Thursday, July 23, 2009

Remembering George. G. Shor


George G. Shor Jr, Professor Emeritus of geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, USA died on the 3r of July . My father is probably the only person in Seychelles who remembers George Shor and gave me some details of his trip to our waters.

Shor's distinguished career included helping develop the United State’s consortium of oceanographic research ships and the creation of the California Sea Grant program. But for the countries of the Western Indian Ocean it is worthy to note that his studies included pioneering research in our region and helped lay the foundation for the theory of tectonic plates, one of the most important concepts in earth sciences.


Shor had been working in the Indian Ocean since 1960 when he led the expedition by Scripps into this ocean as part of UNESCO’s International Indian Ocean Expedition. Between 1960 and 1963 the Monsoon and Lusiad Expeditions were initiated by Scripps with the two research vessels Horizon and the Argo.

On the 4th October 1962 the Horizon sailed from Cochin, India to Seychelles and Mauritius with George Shor as Expedition Leader and Chief Scientist. The Argo approached Mahé island on October 15h on a 90-mile shallow water seismic run from the east-southeast. But this was cancelled because water depths were found to be unsafe.

The hydrographic winch on Argo had started to develop problems and made work difficult so the expedition decided to head for land. Horizon landed a load of coral, shells, fish and invertebrates it had dredged and sailed for Port Victoria. Horizon tied up at the Long Pier on October 16th 1962 whilst Argo, with a greater draft, anchored outside the harbor. They spent October 17th and 18th ashore on Mahé.

On Mahe, Shor met my father whose house had already become the focus for scholars and scientists who came to Seychelles. My dad remembers discussing continental drift with Shor. They left Port Victoria on the 19th. Horizon carried a huge female Aldabra tortoise purchased as a gift for the San Diego Zoo.

Shor’s work in the region was published in a landmark paper co-authored with Dwight Pollard in Science in October 1963, entitled “Seismic Investigations of Seychelles and Saya de Malha Banks, Northwest Indian Ocean “ www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/142/3588/48 .

The conclusions were that the Seychelles Bank had granite rock under a considerable portion of the bank but Saya de Malha Bank, also on the Mascarene Ridge was composed of volcanic rocks capped by coral. This meant that the two areas were structurally independent. To us today, this is a seemingly mundane result, but it actually helped lay the foundation of what we know about the geology of the Indian Ocean as well as assisted in the development of the incredibly important theory of tectonic plates

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