Early Refraction Practices
Published:January 01, 1967
When one of the writers of this paper suggested that the Refraction Volume should contain an article on the refraction practices in the early days, it was with the idea that it would be written by one of the old-timers who had been on the refraction scene in the mid-twenties. When the suggestion backfired and he was asked to participate in writing the paper he accepted, assuming that a sufficient number of excerpts could be taken from the best of the early papers to create reader interest in the subject, and references to the papers would complete the job. Unfortunately, he was wrong again. After a search of the literature, it became apparent that no papers were written, at least none were published, during the heyday of the early refraction work and very little regarding that work was published later. Therefore, much of the information contained in this paper is based on memory of discussions through the years with some of the old-timers, plus recent interviews with, and the suggestions of, a few who were engaged in the refraction activities of thirty to forty years ago.
The first papers found on the subject were by Barton (1929) and Heiland (1929). A part of the discussion on Heiland's paper by Rieber points out the paucity of published information at that time. It reads, “Dr. Heiland appears to have drawn the material for his excellent paper largely from experience with earthquake seismology, including, of course, such direct adaptations of earthquake instruments as
Figures & Tables
Seismic Refraction Prospecting
The seismic method is divided into reflection and refraction techniques, based on whether or not a wave undergoes a reflection at the extent of its travel. Thus, while most refracted events have not been reflected, most reflected events have been refracted, because a refraction occurs across any velocity interface in accordance with the simple and basic Snell’s law. This law states that the sine of the angle of incidence is to the sine of the angle of refraction as the velocity on the first side of the interface is to the velocity on the second side of the interface.
Where the refraction angle is large, and not near to zero as it is in the case of reflection work, there are many considerations concerning the geometry of the raypath that have to be made in refraction interpretation. Basically, the papers in this volume describe various techniques for separating out special raypath solutions and making approximations that give us a structural geologic picture from the study of these approximations or specializations.
The following factors are of extreme importance in refraction surveying’ 1) Distance’ Surveying must be accurate in order to make correct depth determinations of the refractor by the use of the refraction method. 2) Velocity’ The velocity of the various horizons, through which the refracted wave passes, must be known if an accurate structural picture is to be determined. Many of these velocities can be determined from the refraction data, and, in fact, the refraction method is a good means of establishing many of the velocities needed for these calculations. 3) Time’ Accurate time information is a prerequisite, although this is no more the case in refraction than in reflection work. In most instances, refraction information is to be recorded to the nearest 1/1,000 sec for exploration purposes.
The distance parameter will be discussed first. In many surveys the distance between the shot and receiver may be extremely long (25 to 50 miles), and the requirement for accuracy is just as vital as if this distance were very short (a few hundred feet). Because of the differential velocities involved, distance errors can cause errors in depth greater than the distance errors themselves. For somecases, in the experience of the editor, the depth error may be three times the distance error. The velocity is very critical in refraction information. Of particular important is the refractor velocity, which is often used to determine the time to be subtracted from the total time path to determine that amount of time which is near verticalor can be converted to a vertical path time.