1.1 My Personal Journey

In this Perspective of the evolution of hydrothermal concepts during the last half of the twentieth century, my (Fig. 1.1) purpose is to provide an overview of how the field developed and the consequences to my life especially through extensive collaboration with colleagues over the five decades. Far more detailed technical discussions of many of the concepts can be found in the three progressive editions of Geochemistry of Hydrothermal Ore Deposits published in 1967, 1979, and 1997, that cover a span of three decades of our slowly developing comprehension of ore formation.

While preparing this Geochemical Perspectives, a compelling conclusion became evident, that the nature and capabilities of colleagues are crucial to the evolution of a career. They provide stimulation and advice on discovering and evaluating opportunities at each juncture in life.

At Lexington, Massachusetts High School in the 1940’s, welcome distractions were sports, for me especially in track and football. My friend Bernard Burke (Fig. 1.2) was a compatriot who was active in the same sports and also in playing the violin. He had additional virtues that gradually became more appreciated. His father, a math teacher at Rindge Technical High School, continued to challenge Bernard intellectually. The stimulus was contagious as we became competitors academically and companions in the social activities at school and in weekend violin and composing lessons at the South End Music School. Those happy lessons led to considering music as a profession but a new violinist at the Music School became proficient with Beethoven’s violin concerto in only two years, way beyond my multi-year competence. Bernard and I both concluded that science was equally entertaining and that in nearby Cambridge, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) might be the route to interesting lives maybe as wealthy consultants. That dream led through undergraduate years at M.I.T. However, instead of following our financial inclinations, we both became research-oriented, Bernard eventually as William A.M. Burden Professor of Astrophysics at M.I.T. and I as Distinguished Professor of Geochemistry at Penn State. My route there was the product of successive optimised choices.

The students entering M.I.T. with us in 1946 were predominantly veterans returning from World War II. They carried experiences that often gave academic advantages unusual for entering students, even to that Institution. Their level of performance meant that green high school students faced an intellectual transition that overwhelmed some quite intelligent colleagues who sadly gave up and transferred. The more stubborn types gradually adjusted to the time and performance demands, eventually to our benefit. Like Bernard, my major initially was physics. That field seemed to be fairly prosaic compared to an elective course in geomorphology taught by Prof. F.K. Morris. His skill with coloured chalk gave us picturesque landscapes on the room’s three blackboards by the end of each period. The class, mostly of taciturn veterans, often applauded spontaneously at the conclusion of his lectures. His stories of geologic mapping in the wilds of Outer Mongolia added to the conviction that I should change majors to geology. My addiction to rock climbing and camping reinforced that choice and added to the inducement of probable exotic travel.

In the meantime, a job provided some income, ten hours per week as a technician in the Biology Department of M.I.T. There the principal effort was constructing, in a superb machine shop, the stainless steel body of one of the initial artificial kidneys under the direction of Prof. D.F. Waugh. Those were long days. Besides that employment were normal lectures, interminable homework plus commuting with buses and subway to M.I.T. which consumed the available hours but taught a capability of lifelong value – going to sleep whenever no action was required. For example, while standing in a subway car and holding onto its passenger hand straps, dozing was automatic. Sleep often arrived but ended sometimes with consternation by falling onto the lap of someone lucky enough to have captured a rare empty seat.

Recreation for us geology students often was centred on the M.I.T. Outing Club for fun and with valuable consequences. The senior members of the Club passed on to us neophytes their expertise with rock climbing and skiing, both nice diversions and also useful for field work. We learned at the Quincy, Massachusetts Quarry to rappel and to use climbing techniques and equipment from the Club’s inventory. That capability opened for the future possibilities for rock sampling and mapping of terrain that was otherwise inaccessible. Also, having both coaching and rental equipment available through the Club meant learning to ski was optimised. For me, that ability found use much later during Newfoundland mineral exploration where access was less difficult over ice and snow cover. It also allowed wintertime sampling of volcanic springs and lakes of the Japanese Alps with Prof. Boku Takano of the University of Tokyo. Our purpose was to analyse for thiosulphate and polythionate concentrations as indicators of the imminence of volcanic activity (Takano et al., 1984, 1994).

An example of an Outing Club-stimulated activity was a particular mid-winter tour during the 1948 term break by three sophomore geology majors: Fred Barker from Seekonk, Massachusetts, Robert (Bob) Leonard from Manville, New York, and me from Lexington, Masschussetts. On Thursday, January 29, Bob and I left M.I.T. by hitchhiking with the intent of meeting Fred at Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire to climb Mount Washington together. Being impecunious students, we minimised our costs by free hitchhiking. Bob and I carried army surplus packs containing for each of us two sleeping bags to be nested, spare clothes, flashlights, matches, a canteen, cooking kits, some food and a guidebook. The packs each weighed 80 lbs (36 kg). I wore long johns, wool hunting pants, a Bean’s Chamois shirt, a wool mackinaw, and rubber boots. Bob had field boots, heavy pants, and a windproof jacket. We both carried crampons and Maine-style, tear-drop-shaped snow shoes about 4.5 feet (1.4 m) long, obtained from an army surplus store at minimal price.

Together with the packs and snowshoes, we made a sizable load so hitchhiking was very slow as most vehicles simply could not take us on board. The consequence was that Bob and I covered during the first day only 2/3 of the distance to our goal, Pinkham Notch, and at about dark, gave up and asked at a New Hampshire farmhouse if we could sleep in their garage overnight. Having had no dinner and lying on their concrete floor was not a comfortable night.

Friday morning was snow-free but bitterly cold. Having no alternative, we started hitchhiking soon after daylight. Eventually, a friendly pickup driver offered us a ride if we would load ourselves into the back of his truck. Although that offered no chance for breakfast and it was downright windy and frigid in the back of the truck, we climbed aboard. In a few hours and with successive truck rides, we arrived near mid-day at Pinkham Notch where there was a fresh, deep snow pack.

Our immediate objective was to climb the Fire Trail (now the Tuckerman Trail) up to Hermit Lake Shelter in Tuckerman Ravine where we planned to camp as a base for later climbing, first up Lion Head bluff, then across Alpine Garden, and finally up the top cone of the mountain (Fig. 1.3). However, lack of nourishment, the deep soft snow, the heavy packs, and the awkward snow shoes slowed the hike to a crawl. About half way up the trail, we ran out of energy and had to eat something. The only edible item in our packs not requiring cooking was a package of Dromedary dried dates. Because the package was frozen and our hands were stiff with the cold, we soon found that the only solution was to break the container in half and eat it, dates, cardboard, cellophane and all.

Fred joined us at the Hermit Lake three-sided shelter (Fig. 1.4), having used his skis to negotiate the Fire Trail. The shelter was oriented with an open fourth side toward the mountain to limit the fetch for gusty winds. In the open side was a rough, loose-stone fireplace where smoke from the fire was vented away from the interior. However, the heat produced by rapid burning of dead branches was not enough to have much effect on the shelter’s temperature. The fire was crucial to prepare a very much needed hot dinner as quickly as our cold, stiff hands would allow.

That night, the forest around the shelter was lighted by a full moon on the snow pack, providing a glorious illumination for collecting both dead branches for fuel for the fireplace and soft branches for sleeping pads in the shelter. The moon and fire light was very much needed because our cold flashlights only glowed unless the batteries were warmed in our pockets or at the fireplace. It was not a quiet place. Besides the roar of the wind through the trees, there often were cracks like gun shots that we blamed on frost in the trees. We wondered if the temperature was not exceptionally low to produce such natural tympani.

Figure 1.3

Trails leading to Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. From the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center to the Hermit Lake Shelter is 2.4 miles (3.9 km).

Figure 1.3

Trails leading to Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. From the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center to the Hermit Lake Shelter is 2.4 miles (3.9 km).

Figure 1.4

From left, me, Bob (with ski poles), and Fred leaving Hermit Lake Shelter to climb northward along Lion Head Trail here at the upper left rear (January 31, 1948).

Figure 1.4

From left, me, Bob (with ski poles), and Fred leaving Hermit Lake Shelter to climb northward along Lion Head Trail here at the upper left rear (January 31, 1948).

Toward the interior back of the shelter, the dirt floor was mostly free of snow. To avoid the frozen ground, a thick stack of evergreen branches served as rough, fragrant bunks. Nevertheless, even using two sleeping bags, we were so chilled that by the middle of the night, we had to climb out of our sleeping bags and exercise to generate some body heat. Of course, the wind had long since blown out any embers in the fireplace. Frostbite in our feet was a concern even during daylight because my rubber boots were surely poor insulation.

At daylight, we were anxious to build a fire for heat and breakfast. While collecting more firewood, we found farther up the ravine a small, locked, emergency shed named “Howard Johnson” on our maps. It had a recording thermometer which revealed our night had just dropped to −29° F (−34 °C) with a wind chill much colder. After breakfast, Bob and I donned our snowshoes and Fred clipped on his skis to climb Lion Head Ridge through very deep powder snow. There were enough trees on the lower parts of the steep ridge slopes to help us pull ourselves up the more difficult terrain. Above the crest of the ridge we reached a broad, smooth, upward-sloping, wind-packed, icy terrain named “Alpine Garden” for its unique vegetation (Fig. 1.5a). By late afternoon, retreating back toward our camp became prudent. We glissaded down to the ridge beside the ravine (Fig. 1.5b, c). After the mountain gales, our shelter seemed homey.

Figure 1.5a

Bob on the wind-packed slope of Alpine Garden See his shadow in a bright, sunny day (January 31, 1948).

Figure 1.5a

Bob on the wind-packed slope of Alpine Garden See his shadow in a bright, sunny day (January 31, 1948).

Figure 1.5b

Looking south down toward Tuckerman Ravine from the turnaround point on the summit cone. Note the long shadows of the sunny, but late afternoon on January 31, 1948.

Figure 1.5b

Looking south down toward Tuckerman Ravine from the turnaround point on the summit cone. Note the long shadows of the sunny, but late afternoon on January 31, 1948.

After another frigid night, most remaining food was consumed in a recovering, leisurely breakfast and the trip out to Pinkham Notch was relatively easy. In contrast, arrival at the base lodge for warming before hitchhiking for home was not so pleasant. The wardens gave us hell for hiking into the Ravine without having registered at the lodge, especially when the summit temperature had just fallen within two degrees of the record low of −50 °F (−46 °C). Also, he mentioned that the global record wind velocity for a half century, 231 mph (372 kph), had been measured on that summit. Due to respect for frequently stormy winds, the Summit Observatory is anchored by chains. Then he related accounts of several not-so-pleasant disasters under situations similar to our adventure with an added observation that we had been lucky, especially with snow-free weather.

Figure 1.5c

Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington, New Hampshire. A more recent, mid-spring photo of Tuckerman Ravine showing the near vertical headwall used only by very expert skiers. Our route was up Lion Head, the buttress at the right edge of this view.

Figure 1.5c

Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington, New Hampshire. A more recent, mid-spring photo of Tuckerman Ravine showing the near vertical headwall used only by very expert skiers. Our route was up Lion Head, the buttress at the right edge of this view.

Another consequence of such Outing Club activities were the spontaneous growth of friendships, especially one with Mary Westergaard, a Swarthmore College graduate in chemistry and whose father was Harvard University’s Dean of Engineering. She was employed also by the M.I.T. Biology Department, shared opinions on science and life, and would become my wife after I found a post-graduate income. A consequence throughout our lives was that we shared a chemical outlook on the universe, especially after her PhD in Physical Chemistry at Penn State in 1966. A special benefit has been her forthright editing of my writing.

Back at M.I.T., the universal requirement then for all undergraduates was a two year common sequence of courses in math, physics and chemistry, a particularly valuable background to imprint a quantitative bent crucial for later science. That attitude coloured courses in geological sciences, especially later on when learning about ore deposits. In his course on mineral deposits, Prof. Patrick Hurley presented the current theories of genetic processes for each ore type. He then dissected those ideas by elaborating on their defects. At that stage of development of understanding of ore genesis, the common attitude of economic geologists was that non-sedimentary ore deposits were generally products of magmatic activity. We students concluded that serious renovations were overdue in the conceptions of ore formation and that optimistically, maybe after graduation, our generation could further the science, a naïve but optimistic attitude.

The necessity for field experience was fulfilled by a required camp in northern Nova Scotia. Costs were a problem, especially for travel. Our class had few vehicles but had a unique and entertaining partial solution. Sid Alderman had brought a family car, a 1928 Rolls Royce to camp. It had a glass partition separating the front seat from a pair of folding jump seats and the large rear seat that carried many of us students. However, it was slow traveling because many of the roads, commonly unpaved red mud, were about 1.5 lanes wide, most of which was taken by that limousine. When we met a farmer coming from the opposite direction, he commonly slid into the universal deep roadside ditches trying to avoid a collision. Recognising that we had caused the problem, the very powerful, very low r.p.m. Rolls easily towed the grateful farmer back onto the road. Often he was sufficiently entertained by the situation that a casual friendship developed.

Opportunities to apply our training on mineral deposits were rare. Reality soon intervened. Finding employment was a challenge during the national recession in 1950, even with a degree from M.I.T. By touring the offices of mining companies in New York City, eventually the Peru Mining Company offered me a position if I would report to their office in Hanover, New Mexico. After hitchhiking across the country, I became their neophyte chief, and only resident geologist. However, fortune smiled there for two paramount reasons. Harrison Schmitt, a renowned authority on hydrothermal ore deposits, was both their exploration consultant and a superb coach for a newly minted geologist. In addition, the mining district was being mapped actively by the U.S. Geological Survey under the direction of Robert Hernon (Kottlowski et al., 1953). The friendly confrontations between these outstanding geologists on the nature of our “contact metamorphic” deposits and the adjacent Santa Rita porphyry copper deposit provided new perspectives for me and made clear that more than an undergraduate understanding was required. When Columbia’s Prof. Charles Behre toured our district with students that were studying aspects of supergene enrichment, he suggested that their graduate school could provide an improved comprehension of mineral deposits and their genesis. Graduate school became the obvious next stage in my life.

Again circumstances smiled with the enrollment of a remarkable class in Columbia’s Department of Geology in 1952. Several of these new colleagues later made significant contributions to the development of geological sciences while at various institutions, including Paul Barton at the U.S. Geological Survey; Wally Broeker, Paul Gast, and Taro Takahashi at Columbia; Bruno Gilleti at Brown University; William Kelly at the University of Michigan and Karl Turekian at Yale University. Particularly stimulating for us during our graduate studies was ongoing vigorous research in several fields: in isotopic geochemistry with Prof. Larry Kulp, on the nature of ore deposits with Prof. Charles Behre, and on just-discovered continental drift with Columbia’s Lamont Observatory Faculty. Our student-organised, early evening seminars concentrated on strategies by which one might deduce the origins of ore deposits. From those sessions grew an uncompromising faith that sufficient depth of understanding of genetic processes should stimulate practical applications for mineral exploration. That attitude at least partially justified my growing fascination with an intriguing quest for the origins of hydrothermal ore deposits.

1.2 Fascination with Ore Deposit Enigmas

Just after World War II, then current theories reasoned that igneous processes dominated the genesis of non-sedimentary mineral deposits. Not yet invented were quantitative approaches that would test such concepts and that eventually could support the construction of detailed models of the responsible processes. To start to create such models, it seemed reasonable to concentrate first on better resolving the physical conditions where hydrothermal ore deposits must have formed. Already in hand were several types of information that would guide us to better specify those conditions. At the time, environmental criteria could be derived from:

  1. the thermal stability limits of ore and gangue minerals,

  2. fluid inclusion compositions and filling temperatures in ore or gangue minerals,

  3. distributions of various isotopic ratios and ages, and

  4. comparisons with presumably analogous geothermal systems.

My dilemma was that after graduation, I wondered where could I further investigate mineral deposit theory while earning a living? To be effective in such research, I hoped for considerable freedom and extensive supporting facilities. The Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington seemed then to provide an ideal environment for immersion in such entertainment and, in 1956, fortune provided a postdoctoral appointment helping me to follow my passion, understanding the genesis of ore deposits.

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