The Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (GSTT) was founded in 1976, almost exactly 110 years after the first successful oil well was drilled by Captain Walter Darwent in Aripero, March 1866. In these interim years before the formation of the Society, many a foreign geologist had ventured into Trinidad for the express purpose of finding oil. However, oil companies and their geologists turned over rapidly and Trinidad became known as the “graveyard of geologists”. Companies’ fortunes were rather short lived. Some one hundred and twenty or so oil companies came and left in this period.
Geologists as a group never settled down long enough to form a local society although a few individuals stayed on for long periods. Most notable among these was the Swiss geologist Hans Kugler who arrived in 1913 to undertake field geology for oil exploration and would eventually compile and publish the most definitive and comprehensive Geological map of Trinidad in 1959. Other notable geologists that worked closely with Kugler were, John Saunders (recognised for his contributions to the GSTT at the 6th GSTT Conference, 2017) and George Higgins, two gentlemen that contributed immensely to local Geology. John was honoured for his work at the 3rd GSTT Conference held at Hilton Hotel, Port-of-Spain in 1995. The other gentleman would publish in 1996 a most detailed 500 page “History of Trinidad Oil” – which was nothing short of a labour of love.
During the colonial era and up until 1973 foreign geologists residing in Trinidad would join the Institute of Petroleum, headquartered in London. Local geologists were allowed membership in the Trinidad Branch of the Institute but were not considered as members of the international body according to John Scott, Chief Geologist in the Ministry of Petroleum and Mines.
Dr. Eric Williams led Trinidad to Independence in 1962 and this propelled the country towards greater national consciousness. The early seventies saw a new breed of geologists – the local nationalistic geologists from out of U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica – many of whom pursued studies on a Texaco geology scholarship. This period also saw the beginning of nationalization of the local oil industry. Against this background the “Founding Fathers” of the GSTT began to conceive the idea of forming a geological society. These included, among others, Krishna Persad, Ken Birchwood, John P. Scott, T. Rajpaulsingh, Mahendra Nath and William Lau.
Primarily due to the efforts of one individual, the Society got off the ground in 1976 when Dr. Krishn Persad returned to Trinidad from a foreign assignment at Tesoro Corp., San Antonio. He with the instigation of T. Rajpaulsingh mobilized all local geologists and drafted a constitution. At the inaugural meeting in early 1976 at Royal Hotel, San Fernando, it was proposed to call the Society the Trinidad Association of Petroleum Geologists (TAPG). After much discussion and objection the name was abandoned to adopt a broader concept that included all aspects of geology and its local applications. Thus the Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (GSTT) was born.
The inaugural Dinner and Dance was held at the Trinidad Hilton on October 22, 1976 with Dr. Ken Julien as the feature speaker. It is interesting to note that the executive in the year 2002 and 2003 comprised of two gentlemen from this first Executive – Krishna Persad and Derek Smith. As Mahendra Nath puts it “It would seem that we have come full circle as Messrs. Persad and Smith have reappeared 25 years later on the GSTT’s Executive.”
The Society recognized the importance of petroleum and natural gas to the economy of the country and felt a need to provide career guidance for young students and continuing education to its members, with the emphasis on the needs of the petroleum industry. Thus the major aims of the Society were:
- To increase the general level of geological knowledge among its members by presenting technical papers, holding technical sessions, arranging short courses and lectures by distinguished geologists local and international, leading geological field trips, and publishing newsletters and technical publications at regular intervals.
- To increase the awareness of the public about the importance of geologists and geology to the country by holding public lectures and seminars, by using the communications media to disseminate information, and by participating in public exhibitions and expositions.
- To provide career guidance for students throughout the country
The Society started with twenty members in 1976 and five categories of membership – Ordinary, Student, Associate, and Honorary. Over the years the Society membership has grown to now number over three hundred active paid members with members in upstream and geoscientists in the downstream and other non-energy organizations.
The GSTT is a non-profit organization that is run by an annually elected Executive on a voluntary basis. Its aims and objectives are primarily geo-scientific education and local geological understanding but its domain of influence is the rich natural resources of our country. Because it impacts heavily on the fortunes of our country’s petroleum sector and hence the country as a whole, many geologists have gone beyond their science to take up leadership roles in their community and in the country. Some examples of GSTT members in such leadership positions are;The late Honorable Patrick Manning (Former Prime Minister), Keith Rowley (Prime Minister and Minister of Parliament), Franklin Khan (Minister of Energy), Eric Williams (Minister of Energy and Energy Services), John Scott, Bill Chaitan and the late Harry Kuarsingh. The leadership of the Geological Society is excellent training ground for leadership roles in the larger community and the Petroleum industry.