Although we had quite frequent holiday visits to France and Spain during post-war years I had very limited overseas professional contact. There were visits to meetings of the International Carboniferous Congress in Aachen and Paris and one brief visit to the Ruhr Coalfield, all arising from the importance of coal mining at the time. By and large, however, in post-war years we rightly regarded the Geological Survey of Great Britain (GSGB) as being in a lead position, with not much to learn from abroad.
In 1960 I was posted to Scotland, and by the mid-1960s was beginning to become heavily involved in the entirely new sphere of offshore geology. It was fortuitous that by the early to mid 1970s a favourable financial position developed, to the extent that marine survey was able to expand rapidly. By the same token a good deal of foreign travel became possible by senior staff for overseas liaison purposes. Kingsley Dunham, who was Director during these years of ‘affluence’ took full advantage of the travel possibilities, and in fact he was reported (via Margaret Dunham and my Mother, who were in cahoots) to take pride in being called the ‘Travelling Director’. Personally I never heard those words used, but he did get round to visiting most of the Overseas Division field geologists in their mapping areas
Dunham several times suggested I should put together a proposal for myself to visit offshore workers elsewhere to see what ideas could be picked up. He particularly mentioned looking at offshore carbonate production for cement manufacture in Iceland. The truth is that I was not all that keen to go, partly because our own survey work took me away from home unduly frequently, and partly because all the indications were still that we did not have much to learn from overseas geological surveys – especially in respect of work on the continental shelf. This happy position arose from the substantial funding we were receiving as a result of a combination of North Sea developments and a progressive government attitude.
However, as the seventies proceeded it became apparent that one area where we could learn was in regard to curation of records and samples from petroleum wells, of which North Americans geological surveys then had much more experience than the Brits, albeit onshore rather than offshore. So it was finally agreed that I would make a North American tour during 1974.
The Australian visit of 1976 was by virtue of my attending the International Geological Congress in Sydney as Assistant Director and presenter of a paper, and the Vancouver visit of the same year was by invitation of the Canadians to give some lectures on offshore methods. I was accompanied by Lucette on both…