Few people remember our past impediments to exploration created by false knowledge.
Fifty years ago, the August 1955 AAPG BULLETIN published an article titled In Situ Origin of McMurray (Athabaska) Oil of Northeastern Alberta and Its Relevance to General Problem of Origin of Oil, by G.S. Corbett.
Corbett published his ideas of the Athabaska tar sands as resulting from the contemporaneous deposition of sands and humic acids. The coagulated hydrocarbon acids were suggested to have been so abundant locally as to form thick lakes in which sand grains accumulated, often without touching one another.
Corbett's paper was followed by comments by G.S. Hume, by Wm. G. Gussow, F.J. Hamilton, J.C. Sproule and included a final rebuttal by G.S. Corbett. It still makes for interesting reading, and the discussion has value for any explorationist who might want to learn and to identify the faulty and incomplete observations that doomed Corbett's paper.
Gussow argued powerfully and persuasively against Corbett's ideas. Gussow recognized that the tar in the Athabaska sands resulted from the distant migration of down-dip oil.
Gussow's reasoning convinced most geologists; he was rewarded by becoming the 1955 AAPG Distinguished Lecturer, speaking on the subject "Problems of Oil Migration."
The AAPG Annual Convention in Calgary will feature a debate between those who favor an organic origin of oil and those who argue for a deep, hot, abiogenic source for oil. (See related story)
I must admit to having a closed mind on the subject, and would have preferred to be entertained by someone's arguments for a flat earth.