I graduated in geophysics from the University of Toronto in 1960, being a child of the serious 50's, and like most kids of that era, I treated myself to two weeks off after my final exams before getting on the train to Edmonton to work at Pan American Petroleum (now Amoco).
Riding the train from Toronto to Edmonton to start a new life fit into my family history. Half of my ancestors arrived in Canada from Ireland in the 1840's and the other half from the United States in the 1790's. Their descendants appear to have been perpetually on the move: My grandparents were born in Ontario and homesteaded in Saskatchewan in the late nineteenth century. Both of my parents were born there but settled later in Ontario. I was born in Vancouver but moved to Ontario with my parents right after the war when my dad returned from England. So, it seemed logical to move west after I finished university.
I was proud of my degree, because geophysics really started in Canada at the University of Toronto, and I can remember suggesting to my boss that we do a Fourier analysis of the data traces. I didn't get much reaction so I asked Jack Cameron, Ph.D., one of the geophysicists in the Edmonton office, how much math I would need in my job. Jack said: "you need to know how to add and subtract and, in a crisis, multiply".
Pan American had a very close relationship with Western Geophysical in those days and Western operated a "bob-tail" seismic crew for Pan American, supplying a driller, shooter and surveyor/ party manager. Pan American supplied an observer from its playback centre (analog processing) and two or three junior geophysicists who were drillers helpers and line crew. I spent my first summer in the oil business on that crew. We shot about ten profiles each day (24 channels), spent our nights in small town hotels in Alberta (even checked out the beer parlors) and learned the fundamentals of seismic acquisition.
I decided to go to the Calgary Stampede that first summer in Edmonton. I had no car, so I hitchhiked to Calgary. My last ride was with two guys who told me they'd take me to a real western bar where all the ranchers went. It turned out to be the King Eddy, on 9th Avenue, (long before it became respectable) and I stayed for a while and then decided to go and call on Diane Finlayson, a nursing classmate of my sisters. I knocked on her apartment door, introduced myself and suggested dinner. I found out later that her roommate was appalled that she would even consider it but Diane said "why not, it's a free meal." Nurses have always been very practical. Anyway, we were married a year later and have a son, Greg, a writer/editor in Toronto, a son, Jamie, in Calgary with Probe Data and a daughter, Sue, who has just returned from England.
I spent a good part of the winter of 1960-61 on a seismic crew in the Caribou Mountains, about 100 miles northeast of High Level. We had two senior geophysicists, two juniors, a technician and a geologist on the crew and we were doing an interpretation of the Slave Point and Keg River section from the field records. Ralph Lundberg was the other junior geophysicist on the crew. We had to pick first breaks, do corrections, iron labels on records and keep the furnace burning in our office trailer. Ralph and I shared a house in Edmonton with Paul Gagnon and Emmett Flynn, also from Pan American. Ralph had brewed a batch of fig wine in our basement and we decided to take a few bottles with us on our drive from Edmonton to the Caribou Mountains. We arrived on New Year's Eve and the crew, (including Bill Cherniak and Jock Coull) helped us with the bottles that night. Our supervisor allowed us to make a radio call home so Jock phoned Scotland and the supervisor called his sister in Ecuador.
I left Amoco in the Rainbow Lake boom, in 1966. In rapid succession I worked for Angus Petroleum Consultants and for Seismotech, neither company now operating; and for IBM, a wonderful company but my love was geophysics and that's what I wanted. I moved to Digitech to process data in Sydney, Australia, where we spent six months, loving the city and the climate. That's the only time I ever enjoyed commuting - a half mile walk to a ferry landing, a 15 minute trip across Sydney harbour and then another half mile walk from Circular Quay to the office.
I was assistant manager to Ross Crane, now a successful petrophysical consultant in Calgary. After the first week I told Diane that maybe we shouldn't unpack but we lasted six months before we had to close the office. Others who were in that operation were Dave Robson, who set it up and supervised it from Calgary; Tom Grudecki, Fred Mazar, Gordon Johnson, Roger Hawthorne and Ben Berg, the founder of Digitech. In retrospect, a powerful crew.
We then took a run at the UK and I went to London with Roger Hawthorne and set up an office in the fall of 1971. It looked like a success, so we returned to Calgary in December and brought our families over in February of 1972. We ran a good operation until the summer of 1976 when we closed it - we really didn't have the investment required to keep us competitive in that market. Our assistant manager was Bob Stuart who is once again, as of this summer, working with me as a senior consultant at Boyd PetroSearch. We enjoyed living in England and had an opportunity to see a lot of England and Europe in those years.
We returned to Calgary in the summer of 1976. With considerable support from Diane, I decided to leave Digitech and become a consultant. I left on the last day of March in 1977, with no work or any firm prospects lined up. On the morning of April 1st, I got up and put on my suit. "Why the suit", asked Diane. "Something will happen", I said, and it did, and I did find somewhere to go in that suit that day, and one thing seems to have followed another and I now have completed 20 years of consulting.
After a few years I expanded into seismic modeling as well as general consulting and I started to build a small organization. I realized that I wanted my consulting company to be strong enough to operate long after I was finished. I tried to recruit people who were younger and, hopefully, more clever than I so that we could advance in the future as we had in the past and try to stay in the front ranks of the consulting business. Larry Herd joined us, as the fourth employee, in 1981, and has always shared in my desire to be in the forefront of technology while operating a business with the highest standards. We are now a much larger group with broad capabilities in resource consulting.
I have always believed that consulting would take us into the realm of large-scale projects, requiring the use of integrated, multidisciplinary technology. It appears that the petroleum industry is leading us toward that sort of operation. Petroleum service companies are becoming more important as we take over some of the role of the oil companies and offer support to them in areas that are difficult for them to cover. I want very much to share in these new dynamics and I would take great personal satisfaction in helping to build my company to the level where it can offer this sort of integrated support to the industry.
In conclusion, I ski tolerably well, I play golf very badly. I have a passion for gardening and have some ability to make flowers and green things work well together. I have been a member of the Rotary club of Calgary for many years and enjoy my community service. I was CSEG President in 1986, the year of the great oil price collapse, and learned to have great affection for this most excellent of all technical societies. I am on the APEGGA council, along with three other geoscientists, and we try to speak effectively for geologists and geophysicists in our council meetings.