Professor S. Warren Carey (as he preferred to be known) personified a philosophy of synthesis/integration that lies at the heart of large-scale disciplines such as geology and astronomy. This philosophy is complementary to but sometimes seen to be in conflict with the reductionist approach that characterises so much modern science. He was also a strong proponent of the mantra of 'We are blinded by what we think we know; disbelieve if you can'.
Samuel Warren Carey entered this world under slightly unusual circumstances in 1911, near Campbelltown, then a small country centre some 45 km southwest of Sydney. He attended primary school near his birthplace but entered high school at Canterbury, only 8 km from the city. After a record of distinction at high school, he won a scholarship to the University of Sydney.
As a result of perceptive advice, he enrolled at university in geology, in which he achieved outstanding results in his undergraduate studies. He did not, however, restrict himself to scholarly pursuits but participated in and initiated other worthwhile activities. For Honours and MSc, he carried out research on Carboniferous and Permian rocks in northern New South Wales in which he demonstrated initiative, close observation, and logical and creative thought. His research influenced thinking on these rocks for several decades. While at university, he became familiar with the concept of continental drift, a concept that he pursued and expanded through much of the rest of his life.
The research he had carried out fitted him well for the position of geologist in the petroleum industry in Papua New Guinea, in which capacity he produced geological maps and reports that were highly sought after for many years. His work in New Guinea also inspired him to produce an outstanding thesis for his Doctor of Science degree demonstrating his ability to think clearly and widely, and to introduce novel concepts – although he always claimed that he had to omit certain matters because some examiners would have opposed them.
Field work in New Guinea also provided an excellent background for the next stage in his career, a spell in a special commando unit within the Australian Army. He achieved some celebrity status as a result of his work with this unit.
From the Army, he went to Government service as Government Geologist of Tasmania, in which capacity he revitalised the Geological Survey and produced order in the understanding of Tasmanian economic and general geology where little had been seen before.
When the University of Tasmania decided to found a Department of Geology in 1946, Carey became the Foundation Professor and regular courses in geology began in 1947. Professor Carey rapidly developed a reputation as an inspiring teacher, a successful administrator, an outstanding researcher and director of research, an important member of the academic community, and a respected promoter of his subject in the Tasmanian community. He now had the opportunity, possibly a duty, to develop his interest in continental drift and the broad field of the structure of the Earth's surface. He rapidly achieved worldwide recognition for his work in this field, although his ideas were not immediately regarded as orthodox and some still are not. As a result of his work he became convinced that the Earth had expanded and continues to expand. From the expanding Earth he went on to think about the Universe and the Cosmos. Although his views on these latter topics have not been universally accepted, they have challenged orthodoxy and stimulated research.
Even as early as his last year in high school, S.W. Carey stood out among his fellows and he did so through the rest of his life. He was a member, and commonly an active and executive member of many organisations, mainly but not exclusively scientific. Many of these organisations, in Tasmania, in Australia and internationally, recognised his contribution with honours such as Honorary Membership, invitations to Fellowships, and medals. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of his services to science. He died on 20 March 2002, aged 90.
Samuel Warren Carey was born on 1 November 1911 at Campbelltown in New South Wales, to Tasman George and Hannah Elspeth Carey. He was born at home with his father and a neighbour in attendance, several days after his mother was thrown from a sulky when the horse bolted. The family had built a small stone cottage on a 4 ha farm on the Georges River. His name was chosen by his father to honour his own father. He was the third of six surviving children in a family of nine. As primary school students at Campbelltown, he and his siblings had to walk the five kilometres to school whatever the weather or their state of health. When he was six or seven years of age, the family moved to Campbelltown where his father had a job as typesetter for a local newspaper. Carey attended the prestigious Canterbury High School, where like so many students throughout history, he was strongly influenced by his teachers, especially James (Jerry) Jervis (chemistry) and Frank Gillogley (physics). His enrolment paper of 28 January 1924 lists his mother as shopkeeper on the corner of Queen and George Streets, Hurlstone Park, where the family moved in about 1922. He was a prefect in his final year at school. In the 1928 School Leaving examinations, Carey earned one of the few University Public Exhibitions to the University of Sydney, so he entered the University of Sydney in 1929. He also obtained a Teachers' Training College Scholarship.
It is worth noting that economic depression was beginning to take effect about this time and that, as a small shopkeeper with a family of five, his mother was not likely to be able to afford many luxuries. Carey was attracted to medicine but this was an expensive course. By enrolling in science, he could avoid the more costly option and the teaching scholarship helped with his and the family's finances. Students enrolling in science had to study chemistry, physics and mathematics in the first year of their course, leaving them a choice of one other subject. On the advice of his teacher, Jerry Jervis, he chose geology. And thus are careers determined!
Carey was a very good student. He obtained a high distinction in first-year geology (sharing second place in the course with Alan Voisey, both behind Dorothy York), in a class of 83 students, in a department that included Professor L.A. Cotton, Drs W.R. Browne and G.D. Osborne and Mr L.L. Waterhouse among its staff. In the background was Professor T.W. Edgeworth David who had retired in 1924. David had a large and continuing influence on Carey. Throughout Carey's academic career, a large photograph of David held pride of place above Carey's desk and still hangs in the tea room of the School of Earth Sciences in Hobart. Carey proceeded to obtain high distinctions in second- and third-year geology, an honour shared with Voisey, who was also to be a long-serving Professor of Geology in Australia. They graduated together, both with First Class Honours, in 1933. Carey won the Deas Thomson Scholarship for Mineralogy and the Science Research Scholarship. They shared the John Coutts Scholarship for proficiency in science but Carey had to withdraw because of limitations on the number of scholarships that could be held by one student. The friendly competition continued throughout their lives, even extending to comparison of the state of their respective knees as they turned 80 within a few months of each other.
While an undergraduate, Carey became aware of Wegener's concept of continental drift. An English translation of Wegener's book The Origin of Continents and Oceans had been published in 1924, thus making available to a much wider audience his ideas on continental drift. Cotton published a paper in The American Journal of Science in 1924 in which he referred to polar wandering, an aspect of geology with connections to continental drift, and he taught a course, Principles and Problems of Geology, in Geology III in which there was particular emphasis on continental drift which he saw as being 'a logical answer to many Southern Hemisphere problems' (Branagan 1973, p. 30). During Carey's Honours year, Cotton ran a seminar course on the same topic. Further, in 1928, Edgeworth David published, in The Australian Geographer, a short paper on drifting continents. Carey could thus not have been unaware of the concept, which influenced his interpretation of what he saw in New Guinea, was reflected in his doctoral thesis, and underlay much of his academic career. Carey's first paper – on water divining – was published in the Sydney University Science Journal in 1933.
During his Honours year, Carey developed an abscess in his ear and had an operation that he was not expected to survive, but did. This had the consequence that, now partially deaf, he surrendered, with considerable relief, his Sydney Teachers' Training College Scholarship. The operation left him with an ability that he used later to impress indigenous New Guineans. He could exhale cigarette smoke through his deaf ear.
Carey's family was not wealthy and he entered the University as the Great Depression deepened. This not only affected his career choice but, in addition, he had to augment his scholarship income with extracurricular activities to supplement the family income. This was achieved by a variety of tasks including stints as a milkman, iceman, conjurer in Saturday afternoon children's entertainment and night clubs, and coach to high school students in science subjects and even Latin. During his Second Year geology excursion, he participated in an evening concert: as Voisey notes, 'Another outstanding turn was a conjuring and memory session by the Great Mystic S. Warren Carey which left everyone dazed, incredulous and academically scared'. Because of the costs of travel for his Honours work, Carey even took on the task of 'cattle drover' on trains to his Honours area, Currabubula in northern NSW. He amazed local residents with his energy in pursuing his mapping project. He acted as a guide through Jenolan Caves. His extracurricular activities as an undergraduate and Honours student give evidence of self-reliance, creativity and a very well-trained memory. Because he couldn't afford the bus fare, he walked from Blackheath to Jenolan Caves for one excursion.
He was influenced in the choice of his honours project by W.R. Browne, and his honours mapping was followed up by geological mapping, supported by scholarships, in the Werris Creek area for the Master's degree. The particular contributions to geological knowledge he made during his Honours and Master's work were in Carboniferous and Permian stratigraphy and structural geology of the region, and earned him an MSc (1934). He published four papers on this work. The work was also the basis for a paper with W.R. Browne in which the Carboniferous stratigraphy, tectonics and palaeogeography of New South Wales and Queensland were discussed, and a paper with G.D. Osborne on stress analysis. All these papers had long-term influence on later studies and reveal his developing interests and the influence of Cotton, Browne and Osborne particularly.
His interests were not only academic. Since his school days, he had been active in outdoor pursuits such as scouting. Thus he was a member of the Sydney University Regiment and joined the University Rover Crew, and his memory training may be attributed in part to a Scout activity called 'Kim's Game'. The disciplined outdoor activities in the Rovers and the University Regiment were expressions of interests and attitudes that would influence later decisions and approaches, and the lifestyle choices that followed. Later, as Professor and Head of Department, his memory was a major advantage, a source of amazement and sometimes frustration to staff and students. He founded the Students' Geological Society at the University of Sydney and was its initial president. It was in this capacity that he first met Professor David – in Michaelmas term, 1931 – to invite him to deliver the first address to the Society. David had been a dominating figure in Australian geology for several decades and became a major influence on Carey.
Carey retained a strong interest in his alma mater throughout his life, giving the keynote address at the first of the annual Edgeworth David Days in 1988. From a more immediate point of view, his Honours and Master's studies were excellent experiences on which to base the next stage in his career, that of petroleum geologist in New Guinea.
Following the successful completion of his Master's studies, Carey planned to proceed to Cambridge to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree, possibly with an academic career in mind. He had applied for an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship, but in the year he applied, it was given to a competitor who would not be eligible in later years. Carey was told he had an excellent chance for the following year and so, sustained with a New South Wales Government Research Scholarship, late in 1933 he was actively collecting further material in the Werris Creek region, south of Tamworth, to take to Cambridge.
At this point, opportunism intervened and changed the direction of Carey's career, changing his future path from one that could have been mundane (unlikely with his personality) to the dynamic one that eventuated.
Oil Search Ltd needed more geologists in Papua New Guinea and, in the person of G.A.V. Stanley, came to Sydney recruiting, especially for someone with experience in stratigraphy and structural geology. Stanley himself was a highly regarded University of Sydney graduate, having obtained the Undergraduate Scholarship for Proficiency in 1923, and the Science Research Scholarship in 1925/26. Voisey and Carey were both interviewed but Voisey did not want to work in New Guinea and Carey was persuaded to accept a position after convincing Stanley that he was worth an extra £300 over and above the £250 he was offered, because of his
Master's experience in structural geology. This employment continued while the company evolved through Oil Search Ltd (1934-36), Papua Oil Search (1936-38) and Australasian Petroleum Company (1938-42).
Carey had made a choice between field and laboratory based studies and field work won. Two weeks later, he sailed on S.S. Montoro to his destination in Boram, 5 km east of Wewak in northern New Guinea. At the age of 23, he was thrown into the field, in many cases in areas where white men had never been and where the knowledge of the geology was, at best, rudimentary. He spent two years in the Sepik district working on foot, followed by two years in the Gulf region of central southern Papua where field work could be done by boat. During this time, he became fluent in both Pidgin and Police Motu.
Work in these conditions, where self-sufficiency for long periods in the field was absolutely necessary, brought out in Carey the attention to detail that was to mark the rest of his career. He was the sole white man supervising a field party of about 30 'boys', often including members of tribes who regularly were at war. Adaptability and flexibility were tested regularly, as was his ability to use his initiative to deal with natives who had not seen white men before, who had a deeply entrenched tribal approach with deep suspicion of neighbouring tribes, and among whom war and lack of western-style respect for human life were the norm. Much of the food supply had to be obtained locally and this involved learning the New Guinea values and trade system, and avoiding being 'taken for a ride'. He also needed to be field leader, surveyor, doctor, diplomat, trader, recorder of detail, and maintenance man for the equipment. Some examples to illustrate!
In many instances there were no base maps so theodolite, staff and plane tabling were the main survey systems. In the high humidity, the glass in the eyepiece of a theodolite telescope is subject to fungal growth, especially where etched with vertical and horizontal cross-hairs. The diaphragm with cross-hairs was thus replaced with glass bearing spider-web cross-hairs that lasted longer than the etched variety. He collected spider-web thread on a card with a slot in it, after a lengthy process of getting 'his boys' to collect the right type of spiders and choosing the individual spider that produced the best single thread (hence the personal word 'spidering'). Applying the spider web to the eyepiece often had to be done several times to get the spacing absolutely correct. He also preferred to make his own bamboo staffs because they floated if dropped in water and were light, cheap and easily replaced. Plotting the day's results was done after dinner by the light of a Tilley lamp. The advent of aerial reconnaissance flights late in 1937 allowed sketching of topography and other features from the air. Aerial photography then speeded up the mapping considerably.
Carey had many medical experiences including regular stitching of surface and deeper wounds. He also treated yaws and sexually transmitted diseases, malaria, pneumonia, diverse parasites, some measles, typhoid, deaths. All to be cared for by a non-medically-qualified geologist in his early 20s! His principal guidance came from a ship's captain's medical book and from the company doctor. His background in Scouts, Rovers and the Sydney University Regiment had given him some relevant experience. While taking so much care for others, he contracted tropical typhus and survived on beef tea until strong enough to walk out of the base camp.
He carried a few bags of rice, blue peas (soak overnight and carry damp in hessian bags during the next day so they sprout and produce vitamin C, to prevent scurvy) and some canned bully beef in case all else
failed. He made bread regularly but had to keep the yeast alive. Meat was what could be shot. Self-discipline was highly developed to prevent him developing any tropical diseases and camp routine was strict, including a daily bath, sick parade, and administration of 'bush justice'. He learned to identify key fossils in the field and developed his own means of polishing rock slabs to examine with hand lens the fossil foraminifera therein, using the field guide prepared for the purpose by Professor Martin F. Glaessner, also an employee of the Australasian Petroleum Company, who eventually also became a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (McGowran 1994). This skill stayed with him through later years. In the first two years, there was no radio and mail commonly was two months old by the time he received it.
Carey made great contributions to the understanding of the geography and geology of Papua New Guinea and the country, in turn, left a very strong mark on him because, in contrast to the age and stability of the areas in which he had worked in his earlier research, it is geologically young and one of the most active places on Earth. It is a land of growing mountains, active volcanoes (and many others that have been active very recently), earthquakes, and vigorous erosion and sedimentation regimes. He experienced first-hand the natural violence of the local environment. He was very close to the epicentre of the Torricelli Earthquake of 20 September 1935. This was the then most violent earthquake recorded in Papua New Guinea and caused the seismograph recorder at Riverview Observatory in Sydney (3,500 km away) to go off-page and to react violently for many hours. His records of the earthquake illustrate again his attention to detail in that he recorded the frequency of various types of vibration, the effects on local material (suggesting acceleration greater than g), and the different types of vibration. There were major landslides and it took months for the shocks to die down and the effects to become fully evident.
His experience and observations of landslides and mudslides were to stand him in good stead in teaching about past environments when he eventually assumed a professorship. His few papers on the area are regarded as landmark works, but most of his work was recorded in company reports. He made predictions that took many years to be proven correct, and the knowledge base he left in company reports and papers has been an important element in the successful search for hydrocarbons in the area. His interests in tectonics were enhanced extremely and he never lost his interest in this part of the world.
At the end of four years, Carey took six months' leave in 1938, returned to Sydney, and completed and submitted a thesis for the Doctor of Science degree, based on his work in Papua New Guinea. It was entitled 'Tectonic Evolution of New Guinea and Melanesia'. The examination of the thesis was quite a saga. It was submitted at about the time of the declaration of the Second World War. The examiners included the very prominent overseas geologists Arthur Holmes (who had worked in oil exploration in Burma) and H.A. Brouwer, and in Australia, the Commonwealth Geological Adviser, W.G. Woolnough, another of David's students. Getting the thesis to them in the first instance, by sea mail, was difficult enough, but to complicate the process, Brouwer kept moving around the world, with the thesis following him and catching up with him only when he returned to his home university in the Netherlands. As a result of the long delay, Carey thought he had failed. Eventually the examiners' reports were all in and the degree was awarded in 1939.
He returned to and continued working in Papua New Guinea until 1942, when World War II intervened in his career. This led to another phase that was to produce its own fame, depending on those same personality traits of adventurous spirit, lateral thinking and attention to detail that had characterized his earlier experiences.
Carey and Austral Robson, a nurse and portraitist, were married in her home town of Kempsey, New South Wales, on 15 June 1940. They had met through the Voisey connection. Austral and their four children (Tegwen Alice, Robyn, Harley and David), seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren survive him.
In 1942, events in south-east Asia indicated clearly that life in Papua New Guinea was about to change. Carey, with his knowledge of conditions there, and with his network of contacts throughout the area, was seen as a valuable resource. He enlisted on 30 June 1942 and was given the rank of Acting Captain on 6 July 1942 (this was confirmed on 6 January 1944). His attention to detail came into its own during Carey's time in the army but his breadth of practical expertise had its drawbacks in gaining credibility with his military superiors in an institution that had it own way of doing things. There must have been a clash of philosophies between Carey and the military, because of Carey's history and belief in self-reliance and the military's call for obedience to a command structure.
The Inter-Allied Services Department (ISD) had been established in March 1942 as an organization for subversion/sabotage behind enemy lines. Perhaps its most famous exploits were Operations Jaywick and Rimau in the Singapore region. The first unit formed in ISD was the Z Special Unit ('secret and unorthodox tasks'), which Carey joined on 1 July 1942. Training for this unit was held at Z Experimental Station a few kilometres inland from Cairns. His secret role was to act as liaison officer between the Commanders-in-Chief New Guinea Force (Lieutenant-General Edmund Herring) and Australian Military Forces (General Sir Thomas Blamey). His more public appointment was as General Staff Intelligence (Topographical), compiling topographical intelligence in Port Moresby, a task for which he was admirably suited (see his paper entitled 'The Morphology of New Guinea' published in 1938; paper No. 7 in his bibliography). This involved collating his own knowledge, transmitting coded messages, dealing with Coastwatchers, and recruiting appropriate candidates for the war effort. In this role he worked in Papua New Guinea through the latter half of 1942.
Carey's best-known role was with Operation Scorpion, his own brainchild. This operation was planned in fine detail to conduct a raid on Rabaul Harbour using folding boats (folboats) launched from a US submarine. The idea was to attack where the Japanese felt most secure. The force would enter the harbour, place limpet mines on enemy shipping, hide in local caves on Vulcan Island until the fuss died down, and escape later. His knowledge of the area was ideal and it was to be conducted only with others who knew the area or had been trained to know it in detail. The concept was treated initially with some scepticism but Carey eventually persuaded Blamey that it was worth an attempt, and Blamey gave Carey a very simple letter stating that what Carey did was with Blamey's approval ('Captain Carey is proceeding to Australia with instructions which I have given him personally. You will assist him in any way you can.'). Training for the ten men of Operation Scorpion began at headquarters in March 1943. Carey's initial task was in 'toughening up' the men to develop a high degree of stamina through an intensive regimen of swimming and running. They also had to develop a full capability in the use of folboats, and of attaching limpet mines quietly.
There were those who believed that Operation Scorpion could not succeed and would not be approved unless the concept could be proven viable. To show that it was, Carey decided that there had to be a test run – on shipping in Townsville Harbour, a harbour protected by a minefield – an appropriate training exercise for people and gear. Thus, at 11 pm on 19 June 1943, the Scorpion team left a train at a river crossing just north of Townsville. The group carried 45 sand-filled limpet mines and dehydrated food for three days. They carried no fuses, and the limpet mines could not be detonated. The river was not tidal as he had been led to believe, and it took some 30 hours to reach Magnetic Island, about 10 km from their destination. At 11 pm on 22 June, the commandos set off. They navigated through the mined Townsville harbour entrance with little trouble. With only a single potential problem, they retired quietly to Townsville at 7 am on 23 June, leaving fifteen ships, including two destroyers, with three limpet mines on each.
Unloading the vessels allowed the mines to become visible. The rumour mill was activated and the word passed to Townsville itself that the Japanese had limpet-mined the ships. Work in the harbour stopped. The military communication system came into play and the message eventually reached the offices of General Douglas MacArthur who was, by this stage, responsible for the ISD, now renamed Allied Intelligence Bureau. One of his officers was immediately suspicious of Carey and asked that he be found. He was, at 3 pm, asleep in the Officers' Club. He was arrested but released on production of Blamey's letter. He went through interviews with successively higher ranks in the Navy and ultimately to drinks on HMAS Arunta, the pride of the fleet. During drinks, it became clear that Arunta's captain was unaware that his ship had been limpet-mined, a situation that was then demonstrated.
The Townsville venture had been more successful than Carey had dreamed; it had shown that his training and forethought had worked. But Operation Scorpion, originally proposed as a raid on Rabaul, was not to be. US forces lost a submarine and Australian troops captured the Huon Peninsula, thus rendering the raid both logistically difficult and unnecessary. The Navy did not pursue any military legal action on condition that he be transferred; thus he did not have the chance to participate in other Z activities. The success of the exercise showed that such daring raids could work and ultimately led to acceptance of the idea that Operation Jaywick, employing Krait might work; it was very successful. Following Jaywick, another Z raid (Rimau) included Carey's brother Walter who was captured and beheaded by the Japanese, in Singapore, on 7 July 1945, one month before the atom bombs were dropped on Japan.
Following the disbandment of Operation Scorpion, Carey moved to Melbourne before returning to Papua New Guinea. He was appointed Director of Research in the Joint Planning, Training, Air and Technical Directorate, established in July 1943 under Major (later Sir) John Holland. He was Mentioned in Dispatches.
Carey qualified as a parachutist on 30 September 1943. He was actively involved in experimental work in parachuting, using the Liberator 'Beautiful Betsy', and retained his interest in parachuting throughout his life. As the war was coming to an end and policy was to take employment if it came available, he took the opportunity and was discharged on 6 November 1944. He remained in the Army Reserve.
His experiences during World War II illustrate well the developing Carey – creative thinking, attention to detail, personal faith in and commitment to what many saw as outrageous proposals, ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and desire to win – pure effrontery.
After demobilization from the military in 1944, Carey, at this time in Melbourne, accepted appointment as Government Geologist of Tasmania, following the move of the previous incumbent in that office, Dr D.E. Thomas, to Victoria. Carey was one of a group of highly trained, very able people who emerged from the war effort. He was perhaps exceptional in that he had had a period of being a high achiever before the war began and so had a head start over many of the others. Carey began to reorganize the Geological Survey, to investigate and write reports on mineral prospects, mines, groundwater resources and engineering projects, and to make a critical review of the literature and evidence involved in an understanding of the geology of Tasmania. He paid particular attention to the Cenozoic structure and sediments, both areas to which his earlier geological experience of structure and tectonics was relevant. The Palaeozoic was the Era in Tasmania during which most of the mineral resources were formed. As a result of his review, he brought for the first time a semblance of order to the conflicting views of the stratigraphy, structure and mineral potential of the early Palaeozoic rocks (particularly of the Cambrian volcanic rocks which later became known as the Mount Read Volcanics). He also produced for the first time a model relating Tertiary non-marine deposition to Cenozoic rift valley faulting. During his term of office, he arranged for up-to-date geological and mineral maps of the State to be prepared and published. He was not particularly happy at the Survey because the Director of Mines at the time had a policy of not publishing the results of the Survey's work. Carey eventually found a way around this restriction with his publication of the Report of the Government Geologist for 1945, a major advance in knowledge.
Following the decision by the University of Tasmania to found a Department of Geology, Carey was appointed Foundation Professor and took up duties on 27 October 1946. Over the next six months, he designed courses, started a teaching collection of minerals, rocks and fossils, began to increase the library holdings of text and reference books, to organize office and laboratory space, and to arrange for appointment of a departmental secretary and a demonstrator. The structure of the first-year course was based on his experience at the University of Sydney – lectures, laboratory classes and a number of field excursions. He chose as first-year text Arthur Holmes' book Principles of Physical Geology (which included a chapter on continental drift). Students enrolled in the newly available subject, and teaching of science, engineering and agricultural students began in March 1947. In some of his subsequent lectures and excursions, 'The Prof.' referred graphically to the processes that he had seen in operation in New Guinea and the resulting rocks, when this was relevant to Tasmania. 'The Prof.' was always rather formally dressed, even on excursions, and addressed both staff and students very formally as 'Mr' or 'Miss' (or other appropriate term). Woe betide staff or students who were less formal in their address. This formality was a carry-over from his own school and university days. Close colleagues addressed him as 'Sam' but he always signed himself as 'S. Warren Carey', his chosen style.
Carey was housed for a brief period at the old University of Tasmania building on Hobart's Domain but moved almost immediately to the Second World War vertical-board 'huts' at the current campus, which had been a military rifle range. Teaching began in the old buildings on the new site and this continued until a new building was provided for Geology and Geography and occupied late in 1962. The building was planned in fine detail by Carey working with architects and incorporated his forward-looking perceptions of his subject. Teaching emphasis grew in the emerging disciplines of Geophysics and Geochemistry.
Carey's view was that geology is dynamic and best taught in the lecture room, laboratory classes and the field. The building was designed with high-impact aids. These included a Foucault pendulum in the foyer stairwell, a large terrestrial globe, a seismic recording drum, a mosaic on the foyer floor, specimens of Tasmanian minerals, rocks and fossils, and a growing gallery of photographs of graduates and former staff.
The globe (1.8 m diameter relief model) of the Earth had the geology of the seafloor painted on it incrementally as this became known through the 1960s. This sphere rotated once every three minutes and was designed to be lowered into and float in a water-filled mobile trolley, disconnected and wheeled across the corridor into the first-year lecture theatre for use during lectures. Unfortunately the idea was not totally successful because the sphere leaked when placed in the water. The sphere occupied its own glass-fronted room where it was visible to all, and Carey could work on it employing a specially built curved ladder that allowed him to access any part of the surface. The sphere is still there! Under his initiative, a seismic network was established in Tasmania in 1957, centred on the Geology Department. In the foyer of the new building, the rotating seismic drum continually records and displays Tasmanian seismicity from signals generated at four seismic stations. The Tasmanian Seismic Net was integrated into the World Standard Seismic Network. The floor of the foyer features an Escher 'Knights on Horseback' to demonstrate some elements of crystal symmetry. The specimen displays acted as a reference collection and a teaching aid for courses in Tasmanian geological history. The photographic record (the 'Rogues' Gallery') is of interest to current ('so that's what he/she used to look like') and past students (reminding them of past days, experiences and companions).
From his experience at the Geological Survey of Tasmania, Carey knew that there was a serious need for modern regional geological maps for use by the Survey, by the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission, and by an expanding exploration industry. In a hint of things to come, he invited experienced geologists from all over Australia to come to Tasmania, to apply their particular geological skills, and to help extend knowledge of the geology of the island. Thus Professor R.T. Prider and Dr R.W. Fairbridge came to Tasmania from Western Australia, and Professor A.H. Voisey from Armidale, to map areas of interest to the Hydro-Electric Commission in its dam-building programme (Carey was consultant to the HEC for some years). The maps produced by these geologists were a significant part of the papers published on the areas concerned.
In the late 1940s, North Broken Hill Co. Ltd and some associated companies, interested in the matter by Dr C. Loftus Hills, became involved in an exploration programme in western Tasmania under the guidance of Dr M.D. Garretty. One result of this programme was the preparation of a photogeological map of the Zeehan area by Carey, using the skills he had acquired in New Guinea. As part of this exploration, Mr E. Gill was invited to Tasmania to examine the stratigraphy and palaeontology of the Siluro-Devonian rocks. Soon after the Geology Department started, Carey taught a course in air-photo interpretation to a group of professional geologists from Tasmania and other states. To assist further with production of regional geological maps, Carey developed a co-ordinated programme in which Honours and Master's students and staff produced geological maps of one or two 10,000 yard (9.144 km) squares at a published scale of one inch to the mile (1:63360). This programme lasted almost fifteen years during which 52 maps representing a total area of more than 4,500 km 2 (about 6.6% of the State) were published in colour. Many of the maps were produced by students using air photos and the slotted template method of map compilation. Many of the students were associated to varying degrees with the Geological Survey, the Hydro-Electric Commission or mining companies. The synergy between the Department and other bodies was very fruitful.
In his role as teacher, Carey was very effective – he was inspirational. He gave a course on the broader aspects of geology (for example, tectonics) to first-year students throughout his career and courses in the same general area to second- and third-year students. In the early years, he ran all the excursions, but later restricted himself to first-year excursions. The excursions and many of the lectures were run on the 'disbelieve if you can' principle; he actively encouraged students to make close observations, to construct hypotheses consistent with their observations and previous knowledge, and to use multiple working hypotheses to explain what they saw. It was not 'I speak, therefore it is!', rather 'you look; you think; you defend your explanations against your fellow students and me'. At a time when most geology departments could count on a recruitment of 20-30% of first-year students to second year, his department was inspiring up to 60% to advance to higher levels of geological study. A number of graduates from his department, including several who studied geology as a fourth subject in first year (as Carey had done), reached eminence in the profession, in academia, in government service, and in industry. His graduates include several Professors of Geology, several Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He was a highly successful teacher.
His department grew and he steered it very well, but his connection with the academic community did not stop there. He was very assiduous in senior roles in the University – Dean of the Faculty of Science twice, Chairman of the Professorial Board, and President of the Staff Association. He played a significant role in the foundation of a Department of Geography in 1954 (shades of Professor David and Geography in the University of Sydney), and actively supported the introduction of an agricultural science degree in 1962. He was heavily involved in discussions on the planning of the University on the Sandy Bay campus, in the Royal Commission into the University in 1954, and in the Orr case. Although he was not a sympathiser with Orr, he initiated the 'Friends of the Orr family' to help Orr's widow after her husband's death. He was an energetic and respected member of the University community.
Carey had many roles in his capacity as spreader of knowledge of and about geology in the wider Tasmanian community. He founded the Tasmanian Caverneering Club, based on his experience in Jenolan Caves and in training for Z Force; this was the first such organization in Australia and the first use of the term. He maintained close links with the Australian Paratroopers' Association including active parachuting, and was strongly committed to Hobart Legacy.
He strongly encouraged the teaching of geology in schools, particularly secondary schools, a valuable source of recruitment for University geology. Following his early student membership of the Royal Society of New South Wales, he took an active role in the Royal Society of Tasmania, becoming its Senior Vice-President (the State Governor traditionally accepted the post of President). Subsequently, he was elected as Trustee, and later (1951/52), Chairman of Trustees of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
Despite his ascent into the Ivory Tower, Carey remained interested in Tasmanian geology. He published at least eleven papers on this subject arising from work after he became Professor. These ranged from the very local to the regional, and from emphasis on Precambrian rocks to Pleistocene glacial effects, from mineralogy to variation of physical parameters in the subcrust. Some were factual reports, others wide-ranging syntheses. His contribution to the dolerite problem, and to analysis of structures in the Bass Basin, were typical.
Carey was no armchair academic in an Ivory Tower. He believed that one of geology's important roles was in resource exploration for the nation's economic well-being. As both Government Geologist of Tasmania and Professor at the University of Tasmania, he saw the value of geology in exploration and in application to solving engineering problems in Tasmania. Economic geology was an important subject in his department, and examination of the Department's 'Rogues' Gallery' shows many who went on to successful and often very senior positions in mining and petroleum exploration companies, academia, geological surveys and similar organizations.
A continuing association was with Geopeko at its Tennant Creek mine in the Northern Territory. There is continuing controversy concerning the origin of some of the structures in the rocks there and Carey advised on this issue, eventually hiring staff at the University of Tasmania and having PhD research done on the problem. It was typical of his concept of integrating university and industrial needs for research.
Carey had worked for Oil Search and the Australasian Petroleum Company in Papua New Guinea for petroleum exploration for eight years. Much of his field work and subsequent structural analysis laid the foundation for the modern success story there. His understanding of geological structures allowed predictions that are only now being proven correct. This interest was further expressed in the large Papua New Guinea project at the University of Tasmania during the 1960s.
Carey's publication record has many papers that are resource-related. What is less well-known is his role in the very successful exploration for hydrocarbons in the Gippsland Basin that has had a major impact on Australia's economy and reduced its dependence on imported oil. Lewis G. Weeks, consultant to BHP, sat in on one of Carey's 1959 lectures while Carey was Visiting Professor at Yale University. Later, at Weeks' home, Carey sketched the extension of onshore Gippsland Basin anticlines to the offshore. This led, through Weeks, to BHP applying for permits to explore the offshore Gippsland Basin that led, in turn, to discovery of the major hydrocarbon province that is still producing and being explored further.
From the beginning, Carey taught continental drift. His attraction to the topic was initially because of his acquaintance with
Wegener's early work through lectures by L.A. Cotton at the University of Sydney, and later through the 1930s publications of the British geologist Arthur Holmes. His personal experience consisted of his undergraduate attraction to the topic and subsequent Papua New Guinea experience. What he taught in the early days at the University of Tasmania would now be regarded as plate tectonics. This was a time when fixity of the continents was orthodoxy. In addition to his teaching of the mobility of the continents, his research was related to some of the questions of properties of rocks involved in structural geology and continental movement.
His pioneering studies of the large-scale features of the Earth in the early 1950s led to many new concepts (sphenochasm, rheidity, orocline and many others) that required new expressions. These were defined very carefully, taking into account the best principles of etymology. For example, his concept of subsequently-rotated orogenic belts he originally named geoflex but he later rejected this term when he realised that it was a mixture of Greek and Latin roots; he replaced the word with orocline, purely Latin-based. His view of geoscience was the same. He had strong opinions on the pronunciation of words. One such word was 'kilometre' and he could be heard in presentations by others, correcting them loudly from the audience.
Carey developed an innovative approach to the study of continental drift and past supercontinental reconstruction. He arranged for construction of a hemisphere of Tasmanian endemic Huon Pine, 750 mm in diameter, and developed a system for making plastic overlays for this hemisphere. On these, he laboured long hours making detailed tracings of continents and moving these to past positions using palaeomagnetic data, geology and geography. This led to his detailed rebuttal in Geological Magazine of Sir Harold Jeffreys' 1929 assertion that South America and Africa did not constitute a proper fit of past continents. As he reconstructed past supercontinents, he found that there were gaps in what were probably originally continuous structures using an Earth of current diameter, and he became convinced that the Earth had expanded markedly with time. His demonstrations of the case for continental drift, evolution of rift valley to rift ocean and new seafloor, and the tracing of continental movement by volcanic chains (nemataths which he attributed to 'hotspots') are all legacies of his creative and pioneering research which have now become fully integrated into the plate tectonics model for the convecting, dynamic Earth. This was the integrative science that Carey taught through the 1940s and 1950s and which, when combined with seafloor spreading data, showed continents to be mobile, not fixed, in conflict with earlier dogma. It finally led to the 'plate tectonics' revolution in the mid-1960s. His later advocacy of an expanding Earth has not convinced the majority of his profession but the ability to lead with iconoclastic creativity is the characteristic for which Carey is best remembered.
In the mid-1950s, Carey began to convene a series of symposia on topics on which there was wide divergence of opinion. The first of these was on glacial marine sedimentation held in November 1955. Regrettably, papers presented at that meeting have not been published although, as a result of the meeting, a seminal paper on the topic was published by Carey and N. Ahmad in 1961. This paper, stimulated by the Permo-Carboniferous Gondwana glaciation in Tasmania, is still regarded as a classic.
The most famous, and most influential, of the symposia was the Continental Drift Symposium held in March 1956, attended by prominent overseas experts and published by the University of Tasmania in 1958. It was the time when a vast new body of oceanic data (sea floor bathymetry, earthquake distribution in three dimensions) was becoming available but continental drift was still not generally accepted. Carey assembled a group of leaders in various related fields, believers and non-believers alike, and produced a landmark volume. In the resulting publication, he introduced his belief in Earth expansion. Some see the results of this symposium as the most significant work on continental movement published in the twentieth century. It led to many converts and much follow-up study. Shortly afterwards, seafloor magnetic lineations were recognised, and major international initiatives such as the Deep Sea Drilling Project began with the object of testing some of the concepts. Also at about this time, Plate Tectonics, which explained the observations that Carey had taught in the late 1940s, became orthodox, as it still is.
Late in 1956, a symposium was held in Queenstown, western Tasmania, on the topic 'The Genesis of the Lyell Schists', the host rocks of the Mt Lyell copper ore body. This was not published. A little over six months later, in July 1957, the topic of dolerite was addressed. Dolerite is a very common rock type in Tasmania and, in the Australian context, a characteristically Tasmanian rock. It has been economically important, affecting the search for Tasmanian coal, and is an important determinant of the spectacular Tasmanian scenery. Despite its common occurrence, its mode of intrusion and structure were by no means clear at the time. Further, similar dolerites are prominent in Antarctica and South Africa. At the Dolerite Symposium, many aspects received attention and Carey introduced a novel concept – the isostrat – to help determine and explain its structure, a concept that triggered considerable geological and geophysical study that, in due course, led to the rejection of the isostrat concept. The Symposium stimulated research into the rock which continues today.
The success of the 1956 Continental Drift Symposium led to much international recognition for Carey. His Visiting Professorship at Yale attracted several PhD students who came to Tasmania for his New Guinea project (see below). His reputation as a proponent of his views grew and he received a large number of invitations to attend overseas meetings, to speak and to have his views published. He began to receive many international awards, culminating with the award of its 2000 Career Contribution Award by the Structural Geology and Tectonics Division of the Geological Society of America.
Some of the concepts Carey espoused made him realise again the importance of Papua New Guinea as a source of ideas on earth movement and he obtained funding for a serious study by a group of PhD students. Thus several students worked together in the 1960s studying field geology in critical regions, and also key aspects of the geophysics of the area.
The symposium on Syntaphral Tectonics and Diagenesis, in 1963, addressed the origin of unusual minerals and their textures developed in unconsolidated sand and finer sediments as they move under the influence of gravity and water pressure. An important topic was the key role of colloids and gel/sol in transitions in producing large crystals in sedimentary rocks, and the relationship to ore bodies. The symposium was held both in Hobart and in the field at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. It generated heated debate following presentation of unorthodox views on the origin of the porphyroblasts in the Tennant Creek rocks, but was consistent with Carey's philosophy of stimulating the debate.
Carey's publications became more concerned with tectonics as time passed, but occasionally he delved into other topics. Near 'retirement' and after, the scale of his thinking expanded and turned more towards the role of Earth and humanity in the universe. A 1988 review of his Theories of the Earth and Universe: a History of Dogma in the Earth Sciences noted that in this book 'Carey was back in comfortable territory: outside of the establishment'.
Beyond the limits of Tasmania, Carey also was active and held executive roles in many scientific societies. He also promoted membership of such societies to students. He was prominent in the Geological Society of Australia, being a Foundation Member, later President and ultimately was elected to Honorary Membership. The Society struck a medal in his honour, first presented in 1992. He took a close interest in the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS), was Secretary for the 1949 meeting in Hobart, and President of the 1970 Port Moresby Conference (where he gave his presidential address accompanied by a gradually expanding balloon – the Earth – that he punctured at the end of the presentation). He was eventually awarded the ANZAAS Medal and Honorary Life Membership. He was an Honorary Life Member of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and Honorary Foreign Life Member of the Geological Society of America.
On retirement and soon after the establishment of the award, he was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO), reflecting the depth and diversity of his contributions to the Australian community.
In 1979, in company with two US scientists, Carey founded the Expanding Earth Exchange (EEE), a cyberspace network to promote the concept of the expanding Earth and to show that adoption of subduction was an 'unfortunate and regrettable mistake'. This evolved into the Central Expanding Earth Exchange which continued until just before Carey's death.
Carey's relationship with the Australian Academy of Science was stormy to say the least. The record will show that he accepted Fellowship of the Academy following a telephone call from Sir Rutherford Robertson on 27 April 1989. The Academy of Science, at its April 1989 Annual General Meeting, elected him under the by-law that allowed special election of a limited number of Fellows on the basis that such election honoured someone who 'has rendered conspicuous service to the cause of science, or whose election would be of signal benefit to the Academy and to the advancement of science'. This election brought to conclusion a controversial relationship. Carey responded by letter on 1 May 1989, accepting the honour but also pointing out that he was completely unaware that he was being considered, as he had been equally unaware of the honours bestowed on him by 'the Indian National Science Academy, Geological Society of London, ANZAAS, Geological Society of America, Geological Society of Australia, Royal Society of New South Wales', etc.
The long-running dispute between Carey and the Academy had begun several decades earlier.
Until the institution of the Australian Academy of Science in 1954, representation of Australia in international scientific bodies had been through the Australian National Research Council, of which Carey had been a Fellow since 1938. When the Academy of Science came into being, with twelve of the 24 Foundation Fellows being Fellows of the Royal Society of London working in Australia, Carey was not offered Fellowship. This, he believed, was because of objections by some Fellows who considered that his advocacy of continental drift was so outrageous that any adherent in its ranks would bring discredit to the Academy.
Carey submitted his orocline paper to the Journal of the Geological Society of Australia that year and it was reviewed perchance by three Fellows of the Academy, and rejected. In consequence, he wrote that he would never allow put his name to be put forward for election to the Academy, nor again submit a paper for publication by the Geological Society of Australia. The lines were drawn!
Following the success of the Continental Drift Symposium, Sir Harold Raggatt asked Carey's permission in 1958 to put his name forward for Fellowship. Carey declined, citing the issue of the rejection of his paper.
In February 1969, Professor Dorothy Hill, as President of the Academy, wrote to Carey saying that she had the numbers to have him elected. Again he declined nomination, comparing his earlier treatment with that of William Smith when publication of his Geological Map of the England and Wales was rejected by the Geological Society of London early in the nineteenth century (this map was subsequently published, coincidentally, by John Carey, who was found to be unrelated). He further stated that 'I do not think that the Academy will amount to anything geologically in my lifetime'.
Australia hosted, in August 1976, the 25th International Geological Congress, which was co-sponsored by the Academy and the Geological Society of Australia. The Congress was very successful and made a profit of some $70,000. The Organizing Committee of the IGC recommended to the Academy that this fund be used for a variety of geological purposes. These included contributing to organizations that had supported the Congress, paying for publication of the Congress reports, contributing to the cost of publishing a Tectonic Map of Australia, and establishing a fund for the purpose of assisting promising geologists from Australia and New Zealand to attend other IGCs, or for those from IGC-hosting countries to visit Australasia. In accordance with precedent, however, the Academy, as financial sponsor and guarantor of the Congress (which included responsibility for any losses incurred) decided that the profit should be available to support its continuing role of sponsoring international conferences in a variety of disciplines.
This decision was not acceptable to the Congress organizers, and particularly to Carey as president of the Geological Society of Australia. Much debate and strongly worded correspondence ensued, and Carey's energetic diplomacy led to his discussing the matter with the officers of the Academy in Canberra late on 20 April 1977. Later that year, the earlier Council decision was rescinded, the Congress organizers' recommendations were accepted, and a trust fund was established.
Carey followed this incident with a severe criticism of the Academy in The Australian Geologist. Until the establishment of the Academy, the Geological Society of Australia had been the Australian link to the International Union of Geological Sciences, but the Academy had now assumed that role. Carey was vehement in his criticism of the Academy, referring to it as a producer of reports that were eventually consigned to the waste-paper basket.
Carey was foundation Professor of Geology at the University of Tasmania and held the position for thirty years, from appointment in 1946 until retirement on 31 December 1976. He was recognised internationally as a controversial extrovert who expounded vigorously his belief in Earth expansion as an explanation for what he observed in his studies of continental drift. He should perhaps be even more noted for his teaching and recruitment of students into geology. This approach caused the Geology Department at the small University of Tasmania to become Australia's leading department of earth science for many years.
As a scientist, Carey was an independent thinker, perhaps something of an intellectual 'loner'. He had several opportunities to leave Tasmania for posts at better known universities, both in Australia and overseas; however, he believed that operating in an environment with no history of commitment to geological orthodoxy provided a freer intellectual milieu. Tasmania was ideal.
While professionally deeply involved in studying first-order aspects of the way Earth functions, Carey's interest was never superficial, and he was fully conversant with the detail. This was a major philosophical conviction and applied to any interest he developed.
He was a showman and enjoyed making an impact. At a meeting in Hobart in the 1960s, at which virtually all Australian professors of geology were present, he hosted a small social gathering in the Geology Department. He entered a few minutes after the due time. All other professors referred to him as 'professor' and he addressed them (all male) as 'my boy'. All appeared to look up to him as the 'father figure'.
For all the high-level recognition he received, Carey was also highly interested in the ordinary needs of people and was an active member of Legacy for many years, organized support for the family of Sydney Sparkes Orr after Orr's death, and was available at all times to help any student who genuinely needed help.
We recognize that this review is one of many that will pay tribute to Carey and thank others in the throes of preparing such testimonials for their input. This summary should be seen as complementary to those tributes.
We thank the Australian Academy of Science and especially Professor Ross Day for this opportunity to contribute to commemorating someone who has had such a major role in our careers and way of thinking. A project such as this depends on contributions from many. Professor Carey's family, especially Mrs Austral Carey and Robyn Loughead, have been great supporters. Dr D. Branagan and Messrs J. Elliston and J.K. Davidson were sources of information and sounding boards for ideas and text. Drs K. McCracken and H.J. Harrington provided images and recollections that have improved the story. Nola Skillman of Canterbury Boys' High School helped with information on his enrolment and progress there. We thank reviewers Professors David Curtis, David Green and Ross Taylor and editor Rod Home for their very constructive comments.
June Pongratz, School of Earth Sciences, University of Tasmania, who worked closely with Carey for some forty years, helped with the production of images for this paper.
This memoir was originally published in Historical Records of Australian Science, vol.14, no.3, 2003. It was written by:
In addition to family, diaries, and the World Wide Web, the following publications have provided a considerable amount of the material used here:
© 2019 Australian Academy of Science