Report of the William Smith meeting of the Geological Society, London held at Burlington House on 1-2 May 1985, and introduction to published papers and abstracts.

Oceanic fracture zones are one of the most conspicuous features of the ocean basins. They are formed where offsets occur in the oceanic spreading centres, and they leave scars that stretch thousands of kilometres across entire ocean basins. Through the 1960s and 7Os, oceanic fracture zones were mapped extensively by magnetic and bathymetric surveys and were used frequently in global reconstructions Only in the past 5 years or so have they been studied intensively in their own right using more and more sophisticated geophysical and geological techniques.

This conference brought together 25 speakers from around the world to present some of the huge amount of recent work on oceanic fracture zones. Perhaps the most striking feature of the meeting was that with modem high resolution geophysical tools it is at last becoming possible to narrow the gap between observations from remote measurements and those of field geologists. That does not necessarily mean that interpretations are becoming easier;rather the converse, because the closer you look the more complicated things become. But there is hope at last that soon we may be able to make geological maps of the ocean floor just as we can on land.

A great deal can be learnt about the tectonics of young oceanic features simply by looking at the bathymetry and the ‘grain’ of the seafloor. During the meeting a

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