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Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists
50th Anniversary Special Publication



This Special Publication is co-sponsored by Geoscience Australia and the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists


the evolution of the AIRBORNE MAGNETOMETER
and the first anti-submarine and aeromagnetic survey operations.
People, Planes, Places and Events 1100s -1949

W. D. (Doug) Morrison


This book, covering a global expanse of more than 800 years, recounts the largely untold story of 'measuring terrestrial magnetism' and of the extraordinary 'people, planes, places and events' that have contributed to the evolution of the magnetometer and the first anti-submarine and aeromagnetic geophysical survey operations. It is a unique journey of science and engineering, of inventions, new methods and instruments - a compelling story of how the measurement of terrestrial magnetism has influenced the history of the world.

This is an operational historical record rather than a history of the theory of terrestrial magnetism. The story begins at the earliest documented geomagnetic discoveries and moves on to observations of magnetic intensity and the first ground magnetic surveys. We see how the instruments used for geomagnetic observations from moving airborne platforms evolved in parallel with the evolution of flight from balloons (from 1784), to airships and eventually aircraft.

In the 1930s and 1940s there were major advances in magnetometry, in USSR, Japan and Germany as well as in USA and UK. In USA and UK these advances were applied in military surveillance systems, including in the detection of submarines. Landmark World War II induction coil and fluxgate instruments - the first of the modern technologies - enabled aeromagnetic acquisition, mapping and direct detections of ore bodies from the air from mid-1944 onwards, foreshadowing today's airborne magnetic surveys. The military developments of magnetometers were taken up, rapidly advanced and applied by the mineral exploration industry to find new economic deposits of magnetic mineral ores. Countries including Australia, Canada the United States charged their national mining and geological survey departments with investigating and establishing programs of major aerial magnetic surveying and mapping in the search for minerals and energy.

The story explores the inextricable cross-discipline connections of terrestrial magnetism and magnetometers between their use for navigation, geodesy, anti-submarine and military purposes and their role in the geophysical oil and mineral exploration industry. Organisations, people and specific instruments and aircraft are noted, including (at times coincidental) Australian connections.

The extraordinary depth and scope of research, over many decades, by the author W.D. (Doug) Morrison, as well as his collection of photos and illustrations, and his astonishing attention to detail, make this book an amazing and immersive historical reading experience and a future primary reference work. Through several decades Doug has developed an extensive 'reference' network of geophysical survey practitioners, and former experts in military, aviation and maritime matters. Through their little-known stories and personal reflections, and his access to personal and official archive material from this network, Doug's narrative brings unique insights into the evolution of the airborne magnetometer. Along that timeline he has produced details that are not available in public historical material.

Measuring Terrestrial Magnetism is a major work of 650 pages and is illustrated throughout with 155 colour plates of figures and photos, comprehensive Endnotes, Appendices and extensive References and Index.

2020 Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (ASEG)
and Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia)
ISBN 978-0-6450691-0-5 (paperback)


The Author


The author operating a SHORAN ground station, Queensland 1964

W. D. (Doug) Morrison has been hands-on involved, in some form or another, in airborne geophysical mapping all of his working life. He joined Aero Service Corporation in February 1962 as a 'trainee cartographer and geophysical data compiler', first on the aeromagnetic survey of Bass Strait and then on pioneering surveys in the Canning Basin, the Timor Sea and elsewhere. He was studying land and engineering surveying at night and mapping aeromagnetic surveys during the day. Doug later supervised geophysical data processing for governments, exploration companies and contractors on numerous projects. He managed significant airborne surveys as far away as Alaska and Zambia, and for a time he was Manager for survey operations by Geometrics International Corporation in Australia. Some surveys led to discoveries of major petroleum and mineral deposits.

In recent years Doug has, as a hobby, written a number of science and aviation histories that have been published in Historical Records of Australian Science, the Transactions of the Royal Society of Victoria and the American Aviation Historical Society Journal and other aviation publications. Doug is well known in the exploration geophysics industry and has been an active member of and contributor to the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (ASEG) over the past four decades. In 2012 he was awarded an ASEG Service Award for his contributions and promotion of the exploration geophysical industry. He continues to contribute regular articles on geophysical history to the ASEG's bi-monthly magazine Preview.

Doug is also a prolific contributor to the Adastra Aerial Surveys website.