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W. E. WRATHER, Director
THE science of geology, no less than the other sciences, is becoming
increasingly important to the Nation's social and economic welfare. The successful application of the principles of geology to the discovery and development of critically needed mineral resources and the successful application of geology for predicting terrain conditions in advance of our military operations represent some of the dividends that were paid to this country during the war as a result of the advancement of geology as a science.
Geology relates to the earth. The better we understand our earthits composition, structure, and history—the better prepared we are to make the most of the land that we have.
Geological mapping is the mechanism by which our scientists determine the composition, structure, and history of the earth. Reduced to its simplest terms, geologic mapping consists of plotting on a plane map the intersections between the ground surface and the boundary planes that separate different kinds of rocks.
The agency responsible for making geological maps is the Geologic Branch of the Survey, and it plans to undertake extensive, systematic geologic surveys of many large areas of the country. These plans call for the utilization of every known refinement in mapping techniques and for the use of the most modern and varied techniques of geophysical exploration. Indeed, because even these will probably fall short of what should be done, the Survey plans also to carry out rather elaborate research to discover and develop new geophysical and geochemical methods of exploration and to continue and enlarge its research on the geologic and geochemical factors that determine the localization of mineral and mineral-fuel deposits.
The geologic mapping and research will cost something like 4 million dollars annually, for the work of searching hidden geology and determining ore controls is time consuming and costly. But geologic surveys repay their cost to the Nation many times over in augmented mineral wealth and economic benefits. The wartime work of the Geological Survey has already led to the discovery of 25 million dollars worth of new tungsten and mercury ores.
In addition to these domestic plans it is hoped that means can be found to continue and to extend the cooperative scientific work that has been conducted during the war by our Geological Survey and its equivalent agency in various foreign countries. These international projects not only bring mutual-scientific benefits but they can become a strong contributing force toward better international understanding.
During the year the Alaskan Branch expended all of its efforts on projects that were carefully selected as being most pertinent to the successful carrying on of the war. The limitations of funds and personnel restricted the work to only a few of the more urgent projects. The projects carried on during the fiscal year were of three general kinds-investigations of deposits of minerals or search for deposits of minerals 'needed in the war, geologic investigations pertaining to problems of construction or maintenance of military or naval establishments, and planimetric and topographic mapping from aerial photographs.
Projects of the first kind were principally concerned with petroleum, coal, quicksilver, copper, tin, and zinc. Some of the petroleum work was carried on at the request of the Navy Department, and at that Department's expense.
Work of the second type included principally investigation of phenomena associated with permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, that bear directly on construction and maintenance activities over much of Alaska. This work was done at the request and expense of the War Department, and arrangements have recently been completed for continuing these investigations on an expanded scale in the fiscal year 1946. Brief investigation was made for the War Department of a volcano that erupted near an Army establishment in June. The purpose of the study was to determine the extent of danger to the establishment.
Work of the third type was the continuation of the compilation of aeronautical pilotage charts and maps from aerial photographs for the Army Air Forces. This work included the preparation of maps not only of parts of Alaska but of many other areas widely distributed over the world. In order to staff adequately this high-priority work it was necessary to postpone regular Survey planimetric and topographic mapping of Alaska although the need for more maps is continually becoming more acute.
In view of the greatly increased public interest in Alaska and the anticipated development of the Territory in the postwar period, it is planned to refocus the work of the Survey in Alaska to projects pertinent to the Territory.
Topographic mapping in the United States has proceeded at such a slow pace for the past 60 years that only a relatively small part of the country may be considered sufficiently well mapped to meet present-day map requirements. One-half of the Nation is without topographic maps; the other half is provided with maps, but some of these are considered inadequate. This situation is deplorable, and action should be taken at once to make available maps essential to a survey of the natural resources of the Nation. Topographic maps supply much of the basic data essential to a survey of the country's resources and are highly valuable for the economical and efficient planning of drainage, flood control, irrigation, water supply, hydroelectric and navigation projects; they decrease the number of expensive field surveys usually made in connection with the location of transmission lines, railways, highways, canals, tunnels, airports, and industrial plants and thereby reduce the cost of constructing such projects; they provide topographic data essential to the proper location of frequency-modulated and television radio stations and for recording and correlating data obtained from geologic investigations and thus aid immeasurably in the location, evaluation, and development of our mineral wealth. Maps of this kind provide information essential to the proper classification of the public lands, the conservation of the soil, and the administration and protection of the forests, both national and State. They are of great value for the administration and best utilization of the vast domain of public lands, enormous areas of which have never been mapped and concerning which administrative officials responsible for the enforcement of the public land laws are consequently without adequate knowledge of their extent, the character of the terrain, their intrinsic value, or the possibility of their development. A comprehensive mapping plan is now being prepared in compliance with instructions from the Secretary of the Interior, under which, if funds are made available by the Congress, the serious handicap of inadequate map information could be overcome within the next 15 years. However, during the past year, as in other years since the beginning , of the war, major emphasis has been placed on those operations that contributed directly to the war effort. The authorized functions of the Geological Survey related to water consist of the collection and publication of information as to the quantity, quality, availability, and utility of the Nation's surfacewater and ground-water resources. The quantities of both forms fluctuate widely because they are dependent on precipitation, which may range from 10 inches or less annually in arid regions, to 100 inches or more in humid regions. Records of the fluctuations in available water are essential to its administration with respect to private, corporate, and governmental users, to interstate relations and compacts, to international problems and treaties, and to its efficient utilization for irrigation, navigation, sanitation, and power, for certain industrial processes, and for many of the comforts of civilized life. As the available supply is inadequate in many places for the many uses that are made of water, the demands for it are conflicting, and pressing questions arise relating to priority of rights, superiority of use, and equitable division. Reliable information is essential to the stability of development, soundness of financing, efficiency of operation, and equity of adjudication and administration. Demands for reliable water information are therefore insistent and continuing. Moreover, information is wanted promptly when it is needed, and little or no time is available for collecting it. Therefore, needs for it must be anticipated and investigations must be started in advance of the probable call for the results.
It is the Survey's policy and duty to collect the essential information as to water resources as rapidly as funds will permit, giving priority to places of probable most urgent need. However, water investigations are largely financed by means of cooperation with States and municipalities, which leads to uneven distribution of investigations among the States. Such financing has the advantage of assurance that investigations will generally be made in those places where the need for them is most pressing, and the disadvantage that little or no provision may be made for starting investigations that will have more specific reference to needs that are not now pressing but will certainly be in the future. In recent years a program of gaging stations and observation wells supported by Federal funds and not dependent on the availability of cooperative State and municipal funds has been inaugurated and gradually developed. This program is, however, still inadequate and is especially weak with respect to observation wells and to the quality of surface waters that have been seriously polluted in places by municipal and industrial wastes during recent years, especially during the war. The Federal program should be continued and expanded. It will serve not only to supplement the cooperative programs but also to provide a net of observation stations, well distributed throughout the country, that will not be liable to breaks resulting from fluctuations in cooperative funds.
The classification of the public lands of the United States as to mineral and water resources and the supervision of operations for the development of these vital natural resources without waste are functions of the Conservation Branch. This work involves intricate problems of geology, engineering, economics, and administration in complying with legislation enacted by the Congress, which contemplates that these resources shall be developed by private initiative in accordance with wise conservation practices. The activities include field investigations and preparation of reports dealing with water power, fuels, minerals, and chemicals essential to national war and postwar programs,
In carrying out the land-classification functions, Government agencies by administrative arrangement are furnished information concerning undeveloped resource values in the form of special reports concerning individual parcels of land involved in applications for sale, lease, exchange, or other forms of disposal. It is an essential service in the proper administration of Federal land in order to insure appropriate and timely use of such property. Advance determination of economic values also assures proper and adequate return for all disposals of such property and compliance with applicable Federal law. In the avoidance of duplication of such essential services by the numerous Federal agencies having need therefor, it is estimated that a saving of not less than 2 million dollars a year is effected in the costs of land administration. Whenever the information so obtained will be useful for the general public in encouraging development of the resources, reports are prepared for public distribution, and local offices are open for consultation by technical personnel employed by private interests. Such services are of indeterminate value to the general public. .
The supervision of operations constitutes a technical service which assures use of sound scientific principles in the development of the resources under supervision. The estimated value of production from all public-land mineral resources under supervision has increased from somewhat more than 69 million dollars in 1935, to a present annual worth of nearly 150 million dollars, and during the same period royalty accruals have increased from 6.75 to 11.64 million dollars a year. The oil, gas, coal, lead, zinc, and other mineral resources under leases supervised by the Branch have a value estimated in excess of 2 billion dollars.
It is expected that discoveries of new deposits during the postwar years will increase the known reserves materially. Proper engineering practices will increase the ultimate economic value of these, probably not less than 50 percent.
GEOLOGIC BRANCH The Geological Survey is, in a sense, custodian and appraiser of the Nation's mineral wealth. How great that wealth is may be judged from the fact that the aggregate value of all the mineral and mineralfuel resources produced in the United States up to the end of 1943 was approximately 8 billion dollars. The reserves in the ground that are now known or are being worked are estimated to be worth more than 6 trillion dollars and to that must be added all the yet undiscovered mineral wealth. Until a vast amount of geologic and geophysical investigation and research are done no one can give even a "guesstimate of the probable value of these total resources. Suffice it to say that 6 trillion dollars plus another large but unknown amount