2003 Dorothy Hill Medal Winner

Dr Cecil George Murray
Cec Murray's Citation

He joined the Geological Survey of Queensland in 1965 and until 1968 was employed as a Geologist with the Regional Mapping Section with fieldwork based at Rockhampton and Duchess. Cec left the Queensland Department of Mines in 1968 to start a PhD at Princeton University, and was supervised by Harry Hess (until his death in 1969) and Bob Hargraves, obtaining the top grade of Excellent. In 1972 he returned to the Department of Mines and accepted the post of Petrologist with the Geological Survey. In this period he initiated investigations into the relationships between plate tectonics and mineralisation in the Tasman Orogenic Zone and, especially, the New England Orogen. In 1975 he rejoined the Regional Mapping Section and remapped the western part of the Maryborough 1:250 000 Sheet.


GSAQ Chairman Sue Golding (left) and Cec Murray (right).
Cec became manager of the Regional Mapping Section in 1979 and initiated the Regional Geological Mapping Program (RGMP). He is currently Leader of the Geological Mapping Group and holds the now honorary title of Chief Government Geologist. He has continued to publish on the New England Orogen and other terranes within the Tasman Orogenic Zone. He also compiled the Queensland portion of the Tectonic Map of the Tasman Orogenic Zone, and participated in the interpretation of the Eromanga-Brisbane Global Geoscience Transect.

Cec has presented numerous papers on the geology of Queensland at a large number of seminars, workshops, symposia and conferences. He has led several field conferences in south-east Queensland under the auspices of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Queensland Division of the Geological Society of Australia. Since 1997 he has been Chair of the Australian UNESCO Committee for the International Geological Correlation Program (IGCP).

Throughout his career Cec has played a major leadership and management role in the Geological Survey of Queensland. It is, however, his many contributions to the geological sciences for which he is better known. He was one of the pioneers in Queensland to use plate-tectonic theory to understand the geology. Using his extensive knowledge of plate tectonics he has greatly increased the understanding of the geology of eastern Australia, particularly the New England Orogen. With his personal experience and knowledge of the geology in Queensland he was a major contributor to the companion volume to the 1:2 500 000 Geological Map of Queensland published in 1976. He has published about 70 papers on a wide range of geological topics, mainly as sole author. Most have dealt with aspects of the geology and mineral resources of Queensland.

His major contributions to the Australian geological sciences through publications of original research earned him the Geological Society of Australia's W.R. Browne medal in 1998.

Cec's unequalled overall knowledge of the geology, mineral resources, and mineral potential of Queensland has been widely sought after by consultants, exploration companies, university researchers, geoscientists from other Government organisations, and staff of the Geological Survey.

Response of thanks by Cec Murray
First of all I would like to thank everyone who was involved in the decision to award me this medal. It is great to be recognised by your peers, and I very much appreciate this award. I know some people in the GSQ were partly responsible, but they were very secretive and I had no idea what was going on until Sue phoned me earlier this month.

What makes it more pleasing is that Dorothy Hill was one of my lecturers at UQ and taught me palaeontology and stratigraphy. I also served as a proxy member on the GSA Federal Executive when she was President in 1973-75. The last conversation I had with her was about corals from limestones in the Texas beds. However, unlike many of her students, I did not pursue a career in palaeontology.

Another pleasing aspect is that I have been given this award for doing a job that I enjoy. Geology has taken me around the world, and I have met a lot of interesting people and made some good friends.

Of course there is always a downside to an award such as this. Those who have made valuable contributions to geological knowledge are usually those who have been active over many years, so when you get an award for contributions to geology it is inevitably a sign of your advancing years.

The award is for contributions to Queensland geology. Therefore it is somewhat ironic that I consider my best research to have been on zoned ultramafic complexes that I studied in Venezuela and Alaska, with little application in Queensland (although there are some of these complexes at Fifield in NSW). I was able to publish my ideas in the memorial volume for Harry Hess, being his last PhD student. To illustrate the ups and downs of scientific research, I'd like to point out that in his excellent monograph on the Duke Island complex in southeastern Alaska, Neil Irvine, who was one of my PhD examiners, disagreed with most of my conclusions. However, the most recent review of these complexes, by Loney & Himmelberg in 1995, supported all of my main conclusions, including that these bodies are cumulates beneath andesitic volcanoes.

In Queensland, my chief interest has been the tectonic evolution of the Tasman Fold Belt System and the relationship between tectonics and metallogenesis. And of course my research has been focussed on the New England Orogen over a period of almost 40 years. I recounted my personal view of developments over those 40 years in an introductory paper in the memorial volume for Alan Voisey published in 1997. This is another indication that you are getting old - you write more and more articles for memorial volumes. On this occasion I would like to refer to some of the events I discussed in that paper.

My serious involvement with the New England Orogen began with my first regional mapping project with the GSQ, 36 weeks mapping the Rockhampton and Port Clinton 1:250 000 sheets in 1965 and 1966. The New England Orogen is the easternmost coastal belt of Australia extending from about Bowen south to Newcastle, and east of the Sydney-Bowen Basin. The main problem in understanding the geology of the NEO was the occurrence of two contrasting north-south trending belts separated by a major fault (Yarrol Fault in Queensland and Peel Fault in NSW) marked by serpentinite lenses. Up to that time, deformational history was used as an indicator of age, so the more deformed, unfossiliferous rocks east of the Yarrol and Peel Faults were regarded as older than the gently folded, richly fossiliferous Devonian-Carboniferous sequence of the Yarrol Basin and Tamworth Trough to the west, and were assigned to the early Palaeozoic. But by the end of our mapping project, I was convinced that these contrasting sequences were of the same age, or at least that their ages overlapped.

For me, the key was the distribution of calcareous ooids in the Early Carboniferous, forming in shallow carbonate banks along the western edge of the Yarrol Basin, and being transported eastwards to make up a major component of limestone beds and a minor component of volcanic-rich sandstones. Oolitic sandstones identical to those of the Yarrol Basin also occurred in the deformed, unfossiliferous rocks east of the Yarrol Fault, as also recorded by Rod McKellar during his mapping east of Monto.

The problem of the different structural history of the two contrasting sequences was resolved when I started a PhD at Princeton in 1968. This move to Princeton was a culture shock in more ways than one. Harry Hess and Jason Morgan had already formulated the hypotheses of sea floor spreading and plate tectonics, and had moved on to investigating the driving mechanism. As part of my PhD, I took a course by Creighton Burk on continental margins. He knew everything there was to know about continental margins, particularly convergent margins like southern Alaska, where he did his PhD (he and Charles Drake edited a definitive book on continental margins published in 1974). Although the terms subduction complex and accretionary wedge had not yet been coined, he described all their features and their relationships with associated forearc basins. Here was a model that explained both the gross pattern of rock sequences in the NEO, and the age relations that I interpreted from the distribution of calcareous ooids, unlike the classical geosynclinal theory that just didn't fit at all, as Alan Voisey found when he tried to apply it. So out of everything I learnt at Princeton (and I learnt plenty, and even had a look at the first Moon samples when they came back in 1969), that course by Creighton Burk was most useful for my subsequent work in Queensland.

When I rejoined the GSQ in 1972, one of the first jobs Jack Woods, then Chief Government Geologist, gave me was to find fossils in the Brisbane Metamorphics. Geologists had been looking for 100 years, and all they had come up with were some graptolites found at Brookfield on a university excursion in the 1940s. These were identical to Victorian species of Silurian age, and some months later the story leaked out that this was because they were Victorian graptolites - the great discovery was a hoax. Owen Jones, one of my lecturers at UQ, always referred to that locality as the NBG slates - NBG for No Bloody Graptolites.

Rather than look in the fine-grained rocks of the Brisbane Metamorphics, as had been the previous practice, I decided to search in oolitic sandstones that had recently been recognised in the Mount Nebo area. And we were successful on our first trip! Now of course they weren't very wonderful fossils, just some crinoid stems (including elliptical ones which gave a broad indication of age) and shell fragments. But they did support a late rather than an early Palaeozoic age, and so reinforced the relationship deduced from the calcareous ooids. Then followed a period of frantic activity during which Bill Whitaker and I looked for oolitic sandstones in the accretionary wedge sequence at localities from near Grafton in the south to near Kunwarara in the north. And they were always there. Now, of course, we have better fossil evidence for a late Palaeozoic age from radiolarians and conodonts in cherts, but the ooids first gave the true story about relationships across the Yarrol and Peel Faults.

About the same time that the accretionary wedge sequence was recognised as being of late Palaeozoic age, geologists were also trying to explain the substantial offset between the southern and northern NEO. The forearc basin/Yarrol Fault/accretionary wedge in Queensland are displaced at least 200 km eastwards relative to their equivalents in NSW. This was not a new observation: the displacement had been documented by Wally Bryan in 1925 and by Emile Rod in 1966. However, the concept of large-scale fault movements simply could not be seriously contemplated in the pre-plate tectonic era. An additional complication was that the accretionary wedge assemblage has been folded into a double or coupled orocline with dextral vergence and arcuate hinge zones west of Warwick and at Coffs Harbour. Unfolding the oroclinal bending suggested that the northern part of the accretionary wedge had moved about 500 km in a southward direction. After a decade of discussions and investigations by several geologists from a number of institutions, a group of us published a tectonic model involving the collision of a mid-ocean ridge with a continental margin trench, and the subsequent formation of a dextral transform fault extending from west of Rockhampton to Coffs Harbour. While this model is feasible, being based on the history of the development of the San Andreas Fault over the last 25 million years, I should emphasise that it is completely speculative. The oroclinal bending remains one of the many outstanding problems regarding the New England Orogen that will be addressed by future generations of geologists, hopefully armed with ever more sophisticated technology.

In summary, my study of the New England Orogen has been extremely interesting and rewarding, primarily because it spanned the period during which plate tectonics became generally accepted and contributed so much to its interpretation.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife Dalys, who is here tonight, for tolerating the wandering life of a geologist always off to the field or to some conference or other. Her continued support has contributed a great deal to this award. Once again, thank you.