James Martin

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James Martin
James E. Martin headshot.png
Latest company Schlumberger

James E. Martin was awarded SEG's Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award for his pioneering work in the development of 3D and 4D acquisition technology, and in particular ocean-bottom acquisition techology.

Biography Citation for the SEG Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award

Imagine the North Sea in winter 1993, with winds moderating from hurricane force to a mere gale. Two supply vessels enter a watery stage somewhere in the Norwegian sector. This was the setting for an experiment that was to herald one of the most exciting developments in modern marine geophysics: In an allegorical reversal of life emerging from the sea, land seismic was about to go to the seabed. Aboard the Troms Skarven were James Martin and Bjørnar Svenning. Eivind Berg, having seen the weather forecasts, wisely decided to be the onshore anchor man for the experiment. Meanwhile, spurred on by the fact that their vessel had only one spare single bunk, James and Bjørnar overcame seasickness and got on with the job.

The job required that ocean-bottom seismometers, comprising three-component geophones and a hydrophone, be planted on the seabed using an ROV and connected to a recording system on the ship. While this vessel stood guard, a source vessel shot split-spread data over the seabed instruments. Despite the gales, the data arriving on board were of high quality and faxes from James to Eivind proved the system could record compressional and shear data.

So impressed was Statoil management that they approved a 2-D, 4-C survey in Tommeliten Field in late 1993 using the new SUMIC (SUbsea seisMIC) system. The shear data mapped structure beneath the Tommeliten gas cloud for the first time. A paper was presented at the 1994 EAEG Annual Meeting and the rest, as they say, is history. James is a dynamic geophysicist with a passion for acquisition and an equally consuming curiosity for data analysis. He studied astrophysics at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north of England—home to two of his other passions, a renowned soccer team and a type of brown beer whose flavor is said to derive from the waters of the “industrialized” river flowing through the city. Newcastle awarded James a doctorate in 1985 for his research into crustal magnetic sources and the accuracy of models of the earth’s geomagnetic reference field derived from satellite data.

James joined BP’s Geophysical Research and Technical Service Group in London where he investigated seismic data acquisition, including land and marine air-gun sources and vibroseis. He published on vibrator efficiency, harmonic distortion, and the nonlinearity of the near surface. At this time, his interest in vector seismic methods was stimulated by experiments in ground-roll attenuation using 3-C data acquired in Alberta by BP Canada.

In 1992, James entered the Statoil Research Centre in Trondheim where he became engaged in the SUMIC project. Following the successful field trials, he was responsible for the design, acquisition, and navigation of the Tommeliten survey. He QCed the acquisition and oversaw the data processing which culminated in the 1994 EAGE paper. In Trondheim, James also researched a downhole seismic source while drilling, marine source signature estimation, and a mechanical air-gun bubble attenuator.

James moved to Schlumberger Cambridge Research in 1994 and became program manager for the acquisition and processing research group. His passions for multicomponent seismic, sources, and new technology for land and marine seismic have continued unabated. He has created a culture where acquisition issues are perceived to be at least as exciting as imaging and inversion research. It has been my great privilege to work with James since he joined Schlumberger. His contribution to seabed shear seismic is now being recognized, but I would not take bets against there being another major award to James Martin in the years to come.