Chapter 3

Success – and frustration


Both McKenzie and SclaterSclaterJohn Sclater (1940-present) was a PhD student at Madingley Rise from 1962 and shared a room with McKenzie and Bob Parker. He started work with Maurice Hill, measuring the heat flow through the ocean floor, work which he continued at Scripps where he moved as a post-doc. Teddy Bullard had been a frequent visitor to Scripps from the 1950s onwards and had designed the heat flow detector in use there. The complexity of early readings of ocean heat flow were resolved by Harry Hess’s concept of seafloor spreading; later work by Sclater supported thermal modelling of ridge spreading processes, ocean floor subsidence and the cooling of the new crust. Sclater and McKenzie worked together on the Indian Ocean in 1968. were elected Fellows of the Royal Society because of their 1971 Indian Ocean paper. “The Selection Committee were so impressed that people could work out the entire history of an ocean basin – and get it right. To me it was just turning the handle. Everything worked and that was really frustrating to me.” The success of plate tectonics in the Indian Ocean told McKenzie that there was nothing new to be learned there. “Essentially the whole thing was complete and hasn’t changed since. I then really stopped working on marine geophysics because I thought ‘gosh, we’re done’.”

Draft for figure 2 for the paper McKenzie, D & J G Sclater, “The evolution of the Indian Ocean since the late Cretaceous”, Geophysical Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 24: 437-528, (1971).