Interview of Robert H. Rutford by Raimund E. Goerler
Creators:Rutford, Robert H. (Robert Hoxie), 1933-
Contributors:Goerler, Raimund E. (Raimund Erhard), 1948-
Subjects (LCSH):Geology -- Antarctica -- Interviews
Antarctica -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
Subjects (Other):Rutford, Robert H. (Robert Hoxie), 1933- -- Interviews
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program
Series/Report no.:Polar Oral History Program
Robert Rutford, prominent geologist and geographer, acquired an interest in the outdoor life from his parents and grandfather, and from certain outstanding professors at the University of Minnesota. He developed a strong interest in both geography and geology, and as a graduate student spent a year in Greenland. He also conducted research in Northern Ontario and Antarctica. In addition, he lettered in both track and football at the University of Minnesota, and learned many valuable lessons from his coaches. Rutford’s first trip to Antarctica was in 1959-1960. He spent one season studying volcanic rocks at the Jones Mountains. He returned to Antarctica in 1963-64. He was part of a six-man crew which mapped the entire range of the Ellsworth Mountains. Much of his work at the time was incorporated into his doctoral dissertation. He returned once again to Antarctica in 1967-1968 where his field work in the Jones Mountains helped prove that glaciations had occurred in Antarctica much earlier than previously believed. In 1969, Rutford got his Ph.D. in geology with an emphasis on the research he had conducted on the three trips to Antarctica. His dissertation postulated a history of glaciations in the Ellsworth Mountains. In 1970, Rutford agreed to return to Antarctica, initially as co-director with James Zumberg of the Ross Ice Shelf Project. However, after one year he became the sole director. A major goal of the research was to drill through the Ross Ice Shelf to ascertain if the ice shelf was melting on the bottom, or whether ice was freezing on the bottom. Many special precautions had to be taken to ensure there would be no pollution of the pristine water below the ice shelf. Initially the drill got stuck, and it had to be replaced by a jet drill used for drilling holes in rock. When finally they reached below the ice shelf, fish were found to be living there, and many other interesting facts were discovered. The project led to a much better understanding of the Ross Ice Shelf. Initially Rutford went to Antarctica out of economic necessity as a graduate student, but once there, he realized the enormous potential for significant scientific research. Little was known at the time about the frozen continent; most of it had not yet been accurately mapped. Although a successful scientist, Rutford was perhaps better known as an Antarctic administrator. He went directly from the Ross Ice Shelf Project to become Director of the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) in Washington, D.C. It was a period of major budgetary stress since the Navy was withdrawing from total support of the Antarctic program. He hired Dwayne Anderson as the new chief scientist, and retained Al Fowler as the Deputy Director. One way he saved significant funds for the OPP was to recover three C-130’s that had crashed on the ice cap. Despite such successes he left OPP after two years to become Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. In 1982 he became President of the University of Texas at Dallas. Rutford had not seen much potential for upward mobility at OPP, and so he returned to academic life. Yet he continued his interest in Antarctica, primarily as a consultant to various scientific agencies and groups. Rutford was associated for many years with the National Science Foundation (NSF). Initially he went there in his capacity as the Director of the Office of Polar Programs. In Rutford’s early years at NSF in the 1970s its budget was tiny. Over time its role became more political, and it became more and more isolated from the scientific community. Even so, the leadership at NSF was usually good. He also had regular contact with the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Research Council. The Polar Research Board was well supported by these various agencies during the period of Rutford’s involvement, from the 1960s through the early 1980s. The PRB sponsored research projects in both the Antarctic and Arctic regions. It also brought out a steady stream of publications. Since the mid 1980s financial support for the PRB has decreased, and its fund raising has “become an annual begging event.” Membership has also declined on the PRB. What was once a Board of 20 members has declined to 12 or 14. Some disciplines are no longer represented. It is now a “very, very different” sort of Board than it used to be in the past. Rutford has found the relationship in recent years between the NSF and the PRB to be “very, very discouraging.” Since 1970, Rutford has been involved with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). He was appointed U.S. delegate in 1986, and in 1998 was elected President. SCAR was established under the aegis of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), a huge scientific umbrella. Over the years, membership of SCAR has grown from 12 to some 50 members. The number of member countries has grown to 26. There are now eight different SCAR disciplinary working groups, including geophysics, Atmospheric Physics, Upper Atmosphere, and Biology, among others. At any one SCAR meeting you will have a minimum of about 350 people. The host country provides most of the funding. The annual budget approximates $300,000. All meetings are conducted in English. There are certain informal subgroups within SCAR, such as a coalition of Spanish-speaking countries from South America, and a group of English-speaking nations from the Southern Hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. In choosing a President it was necessary to rotate the office among various regional coalitions. In his long career as a scientific consultant, Rutford also worked with the Department of State in matters concerning the Antarctic Treaty. Once Rutford was elected President of SCAR he continued in the treaty venue, but no longer as an advisor to the State Department. In closing, Rutford offers observations about the interactions of various Antarctic participants, including the Navy, the National Science Foundation, SCAR, CAMLR, and other professional organizations. The Navy was very helpful in the early days, but today the military is almost completely out of Antarctica. The relationship between the Navy and the NSF was a “love-hate” relationship, although individual Navy personnel, all the way from pilots to Admiral Stockdale were very helpful. Rutford was honored for his years of service to Antarctica by designation of the Rutford Ice Stream, a major geologic feature. Major Topics: Long career of Rutford as a scientist and administrator Interactions between military and civilian personnel in Antarctica SCAR, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research USARP, United States Antarctic Research Program COMNAP, Committee of Managers of National Antarctic Programs Creation and role of the Antarctic Treaty convention Environmental issues in Antarctic exploration and exploitation
Anderson, Dwayne, Chief Scientist, OPP, p. 17 Borchert, John, geographer, pp. 2-3 Borheim, Orla, Chairman of the CEP, p. 48 Clarkson, Peter, Executive Secretary, SCAR, p. 39 Fesler, Wesley, football coach, Ohio State & Univ. of Minnesota, p. 4 Fletcher, Joe, Director, Office of Polar Programs, p. 16 Kelley, Jim, track coach, Univ. of Minnesota, pp. 3-4 Craddock, J. Campbell “Cam”, geologist, Antarctic explorer, pp. 3-6, 14, Elliot, David, geologist, Ohio State University, pp. 14, 58 Fowler, Al, Deputy Director, OPP, p. 17 Holgate, Martin, p. 50 Nash, Butch, football coach, University of Minnesota, pp. 3-4 Pewe, Troy L., geologist, p. 8 Wilkness, Peter, Director of the Office of Polar Programs, 1984-1993, pp. 25-26, 44 Wright, Herb, Professor, University of Minnesota, p. 3 Zumberg, James H. Antarctic explorer, pp. 9, 50
Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Other Identifiers:Record Group Number: 56.58
Rights:Restrictions: This item is not restricted.
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