Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES)
40 years of Engineering Geology at Portsmouth
Thu, 08 Nov 2007 15:21:00 GMT
In October 1967, a small group of 15 students enrolled on to the honours degree in Engineering Geology and Geotechnics, so marking the start of a course that has gone on to develop an enviable international reputation. Graduates from this course have now spread far and wide across the world, with many now holding positions at the highest levels within internationally renowned companies. To celebrate this 40th anniversary landmark, we held an alumni conference in the Burnaby Building, followed by a celebration supper in the Spinnaker Tower. The event was a sell-out, with 150 guests attending the evening function and representatives from virtually every year of the course, some travelling from as far as Russia, Australia and Canada. Our guest of honour was Mr Neil Duncan, who was responsible for creating the course and whose vision and drive developed the firm foundations which still underpin the course today.
The conference, entitled Engineering Geology and Geotechnics - the first 40 years - , provided an opportunity for eight graduates of the course to present papers on the more glamorous aspects of their work. Subjects ranged from coastal defence, environmentally friendly piling, the delights of being an expert witness in court cases, case histories highlighting the hazards and risks associated with the ground, and the importance of getting the geological ground model right.
The more visually memorable papers covered remote sub-marine reconnaissance vehicles producing sensational underwater images of marine canyons with landslides and mud volcanoes, across which oil pipelines have to be constructed, and £500m drilling rigs collapsing beneath the waves as the jack-up rig legs punch through soft sediments in seas in the Far East.
The presentation on problems of engineering ice roads across the frozen lakes of northern Canada included spectacular images of ruptured ice roads with huge, heavily laden trucks foundering into the ice.
Our speakers, who clearly enjoyed their work, memorably demonstrated the diverse and exciting range of career opportunities available to graduates from the course.
The Spinnaker Tower Celebration Supper gave the reunion a ‘wow’ factor that provided a great climax to what was a wonderful day of both reminiscence and optimism for the future. It is the graduates from the first 40 years that have created our reputation, and in doing so have exceeded our expectations. It was a privilege to be able to pay tribute to their achievements.