IT was with much sadness that PESA learned of the passing of Dr Phillip Playford AM at the age of 85 after a long battle with cancer.
PESA President Toby Colson and Australia Geoscience Council President Bill Shaw both paid tribute to Dr Playford, a luminary of the geological profession, award-winning author and a remarkable man who even discovered a shipwreck, the Zuytdorp, which was the first Dutch ship to be found and identified in Western Australia. His book about the wreck, Carpet of Silver; The wreck of Zuytdorp, won a Premier’s Prize for literature.
Dr Playford was a PESA Distinguished Service Award recipient in 2001 and PESA President Toby Colson said of his impact on the profession in Western Australia: “Dr Playford had worked for the BMR, WAPET and Abrolhos Oil, as well as serving as Director of GSWA from 1986 to 1992. Phil started working in the Department of Mines from 1962 as the supervising geologist of the newly created Sedimentary (oil) Division, which had responsibility for mapping the Phanerozic basins of the State and assessing their fossil fuel resources.
“Phil also played a role in encouraging WAPET to drill the anticline below Barrow Island in the Carnarvon Basin, resulting in WA’s first commercial oil discovery.”
Dr Playford held a B.Sc (hons) in geology and an Honorary D.Sc from the University of Western Australia and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in the United States, which he attended as a Fulbright Scholar.
His distinguished career with both government and the oil exploration industry culminated in his appointment as a Director of the Geological Survey of WA. However, he was perhaps best revered for his work on the Devonian reef complexes of the Canning Basin and geology of the Shark Bay area, which he documented as a co-author with Roger Hocking and Anthony Cockbain in the GSWA Bulletin 145. Another of his revered works was The Geology of Shark Bay, GSWA Bulletin 146, which included the work of co-authors Anthony Cockbain, PF Berry, AP Roberts, PW Haines and BP Brooke.
Both works are available as free downloads from the Geological Survey of WA website.
Dr Playford was an Honorary Associate of the Geological Survey of the WA Museum, a Fellow of the Geological Society of Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. He received the Lewis G Weeks Gold Medal of APPEA in 1995.
Tony Cockbain, who worked with Phil as a geologist out in the field and as a co-author, said Dr Playford kept active in retirement.
“Phil also had an interest on the geology of Rottnest Island (offshore Perth), particularly with the history of sea level changes. Sadly, he was unable to complete that work,” Tony said.
“He was a great man for field work, which he always thought was very important, and his damper cooking over a campfire was marvellous,” Tony recalled with fondness.
“He was also a very good photographer, albeit painstakingly. He would go back to the same outcrops several times to get better lighting conditions. If the light wasn’t right he would ask you to hold a blanket up for shade. I did that for him a few times and my arms ached quite a bit.”
Dr Playford was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1998 for his contributions to knowledge of the geology and history of Australia. He was also an Honorary Associate of the Geological Survey and the WA Museum, a Fellow of the Geological Society of Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. He was honoured with a Special Commendation Award of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Gibb Maitland Medal of the Geological Society of Australia and the Medal of the Royal Society of WA.
Dr Playford is survived by his wife Cynthia and daughters Julia and Katherine and their families.
PESA News understands that his funeral will be held at 10:30AM on Friday July 21 at Norfolk Chapel Karrakatta Cemetery.