Cover Image

HARDBACK
$47.00



View/Hide Left Panel

And he was right.

Ewing's style did not always endear him to his counterparts elsewhere in the national oceanographic community. Walter Munk recalls having been asked by Roger Revelle to sit in on a meeting at SIO just after the war. The Dutch pioneer in making pendulum gravity measurements from submarines, Vening Meinesz, was offering to give to the United States three of his instruments. The question was how to divide up the instruments. Columbus Iselin was there to represent Woods Hole, Ewing for Lamont, and Revelle for Scripps. (Three major institutions and three available instruments—the solution seems obvious.) Ewing's answer to the problem was that all three instruments should go to Lamont. He stated that making marine gravity measurements was Lamont's number one priority, and therefore for the good of the nation he should have all of the instruments. Lamont thus began a marine gravity program using U.S. Navy submarines.

Scripps

If Lamont was a dictatorship, then Scripps might have been best described as a fiefdom ruled by grand dukes. Revelle, who was director of Scripps in the early days of NSF funding, played a key role in attracting first-rate researchers to Scripps and in organizing the expeditions, but he did not oversee the daily science activities in the way that Ewing did. Marine geology and geophysics already had a rich history at SIO, thanks to the pioneering work on submarine canyons of Francis Shepard. By the 1950s, Scripps had built up a strong staff in MG&G, some of whom came from the Division of War Research that had been established on the eve of World War II at Point Loma. These researchers came with a storehouse of paper records of echograms acquired on Navy ships.

Bill Menard arrived at Scripps in 1955 with initial interests in turbidites. He developed the ability to read echo-sounder records faster and better than anyone else. He discovered and named the great Pacific fracture zones, mapped the East Pacific Rise, and later defined the geometry of the tectonic plates. At the same time, R.L. Fischer explored the Indian Ocean. The dredging efforts of Fisher, Menard, and others at Scripps resulted in a collection of abyssal basalts that was second to none. Joe Curray continued Shepard's legacy of understanding the sediments of continental margins. Doug Inman combined academic training in physics with hands-on learning under Shepard to pioneer the application of physics and fluid mechanics to the study of shore processes.

One of the more interesting early discoveries was made by Russ Raitt, who along with Ewing was applying seismic techniques to study the distribution of sediments in the oceans. Both Raitt and Ewing were getting similar results: sediment thickness was only about 300 m in the Pacific and 450 m in the Atlantic. These thicknesses were far less than what would be predicted if the ocean basins were as old as the continents.

William Riedel joined Scripps in 1956 and began studying radiolarians. By the mid-1960s he had developed a precise chronology using radiolarians that allowed for geologic dating. These silica-shelled organisms were preserved even in the deep ocean and thus provided age estimates below the levels of dissolution of carbonate organisms. Jerry Winterer joined the institution in 1961, developing a reputation for deciphering ocean history from core stratigraphy.

The Scripps "grand dukes" shared Ewing's philosophy that ships should be required to collect every conceivable data type regardless of the objectives on an individual mission, although no one individual had the authority of Ewing to enforce quite such catholic sampling as was required on the Lamont ships. Nevertheless, Menard insisted that the echosounder always be running, while R.G. Mason and Vic Vaquier encouraged towing a magnetometer. Acceptance of the value of the soundings was more widespread than appreciation of the value of the bizarre variations in scalar magnetic field sensed by the magnetometers. In the 1950s, Mason encountered substantial resistance to the use of the magnetometer from both the Navy and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), so much so that Scripps nearly had to pass on the opportunity to mount its magnetometer on a U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey ship, the Pioneer, that was conducting a detailed survey of seafloor off the Washington-Oregon coast. Menard managed to obtain support from Revelle's discretionary fund to allow use of the magnetometer. With line spacing of only 5 miles, the lineated nature of the magnetic anomalies was clear to Mason when he plotted the data. The pattern changed at the fracture zones and was repeated 80 km to the west as the ship passed south across the Murray fracture zone. It was not until a decade later that the symmetric anomaly patterns were found in the Indian Ocean, along the Reykjanes Ridge, and in the South Pacific that allowed geophysicists to correctly identify the cause of the Pioneer magnetic anomalies. Sometimes one needs to go an ocean away to understand something in one's own backyard.

Clearly two of the greatest legacies of the Scripps MG&G program in these early years were the decision to put computers on the ships (a radical notion in the 1960s before the days of computers in every lab, home, and toaster) and the establishment of the Geological Data Center. Bill Menard spearheaded the effort to install the computers, with an identical machine on shore to analyze the data after each expedition. IBM actually provided the computers (the "Red Baron," "Blue Max," and "Yellow Peril") and a computer operator. Stu Smith recalls that after the computers arrived, they had but one month to set them up in preparation for the Scan Expedition cruise on the Argo in 1969, using software borrowed from Manik Talwani.

The Geological Data Center (GDC) was instigated by George Shor, prompted by interest from the oil companies in



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement