An issue of the RECORDER with a specific focus on “Historical Perspectives” should have some kind of article on the CSEG’s own history. Fortunately much material has already been assembled and has been installed on the CSEG website. Notable, the Society’s web site contains significant excerpts from David Finch’s 1985 book “Traces Through Time”, a CSEG sponsored summary of the society until that time. Another interesting piece is the 1965 CSEG Journal article, “CSEG Highlights” by R.J Copeland (CSEG President, 1954). Much of what follows comes from these two sources. Readers are encouraged to make their way to and undertake their own investigation into our history as a Society. Wherever possible in this article reference will be made to notable individuals in the history of CSEG affairs. Note, for the purposes of this article notable will tend to mean those individuals who have received CSEG awards. For a complete list of Award recipients readers should refer to the Achievements page on the CSEG web site. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive history.

Both Copeland and Finch indicate that on June 2, 1949, sixty-four people attended the inaugural meeting at which the first executive was chosen. The inaugural meeting was held at the Palliser Hotel, and a photograph of that meeting appears in Copeland’s Journal article. Though the reproduction quality is not stellar, examination of the background suggests that the Palliser may be a bit of welcome, though peripheral, stability in the Calgary geophysics world.

Fig. 01

Annual dues were first charged in 1950, and were set at $2.00. It is interesting to note, that on a first approximation basis at least, and without concern for proper currency determination, oil price and CSEG Membership price have kept pace with one another over 5 decades. In 1950 the price of oil was about $2.50 US. 2004 finds oil tagging $50 US and the 2005 CSEG membership set at $53.50.

A fledgling organization might be expected to go through somewhat unfocused times. The discussion of the very early years of the CSEG in “Traces Through Time” implies such an occurrence. Certainly, many projects seem to have been undertaken between 1950 and 1952, but not too much seems to have come of them.

By contrast, 1953 seems to have been a bit of a pivotal year for the Society. It appears that the $2.00 annual dues provided insufficient funds for operating the technical meetings, and admission to those events was charged for the first time. Fifty-two years later the technical meetings, more commonly called the Luncheon Meetings, are still a central, and ticketed, part of the Society’s program. A newsletter was considered for the first time and has evolved into the RECORDER. Significantly, the first Doodlebug was held in 1953 in Banff. Recent Doodlebug organization committees, who donate prodigious hours of their own time to ensure the Tournament is a continued success, will no doubt be amazed to know that in 1953 the first meeting was held on July 17th, the call for golfers went out August 4th, and the tournament went ahead in September.

For a fairly comprehensive history of the Doodlebug readers are encouraged to review the Doodlebug Times, a somewhat light hearted review of past Tournaments that includes industry and general “headlines”. The times can be found at, the History link, or via the Events link at For example the 1953 Times makes mention of the discovery of the Pembina Cardium field, and the introduction to the world of Saran Wrap and Cheese Whiz. The 1973 times captures the gender issues of the day with “Billy Jean King kicks Bobby Rigg’s butt”, and the industry issues of the day with mention of the Trudeau government’s oil price freeze. Mobil’s east coast discovery at Cohasset is mentioned as well. The Doodlebug Times is recommended as an entertaining way to spend an idle lunch hour.

Any mention of the Doodlebug must include mention of Ted and Lola Rozsa. Quite aside from being nationally notable supporters of the Arts, Ted and Lola attended the Doodlebug for 43 straight years. The text of Mrs. Rozsa’s speech at the 2002 Doodlebug is found on the Doodlebug website. Ted Rozsa is one of a select few members who have received the CSEG Medal. Even more rare in the geophysical community is the Order of Canada awarded to him in 1991.

Returning to the fifties for a moment, 1956 saw the introduction of the CSEG Scholarship program, which continues today. In 1957 $3,150 was collected from member organizations and distributed to “several deserving students” according to Copeland. (1970 saw the scholarship program evolve into its present format as the CSEG Scholarship Trust.) 1957 saw the introduction of the Education Committee which has had a remarkably successful renaissance in recent years with the Doodletrain Continuing Education week.

The International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1958 provides an interesting historical sidebar, and an event that in some fundamental fashion speaks to the nature of geophysicists. The geophysical community seems to be in some ways a collection of experimenters, people who set events in motion and then observe what happens. Much of the geophysical community is engaged with the activity of detonating explosives and then listening to what happens. In 1958 this activity went big. The CSEG’s IGY Committee, with cooperation from member companies, sponsored the recording of the Ripple Rock explosion. This event marked the first of two CSEG connections to record setting detonation. Ripple Rock was a serious navigation hazard near the salmon fishing center of Campbell River. Repeated attempts to blow up Ripple Rock with surface charges failed, and in 1958 a serious attempt was made that involved tunneling from a nearby island and placing large quantities of explosive within the rock. The resulting explosion is listed as the largest ever peace-time non-nuclear explosion. Arrival energy was recorded in Alberta. (I have not been able to find seismic records of this event – if any reader can provide more information please contact RECORDER editors.) A CBC web site ( science_technology/ripple_rock_blasted) has a video clip of the explosion. Be forewarned that the first three minutes of the clip could be described as seriously boring – then things liven up for the last minute. This clip was apparently part of one of CBC’s earliest live nationwide broadcasts. Must see TV!

After its initial decade when many of the elements of the CSEG’s present activities were formed, the CSEG continued to institute familiar programs in the 1960s. The awards committee was formed in 1965. The Research Committee that evolved from the IGY Committee was involved with breakthrough developments of multi-fold shooting and digital processing. Norm Christie, who was CSEG President in 1952, became the first of four Canadians to be elected SEG President in 1963. The others were Roy Lindseth (1976), Brian Russell (1998), and Peter Duncan (2004). Of these the first three held office while living in Canada. Peter Duncan had moved to Houston prior to his election to SEG Office. Calgary was the site of the 1963 SEG convention (1500 delegates).

The 1960s saw another episode of the communal fascination with large explosions. Copeland’s Journal article mentions the recording of “large TNT explosions detonated by the Canadian Defense Research Board at Suffield, Alberta”. In an interesting footnote, Copeland indicates Dr. J.A. (Alec) Mair constructed a large microbarometer from a 50 gallon rum barrel for part of the experiment. Again, this writer was unable to locate images of the recordings, and if readers can provide details on this event they are encouraged to contact RECORDER editors. John Boyd indicates that he was on a recording crew at the time, and they were instructed to turn on the instruments at the approximate time of the detonation, and listen for something big.

The first Journal was published in 1965, the inaugural issue containing a paper entitled “Wiggles” by Nigel Anstey, which can be found on the CSEG Web site and is certainly worth a look. Other notables providing Journal papers in the 1960s include: Roy Lindseth’s “Nature of Digital Seismic Processing” in 1967, John Boyd’s “Examples of Digital Processing of Transcorded Tapes” in 1968.

In terms of recreation events, the Ski Spree was initiated in about 1967.

The 1970s saw fundamental changes in the business of geophysics due to the prominent role Ottawa began to play in the oil industry. In response to the 1973 federal government price controls, the CSEG set up a Government Relations Committee.

The 1970s also saw the first CSEG Convention, in 1973. The convention has grown to the point that annual attendance is in the area of 2100 delegates, with somewhere over 120 papers presented. This may make the CSEG Convention the third largest annual geophysical gathering. As a measure of the Convention’s development over the years consider that the second convention drew 750 delegates for 24 papers.

The first Doodlespiel also occurred in 1973, and has since developed to a prominence that approaches that of the Doodlebug. Corporate Memberships w e re introduced in 1972 with an underlying purpose of funding the emergent Scholarship Trust Fund. Notable authors appearing in the Journal include Easton Wren with “Trend Surface Analysis – A Review” in 1973, papers by Sudhir Jain, Larry Lines and Sven Treitel in 1974. Notable is the appearance of a paper authored or co-authored by Sudhir Jain in every Journal from 1973 to 1979; several of these were co-authored by Easton Wren.

Some notable developments with CSEG operations occurred during the 1970s. Registration in the society topped 1000 in 1970. The CSEG newsletter was renamed the RECORDER in 1976, and its recent renaissance is due mainly to the efforts of Satinder Chopra and Oliver Kuhn. The SEG convention returned to Canada in 1977 for the second time. There is a common thread between the two conventions and Canadian SEG Presidents. Norm Christie was SEG President when the 1963 event came to Calgary; Roy Lindseth was the second Canadian SEG President in 1977. Norm Christie and Easton Wren, clearly prolific contributors, determined in 1975 to start collecting the society’s historical data, an effort that resulted eventually in the 1985 publication of “Traces Through Time”. Christie and Wren held the office of CSEG President in 1952 and 1981 respectively. For his part, Roy Lindseth seems to have had a busy decade of service: CSEG President 1971, SEG President 1977, and APEGGA President 1979/80. Other geophysicists who have held APEGGA’s top elected office include Bill Blair, P.Geoph. in 1986-87, Jim Hume, P.Geoph., 1971-72, and Frank Spragins, P. Eng. 1975. Though Frank Spragins was P.Eng. by designation his career started with field crew supervision in the foothills in the 1940s. He was a “Division Geophysicist” with Imperial in 1955, and by 1971 is listed as President and General Manager of Syncrude. (Thanks to Penny Colton, P.Geoph., APEGGA for this information.)

The last thing to mention about the 1970s is the strange absence in the documents of further experiments concerning the communal fascination, large explosions and long listening times (with apologies to long time member Dr. Ken Duckworth, University of Calgary’s prolifically published EM researcher).

The 1980s ushered in changes in a fairly big way. Lithoprobe arrives, not so much in a burst, taking rather a “shaken not stirred” approach to deep crustal investigation. Crandel’s 1981 paper in Geoscience Canada outlines the program. In 1983 Honorary Member Ron Clowes is a co-author with A.G. Green in First Break for the paper “Deep Geology from Seismic Reflection Studies in Canada”. Honorary Members Clowes, Kanasewich and Hyndman are listed as Co-authors on a C.J. Yorath paper in Current Research. Lithoprobe has captured a number of awards for its research activities, and somewhat improbably, has produced a children’s book: “Dancing Elephants and Floating Continents” written by John Wilson and published by Key Porter. Lithoprobe has involved somewhere around 900 scientists, has assisted with the use of seismic in base metal mineral exploration, and has done research resulting in commercially used deep EM systems.

Another big shake up of the 80s was the Oct. 28, 1980 introduction of the National Energy Program. A federal government web site ( suggests that economic losses to Alberta alone were between $50 billion and $100 billion. Compounded with low oil prices from 1986 to 1989, this was a tough decade for CSEG members and all of the business sectors associated with hydrocarbon exploration.

In regards to technical developments in the 1980s, the 1981 Journal includes an article by Dan Hampson and Mike Galbraith on Wavelet Extraction by Sonic Log Correlation. The article represents an early print appearance by these two legendary figures in Canadian geophysical software development. Galbraith published again in 1982, and Hampson (with Larry Mewhort) in 1983. Hampson, this time notably with Brian Russell, is published again in a remarkable 1984 Journal that includes among its authors and co-authors four CSEG Presidents, four Meritorious Service Awards, three Honorary Members, and one CSEG medal. Notables Easton Wren, Sudhir Jain, Don Lawton, Rob Stewart, John Boyd, and (again) Dan Hampson continued to contribute to the Journal in the 1980s.

The 1990s sees another industry downturn with average oil price for 1998 in the area of $11US. As if to compensate for more tough times for industry, CSEG members are involved in listening to their second world record explosion. This time it involves CREWES (The Consortium for Research in Elastic Wave Exploration Seismology), another award winning Research consortium, and this time it is an implosion. An interesting web site,, indicates the Calgary General Hospital demolition gets the nod for most buildings removed in a single implosive demolition (20). CREWES personnel recorded the event, and Rob Stewart’s paper can be found on line at This writer recalls a RECORDER article about the demolition, but leaves it for the reader to verify if this is true or not.

The late 1990s saw a marked revival of the RECORDER. In contrast to the revived RECORDER, the 1990s also saw the demise of the Journal – the last one being the 1998 Special Issue on High Resolution Aeromagnetic Exploration for Hydro carbon Exploration. The penultimate issue, December 1997, saw the last Journal publication by Dr. Ernest Kanasewich (Honorary Member, Meritorious Service). In addition to his CSEG Awards he received the Canadian Association of Physicists Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Canadian Geophysical Union’s J. Tuzo Wilson Medal. He also provided a classic text, “Time Series Analysis in Geophysics” published by the University of Alberta Press.

The CSEG Superfund was actively promoting and funding interesting research and outreach activities for period of time in the 1990s.

In 1995 the Fold-Fault Research Project, another Research Consortium, was launched. CSEG notable Dr. Don Lawton was instrumental in this project, which combines efforts at University of Calgary and Queen’s University supported by an international cast of industry sponsors. Memorial University’s MUSIC Consortium (Memorial University Seismic Imaging Consortium) was active in the 1990s and remains so today. While not CSEG activities per se, the various research groups across the country tend to include CSEG members in either their staff or their sponsors’ staffs.

Returning to the RECORDER, despite its improved technical content, one of the most memorable pieces is the March 1999 profile of Bill Mooney, written by Bill Mooney. Who says geophysics is dull? Two other, more recent, personal favorites are Peter Cary’s (current CSEG President, and a fixture in the list of “ really smart guys”) article “Multi-component Seismic – One Man’s Perspective” that is refreshingly frank and wonderfully written to allow an exquisitely dry humor to peek forth, and Oliver Kuhn’s (2003 Meritorious Service) article on the bamboo drilling industry in China.

The last five years of the Society’s history are perhaps more correctly called current events. Their summary is left for another time.



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