Geology & Earth Sciences Achievement Timeline, 1960-75

. . . including paleoceanography and volcanos


  • Earthquakes: Agadir, Morocco: 5.9 magnitude; and Southern Chile: 8.5 magnitude !
  • Obsidian hydration dating method developed by Irving Friedman and Robert Smith of the USGS.
  • Eugene Shoemaker determines that the crater near Winslow, Arizona was a space impact event, thus advancing the fields of impact and astrogeology around the world.
  • Trillium Lake created; part of Salmon River drainage basin, in the shadow of Mount Hood, OR.


  • Robert Dietz forwards the notion that expansion of oceanic crust might move continents, a process he calls “sea-floor spreading.”
  • Edward Lorenz of MIT outlines the difficulties of making predictions about the atmosphere in his “butterfly effect.”
  • Project Mohole begins, an effort to drill through the Earth’s crust to mantle.
  • Volcano:



  • Earthquake: NW Iran: 7.3 magnitude
  • The United States launches the first satellite, the Anna1-B, for accurately determining the shape of the earth.
  • Volcano:



  • Earthquake: Skopje, Macedonia: 6.0 mag.
  • Lawrence Sloss proposes cratonic sequences 
  • Frederick Vine and Drummond Matthews find evidence for the hypothesis of sea-floor spreading in the residual magnetism of the Indian Ocean floor which changes polarity periodically.  Since the Earth’s magnetic field reverses from time to time, the magnetic “stripes” can indicate the rate of spreading. 
  • John Tuzo Wilson proposes that island chains such as Hawaii are formed when a single fixed mantle plume builds volcanoes that, when cut off from their undersea source by the movement of the Pacific Plate, become increasingly inactive. These areas of magma plumes become known as “hot spots” and are later confirmed by researchers such as W. Jason Morgan of Princeton in 1972. 
  • Verner Suomi invents the modern spin-scan weather satellite which can provide an image of the entire earth in 30 minutes.
  • Through the study of the very fine striations on corals, Cornell paleontologist John West Wells confirms an astronomical idea: the earth is slowing (1/50,000 second/yr) in its rotation through the moon’s tidal friction, decreasing the number of days in a year.
  • Volcano: Mt. Agung, Bali, Indonesia [Volcanic Explosivity Index 5].  Largest and deadliest of the 1960s; 1700 dead; 100,000 acres of cropland destroyed. Had not erupted since 1843.


  • Earthquake: Prince William Sound, Alaska: 8.6 mag ! 
  • Volcano: Mt. Shiveluch, Kamchatka, Russia [VEI 4].  Brief, lava dome collapse, massive debris.


  • Earthquake: Puget Sound, WA: mag?
  • Modeling the earth in a fundamentally different way, John Tuzo Wilson links the idea of sea-floor spreading with continental drift into a theory called plate tectonics.
  • The International Association for Quaternary Research affirms <b>J. Harlen Bretz’s</b> (1882-1981) 1927 assertion that the character of eastern Washington State and the Columbia River gorge (the channeled scablands) was created not by a slow and steady process but by a sudden cataclysmic glacial lake outburst (“Missoula Floods”) at the end of the Last Ice Age 15,000 years ago. A letter from the Association to Bretz concluded “We are now all catastrophists now.”
  • Volcano: Taal Lake [Caldera], Luzon, Philippines [VEI 4].  Small, dangerous, active.  335 dead.


  • Earthquake: Taltal, Chile: 7.5 magnitude
  • Volcano: Kelud, East Java, Indonesia [VEI 4]; Mt. Awu, North Sulawesi, Indonesia [VEI 4], 39 dead.


  • Earthquakes: Caracas, Venezuela: 6.5 magnitude; Santander, Colombia: mag?
  • Paul Martin proposes the “blitzkrieg hypothesis” that asserts that human hunters who traveled to North America about 9,000 BC killed so many megafauna (mammals and birds) that these species became extinct.
  • The mineral blue zoisite discovered in northern Tanzania near Arusha and Mount Kilimanjaro. Tiffany & Co. christens the new gem “Tanzanite.”
  • Volcano: 


  • Earthquake: Iran: 7.4 magnitude
  • William Jason Morgan, Xavier Le Pichon, and Dan Peter McKenzie separately confirm plate tectonics as an explanation for the movement of the earth’s lithosphere, combining the ideas of continental drift and sea floor spreading first proposed in 1912 by Alfred Wegener.  
  • The research sea-drilling vessel Glomar Challenger begins collecting long cylindrical cores from the ocean floor as part of the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) that would obtain 19,000 samples throughout the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea over the next 15 years to understand the earth, the oceans, and plate tectonic phenomena.
  • American paleobotanist Elso Barghoorn finds amino acid remains in rock samples from Lake Superior near Port Arthur, Canada that date to nearly 3 billion years, pushing back scientists’ views of when life began on earth.
  • Volcano: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador [VEI 4], 1000’ drop in Fernandina Island lake caldera 
  • Volcano: Mt. Arenal, Costa Rica, 87 people dead, 3 villages destroyed, large fauna destruction.


  • Earthquake: Santa Rosa, California: mag?
  • Remains of a 240 million year-old mammal-like reptile called Lystrosaurus is found Antarctica, indicating that Antarctica was once connected to Africa where this creature was once common.
  • A meterorite hit earth about 2 miles south of Murchison, Victoria, Australia on September 28. Fragments analyzed at the NASA Ames Research Center revealed the first convincing evidence of amino acids of extraterrestrial origin, confirming the Miller-Urey experiment of 1953. Of the 90 amino acids found in the meteorite samples, only 19 are found on earth.
  • Three minerals found on the Moon by Apollo 11 crew – Armalcolite, Tranquillyite, and Pyroxferroite – later found on the Earth.
  • Volcano:



  • Earthquake: Peru: 7.8 magnitude
  • Volcano: 


  • Earthquakes: San Fernando, California: 6.5 mag; and La Ligua, Chile: 7.5 magnitude
  • Volcano: Mt. Hudson, southern Chile [VEI 3]


  • Earthquake: Managua, Nicaragua: 6.2 magnitude 
  • Volcano:


  • Volcano: Mt. Tiatia, Kuril Islands, Russia [VEI 4].  First eruption since 1812.  
  • Volcano: Eldfell, Heimaey Island, Iceland [no VEI]. Lasted for 157 days. Icelanders intervene to pump 8,000,000 tons of seawater over the lava to slow its course.


  • Volcano: Volcan de Fuego: Antigua, Guatemala [VEI 4]. Heavy agricultural loses.


  • Earthquakes: Liaoning Province, China: 7.4 magnitude; Hawaii: mag? Oroville, California: mag?
  • Volcano: Tolbachik Volcanic Complex, Kamchatka, Russia [VEI 4]. Activity between two peaks simultaneously.
  • Centenary of the death of Charles Lyell, who made geology a science with his Principles of Geology (1830); apostle of gradualism over catastrophism, and proponent of abandoning a time limit on the potential age of the earth.


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