Grant, Alan Carson, August 21, 1933 - June 14, 2012. BA (geology), Acadia University; BSc, Dalhousie University; MSc, University of New Brunswick; PhD, Dalhousie University; Doctorate of laws, honouris causa , Dalhousie University.
Dr. Grant was a marine geologist and geophysicist whose career spanned more than 40 years. Known as a pre-eminent authority on the geology of the East Coast offshore area, Dr. Grant provided a crucial link between industry and the academic world. A leader in his field, a mentor to a generation of geoscientists and an accomplished writer and researcher, Dr. Grant left an indelible mark on the region he called home.
Dr. Grant is a prime example of a Nova Scotia boy who made good. Born outside the town of Pictou, he went to school in a one-room schoolhouse before attending Pictou Academy. After receiving his BA -- and the University Medal in Geology -- from Acadia University in 1955, he worked as a geophysicist for Mobil Oil on seismic crews in Alberta and Saskatchewan. In the 1960s, when geological studies expanded to explore what lies beneath the ocean floor, the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO) was established and Dr. Grant knew he wanted to come home to be part of the discovery. He returned to academic study at Dalhousie where he completed his BSc in 1963, followed by an MSc from the University of New Brunswick in 1965. That year he began working for the Geological Survey of Canada at BIO, doing extensive research on the continental shelf off Labrador and Newfoundland. Later, he returned to Dalhousie where he earned a PhD in 1971.
Dr. Grant's career accomplishments have been recognized through numerous awards -- the M.J. Keen Medal of the Geological Association of Canada, the Robert JW Douglas Award of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists and the degree, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, bestowed on him by Dalhousie University in 2006. The June 2006 Vol. 54, No.2, pp. 177-179 Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology citation for the award of the Society's R.J.W. DOUGLAS MEDAL is found at the URL: and that of the AGS For the Gesner Medal in Feb. 2004 is found at the URL: as it in the AGS Newsletter of April 2004, Vol.32, No.2, pp 6-8. I will admit to writing both save the last two paragraphs of the CSPG citation.
Alan was well-liked by everyone. He was known for his terrible puns, a dry sense of humour, his creative stone carvings and for playing the harmonica badly with great enthusiasm. He is survived by his wife, Nancy; his children, Dana Bourgeois (Andre), Gore, NS; Tim, Vancouver, BC; granddaughter, Maddie Davis, Gore and Halifax; His brothers, Donald (Viola), Ottawa; Malcolm (Marilyn), Vernon, BC; and several nieces and nephews. Special thanks are extended to Janet Oxon and the staff at The Adelaide Respite Inn, Waverley, NS.
A gathering was held to celebrate Alan's life at the Dartmouth Funeral Home, Queen Street, Dartmouth, Sunday afternoon, June 17, 2-4 pm. online condolences by visiting www.dartmouthfuneralhome.ca
Rebecca A. Jamieson
Chair, Department of Earth Sciences
Distinguished Scientist Award (Gesner Medal) The Gesner Medal is awarded to a person who has developed and promoted the advancement of geoscience in the Atlantic region through his or her own effort (i.e. publications, maps, memoirs, etc.). Dr. Alan Grant of the Geological Survey of Canada is the 2004 recipient.
The following citation was read to the banquet by Alan Ruffman:
Alan Grant is one of the finest compilers of geology and geophysics that we have in our region of Atlantic Canada. His reputation for top-notch work is legion, and for the past 37 years there has not been a Canadian east coast compilation that has not included Alan Grant’s work – be it the Decade of North American Geology volumes, reviews of the continental margin off Labrador, in Baffin Bay, off eastern Newfoundland, geophysical results for potential petroleum provinces of Eastern Canada, isopach maps of east coast sediment thicknesses, basement contours off Eastern Canada, Palaeozoic seafloor geology of Hudson Bay, seafloor geology of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, maps of seismic basement, Newfoundland to Nares Strait, or basement character and sediment thickness over the same area, etc., etc.
Alan Grant came out of six years of work with Mobil Oil Canada Ltd. as a seismic field person and an interpreter, and was comfortable working with deep seismic data long before these sorts of data were generally available to the Geological Survey of Canada or university scientists. He speaks the language of the oil company explorationist, and he has not ever forgotten it despite going back to school to earn a second science degree in geology, a BSc in geology, then going on to an MSc at the University of New Brunswick on recent marine sediments in Baffin Bay in 1965, and finally a Dalhousie PhD in 1971 on the continental margin off Labrador and Eastern Newfoundland.
And he is used to working with early poor quality offshore seismic data. His recent Gulf of St. Lawrence work is a credit to his perseverance with such data! As a result, there is a steady stream of oil companies’ personnel into his office at the Geological Survey of Canada – Atlantic. And Alan takes time to talk to them. He has always taken time to talk to all who approach him, and in that sense has probably affected any number of firms’ plans to enter the East Coast Canadian petroleum scene in ways that no-one can enumerate or document.
I first met Alan Grant as an undergraduate student when I drove a station wagon of Geological Survey of Canada hammer seismic equipment back from Winnipeg where I’d worked the summer of 1962 on profiling the proposed Winnipeg Floodway. I was detailed to stop in the Kirkland Lake area, where I met Alan who had just finished his summer as interpreter on the GSC seismic refraction crew in southern Ontario. I showed him how to run our gear, and then he and I diligently swung the sledgehammer over a two- or three-day period as we tried to map the buried glacial valleys and esker thicknesses in the area. A sample of kimberlite had just been found in an esker, and the GSC was keen to start a diamond rush in Ontario. It took about 30 years, but as we now all know, Canada is now producing diamonds with lots of promise for more. Alan impressed me in that first encounter as a teacher, and has ever since.
We shared the cruise of the launch NEEDLIK during a glorious, sunny, day-long, sub-bottom profiling run across from the Ottawa Islands in Hudson Bay to the shoreline of the Province of Québec in 1965. And regularly while Alan was a scientist at the Atlantic Geoscience Centre and I was at Geomarine Associates Ltd., I, or my employees, did not hesitate to drop in to chat with Alan, to get some guidance, share his dry humour, locate a line of seismic data, look over his shoulder as a map was coming together, and I hope occasionally offer our own piece of worthwhile advice. I am sure that the selection committee found Alan’s letters of support all reflected a great admiration for Alan, not only as a geoscientist, but also as a mentor, as a role model, as a listener, and as a person.
Dr. Alan Grant, now an Emeritus Scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, is being awarded the 2004 Gesner Medal of the Atlantic Geoscience Society, to recognize his long and impressive contribution to geology and geophysics in Atlantic Canada, and well beyond. His areas of contribution cover not only all parts of Canada’s offshore, from the Arctic Islands south along all parts of the eastern Canada continental shelf and slope, including those of west Greenland, the Labrador margin, Orphan Knoll and Flemish Cap, Hudson Bay, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Scotian Shelf through to Georges Bank, but also parts of southern and northern Ontario, and the subsurface geology of Alberta and southern Saskatchewan as he began his career.
His curriculum vita and bibliography show us a very wide publication range, reaching beyond 200 items to date (and still growing!), from company private reports for Mobil Oil Canada Ltd., Geological Survey of Canada Papers, Memoirs, Maps and Open File Reports, to a wide variety of international, national, and regional peer-reviewed journals, including Science and Nature on at least four occasions. He has also published in journals reaching a very wide, more popular, audience, such as Geotimes, Geos and Episodes.
Alan Grant’s extensive bibliography includes regular presentations to the Atlantic Geoscience Society’s annual colloquium. He is a regular participant at the Geological Association of Canada’s annual meetings, and at various national, and occasionally international, meetings. Dr. Grant, as a federal employee, like all employees in the GSC, suffered the all-too-common federal stricture on travel to international conferences. He was, however, used regularly at the GSC annual review with talks and posters. Dr. Grant also served two periods of eight and two years as Associate Editor of the Bulletin of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists.
He has persevered and produced scientific work at the Atlantic Geoscience Centre at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography far beyond most others, in spite of an Ottawa-driven policy of under-funding and understaffing. Alan received the M.J. Keen Medal from the Geological Association of Canada in 1997. We can be quite proud to have a person like Alan Grant in our camp, and tonight we are delighted to honour his 47 years in geology and geophysics, with the award of the Gesner Medal, the Atlantic Geoscience Society’s Distinguished Scientist Award. Well done, sir.
The colour photo in the newsletter of the 2004 presentation may well serve you as a screen shot for the program and/or introduction to the session Grant or to put on a poster if you decide to prepare one with his extensive bibliography of scientific publications (see below).
I also nominated Alan or the CSPG R.J.W. Douglas Medal in 2005. I also wrote at least the first draft of ihe citation and this citation is also published by the CSPG in their Bulletin of the CSPG and this text and a business suit photo is found at the URL: .
R.J.W. DOUGLAS MEDAL Alan Carson Grant CITATION The March 1960 issue (No. 35) of Mobil News still headlined the fine old logo of the flying horse. On page 2 it asks, “Seismic Record?” and goes on to tell the reader:
"Winter seismic party #40 under Party Chief Al Grant has set what might be a record for Western Canada. They recently recorded 40 shot holes in one 11-hour field day in the Watt Mountain area about 160 miles north of Peace River. A dozen holes a day is about average. (Note to seismic people everywhere: these were split spreads which in some areas might be recorded as 80 profiles.)"
This Western Canada field work was almost certainly a seismic record for all of Canada in 1960; however, being Canadians the Mobil Oil Canada management writers made no such extravagant claims.
That young Nova Scotian, Alan Carson Grant, was born in Pictou and a student at the same high school that educated Albert Gesner. Alan went on to earn his first degree, a B.A. in Geology, at Acadia University, taking courses from the legendary Harky Cameron, a leader in the interpretation of aerial photography. Alan captured the Acadia University Medal in Geology at his graduation in 1955, and parlayed two summer stints as a Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) student assistant doing regional mapping in Newfoundland into a full-time position with Mobil Oil Canada in the Western Canadian Basin; two years as a field computer, two as an interpreter, and two as a seismic party chief in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Alan went on to shoot refraction seismic for the GSC in southwestern Ontario; was part of the 1965 Hudson Bay crustal seismic project that shot off up to 4000 lb. charges; helped wrestle belligerent 800 lb. torpedo warheads in rough seas and assembled 2000 lb. charges on a Dalhousie University refraction seismic crew on M/V THETA in 1966 northeast of Newfoundland in perpetual fog; and yes, Alan wielded the lowly sledge hammer in doing hammer seismic reflection work in northern Ontario in 1962 and 1963. Here, the GSC was mapping glacial deposits as it chased the discovery of a piece of kimberlite float in the Kirkland Lake area. As we all know, some 30 years later, Canada is well on the road to becoming a world leader in diamond production. Indeed, Canada’s third diamond mine is headed into production not far northward, perhaps up-ice of Kirkland Lake, on the Hudson Bay Lowlands of Ontario west of James Bay.
Alan Grant has not forgotten his oil company and seismic experience. He returned to eastern Canada in 1961 to obtain a B.Sc. in Geology at Dalhousie University, comfortable with the language of the explorationist and comfortable working with deep seismic data long before these data were generally available to the GSC, or to university scientists. Alan went on to work with all manner of analogue and digital marine seismic reflection data during his 39 years with the GSC’s Atlantic Geoscience Centre, housed in the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, N.S. He is used to, and tolerant of, working with older or challenging deep seismic data, where others would rather wait and hope for an area to be re-shot. Alan’s recent Gulf of St. Lawrence reassessment of the Anticosti and Carboniferous (Magdalen) Maritimes Basins is a credit to his perseverance with such data! These two basins together cover an area virtually equal to the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, yet only four or five dozen wells have been drilled since World War II. It was in 1944–45 that Canada’s deepest well to that date, and the world’s first oil or gas well drilled from a fixed, artificial, offshore platform, was drilled in Northumberland Strait just south of Charlottetown—Hillsborough No. 1.
In the mid-1960s when Marshall Kay of the Geological Society of America
(GSA) produced the first modern comprehensive large wall map of the geology of North America, Kay had the good sense to include the continental shelf edge and colour-shaded water depth contours to show the extent of the shelf and the drop into the abyssal depths. However, the eastern margin of that important map, while showing in great detail the eastern continental margin of the United States, completely sliced off all of the easternmost part of North America. Cape Spear survived, but all the Grand Banks, The Nose and The Tail, Newfoundland Ridge, Flemish Cap and Orphan Basin were somewhere on the GSA’s cutting room floor.
Alan Grant — from his earliest work on Flemish Cap and the later 1990s Decade of North America Geology (DNAG) volume of the GSC and the accompanying complied maps — did not make such an error as that which had stood framed on the walls of so many geology departments for 35 to
40 years. Alan’s 1965 M.Sc. thesis at University of New Brunswick dealt with modern marine sediments of northern Baffin Bay. His work at the GSC’s Bedford Institute of Oceanography, which began that same year, soon had Alan looking at the impressive sedimentary packages that cover the marine periphery of eastern Canada. Within a year, Alan was publishing on the sediments off Labrador. Over the next seven years some 17 peer-reviewed papers appeared in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, Science, Maritime Sediments and GSC publications, covering the offshore of Labrador and northeastern Newfoundland as well as Flemish Cap, Lake Melville off Goose Bay, and Hudson Bay. In
1971 Alan squeezed in completion of a Ph.D. at Dalhousie University on the topic of the continental margin off Labrador and eastern Newfoundland.
Alan enjoyed a wide range of work endeavours, including involvement in the first cooperative industry-government marine survey with the Eastcan Exploration Group in 1972 on the Labrador Banks, which were about to yield significant gas discoveries at the Gudrid, Snorri and Bjarni wells. He was also involved in identifying the first evidence of recent crustal movements in the Labrador Trough bordering the exposed Precambrian craton at the inner edge of the Labrador Banks. It was at the end of this period, in about 1975, that Alan entered into his compilation phase with publications in the CSPG Memoir 4 on Canada’s Continental Margins and Offshore Petroleum Exploration, and in the GSC’s Offshore Geology of Eastern Canada volume. Alan was beginning to look at the east coast offshore on a broader scale.
In 1977 Dr. Grant and three colleagues produced a four-sheet map series on the Basement Structure, Eastern Canada and Adjacent Areas, and in 1979 a parallel four-sheet series on the Geology of Eastern Canada and Adjacent Areas was published. Alan was then chosen to be the chief compiler of three four-sheet map series in the Hydrocarbon Inventory Program of the National Energy Program; these maps — Map of Seismic Basement, Map of Basement Character and Map of Sediment Thickness — published in 1978 covered the offshore area from Newfoundland north to Nares Strait.
With colleagues K. Donald McAlpine and John A. Wade, Alan prepared a major paper reviewing The Continental Margin of Eastern Canada – Geological Framework and Petroleum Potential in 1984 and 1985. It was published in 1986 in the AAPG Memoir 40, Future Petroleum Provinces of the World. Alan notes somewhat wryly, “I don’t think I’ve ever worked on an article that was reviewed/edited so many times by so many people. Nonetheless, a few weeks after the Memoir came out, I had a phone call from a Texan — great drawl —congratulating us on our nice report, and expressing particular interest in page 189, where we had interpreted something as ‘… a subainal basaltic flow …’!! He wondered whether we had recently been on holiday to Mexico.”
Despite such typographical setbacks, Alan continued his region-wide compilation as Canada participated in the Geological Society of America’s Decade of North American Geology (DNAG). Dr. Grant was a major co-participant in the Geology of the Continental Margin of Eastern Canada with a text contribution, and played a major compilation role in the Tectonic Element Map, the Depth to Basement Map and the Geology of the Continental Margin Map — the “A” Map Series of the GSC.
In recent years, most during his ‘retirement’, Alan’s compilations with colleagues have covered the Palaeozoic basin in Hudson Bay and Hudson Bay Lowlands, and the lower Palaeozoic Anticosti Basin and Carboniferous Magdalen Basin of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with further DNAG contributions in the volume Sedimentary Cover of the Craton of Canada. Since retirement, he has co-compiled four sheets in the Hudson Bay in the Geological Atlas of Canada. Also, with fellow retiree Hank Williams, Alan compiled the map Tectonic Assemblages; Atlantic Canada Region. Also, with fellow GSC retiree Bruce Stanford, Alan addressed the Geological Framework of the Ordovician System in the Southeast Arctic Platform, Nunavut, and a map on Geology/Structural Trends, St. Lawrence Estuary Area, Quebec is currently in preparation.
Throughout this compilation phase of some 19 years, Dr. Grant has continued to publish in the standard GSC publications and in outside peer-reviewed Canadian and international journals such as Nature, Science, Tectonophysics, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, Meddelelser om Grønland Geoscience, Sedimentary Geology, Journal of Geophysical Research, New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, Energy Exploration and Exploitation, Geology, various CSPG Memoirs, Ocean Drilling Program Leg 103 Report, Journal of the Geological Society of London, and Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoecology. Dr. Grant has 200 scientific communications, of which
57 are peer-reviewed.
Alan Grant is associated with 12 of the GSC’s Open File Reports, reports that the GSC has moved to make a major part of their publishing activity.
The Scientific Citation Index identifies Alan Grant’s name as primary author on 287 citations. Dr. Grant is a regular contributor of oral presentations at the CSPG’s annual meeting and at its various specialized symposia. He has also been a regular presenter at the meetings of the American Geophysical Union, Geological Association of Canada, Atlantic Geoscience Society, and the GSC’s Current Research annual forums. Dr. Grant has also written in more popular journals such as Geotimes, Geos and Episodes.
Dr. Grant has served the CSPG with two terms as Associate Editor of the Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology, in 1974–1982 and 1994–1996. In 1990 at the American Association of Petroleum Geology
(AAPG) Eastern Section Annual Meeting, Dr. Grant was recognized, along with coauthor Bruce Sanford — the CSPG’s 1988 Douglas Medal recipient — with the A.I. Levorsen Memorial Award for best paper, for their paper on the Geology and Petroleum Potential of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Region. In 1997 Alan was awarded the M.J. Keen Medal of the Marine Geosciences Division of the Geological Association of Canada. In 2004 the Atlantic Geosciences Society awarded him its Distinguished Scientist Award, the Gesner Medal. Dr. Grant has been an Emeritus Scientist at the GSC (Atlantic) from 1995 to the present.
Dr. Grant, like all federal employees in the GSC, has suffered from the federal stricture on travel, especially travel beyond Canada’s borders to international conferences. The Ottawa-driven policy of underfunding and understaffing Canada’s marine geological and geophysical efforts on all coasts, along with the “reversals of fortune suffered by the Geological Survey of Canada” during the mid-1990s program review, might have driven a lesser person out of government. But, Alan Grant really enjoys what he does, and has thrived at the Atlantic Geoscience Centre! Alan’s office at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography is a regular stopping point for industry representatives, who often park themselves — at times for several days — to soak up and assimilate Alan’s vast store of knowledge and experience. Such tutorials are not limited to industry geoscientists; university professors, local consultants, thesis students, and his own colleagues at the institute have been, and remain, regular visitors. Alan Grant’s door is always open.
Not all listened or learned, however. Alan Grant and Keith Manchester had used shallow, high-resolution seismic to define the limits of the Palaeozoic outlier in Ungava Bay and Hudson Strait. Premium Homestead exploration personnel solicited their prognosis on the depth to basement on Akpatok Island. Alan and Keith put forward their interpretation of 1000 feet. The company went ahead and drilled on their preferred prognosis of 5000 feet, based on aeromagnetics. It was a dry hole with crystalline Precambrian reached at 1098 feet!
Letters of support for Dr. Grant’s nomination for the R.J.W. Douglas Medal flowed generously, and all who wrote commented on Al Grant, the person. Referees describe Alan as a ‘mentor’; a ‘warm, self-effacing personality’with a dry wit and an ‘infectious enthusiasm for life’; one with an ‘unassuming manner’; ‘a geophysicist of tremendous ability, a delightful sense of humour and a most likeable personality’; ‘not the kind of person to bask in the glory of his contributions’; ‘a gentleman and a truly professional geologist’; ‘characterized by respect, balance, civility, honour, openness, modesty … a thorough gentleman’; ‘always approachable, friendly and even-handed in his views, even when pushed into vigorous argument by a young upstart’; ‘an extremely humble person who maintains a wonderful sense of humour that impresses those around him’; and ‘always with a friendly smile and a twinkle in his eye’.
The Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, therefore, honours Dr. Alan Carson Grant by awarding its 2005 R.J.W. Douglas Medal to this distinguished geoscientist. This award reflects Dr. Grant’s ‘outstanding scientific contributions to understanding the sedimentary geology’ of eastern offshore Canada, in the tradition of Bob Douglas, and also gives explicit commendation to his personality and spirit.