and their surface ship, the Compass Island, that they used to make trial measurements had several stable platforms on it. And they were anxious to see if there was any kind of a gravity meter that would work. And so it was just a propitious time. They welcomed me with open arms. Saying, yes, of course. And so I and some of my guys rode on the Compass Island for about three years with the surface gravity meter on the stable platform. And it did work. And what I did with it is I got it put on a stable platform and then we took the Compass Island and went down the line of measurements that we had made from New York out to sea with the pendulum apparatus on U.S.S. Tusk— with the pendulums long since. And then turned the Compass Island and ran back the other way so that we had both directions of travel and see how well the observations on the Compass Island matched each other and how well they matched the pendulum observations. And they matched very well indeed, within about ten miligals. And that could easily be ascribed for the slight differences in position, the two tracks we made and the other one. That was, I don’t know whether I told you or not, I think I did. The Compass Island having three systems that all said they were better than a mile and they were three miles apart.
Apart. Well that’s the time I found that out was on that run. Well, because it worked out and because they were interested in it, they were persuaded to let me go on several more cruises. And I had an assistant with me. In particular, we went on a cruise to the Mediterranean about the next cruise more or less as I remember. And that was interesting in a lot of ways because they were concerned about the Compass Island pitching and rolling too much for some of the gear. The submarines didn’t pitch and roll that much. This is a surface ship that was being used to test out equipment that they might put on submarines. And submarines didn’t roll and pitch as much as surface ships and so they wanted to cut down the roll and pitch of the Compass Island so it was more realistic for the situation on submarines. Submarine gear was sensitive to motion. Well at any rate, all this was classified gear of course on board. And again I had no problem because we were cleared for classified information. Oh on the trip, yes. So they put gyro stabilized fins on it to try to reduce the roll of the ship. And then to reduce the pitch of the ship, they had put two fins on the front, on the bow of the ship that was supposed to put some friction from up and down motion on the front. Well it, what it did is that in the pitching motion device caused the ship to do this.
You’re moving both hands, but out of sync with one another.
A hundred and eighty degrees out of sync with the middle of the ship as the midpoint and my bunk was in the middle of the ship. [Laughter] I swear to God it felt like, when we got into a storm, that it felt like the ship was just doing this and it was going to tear apart right through the middle of my bunk. I sat up in my bunk several times and saying this time it’s going to tear. But it never did, but it was such a bad idea that they cut those fins off as soon as they got home and never put them back again. And forgot about the pitching problem. But on that trip, on the power supply of the Graff gravimeter, one of the transformers burned out. And so I couldn’t make gravity measurements again. Well, we were going into Naples and so I sent a cable to Dr. Graf, could he send a replacement transformer to Naples for me. And this happened about half way over to the ridge. And I said, well, I have nothing I can do. I might as well pull that transformer out and see if I can rewind it. And so I took the transformer out and started to unwind it and it had about five different windings on it.
And naturally the one I was interested in was the bottom one. So I would unwind it. First, they had a micrometer on board, I measured the diameter of the wire. And I’d count the number of turns I took off on the one winding and then I’d take the next one off and so forth. And on the ship there were all kinds of representatives of Sperry Gyroscope, North American Aviation and you know all these big corporations that were trying to sell their gear to the submarines. And, all these high quality engineers, said, you don’t really think you can rewind that transformer do you? I said what do you think the original people who made the first transformers did? They wound it by hand, why can’t I? Well, at any rate, they’d just go away shaking their head. And but I did. They had a magnet wire in the, you know, coated with shellac in the stores of the ship. And I got some wire from them and I rewound them and I got the thing working again before we got to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Which was — I was going to sit — my assistant and I were going to sit idle all the way until we get to Naples the way it was going, and I couldn’t see that. As a way to make a living. So any rate, we got it working again by the time we got to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, much to the surprise of all those on board. And when we got to Naples, as you might expect, the transformer didn’t arrive before we left. So I would have gone, ridden the whole, about ninety percent of the cruise without any equipment to do anything with if I hadn’t done that.
Do you feel — is that a difference between your own training and experience and say the new generation of students who were coming on board at that point?
I would think that that’s probably true. They would take the same attitude that those engineers did. That if you can’t buy the replacement, you’re stuck until you can. But so many times, I used to call a file a portable milling machine for instance because you can do with a file, a hand file, anything that a milling machine does. It just takes a lot of man hours and sweat and toil to do it and you may not do it quite as precisely, but you can do it if you’re persistent. And I learned that in my years of going to sea. But I think so many people are now dependent on commercial equipment that they don’t know about these techniques. And they think, they do think that you have to wait until you can get a spare part to do anything. Now several times I’ve tried to repair something that I couldn’t repair despite my best efforts, but at least I gave it my best effort. So at any rate, that story was kind of interesting I thought. All those engineers were a little bit shocked that I was able to get back into operation. Well on almost all of their equipment they had a logo of some kind, you know. Lightning bolts flashing and all kinds of things like this as logos. And so I was going out on the next trip and so I had, I made a logo to put on my gravity meter and I had my wife draw a picture of an explosion blowing water up in the air and a gravity pendulum swinging. There were four little pictures on a sort of a shield in the center and then around the outside like all of them had something about their company on it. I put a Latin inscription “nihil ultima terra scientia” which of course means “nothing is greater than earth science.” And all the way on the next cruise I put that on the gravity meter, and everybody that came through the area saw this. And nobody commented on it through the whole cruise. And anyhow at the end of the cruise there were a group of these engineers down there at the time and I said have any of you tried to use our Latin thing to put the letters down together. It spells N U T S. [Laughter] Which obviously was my thought about their logos. [Laughter]
Did they catch the joke?
They got the drift then. But nobody said anything, they just turned around, walked away.
I had to struggle to get a good Latin word, sentence there.
It did seem to fit fairly well though.
Well so much for those. We did several more trips on the Compass Island and then they got their own gravity meter. And they put, they had a man that had come with us that we’d trained how to make observations. And how you calibrated a gravity meter and all that know how. And they took, got their own gravity meter and put it on the platform. And we weren’t really interested in, very interested in going any farther with it on their ship. But I was interested in getting our own stabilized platform to put on the Vema. And so we did get the remnants of somebody’s stable platform for a gun director. And we got that in hand and then I got a gyro sensor. It was about, oh I guess, fifteen inches in diameter and about fifteen inches tall that had a pair of gyros in it to get the two coordinates of motions. The rotary motions fore and aft and so forth. And we synchronized the motion of — that platform was stabilized — that little center was stabilized which is the information to put to another kind of gun platform and we synchronized it to the gun platform we had and adapted the platform so we could put our gravity meter on it. And we got going on the Vema with it, gyro stabilized platform. The interesting part of this whole story I think is that we made the first measurements on the Compass Island in 1957 and published them in the report of the IGY in the February of 1958. And what’s his name down in Austin, Texas?
Tell me which person.
The gravity guy that builds all the underwater gravity meters for the petroleum industry. Oh, I’ll think of his name.
We’ll make sure that gets in.
Well anyhow, he made some attempts to make gravity measurements with a surface meter in about February of 1958. And he used a something similar to a Cardanic suspension apparatus. And he had all the same kind of problems that people that do that, like we did, have. And in about three years later, he decided he had to go a stabilized platform, gyro stabilized platform. LaCoste, that’s who I was trying.
Yes, yes, LaCoste.
Gene LaCoste, not Gene, but Lucien, Lucien LaCoste. And a few years after that, the Society of Exploration and Geophysicists gave him an [?] for inventing gravity measurements on a stabilized platform on a surface ship.
I can imagine how that left you feeling.
I never said anything, never did anything about it. Cause what can you do? If you complain and so forth, you’re just a complainer.
Why do you suppose though that your contributions in that case hadn’t been recognized or understood?
Well I think basically because nobody it to the petroleum industry. If the petroleum industry had sought it out and so forth, they would have. And partly down the line Eskania bought the patents or the rights for it from Graf and they started bringing it out. Theirs was about a hundred thousand dollars for a meter. Same one that I had bought from, basically the same one I had bought from him for ten thousand dollars. And but anyhow, they were asking a lot of money for it, and they made no particular efforts in the petroleum industry. And LaCoste sued them when they did try to come and sell it to the petroleum industry belatedly after he was already selling a lot to them. He sued them that they were infringing one of his patents. Well they weren’t infringing any patent when they talked to me about it, the Eskania Company, I said you guys got to be crazy to let him get away with this. I said what you’re doing with the gravity meter is you’re using a highly overdam system. This isn’t, such systems are described in physics texts back in around nineteen hundred. You don’t have to roll over and play dead to LaCoste. And so on. Well their lawyers advised them, or somehow or other, they decided they wouldn’t argue with LaCoste and they’d just drop out and not try to sell it. And so they never got known in the petroleum business at all as gravity meters. Although most of the people in the petroleum business must have known we were measuring gravity on the Vema and I published a number of papers on the work on the Compass Island and so forth — my students and I.
Of course the Industrial Associates was developing, and the contacts were there one would assume.
They knew that it was going on. I guess perhaps, my analysis of it is that the people who decided that they should give a medal for this were not people aware of what was going on at Lamont. A lot of people in the oil business weren’t. And so, my guess is the people who decided that or nominated the prize winner or something just weren’t knowledgeable and they did what they thought was right. Well, I didn’t figure that everybody’d think I was egotistical to say no, no I did it if I got up and protested hardly, and otherwise they would say of he’s just trying to be a spoilsport or something. So I said forget it. I got my work to do; let’s get on with it.
Did you talk to Ewing about it or did he raise the issue?
Was he aware of this?
He was aware of it but he didn’t say anything.
What kind of contacts were emerging that seemed new to you in the 1960s between industry and Lamont, the petroleum industry? Did things change?
Particularly by the Industrial Associates?
Yes. And that was interesting. The concept of the Industrial Associates happened in my house.
I’d like to hear about that.
I had a cocktail party there one evening, and I had a lawyer from Texaco who just happened to live in the area and I knew him and we’d been associated in the swimming pool locally and so forth. I had him over and a bunch of people from Lamont and I think that was it that time. And during the course of the evening’s conversation I was talking to him and he said, how are you guys doing with the petroleum industry? And I said, well, we don’t do very much. They use our information a lot but they don’t do anything to help us. That by and large we get all our money from the government. He said, well why don’t you go ask them for some money. And I said well how do you go after them? You try to get a project from them. He said no, why don’t you start an what you call Industrial Associates. People in industry that are interested in the kind of work you do to essentially be sort of an advisory committee about how your work can be useful to the industry and how things to influence you to do some things that would be more useful than the way you would do them if you didn’t know. And I said, well, that sounds like a good idea. He said, and charge them, charge them well for the chance. And I said, well, what do you mean, like what do you mean by well. And he said, well charge them fifty thousand dollars a year to join. I said that sounds great. And so I talked to Ewing about it the next day.
When was this meeting roughly, what year?
It would have been — well you can find out when the Industrial Associates was started. It would be about a year before that.
That’s the only way I know to.
Sure. That’s fine.
I think it’s like ‘65 or so.
It sounds about right, ‘65, ‘66.
That’s my recollection. But anyhow I talked to Doe about it, and we had two good friends in the petroleum business. One was Creighton Burke who was working for Mobil at the time, He was their top geologist I guess from the New York office. But he didn’t work in New York, he worked in Princeton. But he was ostensibly in the New York office. And, oh what’s his name? He was on my board of directors at PGI for a while. Hollis Hedberg.
From Gulf at that time. Well he was only from Gulf. Gulf still existed until Hollis died. But anyhow they were good friends and so Doc and I talked to them, and said we think we’d like to start some Industrial Associates and have some advice from them that would influence our directions of research. And we’d get some support from them, and they’re getting a lot of support from us. From they’re all the time coming here and looking at our data for this or that or the other thing. And they said well we think it would work. And so they went off and talked to their companies and so forth, and pretty soon, I think Hollis Hedberg was the first one to say Gulf will join up and will pay you fifty thousand a year for being an Industrial Associate. And it wasn’t very much longer than that before Creighton came in and said Mobil would. Well once they came in, pretty soon Exxon was in and Texaco was in and so forth and so on. And the first meeting that we got the group together there was a photograph and I may still have a copy although I don’t know where it is.
It would be interesting to see.
But the first meeting we had, we had ten members that were paying this fifty thousand a year.
Representing ten separate companies.
Representing ten separate companies.
How was it set up? What was expected on, clearly the support was expected, but what, how was it defined?
It was initially that they would come and meet with us once a year. And we would make a presentation for a day of the work that was going on, and then we would open for discussion that they could urge us to move our research in certain ways. [break in tape]
We are resuming after a quick lunch break.
Okay, the way we set up the Industrial Associates initially was that we would have — one of the complaints we had with the dealing with the petroleum industry was that they would come and spend a day with us and one of our people would have to essentially spend all day with them because they would want this record or that record. And they wouldn’t know how to find it. So one of our guys would have to go find it. And this was one of the arguments we used for them about why they should give us fifty thousand dollars.
So they could see —
So they wouldn’t feel that they were oppressing us by asking things and that they were, in other words, we had a way to provide it. And so we paid one staff member as our Industrial Associates representative. And we asked the Industrial Associates only to ask for things through him. Now he could go if he wanted to get something from me, he could come and get it from me with very little disturbance in my life and career and so forth. But if somebody from the outside came, it would be a big disturbance at the least and usually you’d get into socialization and so forth and so on. So by doing it through an internal staff member, it could be done very quietly and with little disturbance to our programs.
Was this a new hire or was this someone already at Lamont?
Well we took one of the people that was with us and we put him in it initially and then very soon we hired somebody else. He was actually one of our graduate students that just graduated that we put in that position.
Who was this that?
If it doesn’t come quickly to mind, we’ll put on tape later.
No, I’m afraid I can’t tell you.
That’s no problem. But it was a Ph.D. who had just —?
Yes, it was one of our Ph.D.s. And we used it as another way to keep another Ph.D. around and he could do some research himself. He had the responsibility of making copies of anything that people from the industry wanted. Finding the things that people from industry wanted. Taking care of them when they came to Lamont and wanted to look at things and so on. And so it eased up our problems a good deal. We were having a lot of soul searching. The government was paying all our wages and we were spending all this time helping industry. And it was interrupting our work too, so we weren’t really doing the work that we were being paid for. And it was getting to be, you know, we’d have two or three guys a week come by and disturb, well sometimes different departments, sometimes. Well, usually you know one or two departments got the brunt of it. Because it was always those two that were interesting at that time.
Right. And those were I can imagine.
Usually the seismic reflection work and the magnetic work. Sometimes the gravity work. But more often the seismic and the magnetics. And you’ll learn that from John particularly I think cause he was the seismic.
Right. John Ewing we’re talking of there in that he bore the brunt initially of many of these industry requests. How well did Industrial Associates then work in practice? Did it indeed continue in the way that you had hoped?
Well it continued and prospered. It did help us a lot. It did help them a lot. They got less worrisome about bothering us because they were paying for the opportunity to bother us. So you know they felt they were paying their way.
And this was providing in the neighborhood of five hundred thousand a year in.
Fifty thousand a year.
Oh fifty thousand, that’s right, five thousand.
Fifty thousand a piece, but you had ten.
We had ten initially.
That’s what I meant as an aggregate.
And it soon grew, it soon grew up to about twenty. And sort of stabilized at twenty. And then when the merging of companies started we got into problems about what do you do because the merged company now wanted to pay only fifty. And that they had been paying a hundred before. Well, there really wasn’t anything you could do but say well they are one company, they pay one fee. And we couldn’t think of any way to justify it or argue that they should pay — this company should pay a double fee and that one that’s bigger didn’t. Maybe we should have set it up the fee is proportional to the capitalization of the company.
But I meant in total at least in the early years if you had ten companies at fifty thousand then you had an additional five hundred thousand per year in the Lamont budget.
Yes. And by the time we got twenty, we were getting about a million a year that we could — and there was nobody that could gain say us about how we spent it. We could spend it on staff, we could spend it on equipment, or the ship, or whatever.
Indeed. And this is one of the interesting, the important differences that the contract work was aimed at fulfilling particular research interests or contract specifications.
Right. So this was closer to the scientist’s dream of having a waste basket of money right beside his desk for anything he wanted. However, Ewing and I kept a pretty tight hold on that cash and didn’t spend it — made sure it wasn’t spent wastefully. And plan spent for anything that could’ve been done as contract work, government work.
Were there any new programs that were developed specifically from the Industrial Associates funding?
No. And I wouldn’t say there were. There were some skewing of some of the plans that we had according to interests they had. And usually it was to our benefit. Because some information they knew they would steer us in a direction that was a better direction than we were going because we just didn’t know that other information you see. If we’d known it, we would have probably done it as they did.
That’s interesting. To make sure I understand it, you’re saying that you were learning from the interactions with the petroleum companies in ways that you hadn’t prior to?
Yes. We would be discussing where our cruises were going and what our objectives were on the cruises, and they would say well now you know if you could go a little south of there you would run across such and such a feature that on shore that probably has something off shore of interest. And so we found lots of, we were steered to useful places by them, not only in their interest but in our interest. That would have been in our interest if we’d known enough.
That’s very interesting. Yes.
So it worked out very well. And none of them ever said that they felt at all short changed. That they felt they got their money’s worth.
When you mentioned that about steering, is there a particular incident or episode that you were thinking of?
No. I wasn’t thinking of anything specific. But we frequently changed the cruise directions on the advice of those people.
Did proprietary concerns come up in the way that Industrial Associates?
Only that, no I can’t say proprietary concerns came up. By and large the petroleum people would advise us on the private. Never in a public meeting, in an Industrial Associates meeting. They’d all never say hardly anything in an Industrial Associates so that the others didn’t learn anything from. But privately they would come around and visit with us and say, now on such and such you mentioned in the meeting today. Maybe if you went a little south of there you would so and so.
That’s interesting. Did any of the scientists at Lamont feel concerned about an Industrial Associates member having access to data that?
This was something not of issue.
No. That was never a concern of any. Because they weren’t publishing so that they wouldn’t publish our own data for us or anything like that. They mostly used it for internal consumption of their own company, and it never bothered anybody. And we had very fine associations with many of the people that were sent to us. Initially, really high level people came.
Who in particular? I was curious the people.
Well the president of Chevron for instance came to the first meeting. Hollis Hedberg who was the leading oil finder at Gulf came regularly. And Creighton came regularly of course. They were the two that essentially put us over the top. Got the rest.
Got it going.
The way it works with those oil companies, if one does something they all do it. Having gotten two of them in, the rest were bound to come in. And pretty soon we were having people knock at our door and say, could we join your Industrial Associates? Like the Italian oil company came in and said we would like to join Industrial Associates. We’d never even heard of them. We said sure, welcome. Here’s fifty thousand please.
And did their representative come to the Industrial Associates meetings?
Yes. They would come. They had representatives in the U.S. and they’d send somebody that was already in the U.S. They didn’t send anyone from Italy. And the French company came over and they joined. And British Petroleum. Of course that’s arguable whether that’s British or American any more, but at any rate.
Were they more distinct back at that time?
Yes, more distinct at that time. And it was a very, very fine association. I met a lot of nice people in the Industrial Associates and associated with them, and you know, they would come and spend a whole day. We would have a program that would take say eighty percent of the day. And it would be researches that we had been doing since the last meeting that they might be interested in. And we deliberately went around the Observatory and picked out the things we thought they’d be interested in. And occasionally we’d dump in one that we thought they might not be interested in, but they should have been. And frequently they became interested after having heard it.
I’d be glad to hear what you’re thinking of when you say that.
Uh. Well, I’m not thinking of anything in particular, but I do know it happened on several occasions that we put in a paper of some.
On an instrumental technique for instance or ?
No, on some data that we had gotten in an area that the oil companies had written off as useless and so forth. And found out something interesting from the geological point of view. And frequently that would stir a little interest with them. I can’t think of anything. I can think of things that happened like that when we were in Galveston, but that was because it’s closer. Eons.
It’s certainly more recent. That’s more recent in time. But that’s what I was curious about. You would point to say a geologic area and say, even though your own initial surveys.
Well we ordinarily knew where the ship was going pretty much a year in advance. And we’d have a proposed track of the ship. And they could look at it and think about it and if they thought something, that a little alteration of the track would be useful to them or useful to us, they would often mention it to us. And if they thought it was something that had nothing whatever to do with the petroleum business, they’d go up and do it in the Industrial Associates meeting. If they thought it was at all related to petroleum, they were careful not to mention it in an Industrial Associates meeting. They were all very cagey about anything they said in front of any of the others. Because they mined carefully all the information the opposition will drop.
Right. Were most of the representatives who came essentially Ph.D.s who had come through the ranks of petroleum geology or exploration geophysics?
Well most of them, very shortly after the first few meetings, meetings were all in the technical vein. Pretty soon the high brass just wasn’t interested. Then it became geophysicists come. And by and large, in the petroleum industry you don’t find anyone that has more advance work than a master’s degree. That’s about the limit. They think a master’s degree elevates them as much as they need to be elevated in the oil industry. And you very seldom find a Ph.D. But there were some Ph.D.s that came. All of them were technical people in the oil business.
I was curious if at that time you had contact with Morgan Davis?
I didn’t. Doc did.
Was he at all involved in Industrial Associates?
No, no. I think Doc did because Doc was a graduate of Rice and Morgan Davis was an alumnus of Rice that was trying to foster things at Rice. And I think that’s how come he got involved with Doc a lot. But I never got. I don’t even think I ever met him. I may have, but I don’t remember.
And those sorts of meetings would occur when Ewing was in Texas?
But it wasn’t Davis coming up to?
No, no. Davis to my knowledge never came to Lamont. It’s interesting when I got down to Texas, I started Industrial Associates there. And down there we were never able to get any ship support out of the government while I was in Texas. So I got my ship support from the oil industry. This isn’t very much apropos to what you want to talk about.
We charged them in Texas twenty thousand dollars to join. Because when we started our Industrial Associates we didn’t have much to show them. So you couldn’t argue. When we started Industrial Associates at Lamont, we had a big accumulation of data that they were interested in.
No. I’m very curious to hear how the two contrasted. How Industrial Associates when you were — when the group of you went to Galveston compared to that at Lamont.
Well, we couldn’t. When we went to Galveston, we anticipated that the government would send most of the contracts with us down to Galveston. And that didn’t happen. So we got to Galveston and we had nothing. No equipment, no ships, nothing but ourselves and our own libraries. And there wasn’t anything to peddle so to speak. So we did borrow the Texas A & M ship for a cruise and they were glad to have us use it. And we did get quite a lot of equipment which was used equipment from the oil business. They would call us up since we were nearby and say, we’re getting rid of such and such. Do you have any use for it? And frequently we’d say yes, yes we can use that. And so we picked up a lot of equipment that nobody would have had if we hadn’t been there. They would never have called Lamont and said would you have any use for this, for instance. Although probably Lamont would have had as much use for it as we would.
But it’s simply the geographic proximity that played the role?
Just because you’re there and you could perhaps send a truck the next day and pick up what it was. Or because you could come up the next day and look at it and see if it was something that you could use. And so for the convenience I guess a lot. Well at any rate, we got some data and some of it was interesting. And one of the times when we finally got Cecil [H.] Green to buy the Ida Green for us.
You were mentioning Cecil Green had, before we switched the tapes — had given you —
Yes. Cecil Green got convinced by Ewing some how to buy the ship Ida Green which was selling rather cheaply. And because we needed a ship to do something with.
What sort of ship was Ida Green? How did it compare say to the Vema?
Oh, it was much smaller than the Vema. It was about a hundred and twenty — no, about a hundred feet long. The Vema was two hundred feet and that means eight times the difference.
In volume. Yes.
And it was not able to go around the world and Vema would be and so forth. So you were more limited in what you could do and how far you could go. But we did cover the west coast of Central America, all the Caribbean, and the southern east coast as well as the Gulf of Mexico with the Ida Green.
With the Ida Green could you cover a track, say across the Atlantic or was that not practical?
No, it wasn’t practical with the Ida Green. We probably could have gotten it across the Atlantic, but we would have had to island hop. And it wouldn’t have necessarily been a very useful course.
That’s as equally important a point I think. Okay. We certainly are going to be talking a great deal about the transformation, the transition from Lamont to Galveston a little bit later on. I was curious here just to hear the comparisons on the Industrial Associates programs. And when you say that it expanded to twenty participants, was that later expansion more of the international, the petroleum firms in other countries or was it also a mix of the small?
Well it was a mix of the independent oil companies and smaller companies and international. You couldn’t say it went one way or the other particularly; it was just a thorough mix. And totally erratic. It didn’t make any sense. You couldn’t say because this international joined, that one did. Apparently they heard about it amongst themselves one time or another but not in a consistent way, just some casual remark, well some data we picked up at Lamont. And the ears would flap. And they might ask, well what do you mean data you got at Lamont? Well we are part of their Industrial Associates and so forth. So the next thing you know they’d be knocking at the door, we want to be one of your Industrial Associates. That kind of thing I think was what brought them in. In other words, word of mouth, and then rather casual statements at various times that various oil people met each other.
What I’m thinking of is whether — were all of the members part of privately owned oil companies or did any of the government controlled oil companies eventually come to join?
Government controlled joined.
Which ones? I’m curious if any of the, given the Cold War situation.
Well the Italian was a national company. And the French company was partially owned by the French government. I don’t know whether the British government owned much of British Petroleum, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t.
Yes. It’s interesting in the Italian case. Certainly that’s very clearly a governmental operation.
Yes. None of the ones in South America seemed to show up at our door. I don’t quite know why that was.
That’s in part what I was thinking about. Just how, what kind of geographic distribution did you get from participants.
Well principally they were international companies that were operating on an international basis. That’s fairly natural because we were going on all the oceans of the world. So we were impinging on all the nations of the world one way or another.
Before I turn to a number of other issues that we want to cover in the mid and the late 1960s, one matter that I don’t think we have spoken about much at all yet is, what in some ways comes to a head already by the mid-1960s, the controversy between Bruce Heezen and Maurice Ewing. I’m curious of your impressions of how that rift came about?
Well I guess I don’t know really how the rift started. But I can tell you what I do know about it I guess. And that was when they wrote about the Mid-Ocean Ridge and the rift valley in the middle of the top of the ridge, Bruce Heezen thought that that was strictly his own work and Doc thought that it was largely his work because he was the one who told Bruce to go look at the earthquake at the centers in the ocean. And that that would steer us to where the ridges were and so forth. So I suspect that that’s the place where they first had difficulty. The next place there was difficulty was when Bruce went to one of the international meetings. He presented a paper about the magnetics.
Was this the meeting in the Soviet Union by any chance?
So around 1966, if I recall.
Something like that, yes. And it came out in “Time Magazine” as it was research work that Bruce had done. And in fact it was research work that. Oh, what his name in the magnetics department had done?
Opdyke, Neil [D.] Opdyke. Really was work Neil Opdyke had done. And Doc called in Bruce and read him the riot act that you don’t steal other people’s work and so forth. And Bruce claimed that he didn’t steal other people’s work, that this graduate student had got short shrift from Opdyke and had discovered this and brought it to Bruce. Well, you know, you can’t find out where the truth lies in this kind of a situation at all. You can ask everybody, and everybody has a different opinion. Well that really caused the big trouble. And the next thing was we found Bruce was taking all of the sounding data away from the Observatory and taking it to his home. And the sounding data legally belonged to the government and that Lamont was the repository. And so Ewing intervened on that and said you can’t do this. And Bruce said, the hell I can’t, in effect.
Was the reason he was taking it out because Marie Tharp was working on it outside the laboratory or was it for another reason?
Well, we thought he was taking it because he was getting ready to get away from Lamont and have all the data for himself. In the first place that would short change Lamont. But it wasn’t legally his to do that. I got into the picture about that point because I was the one who mostly dealt with the government agencies. And I called Dean — I forget what his name was now — he was a physicist too. Like Dean Pegram but. I can’t think of his name.
I can almost think of it. It’ll come to one of us.
Well at any rate, I was going to Washington to see what we could do about getting the data from Bruce. And I was called in by the dean, whatever his name was now.
This wasn’t Polykarp Kusch was it?
Yes, it was Polykarp Kusch. By Kusch. And said we don’t want any trouble with the government, Columbia. Don’t bring them into the issue. And meanwhile Bruce had gone to the AA, what is it, American Association of University Professors, AAUP.
AAUP. And said that he was being manhandled improperly and so forth and so on. And they had made approaches to the administration in New York.
Just to be sure. Was Heezen already tenured at this point?
Okay. I’m sorry. Go ahead.
And Doc was taking the position that okay, he’s tenured. Columbia’s saddled with him, but Lamont isn’t. And he was going to kick him out of Lamont. Well Kusch didn’t want that to happen. And he said, no don’t do that. You can’t do that. We’ll be sued. So forth and so on. And I cautioned Doc at one point. He was just going to go over to Heezen’s office and tell him to pack up his things and leave And I cautioned to Doc that I suggested to talk to Professor Kusch first. Yes, Kusch, Polykarp Kusch. And tell him what you’re going to do before you do it so that it doesn’t come as a shock and surprise to him. And Kusch was the one who at that point cautioned him, don’t do that. You’ll get us all into trouble. And then apparently Bruce got wind of it and he went to the AAUP. And then it was all bad after that. They wouldn’t talk to each other. I didn’t talk to Bruce after. He would just fly into a rage anytime you tried to talk to him about the subject at all. And so I just gave up trying to even talk to him.
And how deeply did that divide the Lamont community? The entire controversy.
I don’t know. I was not kept in good contact with it at that point. I was just another Ewing as far as most of the staff was concerned. So they wouldn’t — I wasn’t being confided in by the other staff members. I think there were some people who thought there was some justice in Bruce’s position and there was some justice in Doc’s position. And I think they were probably pretty evenly divided between the staff. But that’s a guess.
Do you think it affected Lamont amongst other institutions?
Did it affect Lamont within the other communities?
Not overtly. I’m sure it was well understood what was going on in the other institutions. And I think they were chortling that we were having our troubles. Because, well for instance, Scripps one time talked about us as the publication factory at Lamont. How did we ever get so much published in so little time when they couldn’t seem to do it. And things of that nature. And so they were glad to see we were having our troubles. But basically we just ruled Bruce out of ever going on the ship again. He had been always a problem with us on the ship anyhow.
How was that?
Well he was senior enough that he always went out as chief scientist and he would use things on the ship until they were damaged or broken and then he’d just put them away and go on to the next thing. And the next chief scientist who came on board had a pile of junk on his hands. And he’d spend most of his cruise getting stuff back into working order again.
Bruce took care of nothing. And wasn’t concerned about the welfare of the ship or any of the people or anything. He just used it for his own purposes as hard as he could, and when he had any trouble with it he’d just discard it and go to something else.
If someone did that sort of thing, was there anything that Kohler or someone else as captain could do at the time?
No, not really. The science was strictly not his business. Except on occasion when we would have a leg that was principally a transit from one place to another. And there’s just routine things going on too. Sometimes you didn’t put a chief scientist on board and just had the people answer to Captain Kohler. But it was when things were very routine on board. When everything involved some science, then there was a scientist on board. And that happened very rarely. I would say it happened three times when I was there for instance. For one month at a time.
To be sure. You’re saying this was three times involving Heezen or three times where?
No, three times when Kohler would be acting chief scientist.
Would be acting chief scientist.
For a routine leg.
I suppose what I should ask then was this unique to Heezen, this kind of?
Most of the other people would spend enough time to keep the gear in operation and so forth. I was often sent out as a trouble shooter when two or three things would be in problems. And some things weren’t working. And I always tried to get everything working and have one back up system immediately available that could be thrown in if any troubles developed while I was on board. And others, as far as I can make out, as long as they had one operating system, they didn’t worry about it. But when that one operating system would break down, any part of it, they would work on getting it back up. And I would always work to have an extra one inside. So, but that’s — each chief scientist was different. But a lot of chief scientists, and I was one of them, would get out there and work just as hard as anybody else on the ship. In fact, on one cruise on the Ida Green we got down — no, it was on the other ship that we got from Mobil — but anyhow, we had an air gun man and he came around to me and he wanted a raise. And I said, I can’t give you a raise. You aren’t even doing your job. How can I talk about giving you a raise? He says, what do you mean I’m not doing my job? I said, you’re an air gun man. The air gun man is supposed to keep the air guns working, and if the air gun breaks down at midnight, he’s supposed to get up and get their gun back into function, at midnight. And it breaks down at noon, he’s supposed to do it at noon and so forth. And I said, you’re trying to work from eight to five on a ship and it doesn’t work like that. That isn’t what an air man gun do. He said, gosh darn it I work as hard as anybody on this ship except you, and nobody can work that hard. [Laughter]
How did that make you feel?
Well, I’ve often thought what a humorous statement. He jumped ship at the next port. He got even with me I guess. We had to pay his airfare to get him home. And this is required by the Foreign Service. Anybody jumps ship in a foreign port, you’re responsible to get him home.
And this is whether it’s a unionized or not?
It doesn’t matter who it is. The U.S. government will pay his way home and then they’ll send you the bill. They don’t necessarily treat them very well.
How did the whole Heezen controversy affect other people at the lab, like Marie Tharp?
Well, I don’t know. Marie Tharp really worked strictly for Heezen from long before this trouble developed. And so she and he were the only — her only contact. She never had any contact with anybody else. She worked in the office, in his office, and she kept her nose to the grindstone, never visited anyone, or never did anything with anybody else, never went to seminars, never was involved any other way.
That’s interesting. So that you really had no social or ?
She had no connection. Well occasionally when there was a party or something, she would appear at a party. That kind of socializing. But she never participated in any seminars or scientific discussions or showed any of her work or showed any interest in anybody else’s work or anything like that.
Were there others who you feel were particularly affected by the controversy?
I didn’t know it if there were.
How was the grievance eventually worked out at Lamont? I understand there was a grievance committee had been organized and that Manik Talwani was at one point involved in trying to work out an agreement between Ewing and Heezen.
Well, the way it worked out, I’m not sure had anything to do with the grievance committee. But the way it worked out is that we would not let Bruce on any of our ships any more, and we wouldn’t let him have any space anywhere. He had his office and that was it. And he had no association with any of the rest of us as far as we knew. Now he may have associated with some of the other staff members, but we didn’t know it. Bruce had by and large kept his own counsel long before this ever erupted. He was pretty much of a loner. And one of the things that caused the big trouble was that Ewing had taken a lot of cores in the Mediterranean on the concept that Santorini had been the Lost Continent of Atlantis kind of thing. Now there’s some Greek professor that had postulated that. And the cores Ewing had taken were placed in such places that would show where the debris from Santorini landed — was planned. And before Ewing got a chance to get to work on those cores, Bruce took them and wrote a paper on it and published the paper. And without saying a word to Ewing or anything.
And how long back was that?
This would have been just before the trouble erupted.
Okay. Early or mid-1960s.
Yes. So basically as far as Ewing was concerned, he just pirated some of his data and wrote a report on it. And, you know, well Bruce by and large was an unprincipled individual. One time — I’ll tell you a little incident that doesn’t have to do with the work at all, but — one time he was coming over from Tappan, New York, and he passed somebody and passed too close and clipped em. Did some damage. Well, instead of stopping and saying we had an accident and so forth and so on, he speeded up and came into the Lamont property. Well, I was just on the grounds right near Lamont Hall at the time he came speeding on to Lamont property. He went swooping around and down past my house and down by the seismograph hall, the old root cellar and left his car there, that’s the end of the road. But it was kind of a hidden place. Well right after he disappeared, another car came up the hill, and said, where did he go? Where did that car ahead of me go? I said, I don’t know where he went. I didn’t. All I know is he went on down. Well at any rate, the guy finally left, and Bruce came up at that time. And I said, look, Bruce, what happened? And he told me that he nicked them and he had run away. I said, well you realize that’s a hit and run accident. That’s not a good thing. If I were you, I’d go in and use the telephone and call the police, and say that apparently you touched somebody or something and you didn’t realize it until you got home and they’re reporting it. Which he did. And the guy called up shortly after, called the police and reported a hit and run accident. And the police said, how can it be a hit and run accident? The guy called up and told us all about the accident. So saved his bacon. He might not have been caught, but in a sense I was aiding and abetting him without realizing it. But you know he was one of ours and the other was somebody else. But Bruce never thanked me for my help or anything, or never went to see the guy and said I’m sorry, I did something wrong. Or I’ll pay your damage or anything. He just left it at that. He got away with something. Well that’s the kind of unprincipled guy he was I think.
So there really wasn’t any sudden development or particular development as much as a graduate evolution that came to a head when the priority issues happened?
Well, once it started as small incidents and grew bigger and bigger incidents until it got to be the point where you couldn’t ignore it. And of course Bruce rationalized it to everybody he saw, and some of the people believed him. So that divided the staff somewhat.
How did it? It ended with Heezen being allowed to stay in his office.
Well, we couldn’t do anything about because the administration said we couldn’t kick him off the campus. And he maintained his position in the department and so forth. We couldn’t do anything about that.
Within the geology department.
Yes. But essentially he was ostracized on the campus. That he had nothing. Nobody, as far as I know, nobody had anything to do with him and he had nothing to do with anybody and he didn’t participate in any of the work going on any more.
You mean he wouldn’t show up for any of the seminars or symposia or ?
No. And we told the core lab that they were not to let him have access to the cores that we’d taken and so forth. And so, as much as was possible he was ostracized to his own rooms and Marie Tharp. It’s a shame because he was a good scientific worker in a lot of respects. He had a lot of good ideas. And he was pretty prolific about writing reports, but he wasn’t very careful about using his data. And you’ve got to be pretty scrupulous about that if you’re going to work with others I think.
Ewing was fairly, was very scrupulous in terms of that as well as an issue for others within Lamont wasn’t he?
Yes. Yes. Now there were a lot of people who claimed that Ewing got his name on papers that he didn’t contribute to. I don’t think that that’s true. I think that the people who say that never realized the contribution he made. Because frequently they would pick up some data from the ship, but they don’t know that the ship went to that place because Ewing sent it there. And he had a particular project in mind that sent it there. And he wasn’t very communicative about how he was planning things to the rest of the staff. And part of the later troubles that Ewing had was his wife, Harriet [Bassett, later Ewing]. She became his secretary and she prevented a lot of people from ever getting in to see him after that.
That was the early 1960s when she became his, very early?
I thought it was the middle sixties.
When she became secretary. He was still married to his second wife at that time.
Yes. But his second wife had left before he married Harriet. But I suspect they had an affair. I have no idea. That is he and Harriet. And Harriet was married at the time.
But she got separated before they got married, of course. Or I didn’t mean separated, I meant divorced.
Divorced, right. When did — I think that’s an important development at Lamont. When did you begin to notice that there was less communication, less possibilities for people to meet with Ewing?
I was the only one who could go up there at any time and get to see Doc. And people started complaining to me that they would go in, and Harriet would say, well, he’s too busy or he’s on the phone, or something, and you can’t go in now. I was the only one she didn’t have nerve enough to tell me that I couldn’t get to see Doc.
What sort of person was Harriet?
Well, she’s one of these people who could be extremely nice to you or could be extremely unpleasant, depending on the situation at the moment. If she were trying to be nice to you, she could be as nice as could be. And if she wasn’t trying to be nice to you or if she was trying to protect Doc. She thought she was protecting Doc. But I don’t think he viewed it as that, but he didn’t intervene.
Why do you think he didn’t?
Well, I don’t know. A guess would be internal strife in his own family. I think it’s a bad deal to have any sexual relations with any of your, with your secretary who is your wife. It’s just bound to cause troubles. And I made it a principle of my life never to have anything to do with anybody that I worked with or anything in any intimate way. You know, good friends and all that, but nothing more.
Ewing then was aware of what was changing? That his contacts with others was.
Well, he was getting busier and busier all the time. He was on more and more committees. He had more problems of the Observatory. He was trying to raise money. And he was busy and busier and he knew that he was too generous with his time and he knew that she was trying to protect him. And he was aware that there’s a problem there, but he didn’t intervene. Now why he didn’t intervene is anybody’s guess I guess.
Maybe he felt that this was inevitable with all his chores.
I was just going to ask. Realizing how difficult this sort of thing can be, did you try directly to tell him your impression that this had become a problem?
No. No. I felt it was not my business as long as I could get to see him. I often resented very much when I got to see him that the phone rang, he’d get onto the phone and sometime his conversation would last twenty minutes and I just sat there for twenty minutes. Well I often resented that the guy on the phone took precedence over me. But he never, he never once ever said, well I’m busy now, can I call you back? Or can you call at ten-thirty or something? You know, he might well have done that I suppose. I’ve done that on occasion. But he never did. He would always deal with the phone call, no matter how important or unimportant it was, first. I’m sure other people that were visiting with him or working on papers with him or something resented that loss of time too.
And he did this consistently?
Yes. This was a consistent pattern of his life.
Was there a change that came around that time just in the amount of energy he could put in? There are physiological limits that affect people, even when they’ve been terrifically productive for sixteen, eighteen hours a day.
I wasn’t aware of it. He never changed his hours as long as he lived. He always worked every night. He practically took no time for family. And it did a lot of harm to his family, I’m sure. And I don’t know maybe he resented about how much time I took with my family. Because I made it a point to take the time with the family. Here was an interesting story. I one time went to a meeting at IBM with him. And we didn’t know any of the people at IBM, and so at lunch we were eating lunch together. And I said, Doc, you’ve never taken a vacation. I find that they’re very useful to me and my family. He said, yes, I’ve admired you for the vacations you’ve taken. And I’ve envied you for them. And I said, well why don’t you take a vacation? You can do it just as well as anybody else can. He said, I went on vacation once and the first day I was restive all day and I couldn’t settle down because I wasn’t at the laboratory. And he said, by the second day I just couldn’t stand it and I had to call up the laboratory and find out what was happening. He said, by the third day I just went back. He said, I couldn’t stand it on vacation.
Interesting. I think Bill [William] Wertenbaker had put something of that story also in his book on Ewing.
Did you notice the big omission Wertenbaker made?
Which one are you thinking of?
He got about half the material of that book for interviewing me and he never even acknowledged me in the acknowledgements.
Yes. I’m afraid that was particularly evident.
I never complained about it or wrote to him or anything. I figured what good would it do after it’s published?
Had you ever seen him after the articles, the New Yorker articles?
At that point, did you see much of Ewing outside the office? Would you see him at home?
Once in a while. Maybe once a month there would be a party somewhere and we’d be at the same party. Or he would invite me, or we’d be going somewhere and he’d say come up and I’ll drive. And I’d come to his house and he wouldn’t be ready. He’d be eating his breakfast or something and he’d say, sit down and have a cup of coffee with me and we’ll talk while I eat my breakfast and so on. That kind of thing. All his life he was like that. But it was always pretty much business. Now after we moved to Galveston, he lived across — directly across the street from me in Galveston. It was strictly an accident. Neither of us planned it that way, but that’s the way it worked. And he had just bought a new house and he was about to move when he died. So he would have moved away from there. But as long as he lived across the street, every once in a while he’d say to me come on over and have a drink after you get home. Or I’d say to him come over and have a drink. And we would, you know, have a couple of drinks and chat a little. Mostly about business.
How well did you come to know Ewing’s second wife, before Ewing married her?
Well I know her very well. He got married. Well, she worked at Woods Hole for a year or two before she married Doc. And then she, of course, she was up there all the rest of the time we were there after they were married. And then she was his secretary when he moved to Columbia and New York. And when I moved to Columbia as a graduate student — well before that, while we were writing the reports on the SOFAR work and that kind of thing, I went to New York a couple of times and they put me up for the night and fed me while he and I worked on the paper we were working on. And then all the time we were at Columbia, she was his secretary and I was a graduate student. And when we moved to Lamont, I was a colleague and she quit working when she moved to Lamont. And strictly became a housewife. And you know we met. They lived up one side of the campus; we lived the other. We’d meet from time to time and so forth. And we had various parties, Lamont parties. Groups of us would get together once in a while. Probably like once a month somebody’d have a party and invite everybody on the bill there. And so to that extent I knew her for twenty years I guess.
What sort of person was she?
She was from a very wealthy family. And she was kind of, well it’s hard to describe. Most of the time she was a down to earth, ordinary kind of person. But every once in a while, it was as if she were in a totally other world and didn’t know anybody was around her and so on. And then after we were at Lamont for quite a while, she started to drink pretty heavily. And she had several episodes of drunkenness that were embarrassing I’m sure to Ewing. And I tried to overlook any of them that I observed and not pay any attention. Figured it was none of my business. But I don’t know whether she suspected that he was having side interests at the time or that that caused her to drink. Or whether she caused the drink made him to have side interests. But right about the time she started having drinking events, he got involved with Harriet.
How early was that involvement? Was that prior to the 1960s?
No that was in about the middle or little past the middle of sixties I’d say.
How big a role did she play in the Lamont, the community at Lamont given that — as we were talking once off tape on the role that the wives played in Lamont. Given that people did live, the scientists who were on campus, did live relatively close to one another. Was she part of that group in the way that your wife was and Frank Press’s wife was?
No. No. Because she worked. And the other women stayed at home with their children and so forth.
Maybe I misunderstood. I thought she had become a housewife you said when she came to Lamont?
You’re talking about the second wife or?
I’m trying to think.
I thought we were talking about Harriet.
Not Harriet. I’m sorry. And I’m not recalling her name and I should.
Midge, yes. Thank you. I was curious what role she played.
Well she pretty much stayed to herself up at the director’s house which is fairly separated from the other houses. And the other ladies went back and forth and saw each other at least when they were getting in and out of their cars and so on. But nobody hardly saw her, except when there was a formal party of some kind, and everybody was asked. So she didn’t play any much of a part with the other ladies. And she had been a working lady for the early years when she was at Lamont. That disagrees with what I said earlier, doesn’t it? But she had been a working wife for a long time. And so the other women had done a lot of socializing in the day time that we weren’t knowledgeable about. And she never got into any of that as far as I know.
Did she have much contact with the broader community of Palisades? It’s clear that there was the Lamont community and then the broader social contacts. I’m just wondering if you had any or recall any discussions.
I don’t know that she did. I don’t know any she did. That may have been the downfall. One time, of course when Ewing got washed overboard, he had a limp ever after that. And he had a time when he was, should have rested more than he did. And one of those times, Frank Press and I were working on a paper with Doc. And we had just quit and were going home when Midge stormed into Lamont Hall and read the riot act to Frank and I keeping Doc working. And we had been both trying to get Doc to quit for a couple hours and we finally had got him to quit. And he didn’t come up forward and said, hey, it’s my fault, not theirs. Give me the hell or something. He just let it be. And we just, well what can you say? We just accepted whatever she said.
That put you in an awkward position.
It put us in an awkward position. She, you know, she kept saying, well you know he was physically troubled. And you’re keeping him from his rest and all this sort of thing. Well it was the other way around. We weren’t keeping him. We’d been trying to get him to quit for some time.
Yes. As you say, it’s also difficult in the role that you were in at that time to be able to voice a different point of view or to say something.
Well all you could cause, you know. It’s like getting in a squirting match with a skunk. Nobody’s going to win. [Laughter.]
This might be a good time for us to just move back a little bit more to the work of Lamont, particularly. It was right around ‘67 that the deep ocean drilling work.
Yes. We formed an oceanographic — I say we — the oceanographic community. Well not even that’s right Scripps and Woods Hole and Lamont and Miami got together and said we ought to have some drilling. Now previous to that there had been the Mohole project.
Which had got started through Congress and it started to escalate in cost. It got some of those Texas companies that knew only how to escalate costs, the oil companies. And they were start escalating costs to the government, and finally the government canceled it out. Well Ewing through all that had taken the position that drilling a Mohole was a crazy thing to do.
Why did he feel that way?
Because he felt that the most information would be found from drilling the sedimentary column. And that you wouldn’t learn very much by drilling one hole into the Mohole. And yet it would take you as much. You could drill two or three hundred holes through the sediment while you could only drill one to Mohole. And you were likely only to get the one to Mohole. And there was all kinds of sedimentary things that ought to be drilled. So at any rate, when the Mohole collapsed, the four institutions got together and formed a group, and decided that we would attempt to get some drilling in the sedimentary column. Now Scripps had been a prime mover in the Mohole kind of operation, and they were a little bit reluctant to scale down to sediment. But I guess they were taking the position that a roll is better than no loaf of bread at all. So they joined up with us. And we all got together to try to drill. Well, if you’re going to drill, it takes big bucks. And it didn’t look like the government was going to come up with big bucks. And we finally got a grant from the National Science Foundation for a small amount of money on the basis that one of the drilling companies was moving a drilling rig from the west coast up to Nova Scotia. And so they were coming by the Florida area and they could stop and drill a Florida area and the oil companies would pay the transit cost and we’d only have to pay for the time when the drill stopped to do our drilling.
Off the Florida coast.
How much would that cost roughly? Do you remember? What the difference between the?
Between the Mohole and that?
Well, Mohole they were at that time talking about twenty million dollars and this was something like fifty thousand dollars.
That much of a difference?
Yes. So at any rate, we did do this and got the Caldrill to drill some holes in the — and at the time, Lamont was named as the principal operating agent of the drilling group. And I was named as the chief scientist of the Caldrill. Now I never, I did go aboard the Caldrill once. But it was a largely a non-active post, shall we say.
What did it involve?
Hardly anything. A name, mostly. But Sam [Robert D.] Gerard got very interested in the drilling operation and he went on board and he did most of the things that I would have normally thought a chief scientist would do. The way the chief scientist got involved in all this didn’t at all mirror anything like what would happen on our ships. That the chief scientist went out and directed the work that was going on at that time. This chief scientist was presumably doing scientific things that brought things together but somebody else went out on the ship. And that’s always the way it’s been with the deep sea drilling project. So I was the chief scientist. And I did go down once and go out to the Caldrill when they were drilling one of the holes. And they did a good job. They didn’t drill very deep. They drilled, I don’t know, a thousand feet or something like that in about four locations on the Blake Plateau and on the shelf up by Jacksonville. When they were drilling, I went out on the ship for a day when they were drilling at about the twenty fathom curve off of Jacksonville. And they had drilled into an aquifer and we had fresh water coming out of the pipe about ten feet above the drill deck which is about twenty feet above the water. So we had a thirty foot head of fresh water coming out of the pipe. I held a cup under it and drank some water. Came up through the drill pipe. [Laughter]
How did it taste?
It tasted, it was perfectly good, fresh water. I thought that would be a great boon to Florida. That they would seize hold of that and —
They never paid any attention to it at all as far as I can tell.
And how far off the coast was?
This was at the twenty fathom curve and about forty miles off the coast. So this meant they had an aquifer all the way back under the shore and they could draw from that aquifer and bring the — salt water was farther our somewhere. Maybe all the way out at the edge of the Blake Plateau. And that meant they had a hell of a lot of fresh water they could tap. And they didn’t seem to ever pay any attention to it.
How did you? Did you publish on that or did you try to call it?
Yes. Yes. That was published.
Do you recall that — this is taking a sideline — but that publication? Was that sent down? Did you deliberately try to get that called to the attention of officials in Florida?
It was put into the literature.
It was in the literature and I’m sure there were any geologists in Florida that read the literature. There must have been Florida geologists in the geological survey of Florida that —
For instance, yes. Who could have picked up.
I would have thought if anyone was interested they would have. Well at any rate, that was that only project. Later we changed the name of that outfit. We called it JOIDES [pronounced JOY-dees], JOIDES [Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling]. I always claimed that that name was picked because of the joyful days we spent in committee work.
I laugh. On one occasion I was on two committees in JOIDES, and on one occasion I flew, I got up at six o’clock in the morning, went out to Kennedy or LaGuardia Airport, flew to Los Angeles, got to Los Angeles twelve o’clock their time, participated in a JOIDES meeting, and got an airplane back about six o’clock, their time, arrived back into New York about ten o’clock, got home to Lamont about midnight. I did that three times in one week.
In one week? [Laughter.]
Because I was on two committees.
And the other committee was meeting locally in the east.
The alternative was to go waste a whole day out in Los Angeles with nothing particularly to do and I didn’t have any work I could just take with me. So it didn’t make any sense to do that. So I guess I could have taken a holiday and gone up to Sequoia National Park or something. But at that time, I was busy, had a lot of work to do. So I needed to get back to Lamont and work.
Well that only happened one time, but it was memorable.
I’m sure that it was — how did that help to, did it significantly change the kind of participation among the participants in JOIDES? Say the contacts between Lamont and Scripps or [cross talk].
Well I think a much more cooperative spirit developed once the JOIDES operation started. And there was a little bit more cooperation that started. And a little more one upmanship to see if you could set somebody else responsible for any problems. But when the JOIDES got started and NSF started to get some real money into the drilling project, it was Lamont’s turn to be the chairman of the executive committee. The executive committee was made up of the directors of each of the institutions. And that was the year that Ewing went on his sabbatical. That would be ‘64-‘65. And I became the chairman of the executive committee in that period. And the drill — we got together and formed a planning committee which was supposed to be the main committee of the JOIDES group in that they were the ones that were supposed to pick the targets that were going to be drilled and justify those targets scientifically to the world. And enough to satisfy NSF too, I might add.
Who was the program person at NSF who was principally responsible for the JOIDES? [Pause] Was it one person that you would deal with particularly at NSF?
Yes there was one person at NSF and I can’t remember his name.
Don’t worry about it.
I hated his guts, soon afterwards. No that was the second guy that I hated his guts at NSF. Because he really screwed me. On the second trip up, on the tenth leg of the JOIDES operation, I went out as the co-chief scientist will Bill [William] Bryant from Texas A&M. And Bill was ill most of the time on that cruise and did almost nothing. So I was de facto chief scientist. And I made it a point to always be on deck when the drill — the latest pipe full of sediment came on deck. I couldn’t do much with it. The paleontologists and sedimentologists and people like that did most of the things. But I made it a point to be on deck. And in those days the chief scientist had to make a decision of what to do next. Because we couldn’t, at that time, couldn’t justify continuous coring. It was too slow and too expensive. And so the chief scientist had to make up his mind about what stuff to put into the hole. Whether you’re going to drill some more or you’re going to drill some core or what made.
What kind of instrument to put down in terms of what to get.
What tool to put on the drill rig for the next time had to be raised right then. And frequently we could take enough time that they could take a sample from the end of the core and down in and the paleontologist could identify some of the forams and could tell you the age that was in the front at the level you were coring at the time. And so you could make a kind of an educated guess about whether you should core some more or whether you should drill a while, then core.
Those were the two choices?
Those were essentially the choices. Now if you chose to drill a while, then you had some time for various studies to be made on various parts of the core and you could make a judgment that after you drilled fifty feet, you better take another core or we better drill three hundred feet before we core again. So you had more time once you committed yourself for the next little bit.
What sort of things helped you make those choices?
Mostly the age of the formation that you were in. Nowadays, they continuously core all the time. Now when I say continuously core, they don’t recover a hundred percent of core any time they take cores. They probably recover sixty to seventy percent of the cores. But we, at the time, we were, at the time we started all this drilling we thought there was a fairly continuous sedimentation in any place. That sometimes some of the top was removed and you were starting part way down the column, the geologic column, but that it was fairly continuous from there. And it was sort of a guess as to whether the formation would be a thousand feet thick or a hundred feet thick or what have you. Or maybe we had some geophysical data that showed us a reflection at some depths. And we would judge that that was a cretaceous reflection. And so we maybe if we cored halfway down, we might get into the Eocene or something like that you see. So those are the kinds of judgments that the chief scientist had to make.
And did it soon become — did the early evidence persuade you that that expectation wasn’t in fact what you were going to encounter?
Yes. Shortly after Leg 10 they agreed that — the community agreed that there was just as many missing layers in the ocean as there were on land. And that we’d better do continuous coring since we couldn’t make any real judgment about what depths we would find what layers in.
I was curious just to go back to.
Please go on.
But to get back to why I hated that chief scientist is that we were going back into the Gulf of Mexico and on our number two hole we’d run into oil as you probably know. And that was a no-no in those days especially with federal government funding you weren’t supposed to run into oil. You might make an oil spill in the middle of the ocean and you couldn’t do anything much about it. And but at anyhow, at any rate, on the second leg in the Gulf of Mexico which was Leg 10 that I was on we knew that there was sediment of about ten thousand feet in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. And I was prepared to argue and do as much persuading as I could to the staff that we might spend all of our time drilling one hole and go as deep as we could and sample these sediments. Well, this chief scientist from — or the chief guy, honcho from the NSF came down to the ship. This was the day we were sailing. And he dropped a bomb shell on us saying a thousand feet’s the maximum depth you can drill anyway.
Why? What motivated?
Because they were afraid they’d run into oil.
That was the major?
And I started arguing with him. And I think I could’ve made some progress with him, but it got to be twelve o’clock about the time this erupted and we were sailing at one o’clock. And he said, oh, I got to check out of my hotel room or I’ll be charged for an extra day. And I’ll go check out and I’ll come back. Well of course I never saw him again. So I had to sail and I was stuck with the one thousand foot depth drilling which didn’t please me at all.
I’m sure. And indeed that was the limit that was?
That was the limit that we had for that whole leg.
Was that changed in subsequent?
It was changed subsequently, yes. They later formed a committee to make sure they wouldn’t find any oil. And if that committee thought there was any chance of finding oil, then they would be restricted in depth. But if they, that committee thought there was no chance for finding oil.
Right. Then as you say I’d like twenty you still had oil nevertheless.
Well, they found oil a number of occasions after they had the no oil committee too. They never publicized it.
What happened in those instances? Was it possible to cap it off or did that, was that effectively —?
No. The way they were drilling then, I think it’s still the same way, is backwards from the way the oil company drills. See the oil companies drill and put liquid down in the center of the drill string and it comes up around the hole and they collect it when it comes out of the hole. Well in this case, it spills out on the ocean bottom when it comes up, and so they have no control of what comes out of the hole. And so they really have no way of doing anything until they built the re-entry operation. And then they could have done something about it maybe. Now if oil was coming out like a gusher, they probably couldn’t have done anything in a re-entry.
And re-entry operation meaning coming back to the same hole?
Coming back and re-entering the same hole after you have taken the drill string out of it.
When was that put into effect? When was that?
That would be about late twenties, somewhere in that vicinity.
Late 1960s or early seventies?
No, it would be well into the seventies. It would be after I was at Galveston.
Okay. That’s good to know.
Well Leg 10 was when I, just before I got to Galveston, no just as I got to Galveston. No, just before I got to Galveston.
How did participation in JOIDES affect Lamont in general?
Well it was a good thing for all of the institutions. And it’s been good for the science in my view at least. In the first place, it fostered a lot more cooperation between the institutions. The situation of trying to get money and trying to publish makes us competitors, and of course we’re all hard competitors and so that makes it hard to cooperate. Well when you have a project you have to cooperate or you don’t have anything, they cooperate. And in the course of cooperating, you find that this guy that you would otherwise never have associated with that belongs to Scripps or this guy that’s from Miami that you would never have otherwise met, isn’t really such a bad guy after all. And maybe you can work with him a little bit and so forth. And a lot of things like that. I think it was very good for institutions and for the scientists. And I notice in looking at the scientific publications and papers, general papers about science and so forth that I read, that that kind of cooperation is becoming more and more common in all kinds of projects.
It certainly has increased dramatically say in the last twenty, twenty-five years and particularly in the last ten. Who got particularly — you were deeply involved at Lamont in JOIDES of course, who else at Lamont?
Well, all, oh I’d say all the senior people. Chuck [Charles L.] Drake was pretty heavily involved. Of course Doc and I. There have been a lot of others, not involved in the management of it. In other words in the hierarchy of the JOIDES or anything, we were the only ones in the JOIDES, at least in my participation. I don’t know what happened after I left Lamont. But we, Doc and I, went out on the first leg. We had done, well before that, we better talk about some other things that happened before that.
Let’s do it.
We had had a cruise down into the Gulf of Mexico where we were going to do seismic refraction work with the Texas A&M group. And we got started on the work and something broke down on the Texas A&M ship and they had to go back to port for repairs. So we were going to wait for them. We had assigned a month for this work and we were going to wait for them. And it was going to take them a week or ten days to come back, to get the repairs and get back to us. So at that time was the time that Rusty [G.B.] Tirey and John Ewing had just developed the reflection equipment with the, using the same recorder that we used in the PDR. We would trip the recorder from the surface shot and record the reflection record on the record and we would shoot one of these shots like every minute, or every two minutes, some short interval like that. And so we set up that gear and we started around in the Gulf of Mexico. Well we discovered the Sigsbee Knolls. Are you acquainted with them?
I’m familiar in general with that. But we do want to get this.
We discovered the Sigsbee Knolls and surveyed around and we found that there wasn’t one, but that we’d run into ten or fifteen of them. So this was a fairly significant discovery. And we interpreted them as salt domes.
Because they looked just like the salt domes that had been found in the Gulf coast area. The Texas A&M finally got their ship repaired. We rejoined them and we went back and did some refraction work and the routine that we would normally have done until we had to leave. And that cruise went on, but because we found the domes on this, we decided the next cruise we had to go back there and survey and find out the complete extent of the domes because we had found about ten of them or fifteen of them, but we didn’t begin to know the extent of them. And so we went back with somewhat better gear, better equipment, and shooting again now at this time I’m sure — were shooting at one minute intervals. And we surveyed the area, and it was the area with included salt domes, included what we thought were salt domes, included about fifty structures and they looked like sort of lopsided bowling pins. It was fattest down towards the Campiche and then it slimmed down and then it bulged out to a bulb and that bulb sort of twisted around the corner of the Campiche Bank. And so it was a significant area of features what we called salt domes. Well anyhow, that was chosen to be the number one target of the first drilling project, that area. And so the Glomar Challenger was built. It took about two or three years, four years maybe to build the Glomar Challenger. It was ‘69 I think it was was when the first cruise of the Challenger occurred. And Doc and I were co-chief scientists on the Glomar Challenger for that first cruise. We always figured that we were chosen to be the first chief scientists in case anything went wrong, we could be blamed. [Laughter] If the others could get out blameless. But they never allowed what would happen if it went right, and it went right. But anyhow, be that as it may.
How much input did you have on designing a ship like the Glomar Challenger?
Nothing. Global Marine did all the design on it. Now Scripps was made the operating — well, before we get to that, we get to go back to the JOIDES structure a little bit. And in the earliest days of JOIDES, we were trying to whack out to a structure that would be used and somebody would have to be the operating arm of this. Well, we had a meeting, and at the time, I was the acting director at Lamont. And we at Lamont had been talking to four oil companies about starting a drilling project that the four oil companies would support. And it foundered on the proposition that the oil companies wanted no publication or results for two years after the data was obtained, and Columbia University would not accept that. We would’ve gladly accepted because it took us two years to get it out anyway. It didn’t make a particle of difference to us. We couldn’t have rushed something out.
And this wasn’t a problem for Scripps?
On a quicky or something like that. It was not a problem.
With any of the other institutions?
This had nothing to do with the others. We were negotiating with the oil companies about this at the same time that the Glomar Challenger was being set up. And we were negotiating in the JOIDES about who would be the operating organization and so forth. Well at the meeting where it was decided that we would decide who would be the operating company, Woods Hole got up initially and said, well, we defer. We think somebody else should be the operating with the idea that we would come in and say we would operate. And I shocked the hell out of Paul Fey [sp?] because at that time it looked like we were going to be operating a drill ship with four oil companies and I didn’t see how we could operate two drill ships and keep Conrad and Vema going too. So I got up and said, I guess we don’t, we wouldn’t be able to operate either. Well that shocked the hell out of Woods Hole, but they had already said their piece. They couldn’t really back down. And that left only Miami and Scripps. And obviously Miami wasn’t capable. So it ended up that Scripps got the operation of the first drilling operation. Woods Hole never knew that we had been negotiating to run another drilling operation at that time that we thought was going to come to fruition at the time. So I’m sure I got a lot of blame from the other institutions about that or at least from Woods Hole. They never really knew the story behind it you see.
But, at any rate, so Scripps got to be the operating agency. And what that meant is that they got the prime contract from NSF, and they would fund the committee meetings and the travel and the scientists’ salary when they were on the ship, and that kind of thing. From those funds. And the first leg was chosen. They were building the ship in Orange, Texas. So the first logical place to run the first cruise was obviously in the Gulf of Mexico. And we were the experts on the Gulf of Mexico. And we had just studied the Sigsbee Knolls and so we had just. I’m not even sure we had them published at that point, but they were about to be published if they weren’t. And so they gave, they put Doc in charge and Doc wanted me as his assistant chief scientist. And of course that meant that I did all the hard work and he was the [inaudible]. And if you notice, what’s his name, the Chinese fellow that wrote a book on the Glomar Challenger.
I know who you mean.
You know who I mean.
Yes. We can add that later.
Well anyway, he says in his book that there was only one chief scientist on the first ten or fifteen cruises and that they reorganized that to co-chief scientists. That isn’t true. There was co-chief scientists from day one. I was the co-chief scientist on Leg 1. Well anyway we went out from Orange, Texas on the Glomar Challenger on what they called their shake down cruise and drilled hole one. And they decided that they wanted to drill I don’t who know who they is. I guess it was the chief scientist at Scripps decided they wanted to drill beyond the Sigsbee Scarp.
Was this a unilateral decision or was that a consortium dependent on which?
Well, no. The trial hole was to be near Orange, Texas and something that might have some conceivable value to the scientific community. So they wanted to find the Sigsbee Scarp. And nobody knew where the Sigsbee Scarp was. That is they knew there was a Sigsbee Scarp, people had crossed it, but you know there are four crossings for a scarp that’s a thousand miles long. Where is it? Well they turned to me and said you know where the Sigsbee Scarp. And I said I don’t know where it is right at this location, but I’ll tell you what. If we head south, we’ll find the Sigsbee Scarp. And so we headed south and we did in fact find the Sigsbee Scarp. And before we got to the Scarp though, for some reason, I don’t quite know why now, they put a buoy over the side, anchored buoy. And we got into a storm situation and we got blown away from the buoy somehow. Or they took us away or something. But anyway, it was hard as hell to follow the buoy on the radar. Well the ship’s officers were looking at the radar. We had a fog situation around and they were watching the fog. And so they couldn’t just continually watch the radar.
So I made it a point to just go sniff out the radar and follow that buoy because I knew they would want to get back to it. And as I suspected very soon nobody had any idea where that buoy was except me. And after they sort of gave up, I said, well, the buoy’s over here on the screen. And they said, well, we don’t know what else to do. We might as well see if he knows what he’s talking about. And pretty soon I got them back to the buoy. Well then we got blown off from the buoy again. They said do it again. I couldn’t do it again. Meanwhile, the sea had gotten rougher and the return from the buoy got hidden in more mess and so forth, and I never could get them back to it. Well anyhow we left there and they said, all right now we want to go to Sigsbee Scarp. I said I don’t know where it is at this point. All I can say is let’s head south; we’ll run into it. And we ran south and it took us quite a lot longer than any of us thought it would until we crossed the Scarp. And then as soon as we crossed the Scarp we stopped and started to set up our drilling operation which had been developed on the west coast on some previous drilling for near the Mexican Islands. I forget the name of them now.
That’s fine. Again, that can be added later.
Yes. Anyway they had drilled a hole down by the Mexican Islands. And what they had done is put a beacon down on the bottom and then had three hydrophones on the ship. And actually four. One was redundant. And the three hydrophones would triangulate on the beacon on the bottom. And when you got equal times for the three hydrophones, the drill string was right over the hole. And this was not very deep water. We’re talking like a thousand fathoms or something, maybe eight hundred fathoms. And we had no trouble staying over it. It was all done manually and they drilled a hole and they got a hundred feet deep and so forth. And that satisfied them and so they pulled it all up and then said the ship’s acceptable. Well then all the crew, all the scientific crew converged on the ship. Meanwhile a message was sent to all the scientists that were signed for Leg One cruise to come down. We were sailing in three days or something like that after that. Which of course they used to revictual for the revictual. I guess they victual the first cruise. Set up all the stores and so forth that they needed on board. And we sailed out for the Sigsbee Knoll which was, a Challenger Knoll. Of course, it wasn’t Challenger Knoll when we sailed for it. We named it that after we drilled it. But it was the one that we had seen on our previous work that looked like it was, it stuck up about a hundred fathoms above the level of the floor of the Gulf, normal floor of the Gulf of Mexico in the area. So it was a considerable mound. And it looked like it was a salt dome. Well I have to go back a little in the story. On my way down to join the ship for the trial drilling, I had been waylayed by the people from Shell Oil Company. I shouldn’t name them actually. Maybe you better be, think hard before you put their name in. But they waylayed me and brought me into their inner sanctum which they claimed nobody that hadn’t been owned completely by Shell Oil Company had ever seen before. That I was the first outsider into their inner sanctum and showed me a lot of records and so forth.
And this is in Houston?
In Houston. And tried to convince me or at least they did a pretty good job of convincing me that these couldn’t be salt domes. In the first place, salt domes normally had a cap rock. Well cap rock on the theory of that day was formed by the percolation of ground water dissolving a lot of the salt and leaving the sulfur and the other stuff that was in the cap rock. Gypsum and so on that’s in the cap rock. That was the theory of that time. So it couldn’t be a salt dome because salt domes couldn’t form in such deep environment. Salt domes formed in a place like the Gulf Coast where the sediment layer overlaid a salt layer that impenetrated up.
The shallow regions. Yes.
Yes and so forth. But if it was a salt dome, it couldn’t have cap rock because cap rock was a product of solution of the ground water. And if it did have cap rock it couldn’t have oil because oil wouldn’t be formed at such a depth. Well we went out to the salt dome. Well I had picked the one that we from our previous work that I thought was the best one to drill. In the first place it was the highest one in the area, in the nearby area, above this terrain. And I guess I told you in the satellite navigation the skipper of the ship was amazed that we just went out to it and said we’re here, stop, let’s drill.
Yes, you had.
He didn’t believe it. But that’s why it worked.
I didn’t mean to interrupt but I wanted to be sure. What was the concern on the part of the Shell Oil Company people about why they wanted you to be aware of their own views about?
Because we had published in our paper that we thought they were salt domes. And they were convincing us that we didn’t know what we were talking about. So we started drilling our hole and about three hundred feet we ran into cap rock. A little bit later we ran into oil. A little bit later we ran into salt. And we were only about three hundred feet under the — we were still above the level of the basic Gulf of Mexico. Well about that time we sent a message back to the drilling project that we had oil. And we thought that they would be happy as could be. And everybody’d be happy as could be and congratulate us and so forth. We got a message back: cease and desist immediately. Do not drill any farther. Don’t do anything. Get out of there quick! Don’t make an oil spill!
So this is again, this is NSF?
Well, NSF was generating this message. I guess they generated it and it was sent by Scripps, but it was initiated by NSF. And then we got, later got another message that warned us about pollution and so forth and said your drilling party is above reproach.
Where did that come from?
Well I don’t know where we were getting messages on the ship. This is a sort of follow up message. After the first one that says cease and desist quick, immediately. The next one came back to pat us on the back and say, you done good. But we have to be very careful because of the environmental concerns and so forth and so on. So they sent this message that had the phrase in it, you guys are above reproach; there’s no doubt about it, but we’ve got to get out of there and not make any, a mess. Well some of the guys on board and were people that had spent their life trying to find ways to find oil and all of us had been involved with oil companies one way or the other. Finding oil was a good thing, not a bad thing.
Where did that? I understand fully what you’re saying. I’m curious when you found that to be happening? When do you date the start of those kinds of environmental concerns and the attitudes of?
Well it would have been about two years before we sailed that they started to show up.
So about ‘67?
Yes. Something like that.
What do you feel that that was particularly tied to?
I don’t really know. I mean it was, became a national awareness that there were contaminants getting into the soil and contamination was showing up in water, and gasoline from tanks that had been abandoned was showing up in one place or another that wasn’t expected. I think it was just sort of a culmination of a whole lot of things like that that developed — that started got people all excited about environment. And of course the government had taken a very strong position on it. That everybody that destroys the environment’s got to fix it. At that point.
Well certainly by 1969 or so was the time of the NEPA law, which lead directly to the Environmental Protection Agency.
So clearly this was a very critical time.
This was a very critical time and the government was taking a very strong environmental side on it. And for their own money to be drilling and making an oil seep in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico from their point of view was a dreadful development. [Laughter] You can see how they operate. A by-product of that is that we ran into gas hydrates for the first time on those cores that we brought up from the Challenger Knoll which we called Challenger Knoll. And incidentally, the gang on board, some of the guys on board had some skill as cartoonists and they drew a picture that showed a ship on the surface and so forth. And down at the bottom where the drill string was entering the water there was the word reproach. So we were above reproach. [Laughter]
Did you save that?
I think it was Bill [William] Bergrum at Woods Hole who drew it if I remember rightly. Whoever drew it, saved it anyhow. We had another cute thing that happened on the cruise is that Scripps had outfitted all the scientific labs and so forth. And in an effort to be economical they bought stools from Sears Roebuck. And the Sears Roebuck stools weren’t very well glued together. And so it wasn’t, we weren’t at sea very long before they were going back and forth like this with the rolling of the ship. So they got to be called the Scripps rocking stool. [Laughter] Everybody made fun of saving a few bucks to get the cheap stools. Well anyhow, I said we ran into gas hydrates. We brought several cores up and they had what looked like snow in them, in the cores. And after we had them on deck a little while, they started ejecting core material out of the end of the core pipe. There was gas generating in the core. Well Creighton Burke was on that cruise with us and he said that must be methane. Of course, he was an oil fellow and he knew that methane was often found with oil. That must be methane. And he and I drilled a couple of holes in it right where the gas was coming out. And we held a match to it and it burned. It was indeed methane. But the core kept extruding out here. And this icy looking material was disappearing. And I kept saying to everybody where the hell is all that gas coming from? How come it’s extruding all that core? And we were having a — we finally quick drilled holes all along the core to let the gas out so it wouldn’t extrude all the core out on the deck. We already had lost a couple of feet of core before we got around to saving it.
This was one of the first times you’d had a problem of this kind?
Well at that time even we didn’t know it was gas hydrate. But in thinking back about the gas hydrate, it must have been gas hydrate. That’s what looked like frost on the core and it was what was generating this mass of gas. Because the gas hydrate ties up an awful lot of gas if you remember. And so as the gas hydrate melts from the temperature rising on the deck, it was generating all the methane and the methane was expanding and it was spewing core out the top of the core part until we drilled holes all the way along quick to let the methane out. But at the time all we knew was the gas was methane and that it was somewhere in the core. But how it was tied up in the core we didn’t know. And I kept asking everybody, where could there be that volume of gas in the core. Nobody answered and nobody thought that the question was particularly pertinent apparently. Nobody else worried about it. And finally I had to give up because I didn’t have any clue as to where it came from. Probably none of us, none of anybody would have a clue anyhow. But in view of the results of the gas hydrate research later, that must have been gas hydrate we were in.
I recall that you had mentioned in the interview yesterday that you had later found literature on gas hydrates that had not effectively [cross talk].
Well this was a long time after when they found gas hydrate reflection out on the Blake Plateau. And they couldn’t figure out why they had layering, geological layering, and they had a reflection that went across the geological layering. And they finally decided that it had to be some other thing and we ran into a guy — we had a guy working with us from another department at Columbia, that had been studying something related to that. And anyhow he was the one who came up with the idea it was gas hydrate. And gas hydrate ties up something like ten to twenty molecules of gas to one molecule of water. And it looks like ice or frost or snow. And it takes about as many calories to melt a gram as it does for ice. So it has essentially the properties of ice except that when it melts it releases this huge quantity of gas.
Of gas, right.
Well we didn’t know it was gas hydrate, and we probably never would have found it out at that time. And when I told you about the papers in the oil business about gas hydrates, they had been written about 1930 and no one would have thought about looking back at them I’m sure at that point. And it wasn’t after we were thoroughly convinced we had gas hydrates out in the Blake Plateau area that it ever occurred to anyone to look in the literature, and when they looked in the literature, they found thirty or forty papers on gas hydrates. [Laughter] This is like the bubble pulse. It’s found three times.
Yes. How did the development of that program, specifically how did — which branches of Lamont were principally affected by the continuation of Lamont’s involvement in the drilling project? Was it more in the paleontological side of the research or did a number of fields?
Well actually most of Lamont’s concern with the drilling project was doing the geophysics before the drilling. To pick out the sites that were good places to drill. And later on a leg later, I don’t know, it must have been one of the fairly early legs, I think Sam Gerard was out on the drilling ship, and they were going to drill some sites down in the Caribbean. And there wasn’t adequate geophysical data in the area to pick a site. So the Vema, which I was on at the time, had been chosen to go in and get geophysical data in time for the ship to do her drilling. Well the ship got through drilling her other holes before she was going to drill that hole quicker than expected. And so we got to the site area to do geophysics there like a day before the drill ship was due. Well I turned everybody to on the ship and got all the data. We had satellite navigation so we knew where we were. And I got all the guys working on the data, and so that we had a chart with the topography on it of the whole area. A chart with the gravity data, a chart with the magnetic data. We got them all done just as the drill ship got there which is again a damn quick turn around of data. And I went over in the dory and handed it, went on the drill ship, and handed the data to the guys on the drill ship and pointed to the spot that I thought they should drill. Whether they drilled there or not I don’t know. They had to make the decision, final decision. But I told them where I thought they should drill on the results of the data. And again I never heard from anybody that was a remarkable feat of getting the data one day ahead of time and delivering it to the ship when it arrived. Which it was. It was a hell of a feat. The guys on the ship were pretty pissed off at me because I said you don’t sleep, you don’t do anything until we get these charts done for them.
Indeed the time scale for getting work done by the 1960s seems to have telescoped in. That this was —
Well that wasn’t normal at all.
It may not have been.
Normally a geophysical survey had been done on a drill site long before it was considered to send the drill ship there. But this happened because there were three or four other drill sites that had been surveyed well that they wanted to drill and there was one more, time for one more hole.
This was an opportunity.
Essentially a hole of opportunity. And we knew it was a crucial kind of place in the Caribbean but we just didn’t know quite where the crucial spot was. So we needed more geophysical work in the area. We had a couple passes through, but nothing definitive you see.
Yes. Indeed. And realizing that the planning did go on in that way, did you feel that, was there a difference in practicing geophysics by the mid-1960s or late sixties after the new ships were introduced? After the NSF funding had grown? Did the practice of doing geophysics change?
No. I don’t think so. It got to be a faster pace, but it didn’t change appreciably. We had, by that time, we had pretty well defined the instruments to do these things. And it was using those instruments, turning out the charts and I think our advantage at Lamont was our efficiency. That we had learned to do four or five things on the wires at once. And we had learned also how to get our navigation done immediately since we had satellite navigation. And again, that was a time when the other guys were only just about to get satellite navigation. There was satellite navigation on the Glomar Challenger. But the other guys were just about to get it on their ships at that time.
One of the other developments about the same time was the second machine shop that was built at Lamont. How did that decision come about?
Well that decision came down because we were building more and more equipment in the machine shop and our machine shop just got too cramped. We couldn’t do some of the things, and some of the things were getting bigger, that needed bigger machines and a bigger crane to handle stuff in the shop and so forth. And it got worse and worse. And we went to NSF, I think it was NSF, and said that we had outgrown our shop. Now this is a shop we had already built after we got to Lamont in the early days, and it seemed like a magnificent shop. But we built a shop that was maybe three times the same size this time, the bigger one. And we got some bigger machines in it. And a crane that could handle bigger equipment and so forth. And a separate room for welding so none of the welding fumes and so forth would bother any of the other work that was going on and so forth. Which is really quite a problem.
Was this a brand new building that was constructed for the?
And this is the one that is near the, nearer to the edge of the property?
Yes. Right by the swamp.
And we moved into it and almost. That’s about the time that the cost accountants caught up with us and said you won’t just do, have shop work for the benefit of all at Lamont, you will charge each project for their share of the shop work. And so a lot of the shop work dropped off. They couldn’t afford it. They weren’t funded to do their part of the shop work. It had been funded through a general fund and they didn’t just take the general fund and divide it amongst all our projects. They had each and these guys weren’t acquainted with how you would plan some instrument building into your program so you could ask for it in your request. And so they didn’t ask for enough money to do the things they wanted to do and so they had — would drop out and not have their thing. And pretty soon we had shop people standing around and unable to, no work for them that we could afford to have them do. And we still had to pay them. Well naturally that didn’t last long. We started downsizing.
When did that start? When did the real problem with sustaining the bigger shop?
It was coming to a head about the time we left.
1970s. Yes. I left in the summer of ‘72.
Was Angelo Ludas still there?
And in charge of the two?
And he moved to the new shop because he supervised getting the whole new shop going and so forth. And again he did his usual marvelous job. And he got a much bigger tool room and a much bigger stock room. And about half of that building now has been turned over to receiving, parcel receiving. A receiving center for all the things coming into Lamont. And the other half of the shop is still shop, but there are machine tools sitting idle most of the time in there that were going to be used and were used for a while.
The timing was in that sense extraordinarily difficult between making the decision to build and the policy towards reimbursement for instrumentation.
I would guess you would say it was like the U.S. government last year. Up until last year they carried on as if the situation was normally the way it was previous years. Last year the Republicans got in, or two years ago, the Republicans got in and budgets started to get squeezed and so forth. And nobody knew how to adapt to this changed situation and so it caused trouble. Well that’s what happened to our shop. The people didn’t know how to add in enough funds in their project for the building the equipment they wanted to build. Well lots of times you wanted to build something you didn’t know about it when you asked for the proposal. And three months later you needed it desperately and when it was the old way, you could get started. The new way you first had to wait for another funding cycle and ask for the funds. And then wait to see if the funds are granted and the shop couldn’t wait. Meanwhile you had to get rid of some shop people because they were standing around unoccupied and you couldn’t afford it.
I suspect that must have been distressing to Angelo Ludas?
I’m sure it was. He retired I guess about five years after they moved into the shop, the new shop. And I’m sure that was distressing for him having to give up some of the area that he had planned to use for this or that or the other thing. And having a smaller group of people in his shop. Less work coming into his shop. He could see the whole thing disappearing. Well it hasn’t disappeared, but it’s certainly much smaller than it was.
Did you talk with NSF officials at the time about what had prompted that change in the funding structure?
No. It was put on us by the, I guess you’d call it cost accountants, government cost accountants of supervised contracts and grants.
So it wasn’t primarily NSF? This was government accounting.
Well it wasn’t, at least the part of NSF that we normally dealt with. It was the fiscal part of NSF that said you have to do this on the fiscally sound basis or something. And they called. Oh and the local New York ONR had the duty of supervising the costs of all the things in the New York area. And so they were the ones who had to come to us and say, look you’ve got to charge for shop work to the project that’s getting the shop work done. Not a general account for the benefit of the Observatory. Well in retrospect if you look back at it, it’s a damn poor way to do. That the way we were doing was much healthier for the benefit of science.
Do you recall if Ewing had taken that case to NSF officials or others? Did he ever talk to you about it?
No. He never got involved in those things. Arnold [W. Arnold Finck] and I had to do all that. And there was no arguing with them. They said this is what has to be done and either you’ll do it or your contracts will be canceled, and grants will be canceled. That’s that.
Yes. By this point, was this the kind of issue that Ewing simply didn’t have much time or energy left to do?
I don’t even, I hardly think he was aware of it. He knew there were problems in getting things built in the shop now that there hadn’t been. And he’d ask me why that was and I’d tell him that the way cost accountants had done. And he’d swear at the bean counters and go back to work. He knew that we were doing everything we could to make it work. But now who’s picked up the ball after I left I haven’t any idea. Arnold stayed on for four or five years after I left. And whether it all devolved on to him or what, I don’t know.
I meant to ask you. What sort of man was Arnold Finck?
He was a great guy. He was very good with figures. He was very good taking care of all the contract matters and so forth. But he was a nice guy. And he couldn’t say to a guy you just don’t have the money to do that so forth. And he took it personally I guess when people would say, but you’re not a scientist. You don’t know that we have to have this. Well what can he say to that? It’s true he’s not a scientist, but if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money. And I could look them in the eye and say, I’m just as much of a scientist as you are and I know you want this and I know we need it, but the only way we’re going to get it is to get the money for it first.
How did you work those sorts of problems out between the two of you? If Arnold found that there was a scientist whose budget was overextended.
Well, he would call. Usually it wasn’t overextended, it was just threatened to be overextended. And he’d call me up and tell me that it was happening, and I’d go down and we’d talk about it. And if it merited, I would go and talk to the guy and say, hey, you just can’t do this. You don’t have the money to do it. And fine if you can go get the money to do it, we’re glad to have it be done. But we can’t go into debt for it. We don’t have any where with all to get that.
Did Arnold Finck’s responsibilities change much during the late 1960s, early 1970s as the difficulties at Lamont, particularly difficulties with Columbia escalated, or did they stay more or less consistent?
Pretty more or less consistent. He had good relations with the financial people he had to deal with at Columbia. It wasn’t those people that were giving any problem. It was up in the higher echelons where they were seeing — well Columbia did a — I don’t know how much of this really ought to get into the record. But maybe you can expunge anything that makes sense to take out. But Columbia were a bunch of god damn fools. For most of the time they were watching all of the universities invest their money in stocks and make big returns. There were big returns coming in from stocks and so forth. Finally Columbia got unhappy about this and decided well we got to do this too. So they invested all their money in stocks and it was just then when the stocks, the bottom fell out of the stocks. And so they lost something like half their endowment, almost over night. I’m talking about a year, two years. Something like that. They just thought, you know, it started to erode and they’d say well it’s going to turn around and then it would erode some more. And they’d say well it’s about to return. And by the time they got really desperate, they had lost half their endowment income. And then they started looking around in the university, where can we scrounge some income up? And that’s when all the problems evolved. And about that time that guy from the University of California, the president from out there — you mentioned his name yesterday — came as the president of the university. [Andrew] Cordier was the acting and then [William J.] McGill. It was when McGill came in. There was some kind of a reception for McGill and so forth in which all the staff people were invited to come in and so forth. And I went up to McGill and said, well welcome here. We’re glad to see you and so forth. We have a nice operation going at Lamont. I hope you’ll come out and see it. He said, I’ve heard about you Lamont, you people at Lamont, and how you take advantage of everybody else in the university.
That was your first encounter?
That was my first. Well that didn’t foresage good things. And nothing ever good came after that.
What was his — what did he know do you think about Lamont? Or what had he heard?
He had been at the University of California and I think he had talked to Bill [William A.] Nierenberg who was chairman of Scripps at the time. And Bill Nierenberg was probably pissed off at Lamont because we got a lot of credit and they didn’t get too much credit. Because we published and they didn’t basically. That’s what it boiled down to. And I think he looked for ways to tell what’s his name?
McGill. To watch out that Ewing would run over him. Ewing had a history of running over people. Look at what happened to the geology department. Well all that happened in the geology department is it came up to date. It’s now in good shape and all the other departments are dying on the vine.
What sort of background did McGill have? What was his field?
I don’t know. I think he was in economics but I’m not sure.
So that was the first interaction that you had?
That’s the first interaction I had and that was not good.
How quickly did Doc Ewing understand the way things were changing?
Well he got much the same kind of reaction from his first contact with McGill. It wasn’t quite as blatant as that, but it added up to the fact that well you guys aren’t going to find it easy to do the things like you have been finding it kind of thing.
What were the particular issues though that he saw as troubling? Clearly there can be strong directors, strong institutes connected with.
Well, this was about the time we started getting the Doherty grant.
Yes, I wanted to ask in particular how that grant came about?
Well the Doherty Foundation came out to Ewing and said, we’ve been watching your work and it’s important, the work you’ve been doing has been important to the oil companies. And we think that we have a certain amount of money that we think could be set up in an endowment and we think it’ll do the most good if we endow Lamont.
This was Drs. [Walter] Brown and  Newlin who were involved in Doherty?
Yes. And they said what we’ll do is we’ll make available to you five million dollars. I may have the numbers wrong, but that’s what I remember. That we’ll make available five million dollars to you in three installments, or maybe it was four, I don’t remember. But we don’t like the way that Columbia University manages their money. So we’ll give you the endowment and you’ll get the income from the endowment. But it will be invested in the, I think it was the Chemical Bank. That this will be part of the terms of the endowment. That it be invested with the Chemical Bank and kept separate from the rest of Columbia’s funds. They had seen what Columbia’s endowment, had happened to Columbia’s endowment. They weren’t going to get involved in that kind of stuff. And it was, the one who was supposed to manage the endowment was to be an employee of the Chemical Bank for handling those kinds of funds. Then they said to us, now what is it that would do Lamont the most good for the income of this so that we can write that into the terms of the grant. And Doc said, we’ll have to think that one over a little bit. And so he and I got together. [Interruption to speak to Mrs. Worzel.] He and I got together and talked about this a while. And we had a fellow named Jerry McCoy who had been in the accounting department at Exxon and he had retired and he got tired of sitting around. And so he came over and worked for us for a dollar a year kind of thing. And another Exxon employee had done it before him, and he had heard about it so he. He was living over in Westchester and so he came over. And he did a lot of good things for us. I got to be very fond of Jerry and I think he was fond of me too. But I’m not sure of that. At any rate, we looked on investments in the same kind of light. And I tried to set up Jerry to give a course for all of the scientists at Lamont about how to handle your money. How you could invest and handle your money. Because I figured all these scientists by and large didn’t know much about money or how to handle your money and so forth.
This is personal money you had in mind?
Yes. How to handle their own finances wisely so that they would find themselves in good shape later on. And I started out with nothing virtually and ended up reasonably well off. And I thought other people ought to be able to do the same thing in science these days. And so as I say I got him to give that kind of a course to the group. And it was well attended the first time by I think about six or eight people which was just a smattering of the people at Lamont. The second time he offered it, there was three or four people. And then we said there was no use to offering it any more. The next time we only had two sign up or something. They were crazy. They could have gotten a lot of information about handling their own personal finances in a sensible way to help themselves. And that was the idea. I guess it didn’t work. And we had a man who knew these things. I mean, they could — if I had been trying to give the course, they could have said well, how, what makes you think you know any more about it than I do. Well they could have had a good argument at that story. But at any rate I went to Jerry and after I talked to Ewing a little and we talked about it. And we spent a whole morning Jerry and I, sitting in his office saying what would be the thing or things that would do Lamont the most good. And after talking it over as I say at length like that, I guess I was really providing most of the information, but Jerry was asking the appropriate questions. Because he didn’t know that much about Lamont at the time probably. At any rate, the long and short of it was, that I said that I thought the thing we had the most need for at Lamont is to give the senior scientists that were not on the professorial staff status equal to the professors someway, however that could be done.
And that since most of the scientists had their salaries paid by their grants, that that was the thing to do as long as you could do it. But that the Doherty funds would be in the background that could pick those up. Because if times ever got tough, if you could keep your top scientists, you would have a good program. If you lost your top scientists, it didn’t matter how much equipment and everything else you had, you had nothing. So at any rate, that having money to keep the chief scientists on hand would be the first thing. And that in those years when the money was not needed for salaries of senior scientists, that the money would be used for whatever was needed most at that time by the Observatory. In other words a secondary use for those years when you didn’t need it for salary. But that it was set for the salaries. Well I went back to Ewing and said Jerry and I talked this over, and this is what we think comes out. And he said, that sounds like right to me. Because we had had problem after problem of the senior scientists coming in and saying, I’m considered a second class citizen in this place. I’m not a professor. There’s not a chance of getting all the senior scientists made professors.
Yes. That certainly began to affect the second generation in a way. I think Jim [James] Hays had been concerned about that. Were there others who were?
Yes. I think [Neil D.] Opdyke was involved in that. Hays. Walt [Walter] Pitman, Denny [Dennis E.] Hayes, Mark [Marcus] Langseth. All those people. There are probably many others too. But at any rate, I told this to Ewing and as far as I know, Ewing told this to the Doherty Foundation and Doherty Foundation wrote it into the terms of the grant. And where we got into trouble ultimately in 1972 was when the university said, you guys at Lamont are going to have to pay the professors salaries that have been paid by the university out of the Doherty grant from now on. Which essentially wiped out any chance of helping the senior scientist. And was contrary to the terms of the grant. Well that was when we said, we can’t do that. That isn’t the terms of the grant that we negotiated with them. We can’t do that. We have no choice but to leave if you insist on doing it.
Leaving in the sense of becoming an independent institution?
No. No. We as individuals would have to leave the university if the university was going to use the money in an improper way. We had negotiated to get the money. We had made agreement to get the money. If we could not live up to the agreement, we could not continue as a part of the university. Now I think part of that also was that Ewing had just turned sixty-five. And at that time that was the limit on age at the university and he would have to become emeritus or something. And he would have to leave control as director of Lamont and so on. He could still have an office and work there but and he would not get paid because his retirement was supposed to do it. And none of that sounded very good to Ewing I’m sure.
Right. And up to that point had he thought there would be a possibility of an exception made in his case?
He thought there would be an exception, and that if there was no exception that the probabilities were that I would get the directorship and that things would be not much different in my reign as it had been in his reign. Because we worked so well close together, had been for so many years that there was no reason to suspect it would be much worse. Well, at any rate, the long and the short of it is that was why we left the university.
Why by 1972 you made the decision to relocate.
Well it was ‘72 when they came to us and said you’ll pay the professors salaries. And it wasn’t just the professors that were from Lamont, it was the whole geology department.
How did the geology folks react to that?
As far as I know, they never knew it.
They weren’t made aware of this?
Well, how does anybody aware of where the institution that pays them gets their money?
I’m thinking particularly of the folks, like department chairs, or the senior people maybe.
Again, they don’t know where the money comes from. All they know is the budget for the department is so much. You do with it as well as you can.
Where was that decision coming from? Was it solely McGill’s office or were there others in the university that saw this as a broader issue involving all contracts, all outside?
Well it was McGill’s office. And as far as I can make out, he was doing that throughout the university. He was scrounging money anywhere he could find it. Taking it away from anybody that had anything that could be claimed to be university funds. And regardless of what the terms of the gifts were. Well that has guided me in the long term in the grants we’ve given from Palisades Geophysical Institute. I’ve had Palisades Geophysical Institute each year go back to the institutions we gave money to and say we want an accounting of the finances and we want a report of what you’ve done with the money. Now legally we can’t do a thing about it. But we could make a hell of a stink if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do. And that is my intention.
Legal issues aren’t the only ones that count in such cases.
Well in fact, in today’s age you could sue them for not living up to the terms of the grant. And what happens in the universities, actually the same damn thing happened to me at the University of Texas which is why I retired early. But what happens in the universities is that all these grants that the universities get and all these endowments that they get all have terms on them, but there’s nobody who goes back and asks are anybody living up to these terms. And there’s nobody often times living up to them. I’m convinced that all of the universities have misappropriated all kinds of funds in their endowment.
It’s certainly becoming a very big contemporary issue as the nature of funding of universities has.
Well I don’t think it’s becoming an issue because there’s nobody checking up on what they’re doing. They’re just doing it and there’s nobody to stop them. And that’s why I’ve got PGI checking into them. We’ve also made terms in our grants from PGI that any capital gains that are earned on the monies that we gave and the matching funds that they have to raise to get our money, that any capital gains that go with accounted from those monies go into appreciating the amount. So that presumably the buying power of the grant remains at the appropriate level. At the same level as it is now or better.
This is certainly a very important point. And again I want to cover PGI and its development and policy and not cut it short. I’m wondering in this particular case, how did the folks, the Brown and Newlin and others that you were dealing with at the Doherty Foundation react to this development? What actually happened then to the grant that was finally given to Lamont?
Well I don’t really know because Ewing dealt with them directly by himself. I was never at any of the meetings with them.
Did you come to meet Brown and Newlin?
Did you come to meet Brown and Newlin?
Yes, I knew them and so forth, but I never talked any business with them. Anything about the grants or anything. I would talk to Ewing and Arnold would talk to Ewing and Jerry would talk to Ewing, and we’d all talk together and so forth and what have you. But Ewing was the one who presented it to the foundation and dealt with the foundation. All I know is what I told Ewing and what the others told Ewing, and what he told the foundation I don’t know. I do know the terms of the grant were supposed to be this thing about the senior scientists and so forth. Now after we left Columbia, indicated our desire to leave Columbia, we anticipated that they would withdraw the money from the university, or at least would not pay the remaining, the unpaid balance. They didn’t do that. And why they didn’t do it, I haven’t a clue. And I must say I am greatly surprised because they are astute business men and they knew what was going on. They must have known how to do it. Maybe they were afraid of getting sued by Columbia. And as directors of a non-profit institution, they didn’t want to get involved in a squirting match with a skunk.
As you well put it earlier. What sort of people were Brown and Newlin? What were their backgrounds?
Well Newlin was a lawyer. Brown was an investment banker, I guess. At least he was in the investment business and they were very astute business men. Newlin was in the de facto Doherty Foundation. He was the executive secretary that wrote the checks and so forth. And as it worked out, essentially whatever he said, the directors said yes. And he worked that pretty hard into the ground. He made it his personal job to go and be wined and dined by people. He and his girlfriend. His wife was a perennial sick person and he had a young lady that went around, well not too young, a lady that went around with him. That he would indicate was his secretary which I have my doubts about. But she went everywhere with him. And he was the one who would make up his mind. As far as I could make out, he was the one who would make up his mind and the other directors would say yes Chan, no Chan, whatever you say Chan. And he worked it to death. He used his position to go around and visit lots of people and he just — of course all of them were anxious to be the one on the receiving end of the money. And so they would wine him and dine him and flatter him and so forth hard to try to get his money. I never could do that myself. I have to mean it or I don’t say it.
What was it do you feel that they particularly saw at Lamont that they wanted to stimulate or support?
Well, they saw an institution that started in 1949 with nothing and became what I think was the pre-eminent institution in the world in oceanographic research. Not very far from that in earthquake research. And with minors in biology shall we say. Two majors and a minor. And with every indication that it was continuing to grow in the sense of covering more areas of the geophysical fields in an authoritative way. Ewing often said in the in between years that his goal for Lamont Observatory was to be able to deal with every field of geophysics in an authoritative way. I think that’s a pretty good statement, a pretty good goal. I felt strongly that I could support that goal.
I was curious particularly if you felt indeed that was Lamont’s emerging strength and what had happened. I wasn’t sure if either whether they were interested in Lamont as the broad institution or whether they had seen a particular part of Lamont that they had found to be?
No. I think they saw it as a broad institution that had started from nothing and encompassed more and more geophysics and became world renowned in the areas in those areas. And were picking up other areas as time went on. And they could see it flourishing, the bloom opening shall we say.
During that period between Cordier and then during the McGill administration, did you feel that the strings that were emerging were causing Lamont to lose some of its key faculty members. I know for instance that —
No. No. I don’t. Until Ewing and I left there were nobody that left.
[Charles L.] Drake of course had left.
Well Drake had left but that was a natural evolution. That he got an offer of a much more senior position in a place that was more compatible with his style of things and so forth. And yes, and Jack Oliver had left. Well Frank Press had left earlier. These things are bound to happen.
People get — well we just heard, were notified last night at the dining room down here, that the man who manages our dining room is leaving us. He came just seven months ago. He’s been running a good dining room. He got a better offer; he’s going.
Right. I should say on tape this is a complex here that you’re living in. Indeed, these things happen. And I really was asking whether you felt in general this was having an effect.
No. I think just a person every once in a while would leave for a better opportunity than we could offer. Several times people would say they were leaving and then they would go talk to Ewing and he would talk them out of it, one way or another. And that happened a number of times.
There’s one letter that I found among Ewing’s papers that he wrote to McGill when these developments were unfolding and when the tensions were growing. And he listed point by point what he found to be the most troubling issues regarding Lamont’s relationship to Columbia. One of those points is indeed the one that you mention, the concern over including how one could deal with the Doherty funding coming in and Columbia’s imposition of terms on the grant. He also listed a number of other things. And I’m curious if this recalls other discussions and debates. He was concerned that Lamont had been bypassed on engineering oceanography at Columbia. He mentioned that he was very concerned about the new rules about classified research at Columbia. And mentioned that you and he had been concerned enough about that to have sent a message from sea when you were both away. And the lost opportunity over Columbia participating in becoming a sea grant college. And I’m wondering if particular on the — when you first perceived that the classified research was going to become a major issue for Lamont? Did that emerge before McGill’s time?
I think it was mostly in McGill’s time as far as I remember. And it was generated really by the dissident students who were making such a fuss on the campus at that time. Which incidentally I ignored totally, just walked in and gave my classes. If any of the guys tried to do anything in class, I’d say, hey, you either want to come to class or you don’t. If you don’t go away. And nobody ever argued with me. They were going to stay and they were going to talk instead of me. Never happened. And I always ignored all the people on campus and just went about my business. Just as if they weren’t there. And none of them ever tried to stop me. So I don’t know much about that. But they did intimidate the administration apparently. Because in the first place, basically, they got [Grayson] Kirk fired really. If you get right to it, Kirk left because he didn’t want to deal with this kind of a university. Again, he was like Arnold Finck. He’s a nice guy. He doesn’t like shouting at each other shall we say. And he could see that that’s what it was going to be like for the future, and he was old enough and far enough long that he said, well, who needs this? And that’s why he quit. And the people that came after him just knuckled under to all those students.
We always had the opinion that the reason we were doing classified work is that we had some unique capability that the government saw in us or they’d be doing it somewhere else. That we weren’t the only ones in the world that they could have turned for this. But we must have had some unique capability they wanted. And that we as citizens of the United States owed it to our government if we had a unique capability and make it available. Whether we’re a university or an individual. And that the university giving up on the classified matter was not an appropriate response. They were not fulfilling their duty as a corporate citizen of the university and we as individuals were not fulfilling our duty as officers and citizens of the United States. And that has always been my opinion, and I think it’s always been Ewing’s opinion that that’s the way classified work ought to work. Now we saw many instances that things were classified that probably shouldn’t have been classified, or remained classified that should have been declassified. And there are always these kind of excesses that have to be dealt with. Well on the declassification it’s nobody particularly cares seemingly except the people who did the work originally. And they don’t have enough influence to make somebody take the time and effort to get that particular thing declassified. And if they do declassify that, they’re worried that they’ll get inundated with others that — so it’s easier for them to say no, we still need that classified. Get on with what they’re interested in. They’re not interested in those things that are past. So at any rate, that’s why we started PGI. PGI was doing classified — well Columbia was doing classified work at Bermuda at the time, under our direction.
And Hudson Laboratories was also classified.
Hudson Labs. We no longer had anything to do with Hudson Labs, but they were good friends across the way. And we knew they were doing good work and important work. And when they decided that they would quit doing classified work, then it would have meant that about thirty people we had at Bermuda that had been with us for more than twenty years, put their life into it, would be thrown out on their butts with nothing. And that was unfair and wrong in our view. Well the only solution we could think of was to form a little corporation which we did call PGI that would take on the classified contracts and keep those people functioning and we did.
And I wanted to ask particularly about how people were selected to be included when you began PGI? Ewing, of course, was the chairman of the board and president in the early, in the start. You were listed as director, vice president and treasurer. It also included Garry Latham, Hollis Hedberg and Gordon Hamilton, Arnold Finck and Lewis Weeks was listed.
Well Hollis Hedberg and Lewis Weeks were good friends of ours, and they had both been in the oil industry. And they were, they saw things much as the way we did. Arnold Finck of course went along with us cause he could see the problems were firing all those people in Bermuda that had been long-time, loyal employees and so forth. And he didn’t want to live with that.
Garry Latham felt strongly about the classified work cause he also had some classified work that was going on, and he anticipated some of it would be transferred into PGI. And actually what happened was it got declassified before we had to do anything like that. I guess that covers everybody, doesn’t it?
Yes. It does. And were you to get help in starting PGI from the Vetlesen Foundation?
We asked for help from them. And we got a grant from them of twenty-five thousand dollars. Which is the only grant we have received ever.
And that was simply to help the start of it.
That was to help the start up. You had to have some cash to buy things, pay salaries and so forth. For the first month you can’t bill the government until you’ve spent it. So you have to have some money to pay these things until the government pays. And we have organized ourselves now so that we get paid by the government within thirty days of when we expend our money.
How did PGI change and evolve over time? What did you first see? Clearly as you’ve said the goals were initially to cover those that were that classified contracts. How did PGI change over time? Or do you feel that it has been to a large?
Well I don’t think it has changed much. The situation has changed in that all of the work that was classified has gradually become declassified. So we no longer have any classified work. But the project, the same project that was going on at the time that we separated is still going on, and we’ve had to downsize on our last annual meeting here. We had to get rid of six people down at the Cape. These were all fairly newly hired people. If it gets much tighter, we’ll have to get rid of some of the older people which is much harder to visualize. But you know what PGI does? What our operating section does?
I’m not very familiar with it.
Well, this I don’t want to appear in the, any write up you make about Lamont or anything. I don’t know as you want to record it on the tape or not.
You can elect if you wanted to take something out from that. Although the way that Columbia works with the interviews is that if you don’t elect to take it out, then it becomes part of the record that goes in. And that’s a separate issue from anything that I might not or want to write.
Well, I don’t want this to go into the record. What I’m about to tell you. But the nuclear submarines that are missile firing submarines fire missiles down range. And of course they know where they aim them. The question is where do they land?
The accuracy of where they land. And so we have the job of instrumenting the down range area to tell them where the missiles land. Again, we don’t know where they’re aimed even after we know where they land. We give them the data of where they did land and when a missile goes down that frequently means five or six different entries into the water at different times. And we locate all of those entries into the water for them. And the way we do it is we put as present is we put transponders on the bottom and we locate the transponders from ships long in advance in the general area that they aim the missiles. Which is usually a circle about fifty miles in diameter. And then at the time that they launch a missile, we go down with an airplane and drop sonabuoys in the area, a large number of them, like twenty, so that we’re well covered by redundancy. And these sonabuoys record the splash of the various bodies from the missile into the water. And the time that it’s received at each of the sonabuoys can be used to determine where it was related to the sonabuoys. And as soon as — or I’m not sure quite how this works, but I think it is as soon as the buoys — as the missile has landed all the bodies land very quickly after one.
One after another.
Very quickly. Then from the airplane they tell the sonabuoys to query the transponders on the bottom. And by taking those times to the sonabuoys and the relationship of all the sonabuoys to each other, they can process where each sonabuoy was in the world system of coordinates. So that the end result is you can tell them where these bodies land pretty well. Well enough that we’re talking about ten feet. And that’s quite a chore.
I’m sure that it.
And you know what the record is?
Two hundred and seventy-two missiles have been fired and over twelve hundred bodies have entered the water and we recorded every single one. None missed.
That’s a very good record.
That’s a record that gets us a renewal contract regularly. [Laughter]
I can understand. That’s quite an achievement.
And that’s what’s keeping the missile firing submarines honest. And that will go on as long as we have any missile firing submarines. Because they have to fire missiles, a couple missiles a year to make sure everything works.
Yes. But the number of missile firings, I gather from what you’re saying, has decreased.
Has decreased quite significantly over the last four or five years. But it’s probably down at about the minimum they can possibly go unless they just quit having missile firing submarines.
Short of that you’ll have the continued program.
Short of that we’ll probably have it continued. Now we’re running into problems because these big government contractors are losing lots and lots of their contracts, having to downsize crazily. And a lot of them could probably do our job. Whether they could do it as well as we’ve done it is arguable. But they might well bid lower than we do to do the job. Because they, partly because they don’t know what it costs to do it, and we do. And they also might do it just as a means of keeping some people employed whether they make money on it or not. We are a non-profit institution. And we get a fee on all the contracts which is given to non-profit institutions. What I was telling you about Columbia having a fee funds. We get those fee funds too and we are very conservative about them. And we do not spend them. We bank them. And they earn money in the bank. Well not just in the bank, mostly in T Bills. And that’s the money that we have been endowing things like Lamont.
Yes. Yes. It’s a critical point.
Now one way to look at that is if Columbia had not thrown away the classified work or given into the students about it, all of the income that we have given out would have been the university’s. Now what they would have done of it, I don’t know. Maybe they would have invested it unwisely like they did their own funds, their own endowments. They did exactly the thing you’re not supposed to do when investing. They invested at the top of the market before the market broke, and didn’t invest in the bottom of the market when it was going up.
Indeed. Another rule of thumb is don’t put too much of the money that you can’t afford to lose in the market either. One thing I was curious about too, given just the depth of feeling that came during the Vietnam war at this time. Were there any within the younger faculty members or the graduate students who did feel uneasy about military research?
Not that I recall. They never expressed themselves to us. On the other hand they would have known that it would be unwise to express themselves to us. I’m sure our attitudes became known to them. None of the young faculty members were involved in any of the unpleasantness. It was some of our graduate students were. And again we dealt with it by ignoring it and if they didn’t like it, they could leave. If they didn’t leave, they had to like it.
There were a few quick questions I wanted to ask about the work that was beginning at Lamont around the time of where these developments were occurring with Columbia. One was the CLIMAP project. I was wondering how involved you had been in any of the development of CLIMAP or whether that was separate within?
That came after we left as far as I know.
Okay. I had seen.
Well maybe some people were working on it and we weren’t aware.
I had seen one reference to an origin that dated it back to 1970. That’s why I was curious whether that was.
Well, I wasn’t aware that anyone — but you know, lots of people write proposals.
Yes. One of the other things that I wanted to make sure that we covered today was what you had heard or what you knew about — well let me back up on just that question. When did you first begin to negotiate with the University of Texas at Galveston as the plans begin to emerge for the transfer?
It would have been about January of 1972.
How did that come about?
The same guy that approached us from Texas A&M came and approached us for University of Texas. And this time he had a better proposal. And I don’t know whether he knew what the situation at Columbia was. But the situation was in his favor in that we were unhappy with the administration and how they were dealing. And we were willing to listen much better than we were previously. Previously we had been very happy with it here and didn’t see any reason to change. And when he approached this time, we were already thinking of looking around. And when we had a nice firm offer that was a better chance to deal with the situation.
How many people did you expect would take up the offer to go to Galveston?
Well, as I told you, we thought all of the government contracts and grants for the ships, the ships part of it, would move to Galveston with us. That the Navy would send them down after us and NSF would send them down after us. And that didn’t happen.
And that would have effectively been a transfer of Lamont, or a large part of Lamont to Texas.
Well we thought we had that much loyalty on the staff. That they would come. Now, I guess a lot of them might have if the grants had moved. But when ONR and NSF backed off and said, no, we won’t do that their security was staying here.
Had Ewing arranged with ONR and NSF? Had he discussed with them to move the ships?
No. We simply assumed that they would keep it with the management that had done so well. And I guess we were wrong.
I imagine that was a shock for you though when you found that that wasn’t going to happen.
It was. And it was a shock for the University of Texas too. They anticipated that when we moved all of the contracts and grants would come with us or a substantial amount. Not all of it.
Did that affect relationships?
No. But they didn’t give us any more help. Because they hadn’t arrived we just had to survive on our own at the University of Texas.
Don’t worry about that, on top of the microphone.
It’s getting loose.
It’s I guess been working fairly hard. [Pause] What were the greatest challenges that you faced in starting up at Texas? How many people, I should ask first, did go with you? You went of course, and Ewing went.
Garry Latham and Jim Norman. And Tosimatumoto. I’m not doing this well for some reason and I know how to do it too.
There it goes.
There is goes.
Well that can just stay. The top can simply stay. [Pause again.]
Well it wants to fall off now.
Okay that should do it.
What did seem to be, you mentioned of course the problem of getting a ship when you were down in.
Well when we got there, they had no quarters available for us. There were no equipment, nothing but us and our brains that arrived. Well they had a building that they had turned into a storage building and took, somehow handled some of the storage some other way and made about half of that building available to us. And they had to first paint it and clean it up and paint it and so forth. And they did that. And they provided us office furniture: files and desks and chairs and so forth. Regular office furniture. And they provided salaries for the people with us who came with them. And that was it. The rest we generated ourselves after we got there. Now we had our, always had our salaries paid by the university there and we didn’t have to worry about salaries or anything like that. When we added staff, we had the same problems we had here. That we would have to get a large fraction of their salary as part of the grant that they were working on.
You had mentioned already your negotiations that lead to acquiring the Ida Green.
Yes. The advisory committee, Cecil Green was on it. And he could see that we couldn’t do much if we didn’t have a ship. And this ship became available and it was very modestly cost and so he provided the money to buy it. And there was another man on that committee named Jimmie Storm who was an independent contractor that operated drilling platforms. He was shallow water, that is water about up to say a couple hundred feet. And he was fairly well off. Excuse me. [Interruption for phone call.] Jimmie Storm also was a fairly well-to-do guy who was on that committee. And he had a drilling platform off the South Pass in Mississippi. And he had a blow-out when they were drilling the hole. And the blow out turned the rig over. It turned over the platform upside down and it sank naturally. And most of the stuff — the drilling stuff and so forth that was on the top of the platform rolled off and into the water and so forth. And it had been lost. He had paid quite a lot of good money to contractors to find that gear on the bottom for him with the idea that he would recover. He had recovered what they called the mat for it. The way those kind of rigs worked — they had essentially a big tank that they filled up with water as a weight, big weight, and it would sit on the bottom. And then they would build up on to it to a platform and then they’d have all the drilling equipment on top of the platform. The mat was found floating upside down, one end in the mud and one end sticking out of the water. This was in about a hundred and ten feet of water. He’d spent a lot of good money from people who said they could find it, and they hadn’t found anything for him. Then he said in one of the meetings — mentioned this. And Dr. Ewing said to him, Joe and I are old hands at finding wrecks in the bottom of the sea. We could find it for you if we had a ship. This was about the time we were just getting the Ida Green. Jimmie Storm said if you find my platform, I’ll pay for your ship.
There’s a challenge grant for you.
So we said, okay, will do. So we set off. We had a very modest equipment to make geophysical observations with. We set off for the South Pass area and he had — they had — the people that were on the drilling platform had escaped in a boat. And they had two buoys down in the vicinity. And he said — or he gave us the coordinates of those buoys, and we plotted them on the chart and noticed where they were and so forth. And anyhow, we went over to the area and we were getting over there pretty late in the day. But nevertheless, I said, well we got satellite navigation. We’ll go up to one of the buoys and hang around until daylight. So we went up to the area and I got a satellite fix. And I said, well we ought to be getting near to that damn buoy now. About then it went bangedy, bang, bang down the side of the ship. The skipper looked at me and said I’ve never seen anything like that before. I said, well you’ll get used to satellite navigation. [Laughter] At any rate, I set up a plan of operation and one of the guys on board to run it while the rest of us got some sleep because we couldn’t do too much until daylight. At least it’s much easier in daylight. So unfortunately we didn’t count on the fact that there were very strong currents off the mouth of the Mississippi. And there were like two to three knot current there. And so I set up a plan for them to run south.
And I told them to turn around so that we would be back at the buoy at daylight. Well daylight we got up and we came up and we were a long, long way down. Because the current had been with us going down and going back we were struggling to get back. Well to make a long story short, it took us until Noon to get back to the buoy. We got back to the buoy and I told the skipper what I wanted to do as a search pattern and I just couldn’t get him to do what I wanted to. He had no experience in this sort of thing. So finally I persuaded him to let me take the steering wheel and run the ship, and one of the other guys ran the scientific gear. We were looking principally with a sounder because it was very easy to get the sounder. So at any rate, I operated the ship and I used the current as a means of moving the ship laterally by getting a little angle and letting the current take us over and then putting the other angle if we wanted to come back or stemming into the current when we wanted just to go up wind or slow it down a little to come back. And I just worked the currents in that kind of a fashion. And we searched in the area and there was a big crater where the blow-out had occurred. You know what a blow-out is?
Okay. Where the blow-out occurred there was this big crater and they thought this platform vas upside down somewhere in the crater. Well we searched around the crater and we found the platform. I would say about three o’clock. And on the platform there were about four levels, fourteen feet apart. And I saw those fourteen apart on the sounder record. And you could see, see the different places on the sound record. And I calculated out they were about fourteen feet apart. About four o’clock Ewing and Jimmie Storm arrived with a small boat from the shore to join us. And their first remark when they came on board was, well have you found it? I said, yes. He said well what do you know about it? I said well it has three stages that are fourteen feet apart doesn’t it? He said, how the hell do you know that. I said, it’s on the sounder record. So at any rate he came up and he looked at the sounder record. And I said we can get over it again if you want to, but there isn’t too much point. He said I want to drag one of those buoys over so that it’s right on the wreck. And well first he said, I want to get a buoy on it. So we said well we’re really not equipped. The way to do is to have a grapnel and a line and you just tow the grapnel a line and get it hooked up in the platform and then you put a buoy on it. And we just aren’t equipped to do that here. And he said well, all right, we’ll send the small boat back and have them bring a grapnel out. And I said fine. And I said, meanwhile I’ll try to fabricate one with our welding gear. We had a — I had made sure that we set up welding gear on the ship because we had lots of things that had to go on to that ship and I knew how to weld so it could be done without much expense.
Well, at any rate, I went down and welded up an approximation to a grapnel and we put a — we had some rope on board and we put the grapnel over with a rope. And then we started to maneuver the ship around so that we could get the grapnel fast to the thing. And we had on the other end, we had a fifty-five gallon drum that we were going to use as a buoy on the grapnel. And we fiddled around with this and it got to be about five-thirty. And they called supper down in the — and they all said, let’s all go to have supper. I said well you guys go ahead and have supper. I’ll continue to try to get the grapnel attached. And we had a young guy and he was about seventeen back in the attending the grapnel while he was. And I guess I was a little bit careless at the time. But anyhow I maneuvered around for about another fifteen minutes and the grapnel got hold of the thing and the line went out so fast that he just jumped out of the way and the fifty-five gallon drum hopped over the rail. We were lucky that we didn’t hurt him. I was damn lucky. But anyhow I turned the ship back to the captain. I said just hang around here until we’ve had supper and I went down to the supper table and they said, well did you get the grapnel? Yup. Jimmie’s mouth went open like that.
You’re keeping your hand open quite wide as you say that.
And started. I’ve never seen anything like this. Well at any rate, then later after we’d had supper, we went over and got hold of one of the bigger buoys that he had and dragged it over by the platform so they could find the platform. We also found the drilling rig and so forth in another location not very far away. And determined where it was relative to the buoy so that they could find that. Then we left the area and he went to get people to start salvaging his platform. Well he tried hard. The platform — there’s a lot of mud on the bottom there. And the platform was sunk well into the mud. And the suction on it must have been something pretty hard. And he filled it up with ping pong balls as a means of — and there must have been a million ping pong balls in that thing, as a means of providing flotation and it didn’t budge. He got a big derrick barge that came out and tried to lift it to add to the ping pong balls. He never could budge it off the bottom. And he finally gave up. As a result, although we found it for him, he was reluctant to pay for the ship. But I went, kept going back to him and saying we have this and this problem and we needed twenty thousand dollars for this, and we need thirty thousand dollars for this. And he knew that he had reneged and so he would give us twenty thousand for this or thirty thousand for that. And I think we got the cost of the ship out of him, but he never did pay for the ship. He never got his platform back. He never could get it loose from the bottom. Now the part that was stuck like this he did salvage that and save that. And when he was — they were trying to tow that, they found over east of the Mississippi Delta it had floated away before it sank and stuck in the bottom. And they were trying to tow it in to Mobile, Alabama, where they had facilities for that kind of that. And they had a great big — oh it must have been a twenty-five thousand horse power tug with a — they had nylon lines this big in diameter, about —
About four inches?
About four inches in diameter that they were towing this with. And Jimmie called up when they went to work on it and said would you and Doc like — or I guess I called Doc — would you and Joe like to come over and see us salvage the mat. Well, yes, that sounds like it’d be interesting. So we went over there and joined them. And they put us out on the tug with a small boat and the small boat went away. Expecting to be in Mobile in twenty-four hours or so. And they broke nylon line after nylon line trying to tow that thing. It would tow up in the water like this and then go back down. Tow up and back down. And each time it would mound some more mud up in front of it. Finally they got the mud so tall in front of it that they couldn’t get over it. They were getting into a little shallower water, a little shallower water. Well anyway this went on for twenty-four hours. And I said to Jimmie, you’re not going to get it in like this. You’re going to have to do something else. Well they had a salvage guy there and he transferred from the tip of the — he had a barge with a crane that was probably oh a hundred feet tall I guess. And he transferred from the tip of that crane to that mat out in the seaway when this tug was rolling and pitching and so forth. And what an athlete he must have been to do that is all I could think.
But he got on it and he put some lines on it with the intention of towing it over the other way and seeing if it, you know, it was leaning this way. If you could lean it this way, would it work better? Well he got the two line on it and they towed it over there and it didn’t work any better. So I said well I don’t know why you don’t level the platform out and then pump the water out. He said, well how would you level it out? I said you put more water in it. You sink it if necessary. It will be level. And then you pump water out so that it comes up level. And well we don’t dare do that we might break it. I said well I don’t think there’s any chance you’re going to break it or that kind of thing. Oh well we won’t do that unless we get the people who designed it to tell us that that wouldn’t damage it. So they sent a message ashore. Well about that time we’d been out there nearly two days. And Doc said, I’ve just got to go. I can’t spend any more time on this. And so they called a boat over and we got on the boat and left. And Jimmie Storm incidentally had an airplane that he brought us over to Mobile in an airplane. We’d get on a boat there, go out to the rig and then we got a boat back into Mobile and they flew us from Mobile back to Galveston. He lived down by Corpus Christi. So the plane would drop us off and then go on down. Well at any rate, he eventually got his mat back. He also was told by the people that built the mat, that putting water in it would not damage it in any way, form or shape. And that he could — he could level it out enough that he could get it up with pumps. And whether he did it that way or not, I don’t know. But he did get his mat back.
I was curious in general whether that kind of exposure that you had once you were in Galveston, was that different from what you had learned about oil company operations when you were still at Lamont or was it a continuation of that kind of experience you had?
Well most of it was a continuation. This drilling rig was something new. We never —
Had never done.
We had done wreck photography as you know before. But we hadn’t done that kind of wreck location and photography. But we did what he needed and he just couldn’t live with it when he got it. But he must have spent an awful lot of money to find it. And that tug must have cost a mint. It must have been a ten thousand dollar a day kind of tug. You know when there are twenty crew men on the damn thing. It had all this big nylon rope laying around that they —
It must have been some losses taken on that operation.
Without a doubt. I know we unfortunately will have to end this very soon I know. One of the items that I noticed on the list that we haven’t covered was the general reorganization that had occurred at Lamont. At least I believe we haven’t.
Well we didn’t have really a reorganization per se. At one point, I suggested — Doc was the director and there was nothing else assigned initially. Doc was persistently going to sea in those early days and there he would be gone sometimes three or four months at a time. And somebody had to act. So I went to the chairman of the department who was the chairman of the advisory committee for Lamont and said, look, so far everybody’s done what I asked them to do and so forth and we were running it fine. But what I do the day that somebody says who says so?
And he said well I see your point. So anyhow, he appointed me as assistant director. And so that’s the way it was.
That’s how that began.
That’s how that began.
That’s good to know.
And then about oh I guess ten years after we started, so that’d be in — well it was longer than that. It must have been about mid-1960. I said to Doc, look we’re getting big enough and we’ve got enough buildings and so forth, that I don’t know what’s going on in the seismology building and things like that. Why don’t we name a couple of assistant directors to bring more expertise and more division of authority around in the Observatory. So anyhow we named Chuck Drake and Jim Dorman as assistant directors. And that’s the amount of reorganization we had in my days there.
I see. Okay. That’s good to know. One of the things that I wanted to ask you about was whether through the 1960s were there tensions that grew between those staff members who were simultaneously professors at Columbia versus those who were long-term research associates but not in tenured slots?
I wouldn’t say there was any antagonism that developed between the people involved in that. But the people that were research associates and so forth, senior research associates, always felt that they were a second class type of citizen. They weren’t involved in the university system of retirement. We had a retirement system that they were in, but it wasn’t quite as good as the professors retirement system. They weren’t included in university things that were going on. Professors would be invited and they weren’t. There would be staff meetings in the geology department and the senior scientists didn’t participate but the professors did. Well actually, most of those things were just time wasters in reality for the professors, but there was no way you would ever convince a senior research associate of that, As far as he was concerned, he was a second class citizen. He didn’t have all those perks.
He’s out of the loop perhaps.
Yes. He’s out of the loop is another way of saying it. And you couldn’t, we couldn’t find any way to convince them that in our eyes they were just as good as any professor.
Yes. Was that something that got more of a problem as the sixties went on or was it persistently there?
I don’t think it was more of a problem. It was a persistent problem and it got more numerous because we had more senior research associates and more research people and so forth not involved in the academic part. Now some of those sometimes handled graduate students on their thesis work and so forth and would participate in their thesis defense. But we also invited people from outside the university to thesis defense. And so they still figured that even though they were involved in thesis work, they were still second class in the thesis problems. But of course a whole thesis committee voted on whether the guy passed or not or, you know. There was nothing that the professor had that he didn’t have, but he assumed there was.
Indeed. One other quick question. There’s actually two that come to mind. And one we just may not have time to handle. Was it, in the 1960s, there clearly were more women who became interested in taking part — who applied for graduate school training at Lamont. Was it difficult just in terms of the way the ships were designed for women to take part in the voyages? Was this in your view a difficulty that needed to be resolved as more women became interested in earth sciences?
I only remember one woman who went out on the boat and that was the captain’s daughter. She went out as a technician with the idea of becoming a graduate student. She changed her mind after she spent some time at sea. We had no problem with her. Now I don’t know how the facilities were handled. I don’t remember how they were handled.
Did Ewing have a policy on that issue?
There was no — he had no policy or no prejudice. If we had a woman scientist and she wanted to go out on the ship, she went. And somehow we were supposed to get the ship adequately accoutered so they could.
We did do it. I don’t know how. I don’t remember how we did it. But we did do it and we did accommodate this woman, lady. But many lathes came after we left, many more than ever came before Rene Brilliant was a graduate student in the very earliest time.
That’s right, but she hadn’t gone out to sea.
She never went to sea with us. And she never finished her degree with us. She changed to an M.D. course and got her M.D. and opened a practice in Piermont.
I hadn’t know that that’s what happened after. That’s very interesting.
She also married Bill [William] Donn who was one of our staff. He was at Queens University —
As a faculty member. And he also worked at Lamont as a —
He worked with Ewing on the meteorological, the climatological work in the Ice Ages indeed. And we haven’t covered that either, nor have we had time to cover Talwani’s election as director of Lamont succeeding Ewing and I think that issue as well as others.
Well that happened after we left.
It was after you left.
So we don’t really know much about it.
Well let us save other issues for later times. But I do want to thank you very, very much for this long interview. And you will be getting the transcripts directly from Columbia. Thank you very much.
Excerpt from a draft copy of the autobiography of J. Lamar Worzel.
How R. V. Vema was acquired:
In the summer of 1951, we convinced ONR that we needed a vessel to do deep sea work with our students during the summer months. At that time, they had concluded that Hudson labs needed a deep water ship part of the time. They decided to make a deep sea tug available to the two Columbia labs for alternate cruises. The tug was chosen because of the size, and the towing winch, which ONR thought could be modified to a deep sea winch. Since we had had the most experience with deep sea ships, we were chosen to work with the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the conversion of the Allegheny. Doc chose Chuck Drake and I for this chore. Chuck and I made a trip down to the Navy yard once a week during the planning and the conversion. The work was completed in early 1952 and we agreed to let Hudson Laboratories take the first cruise. We planned our cruise turn to start early June and last until September. In the fall of ‘51 we started to accumulate all of the equipment that we would need for the cruise. In February we were informed that Hudson Labs would need the ship for the summer for some of the classified work they were doing, and they had priority over us. This was devastating to our plans.
Doc and I had to leave for a scientific meeting in Cambridge, England just as we received this information. On the trip over and back, we discussed at length what we could do. We had spent most of our contract funds accumulating the equipment and made arrangements with a number of students to participate in the summer cruise, and there was no way we could arrange a cruise without a deep sea vessel. We finally decided that Doc would have to go to ONR on our return and convince them that since they had caused this disruption in our plans they should pay the cost of chartering a vessel for us. He must have been persuasive because they agreed. On his return to Lamont he appointed me to find a suitable vessel.
I purchased a Yachting magazine and perused all of the ads for ship sales or charters. The one that looked best was for a vessel known as Vema, advertised by a man named Kennedy in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. I called him on the phone and everything he told me sounded good, so I made arrangements to go to Nova Scotia. I called him on the phone and everything he told me sounded good, so I made arrangements to go to Nova Scotia to see the ship. She was 200 feet, a three masted schooner with a Burmeister Wayne auxiliary engine which could drive her at ten knots. She started out as the yacht Hussar built for Mr. E. F. Hutton in about 1910. It later was sold to Vetlesen, a Swedish shipping tycoon, who had changed her name to Vema after his wife’s name Maud Vetlesen. In World War II, the U.S. government had acquired her and converted her to a merchant marine training ship. The whole midships area had been removed and triple decker folding bunks had been installed along one side. The rest of the midships was a large space used for training purposes when weather would not permit them to take place on deck. The after area, formerly the owner’s lavish quarters, had been converted into storage spaces and a spartan living quarters for the training supervisors. There were two large deck cabins which had housed more of the trainees. A cabin amidships housed the radio equipment, the radio operator and served as the chart room. An elevated enclosed walkway was just in front of this cabin and served as a bridge. It was nearly as wide as the ship at that point. As a yacht it was steered from on deck aft, since they expected to sail most of the time. The merchant marines had installed a steering wheel forward on the bridge with an engine room telegraph and a very small chart table. The sails were functional, but the engine was not operating. Kennedy had found her on the mud flats of Staten Island starting to be scrapped. He decided she was too good to be scrapped, bought her and sailed her to Lunenberg where he had two men working to get her engines working. I was inspecting her in February and there was no heat operating. I have seldom felt as cold as in the engine room.
Vema was larger than Atlantis, had considerably more deck space and cabin space that could be used for scientific purposes and scientific crew. I told Kennedy that I thought we could use her and requested his bid for a charter sailing at New York on the first of June and ending on the first of September in New York. He said that we could charter her with a crew under his command to operate the ship, and feed the crew of ten scientists, for three months for $20,000. I told him I thought the ship would do, but I would have to clear it with ONR first.
I returned to New York and told Doc that I thought I had found a suitable ship if the charter price could be met. Doc called ONR and they agreed that they would add that they would add that amount of money to our contract. I called Kennedy and asked him to come to New York to sign the necessary charter papers with the Columbia contracting group. He came and we met at Lamont. While we were discussing the charter I asked him what he would sell us the ship for. He answered $100,000 and that if we bought it before the charter was up, we would allow the charter fee to be deducted from the price. We concluded the charter and he returned to his home.
I went out on the first cruise of Vema on a charter from Kennedy. We took a lot of things with us since we didn’t know whether all of the equipment we had installed would work. We thought that with the things we had we could make our gear work or devise other gear that would. One of these items was a reel of multiconductor cable which weighed about 1000 pounds. Shortly after leaving New York, we ran into a storm and this reel of cable came loose and was sliding around the deck with the water coming on deck pushing it around. In the rough weather it was dangerous to get in the way of the reel of cable. Captain Kennedy and I went on deck to try to get it secured to the rail before water would move it away.
Finally we got a long rope, fastened one end to the rail, looped it around the cable and got a turn on the rail. Each time it moved towards the rail we would take in slack until we had it captured at the rail. We then secured it properly and had no more trouble.
The only other event that sticks in my mind from that trip was that the head which had been used by the merchant marine trainees was in the deck cabin aft and had multiple sinks etc. This became the scientists head. We started to leave cakes of soap on the sinks for later use. Shortly we found no soap at the sinks each time we wanted to wash up. After some detective work we found the captain’s dog, a large Husky, was sneaking in and eating our soap. Apparently, he felt he was not getting enough fat in his diet. The captain would not tie up his dog, and could not get him to leave our soap alone, so we had to take our soap into our cabins, where we would have to go get it each time we wanted to wash up.
Before we left on our cruise, they had had trouble with cracks in two of the cylinder heads of the diesel. Kennedy found a man who could make a repair and it was working when we went to sea. Shortly, however, two more cylinder heads developed cracks and we could no longer use the engine and we had to complete our cruise under sail. Kennedy was a good sailor, and even though his hands didn’t know too much, we got along fine. We had to go into Guantanamo Bay to pick up explosives while the engines were out of use. We entered the bay under full sail in the middle of Sunday afternoon. All of the fleet stationed in the area was at anchor in the bay. This made the bay more crowded with Navy ships. We sailed into the bay, made a right angle turn, then Kennedy dropped the mizzen, main, and foresail, followed by the three jibs all by himself. With no sail on we ran about a mile upwind before we lost way. He then loosed the anchor and we fell back downwind letting the anchor chain out until the proper amount was overboard. We came to a stop in the front line of Navy ships between two of the largest ones. We noticed all the watches on the Navy ships were on deck watching our maneuver. The base was closed because it was Sunday, so on Monday Captain Kennedy and I made a visit to the base Commander to arrange for the delivery of the explosives. The Commander remarked on the excellent execution of our entrance and anchoring in the bay. He said he had watched the whole thing from his porch. We received the explosives that had been requisitioned for us and left port the following day, under one sail only.
At the completion of this cruise we were pleased with the roominess of the vessel and how well she could do our work so we decided that the ship was excellent for our need if the engines could be made to work and that we should try to purchase it. It was put on dry dock to do some bottom repairs and to attach our sounder head better. There were two weeks until the original charter was up. We arranged a meeting Friday afternoon, the last day of the charter, to finalize the purchase, or to arrange an additional charter for three months. On that Friday, I was working on the controller for the hydrographic winch shortly after lunch when Doc called on the phone and said he struck out, he could not raise the money for the purchase. I told the captain and went back to work. Shortly, I decided this was a mistake and I got in my car and drove to Lamont. I went in to see Doc, who was working with Frank Press, and said, “Doc, this is a mistake. If we are ever to have a ship this is the one. If we don’t get this one, we’ll have to just make up our minds that we will never have a ship.” Doc turned to Frank and said, “What do you think?” Frank answered, “Joe is right.” Doc then decided that we would try to get Columbia University to put up the money for the ship with the understanding that we would repay it. He called the treasurer’s office and asked to speak to My Campbell. His secretary said he was not in. Doc then said I must talk to him now, so tell me how I can reach him. She told him there was no way. By persisting, he finally found out that My Campbell was out on the golf course. Doc then called Mrs. Campbell, who he had met on several occasions, and asked her how to get My Campbell on the telephone. She called the golf club and then called back telling us there was no one on the golf course that could go out on the course and get Mr. Campbell, so that she would drive over there and get him to call back. About three quarters of an hour later Mr. Campbell called. Doc told him the situation and that it was imperative that we get a ship now. He also told Mr. Campbell that we would make him prouder of the Vema than he was of any part of Columbia University if he would do it. Finally Mr. Campbell agreed and said he would call his office and make the necessary arrangements. By then it was 3 pm. Shortly, Mr. Campbell called back and said it was too late to make the necessary bank arrangements from the treasurer’s office, but that he would write a check on his personal account in the amount of $80,000 to secure the vessel, providing that we would not let any of the trustees know of the transaction until he had made them aware. Doc agreed. Mr. Campbell, Doc, and I met with Kennedy at 5 pm, in the treasurer’s office and notified him that we were purchasing the Vema instead of extending the charter through the next cruise. He was very disappointed as he had decided that he could probably sell her for more. Nevertheless, the sale went through. The first thing Monday morning, Doc received a call from one of the trustees asking him if he had bought a vessel for Columbia University. Doc had to admit it and asked how he found out. The trustee said that the treasurer’s office had made the arrangement for insurance for the vessel Friday afternoon with his company. Doc then told him that we would make him as proud of that vessel as he was of any other part of Columbia University. We never heard of any other repercussions.
At that time all of our government work was under contract with ONR. I went to ONR and convinced them to amortize the ship at the rate of $10,000 per year. This was continued for ten years. They authorized numerous changes to the vessel over the years. After about five years, the National Science Foundation was formed and was supporting about half of our work. They shared equally with ONR in the amortization and the various changes we made to the ship.
Excerpt from a draft copy of the autobiography of J. Lamar Worzel.
How Lamont Geological Observatory was started:
By the summer of 1948, we were getting too big for our quarters. We still were adding graduate students and our lab space was inadequate. We requested more space without success. We, in desperation, designed a new building we thought could be built on the lower campus, between Schermerhorn Extension and the powerhouse. About then, Dr. Ewing received an inquiry from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) about whether he would be willing to come there and establish a geophysics operation, bringing all of his students with him. Dr. Ewing agreed to make a trip to MIT to discuss it with them.
He went to MIT and took with him four senior graduate students. The ones he took were Frank Press, Nelson Streenland, Gordon Hamilton, and myself. They showed us around the Geology Department, discussed with us how we would fit in as an appendage of the Geology Department, and then sent us down to see the Hetty Green Estate. A few years previously they had acquired a gift. It was located near New Bedford on Buzzards Bay. They were then only using it for Van der Graf Generator experiments. There was plenty of room on the estate and we were assured that necessary buildings and a pier on Buzzards Bay could be built where we could dock as required. The only problem was that it was about sixty miles from the Boston Campus. It would involve lots of travel between Boston and New Bedford as the educational part of the work would have to take place in Boston and the research part would have to take place on the Hetty Green estate.
When we returned to Columbia, President Eisenhower, who was President of the University and Professor Kerr, who was the Chairman of the Department of Geology, had a talk with Dr. Ewing. They countered MITs proposal by offering the Lamont Estate in Palisades, New York. Columbia would accept the gift of the Lamont Estate, which would provide plenty of space for our group, if the Geology Department would raise enough money to operate it for at least three years. It was understood that it could not become a financial burden to the University. It was estimated that it would require $100,000 for those first three years. Paul Kerr persuaded five mining companies to provide $20,000 apiece to establish the Lamont Geological Observatory.
When we went to the Lamont Estate to look at it, we found that it consisted of nearly 120 acres of land on the top of the Palisades overlooking the Hudson River. Most of it was in New York, but about ten acres extended into New Jersey. It was about 20 miles from the Columbia Campus. At that time, it was still furnished as the Lamonts had lived in it. It was lavishly furnished with furniture. Most of the rooms had fireplaces with marvelous marble facades, and the dining room had a magnificent chandelier of crystal. The living room later became our seminar room, the dining room, our core lab, the kitchen, our geochemistry function, and the bedrooms on the second and third floors became offices for the scientific staff.
Dr. Ewing convened the four of us and put the question “should we accept the offer of MIT or remain at Columbia with the Lamont Estate for our laboratory operations?” We debated the difficulties of operating our research from the base of sixty miles from our educational operations in Boston at MIT, with the difficulties of using the Lamont Estate only twenty miles from the Columbia Campus. In addition the MIT offer would require to uproot all of our activities and equipment and move to the Boston area. It appeared that MIT would offer more support from the University than we could expect at Columbia. Finally Doe put it to a vote and it was unanimously agreed that we should stay at Columbia and use the Lamont Estate.
In December 1949, President Eisenhower received the deed of the Lamont property from Mrs. Lamont. Shortly afterwards, Frank Press and I set up a seismometer on the floor of the empty swimming pool which had been carved out of the Palisades diabase. There was a crack in the pool so that it would no longer hold water. On our return, a few days later, we found a notice pinned to the door stating that the place was not zoned for work and that all work on the place must cease. This led to several town meetings. The problem was that they expected us to bring a number of school-age children and the local school felt they would have financial difficulty in accommodating them, especially since the Lamont Estate had been the major taxpayer in Palisades. Columbia University being tax exempt would place a big burden on this small school unit. A compromise was made for us to pay $20,000 a year in lieu of taxes and we got our work permit. We knew we could have prevailed in court without any payments, but it seemed reasonable to pay as we expected to have ten students to add to the local school. It is interesting that in about 1975, when Lamont-Doherty had only a couple of students in the school the town decided this payment was no longer adequate and it should be increased significantly. This time Columbia went to court and the town not only did not get an increase, it received no payment!
As soon as possible, Doc moved on the grounds in the former gardener’s cottage. I left the dorm and started sleeping on the third floor of Lamont Hall. The Lamonts had removed almost all of the furniture, and the fancy fireplace facades replacing them with simple slate facades. After my kids completed their school term in Sparta, our family moved into the two guest rooms adjoining the swimming pool.
Dave Ericsson moved into one of the bedrooms and Mrs. Smith, who stayed on, gave him his breakfast. Dave turned the dining room into the core laboratory. Larry Kulp set up the geochemistry lab, which at that time was mostly carbon 14 dating, in the kitchen complex. Doc soon moved his office into the former second floor sitting room with his secretary adjacent in what had been Mrs. Lamont’s bedroom. Doe set up a workroom for his charts in and overflow from his office in Mr. Lamont’s bedroom. Most of the grad students moved into the bedrooms on the second and third floor. Doc moved his family into the chauffeurs cottage.
The grounds superintendent had stayed on, but he was drunk most of the time, so we had to let him go. He stayed in the area awhile because he knew we would have to shut off the water for the grounds for the winter. He thought we would rehire him as he was the only one who knew where the shut off valves were. However, we had fooled him. I had found plans of the estate including all of the water system, which had the shutoff valve locations on them. We were able to take care of the water system without help. I had moved my family into the barn helpers’ house on the hill east of the present machine shop before the cold weather set in. This gave us more room, but we were still cramped. The Presses moved into the cottage that had been the barn keepers’. When we got rid of the grounds man, I was allowed to move my family into the house he had lived in, across the courtyard from Dr. Ewing and family, and Angelo Ludas moved into the house on the hill.