Chapter 1

Mapping the oceans

Maurice EwingMaurice EwingMaurice Ewing (1906-1974) graduated from Rice Institute (now University) in Texas and took a physics PhD there. He started to experiment with seismic surveying on land after his experiences as a summer worker for an oil prospecting company. From 1930 at Lehigh University he experimented with magnetic and seismic signals, and in 1937 he started working at sea on the Atlantis, developing methods to image beneath the ocean floor. He tried to interest oil companies in his ideas, to no avail. He went to Columbia in 1946 and from 1949 established the Lamont Geological Observatory. Despite Ewing driving the collection of so much of the data that led to the plate tectonics revolution, he himself remained unconvinced. at Lamont Geological ObservatoryLamont Geological Observatory(now Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) was established by Columbia University, New York in 1949 following a gift of land by the Lamont family. Maurice Ewing was its first director and his dedication to exploration and discovery established it as a world leader in geophysics. Ewing demanded comprehensive data collection on Lamont research voyages, building a vast store of data: the Vema alone covered more than a million miles in her working life at Lamont. Despite this, Ewing and his colleague Walter Bucher did not accept the mobilist worldview of plate tectonics. was a pioneer in marine exploration; by the late 1950s his colleagues Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp used the ocean depth data on ship track profiles to draw a map of the ocean floor, showing for the first time the vast mid-ocean ridges that girdle the Earth, and highlighting the volcanoes that pepper the plates away from the ridges. US universities and research institutes soon established world-leading marine geophysics research programmes.

IMAGE REFERENCE: Heezen, B.C. and Tharp, M. (1957) Physiographic diagram: Atlantic Ocean. [Map] s.l: Lamont Geological Observatory, Columbia University.