KARL W. STAUFFER
Chevron Overseas Petroleum Inc.,
6001 Bollinger Canyon Road., San Ramon, California 94583-0946
Dr. Hans Karl Stauffer, a pioneer of international geological work for oil exploration, died January 13, 1989, in Palo Alto, California, at the age of 97. During his career with Royal Dutch Shell, which began
in 1919 and spanned more than 20 years, he mapped vast areas of Venezuela, Trinidad, Indonesia, and New Guinea.
Geological field work then was not only an intellectual challenge, but an adventure as well. He was closely involved with Shell’s early discoveries of the La Paz and Bolivar coastal fields in the Maracaibo Basin of Venezuela, whose ultimately producible reserves are today calculated at about 50 billion barrels.
Hans was born in the village of Gumlingen in the can ton Bern, Switzerland, on April 6, 1891. His father was a teacher and a long-time member of the Bern teachers’ choir.
From him Hans acquired a love of teaching and music; from childhood on, he was determined
to become a teacher. Both Hans and his younger brother Fred were highly talented artists, and
indeed, Fred became well known as a painter in Switzerland. After teachers’ college, Hans worked for two years in the Kienthal in the Bernese Oberland as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. He loved to roam in the mountains, and as he contem plated his salary of about $400 per year (on which, even in 1913-1914, one could hardly marry and support a family), he decided he could combine his love of the outdoors with a better income by becoming a geologist. This decided, he entered the University of Bern, and with some time at the University of Geneva, studied straight through to a Ph.D. in geology in 1919.
The map of his thesis area in the Bernese Alps is still a part of the geological map of Switzerland.
With large green eggs painted on his suitcases, so he could distinguish them readily from
those of the many World War I refugees, Hans traveled to The Hague, Holland, to join Royal
Dutch Shell. His first assignment in The Hague was to write a summary report on the oil possi
bilities of Switzerland, which he judged to be not very good (Switzerland still has only one pro
ducing gas well).
In 1919, Hans sailed for Venezuela as one of the first Shell geologists to go there. Although
he at first spoke no Spanish, his knowledge of Italian and French helped him communicate. In
those days in Venezuela there were no maps, few roads, and almost no cars. The normal form of
transport was the mule. Hans selected the best looking mule he could find and started mapping
the basin areas of the country. His mapping was controlled with a mule-calibrated pedometer for
distance and a Breithaupt geological compass for orientation.
He did extensive mapping in both eastern Venezuela and in the Maracaibo Basin. He
mapped the structures west of Lake Maracaibo and much of the Falcon area, as well as areas
east of the lake and in the Merida Andes to the south. He was in Maracaibo in 1923 when the
Shell well Los Barrosos-2 blew out on the east shore of Lake Maracaibo and formed a river of oil that flowed through the main street of the village of Cabimas. To calculate the flow rate of
the well, Hans measured the depth and speed of the oil river in the street and came up with a
rate of flow of more than 100,000 barrels per day. This well focused the oil industry’s attention
on Venezuela and particularly on the Maracaibo Basin.
Hans worked in Venezuela until 1928, after which he worked in Indonesia for five years,
much of that time mapping in Borneo, working out of jungle camps. A trip from Holland to
Indonesia was his first extensive flying trip. It took more than two weeks, as they flew only dur
ing daylight hours and always waited for good weather.
From 1933 to 1936, Hans worked in Point Fortin in Trinidad, directing exploration efforts
in the southern part of the island. After Trinidad he spent some time in the main office of Royal
Dutch Shell in The Hague as South America coordinator. Although he found the work at com
pany headquarters interesting, he missed the direct contact with geological work. His chance to
go back to the field again came when he was asked to head a Royal Dutch Shell exploration
group in New Guinea.
The work in New Guinea was the first large-scale test of the use of aerial photographs for
geological mapping, and it was a great success. Working under him were Swiss, Dutch, English,
German, French, Italian, and Malay geologists and other staff. Hans liked to tell the story of the
monolingual geologists from the Standard Oil Company of California who visited his camp and
office complex. As he showed them around he spoke to all of his people in their native lan
guages, as he always did. The California geologists couldn’t believe what they were hearing!
After his work in New Guinea was completed, Hans returned as chief geologist to Maracaibo,
Venezuela, where he remained until his retirement in 1941.
Hans had originally planned to retire near Bern, Switzerland, but because of World War II,
and largely on the advice of Frances and Hollis Hedberg, he settled with his family in Palo Alto,
California. Here he started his third career, after those of teacher and exploration geologist. He
became a research associate in the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford and maintained that
position for the rest of his life. During World War II he also taught classes in jungle survival
techniques to soldier-students, and for about a year, he worked in the Military Geology Branch
in the Pentagon as an expert on New Guinea.
In retirement, Hans again began to paint. He was a superb landscape painter with watercol-
ors and he delighted friends and family with gifts of his paintings. Hans also loved the opera and
was a regular patron of the San Francisco Opera for many years. His stories of opera stars such
as Caruso and Gigli, and his comparisons of them with some of today’s performers, enchanted
younger opera lovers.
Hans had a remarkable ability to establish rapport with people of all ages, backgrounds,
and nationalities. He had good friends on many continents, and as his contemporaries died, he
continually developed new friendships with younger people.
His wife Olga, ne£ Schneeberger, whom he married in Switzerland in September of 1925,
was a teacher and talented amateur stage actress and musician, and she accompanied Hans
throughout his worldwide career (except in New Guinea). She died in 1971. Hans is survived by
three sons: Henry, a medical doctor at the University of California; Karl, a geologist with
Chevron Overseas Petroleum Inc.; and Peter, also a geologist, with the U.S. Geological Survey
in Menlo Park. Eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren also survive him.
Hans will be missed but not forgotten by his family and a multitude of friends.
NNGPM: Nederlandsche Nieuw Guinea Petroleum Maatschappij
Briefing notes on the Netherlands New Guinea Petroleum Company.
A company formed in 1935 by the Shell Group under its affiliate BPM (40%), Standard Vacuum Oil Co. (40%), and Far Pacific investments (owned by Standard oil of California, 20%).
Standard Vacuum Oil Co.
a 1933 50/50 merging of Standard Oil Company of New York & Standard Oil of New Jersey
in 1934 became SOCONY-Vacuum Oil Co. Inc.
in 1955 became SOCONY Mobil Oil Company Inc.
in 1966 became Mobil Oil Corporation
in 1999 Mobil and Exxon merged to become Exxon Mobil.
Standard Oil of California is another of the companies formed from 1911 breakup of Standard Oil, today it is known as Chevron.
Condoleezza Rice is a former member of the board of directors 1991-Jan/2001, she has also held positions at Rand Corp. and Carnegie Corp. One SOoC subsidiary became ARAMCO in 1944 which became Saudi Aramco in 1988.
NNGPM is the company which in 1936 sent Jean Jacques Dozy to explore West New Guinea and report any economic minerals to the company.
Lisa Pease has an excellent article based on the Freeport claim to have accidently discovered a Netherlands report by Jean Jacques Dozy: JFK, Indonesia, CIA & Freeport Sulphur.
What the Freeport version forgets to mention, is that Jean Dozy was working for NNGPM which had 60% Standard Oil control (now Exxon Mobil/Chevron) and that the alleged discovery of Dozy’s report was only months after the New York Times published this article reporting the Dutch were now searching for a mountain of gold along the southern coast from which alluvial gold was flowing into the Arafura Sea.
In addition to the suspicious circumstance of Rockefeller’s Freeport taking sudden interest so many years after the Dozy expedition; there is also Freeport’s Wilson expedition of 1960 which confirmed the copper and gold load of the ‘Mountain of Ore’ “Ertsberg”;
which again was not reported to the government’s Mines Office (see pages 45,46 Netherlands United Nations report).
Perhaps the American resource company executives did not know about Ertsberg from 1936, perhaps pigs do fly in America. Perhaps the people in 1961/62 wanting Kennedy to transfer West New Guinea to Indonesian control were not friends of Corporate America; but personally I suspect there is a better chance of pigs flying inside the White House.
1920 Geologische Untersuching der Schilthomgrupper im Berner Oberland: Mitteilungen der
Naturforschende Gesellschaft Bern, Heft 1.
1943 Netherlands New Guinea terrain intelligence: U.S. Geological Survey, Strategie Engi
neering Study 93,111 p.
1945 The geology of the Netherlands Indies, in Honig, P., and Verdoorn, F., eds., Science and
scientists in the Netherlands Indies: New York, Board for the Netherlands Indies, 491 p.
1962 (Visser, W. A., and Hermes, J. J., compilers) Geological results of the exploration for oil
in Netherlands New Guinea, carried out by the “Nederlandsche Nieuw Guinee Petroleum
Maatschappij” 1935-1960: Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Nederlands geologisch
mijnbouwkundig genootschap, Geol. Serie, pt. XX, special number, 265 p., 18 enclosures
(includes much of Stauffer’s New Guinea work).