CSEG History: 1949 – 1959

Nineteen hundred and forty-nine was a good year for a beginning. With petroleum production on the rise following the Leduc and Redwater oil discoveries, Canada became the land of opportunity. Along with productivity came the demand for increased skill, knowledge and experience in the field of exploration geophysics. It was out of this climate that the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG) was born.

It all began April 30, 1949 when eleven geophysicists met for an "informal" lunch in Calgary. They gathered to hear Dr. L.L. Nettleton, then president of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG), outline the advantages of organising a local section. The Calgary-based geophysicists, convinced, set about organising an inaugural meeting.

Mr. Wayne A. Phares, then with United Geophysical, scheduled the meeting for June 2 at the Palliser Hotel; sixty-four people attended. Before the meeting was over an executive was chosen: John O. Galloway, president; C.M. Moore, vice-president; L.J. (Lindy) Richards, secretary/treasurer.

The Society's first executive boasted some of the top people in their fields. Galloway had come to Canada in 1938 to open an office for Standard Oil Co. of California. He advanced through various stages of management until promoted to executive vice president in 1944. Five years later he resigned to form his own petroleum consulting firm. Moore was Canadian manager for Geophysical Service Incorporated in Dallas, Texas when elected. Richards, chief geophysicist for Hudson's Bay Oil and Gas Co. when elected to the Society, went on to become company president and later Chairman of the Board of Quintana Exploration Canada Ltd. The American also earned a reputation as a top golfer after getting a hole-in-one on the seventeenth hole during the Society's tournament.

First Executive of the CSEG: C.M. Moore, Jr.(Vice-President), L.J. Richards (Secretary-Treasurer), J.O. Galloway (President).

With an executive committee and more than fifty enthusiastic supporters, the new society was created. However, there was paperwork to be done. On Oct. 6 the Society wrote the Registrar of Companies in Edmonton, asking if the name Western Canada Geophysical Society was available. Back came the reply: "Because the name... is too similar to the name Western Geophysical Company... the name is not considered available for the incorporation of a group of persons under The Societies Act." The following month, the name Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists was reserved and on December 22, 1949, a Certificate of Incorporation was issued and the CSEG was born.

A three-page constitution outlines the organisation's goals. "The object of this Society is to promote the science of geophysics especially as it applies to exploration, and to promote fellowship and cooperation among these persons interested in geophysical problems." Any person interested in the geophysical profession was eligible for membership. Today, although many changes have occurred, the objectives remain the same.

In 1950, one hundred and two $2 annual membership fees covered the costs of rent, photocopying, stationery and a lawyer's fee. The $2 investment bought members an invitation to technical meetings, which were held sporadically, every few months, when an interesting speaker was in town. The evening meetings were often held in the Palliser Hotel. Thirty dollars bought the "east room" for one evening.

Speaking primarily addressed topics of concern to geophysicists in Western Canada. However, one founding member recalled at that time the CSEG was as much a social society as technical. " Everybody knew everybody. It was a marvelous organization," Ralph Copeland, then with Gulf Canada Resources Inc., remembered. Before and after the speeches there was coffee and a chance to socialise. The technical meetings continued to the Society's principal activity in the early '50s.

In February 1951 members gathered at the first annual meeting to hear a year-old report and elect a new executive. The Society started a healthy economic trend back then, recording a balance of $112 after one year in operation. The CSEG has come a long way. Today more than 2,000 members oversee the management of more than $150,000 annually.

Some of the earliest speakers included John Daly, who spoke on "How Seismograph Interpretation is Related to Changes in the Sedimentary Section in West Texas and new Mexico," H.C. Bickel – "Application of Reflection Seismograph to Search for Stratigraphic Traps," Wilf Bailey – "Deep Basement Reflection in Big Horn Country, Montana," Dr. E.D. Alcock – "Isochron Interpretation Techniques" and Dale Fickinger – "Seismic Record Sections."

By August 1951, Society members decided to seek affiliation with the Society of Exploration Geophysicists in the United States. A petition requesting official recognition was submitted that fall and the following year the American society granted a charter to its Canadian counterpart.

By 1952 the CSEG, only in its third year of operation, was gaining recognition as a learned body. That January the Society held a joint meeting with the Alberta Society of Petroleum Geologists (AAPS), its first of many cooperative ventures. Dr. Wilson Laird, North Dakota state geologist, and Mr. K.E. Burg addressed the meeting. However, everything did not always go smoothly, longtime member Norm Christie recalled. Renowned Canadian Tuzo Wilson was scheduled to address the Society, but his plane was delayed enroute. Christie and Mr. L.I. Brockway phoned the members and rescheduled the meeting the next day. Then Christie waited outside the old gas company office, where the meeting was to have been held, to catch those who didn't get the message.

In 1953 the Society began to take on new projects. With a membership of over 150, it had the manpower necessary to expand. The first order of business was to improve the financial status of the CSEG. A year-end balance of $128.96 in '53 was insufficient, the executive decided. In order to pay expenses for guest speakers, members voted to charge admission to meetings. During that time two committees were struck. The Glossary Committee completed the definitions of 40 geophysical terms. The Public Relations Committee worked on two larger projects: a vocational guide booklet and an outline of operating principles for crew conduct. As activity increased, the executive considered the possibility of publishing some kind of newsletter or bulletin.

In spite of the technical advances made and the general boom in the geophysical industry, 1953 is remembered for a much different reason – the first annual Doodlebug Golf Tournament. "That was the highlight of the whole thing... The one big event of the year for everybody," participant Ralph Copeland recalled.

It all began one early July day when Mr. Bud Coote approached CSEG president Mr. W.P. Ogilvie suggesting the Society organise a golf tournament. Wasting no time, the executive scheduled a meeting for July 17 at the Bowness Gold Club in order to discuss the proposal. During the meeting, after a relaxing day of golf, members voted in favour of holding such an event. After considerable discussion it was decided that, other than the membership of the Society, entry would be restricted to "those employed in the geophysical departments of oil companies, geophysical contractors, geophysical supply houses and geophysical consultants." However, anticipating that insufficient participants would register, the tournament committee was authorised to accept further entries "from people in the oil business in general as they saw fit." Not many years passed before the Committee, flooded with applications, would be turning away golfers.

On August 4, 1953 a bulletin was circulated – "Calling all Golfers..." This first tournament was a no frills event. Members voted against holding a dinner and Calcutta Pool during the tournament. "Organised entertainment for the wives was also rejected as unnecessary." Supply houses and service companies donated prizes. "Flights were of eight golfers, the flights named after positions in the industry, such as 'Party Chief' and 'Shooter'... The participants were assigned to flights on the basis of qualifying scores or handicaps submitted by the golfers. Prizes were given to winner, runner-up and consolation winner in each flight with the winner also receiving permanent possession of a ceramic trophy. The winner of the championship flight received a replica of the H. S. Hawthorne 'Doodlebug trophy.'

The winners of the individually handcrafted, ceramic trophies often consider them collector's items and display them with considerable pride. In 1953, actress Shelly Winters who happened to be in Banff making a movie, presented prizes.

The 1953 tournament was a success. The Committee recorded a profit of $54.61 and a lot of enthusiastic response. One participant wrote: "Congratulations! The first annual CSEG Golf Tournament this past weekend at Banff was an affair you and your members can be justly proud of and one which, I am sure, will be looked forward to in future years with increasing enthusiasm." Nobody could have predicted just how strong that enthusiasm would be. The event has grown into a fall tradition. Prizes over the years have included golf bags, vacations and cars. In 1977, on the silver anniversary of the tournament, Ken Brillon, then with Petro-Canada, drove home in a restored 1953 silver Cadillac for closest drive to pin on the infamous 8th hole, the Cauldron.

Today, a ladies tournament and a mixed event are also scheduled annually. But the Doodlebug is more than just golf. Trailers are set up along the course for those seeking liquid refreshment. Social activities include cocktail parties, dinners, dances and buffet breakfasts.

The mid-fifties were a reasonably quiet time for the Society. The technical meetings continued. In '55 the executive agreed to schedule the get-togethers monthly. That same year, the ASPG once again held a joint meeting with the Society. In 1954 Seismic Survey Supply Ltd. donated $1,000 to the organisation, leaving $2,373.93 in its coffers at the year-end. A further donation from the supply company the following year put the Society well ahead financially and provided an opportunity for new directions.

During that time, the CSEG joined the Calgary Technical Library Advisory Committee and contributed $333.33 to the cause. For the next six years the Society continued to donate both time and money. The object of the committee was to offer advice on the acquisition of books and journals relative to geophysics and to solicit sponsorships from local companies for subscriptions to scientific journals. The Technical Library, organised by a number of technical groups in Calgary, was an attempt to gather material relevant to the various groups' field of expertise. In 1958 that library was merged with the Calgary Public Reference Library.

In 1956 the CSEG took two positive steps towards promoting the science of geophysics outside the Society. It set up a formal public relations committee and established a scholarship program. The formation of the Public Relations and Publicity Committee was an attempt to improve the image of both the science of geophysics and its practitioners. As seismic activity became commonplace, normal disruptions caused by geophysical operations created the need for better communications between the industry and the public.

After receiving offers from companies wanting to assist in the funding of a scholarship program, the CSEG formed a committee to look into the proposal. "The Society recognises that more students must be encouraged to undertake scientific and technical university education if the manpower needs of all education, government and industry are to be met." An appeal to service, supply and contracting companies met with positive response and by February 1957 the Society had raised $2,050.

In 1957 nine scholarships were awarded. The CSEG presented the awards to students in the fields of education, geophysics and science. A total of six scholarships of $350 each were awarded in '58; three to education students at the Universities of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, two to geophysics students at the Universities of Alberta and Western Ontario and one to a science student at the University of Alberta. Funding assistance for the scholarship program continued to be cutback during the hard times of the 1960s and it was not until 1971 that the Society finally established a stable scholarship fund.

It was in the late 1950s that the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists began to look to new methods of promotion. With more than 400 members and some public recognition, the Society was prepared to continue to expand. The year 1957 saw the formation of several new committees. Things were happening fast. During the year the CSEG was invited to use two pages in the Western Oil Examiner to publish some papers, opinions and schedules and an editor was appointed to organise documents for publication. Canada was on the SEG's distinguished Lecture Tour itinerary. And during '57, the Society learned that its lobbying had paid off when the SEG announced that it would be holding its 1962 convention in Calgary.

In 1957 the Education Committee, one that has remained active every year since its inception, was struck. It served both an education and public relations purpose. The committee established a high school lecture program and speakers went into the schools and addressed the students directly.

International Geophysical Year (IGY) occupied much of the Society's efforts during the latter part of the decade. According to a committee report, the principal functions of the IGY committee were to "serve as a liaison group between the Canadian National Committee for the IGY and the exploration geophysicists of Western Canada and to seek the assistance of the oil industry where its facilities or personnel can contribute to the IGY program." The CSEG assisted in recording information and compiling data for the 1958 event. In April '58, when many tons of dynamite were exploded off Vancouver Island to remove Ripple Rock, a navigational obstruction, the CSEG took the opportunity to learn more about the earth's crust by recording the arrival time of the energy of the blast in Alberta. Refraction specialist T. C. Richards, then of the British Petroleum, organised the geophysical recording. Another of the Committee's projects was to collect records showing deep reflections and to attempt to correlate and interpret them. One of the primary objectives of IGY was to determine the depth of the Mohorovic discontinuity, believed to be about 20 miles below the surface.

In 1958, annual membership dues in the Society rose to $4. Activities centered around the education, public relations and IGY committees. The major focus, however, continued to be the Society's monthly technical meetings. In April, the first annual spring dance was held. "It was attended by over 250 and was judged such a success that it should surely become known as the First Annual Spring Dance. Mr. Bulundun set a high standard for future dances by recording a profit of $452.57, " one enthusiastic supporter wrote.

The success of the Calgary-based Society led to the formation of two similar organisations in other Canadian cities. In 1958 the Edmonton and Regina Geophysical Societies were formed. The new groups planned to follow in the CSEG's footsteps. The object of the Edmonton Geophysical Society was to "promote the science of geophysics especially as it relates to exploration and research; to foster the common scientific interests of geophysicists; to encourage fellowship and cooperation among its members and other workers; and to disseminate knowledge of the science through regular meetings." The two Societies continued to hold technical meetings during the '60s, but were dissolved by 1973 as the exploration activities of the industry became centralised in Calgary.

In 1959 the CSEG produced its first newsletter. The monthly publication announced upcoming meetings and events. During the year, eleven technical meetings were held, four scholarships given and two new committees established. The Membership Committeee was organised, "with a view to investigating methods of increasing membership in the local society, and to cooperate with the Membership Committee of the national Society." A Legislative Study Committee worked from December '59 to April '60, looking into proposed revisions to the Engineering Profession Act. During the year, when the Western Oil Examiner folded, the Society began contributing material to the Canadian Oil and Gas Industries publication.

(Taken from 'Traces Through Time' by David Finch, 1985)