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Home > History of Development > Leduc: Causes and Effects > Setting the Stage: Before 1947 > Geological Factors > Early Exploration

Leduc: Causes and Effects

Early Exploration—Oil is Found in the Minds of Men

Ted Link, geologist, second from the left, 1921. Leduc was not Alberta's first oil discovery. In 1778, Peter Pond, an explorer and fur trader, travelled to the Athabasca River—the first white man to do so. He observed the bitumen flowing on the ground and knew of its usefulness for calking and mending canoes; the Cree Indians in the area showed him. Perhaps this is the first account of a hydrocarbon as a useful resource. This surely was not the last account, however. Large gas reserves had been discovered starting with Medicine Hat in the 1880s and then Bow Island.

Before there were geophysicists and modern seismic technology, drilling for oil was a much different operation, involving hunches, happy accidents as well as skill. It was Thomas Sterry Hunt in 1861 who developed the theory of the natural conditions needed for oil to be present. Drilling sites were chosen sometimes with the help of a geologist, sometimes by witching, using a divining rod, and sometimes just on a hunch. The essential tool in oil exploration was the drilling rig. It was in part because of this that whenever possible, the early sites were picked near a natural occurrence of petroleum. In the case of the Norman Wells, in 1920, the geologist, Ted Link, directed the crew to the site. The crew made use of a cable-tool rig.

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