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Science (mostly history, and mostly gravity)

Chasing the history of the gravity method sometimes took me down side-tracks that did not quite fit the theme, and so never made it into ‘The Hunt’. Also, and inevitably, there were stories that should have been in ‘The Hunt’ but which I missed. Here are some of them, and bits of new Earth Science are sometimes included!

Float

In the instructions Joseph Gaimard copied into the diary before he left Toulon, there is a long section on field geology. Despite being written in 1817, it could very usefully be given as a guide to first-year geology students in our universities. Amongst other things, it has some very nice sketches and some wise words on the importance of context, but it also has comments on the importance of rocks that are not in situ

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Welcome to Duroca**

It took a few years for the significance of the linear magnetic anomalies discovered by Ron Mason and Arthur Raff to be realised, but they were key factors in the development of Plate Tectonics. This development might have been considerably delayed if their work, arguably the first systematic magnetic survey of a large area of oceanic crust, had instead been carried out over the seas east of Queensland. Even today the uniform data set that provides the best approach to study of this region is gravitational, not magnetic.

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The Louisiade Plateau: what’s in a name?

Back in the mid-1960s, plate tectonics was still in its infancy but the origin of the shallow rises in the Tasman Sea, as strips of Australia peeled away like layers on an onion, was already pretty obvious. Inevitably, there was speculation on possible links between ophiolites in eastern Papua and New Caledonia.

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Eddie Polak at the AGH

Giving a talk in the AGH university building in Krakow was memorable, as far as I was concerned, because it was the building where Eddie Polak, one of my first geophysical mentors, studied during the four years that preceded the invasion of Poland and the start of the Second World War. I was able to imagine him in his time there all the better because he had left me with a typescript of his memoirs.

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Zealandia completely mapped?

On 9 October, GNS Science, which is effectively New Zealand’s geological survey organisation, made a startling announcement. “Zealandia”, so its publicity department contended “just became the first continent to be completely mapped”. But what is Zealandia, and are these extravagant claims justified?

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Referential

The world of scientific publishing is coming in for a lot of criticism these days, and rightly so in many cases. But are scientists not in some respects their own worst enemies, making rods for their own backs by custom and convention rather direct outright instruction?

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IGCP 710 and the case for a new PANCARDI

In the late 1990s the European Science Foundation, taking advantage of the new possibilities for scientific interchange and fieldwork in a Europe no longer divided by an Iron Curtain, sponsored an international programme known as PANCARDI within which geologists and geophysicists from the countries of the Carpathian and Dinaric orogens and the Pannonian Basin came together to exchange information and reach a better understanding of the evolution through time of that very complex region. Is it not time for a second such programme?

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More on Myanmar

Most of Myanmar considered prospective for hydrocarbons was covered by gravity surveys between 1964 and 1975. The results have been published as small-scale contour maps, but with gravity values referred to an arbitrary datum; there are also significant errors and ambiguities in the contouring. An approximate transfer to the current international IGSN71 system has proved possible, but correction of the contouring errors will not be possible without access to the underlying data.

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The magnetics of Seram

The presence of ultramafic rocks on the eastern Indonesian islands of Ambon and Seram has been known since the work of the early Dutch geologists in the East Indies. Have geophysical potential-field data anything to contribute to understanding their distribution and emplacement history?

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Before longitude

In her best-selling book  Longitude, Dava Sobell told the story of the ultimately successful efforts made in the England of the first half of the Eighteenth Century to measure longitude at sea using very accurate clocks, and also mentioned that attempts had been made in the second half of the Seventeenth Century to do the same thing. Christiaan Huygens figured prominently in the account but there is much more to that part of the story than appeared in the book. It began with an obscure Scottish nobleman.

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