Abstract

"He always got them home." These words came from Doug Small, a Canadian television anchorman. The words refer to Duncan McNaughton's World War II experience in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which included 57 flights over Europe in Lancaster bombers. Doug Small said he had two heroes: Duncan McNaughton, the pilot; and his father, the navigator in Duncan's crew. The last 23 missions were performed in the elite Pathfinders squadron, a small group of planes that dropped incendiary bombs as markers for the main group following behind. The squadron lost two-thirds of its flyers. On at least one occasion, Duncan's skillful evasive action shook off attacking German planes. I suspect his athletic prowess contributed to his success as a pilot. Athletic prowess? Duncan won a gold medal in high jumping for Canada in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. He was largely self-taught and surprised himself and his countrymen, especially as he nearly failed being on the team. Moments before the winning leap he received encouraging advice from his friend and competitor Bob Van Osdel, which may have helped his clearing the bar. Van Osdel came in second. Sportsmanship is all too rare, particularly now. Both men remained close friends for life. Duncan was born in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada to parents of Scottish heritage. His father was a civil engineer, his mother a teacher; both parents had a strong feeling for academic pursuits. Soon the family moved to Kelowna and then to Vancouver in British Columbia, where Duncan received his early education. This was followed by a B.A. degree in 1933 from the University of Southern California (USC) and an M.S. degree in 1935 from the California Institute of Technology. He then joined the Canadian Geological Survey in British Columbia, doing fieldwork in frontier areas. In 1939 he began work for the Texas Company as field party chief in Columbia, South America. Then came the war. When it was over, Duncan returned to USC for his Ph.D. and to teach, ultimately as a visiting assistant professor. He found this work enormously satisfying. After some years, however, he rejoined the petroleum industry, this time as a consultant. In 1946 Duncan married Eileen Garrioch, a charming Canadian lady and nurse by profession. It was a happy marriage that produced three daughters: Diane, Sheila, and Ellen. Diane ran his office for many years. Eileen kept the family together despite Duncan's frequent absences related to his international work. I first met Duncan in the Philippines around 1959. He came to prepare a geological report on our company's (San Jose Oil Company) concessions and no doubt to check what on earth we had been doing. The report became very useful and soon when problems arose the cry was heard: "Get the McNaughton report." Later the focus of his work shifted to Australia, where he stuck his neck out by recommending to his client company (Magellan Petroleum Corporation) to take an interest in the Amadeus basin of central Australia near Alice Springs. This was a remote and fascinating area, containing many huge surface anticlines. Duncan recommended an intelligent exploration program, soon engrossing all who worked with him. After several years of exploration, part of the area was farmed out and drilling commenced. The well on the third structure (Mereenie) came in, in the old-fashioned way-it blew out. I remember the thrill it gave me to be associated with such a venture; I thought (erroneously) that I was set for life. The thrill it must have been for Duncan, I can only imagine. The Amadeus basin became an important producing province. Duncan's contributions had not ceased, however. He had a special interest in production from fractured rocks, the subject of his doctoral thesis and many consulting assignments. Thus he recommended and carried out many fracture studies in this basin. Ultimately this work led the client company to drill a slanted hole in the Palm Valley field with spectacular results: possibly the largest flow of gas encountered onshore in Australia. This event occurred well before horizontal drilling had become accepted in the industry. Duncan and I had our disagreements. But with time they melted away and we became very good friends. Duncan continued his work for Magellan until his retirement outside Austin, Texas. He kept his mind active, and it was always great fun visiting him and Eileen. Conversation covered all things. In his later years his health declined; his sight began to fail, tragic for a man who loved books. But I never heard him complain. On the contrary, as he grew older he became more and more aware of the absurdity of much in life and he became increasingly humorous. He received many honors: membership in the Canadian Amateur Hall of Fame, Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, Honorary Life Member in the Dallas Geological Society, and Honorary Member of AAPG, which he served in various capacities, including vice president. To sum up his life, I cannot do better than again quote the words of Doug Small, referring to Duncan's war record: "Courage. Foresight. Grace under pressure. A substantial capacity for thoughtful and methodical analysis. Loyalty to others. Faith in his crew."

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