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Vening Meinesz, Felix Andries

gravity measurements submarine delft

[ vayn ing miy nes] (1887–1966) Dutch geophysicist: pioneer of submarine gravity measurements.

After graduating in engineering from the Technical University of Delft in 1910, Vening Meinesz worked on a Government gravity survey of the Netherlands. In 1927 he was appointed professor extraordinary of geodesy, cartography and geophysics at Utrecht, and also professor of geophysics at Delft. His life-long interest was in gravity and the deductions he could make from its accurate measurement.

Gravity determinations can yield useful information about underlying geological structure, but very accurate measurements are necessary since the variation in gravity is small. However, for the majority of the Earth’s surface, that covered by the oceans, the lack of a stable platform makes measurements by the conventional pendulum technique impossible. Vening Meinesz realized that a submarine might provide a sufficiently stable base and, with the assistance of the Dutch navy, he made the first marine gravity determinations in the Pacific in 1923, finding that he could obtain results consistent within 1 mgal, comparable with land-based measurements, using three pendulums in an ingenious cradle. From the measurements made during a total of 10 such voyages Vening Meinesz discovered a belt of negative gravity anomalies beneath the deep submarine trenches associated with island arcs. He correctly interpreted this as being due a subduction zone, ie a compressive down-buckling of the oceanic crust below the continental crust. He did not support ideas on continental drift, but when this became established his results fitted in with modern tectonic plate theory.

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