John (Jack) Patrick Tully, known as "The Father of West Coast Oceanography" in Canada, was born in Brandon, Manitoba on 29 November 1906 and was brought up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He died in Nanaimo, BC 19 May 1987.
In 1931, John graduated from University of Manitoba with a B. Sc in biology and chemistry and was recruited as an assistant to Neal Carter, a young chemist and oceanographer working in the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, B.C. His energy, confidence and drive were immediately apparent. He was hired to do chemical assays of the nutritional values of canned fish products, analysing sea water and fish muscle, but already in his first year he had become involved in oceanographic studies.
In 1932 he recruited five lighthouse keepers to begin daily observations of sea surface temperatures and surface meteorology, a program that expanded to twenty lighthouses and continued to early 2000's. When Dr. Carter left Nanaimo in 1933, Jack Tully became the oceanographer at the Biological Station, a position he retained until his retirement in 1969. At this time, the Pacific Biological Station had small inshore vessels only suitable for work in the the Strait of Georgia and the inlets. Tully aggressively sought vessels of opportunity to collect open ocean information related to the changes he was observing through his network of lighthouse stations. He joined Canadian Hydrographic Ship William J. Stewart during its 1933, 1934 and 1935 field seasons, working in Nootka Sound, between Cape Flattery and Esperanza Inlet, and in the Queen Charlotte Islands. These programs were conducted on an opportunity basis on a vessel that was not particularly well-suited for oceanographic observations. From 1936 to 1938, he negotiated for the dedicated use of HMCS Armentières for a few months each year for oceanographic surveys.
In the first year, Tully and colleagues conducted the first offshore oceanographic survey on the Pacific margin of the Americas, occupying more than 100 stations between the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Queen Charlotte Sound. This was a year before the first surveys of the California Current system began. These surveys gave the first descriptions of the complex current regime over the BC shelf and slope. Jack Tully soon realised that he needed further training in physical oceanography and ocean dynamics. He educated himself on dynamic methods based on Bjerknes's theorem using Sandström's (1919) classic monograph. Recognising his limitations in mathematics and physics, he corresponded with Bjørn Helland-Hansen about the possibility of doing a PhD in Bergen. These discussions failed to create an workable option, so in 1939 he began a PhD program under Thomas G. Thompson at the University of Washington. His thesis research was on the oceanography of Alberni Inlet. His research was interrupted by the war.
In 1943, Tully was assigned to duty with the Royal Canadian Navy in order to research several problems related to SONARS and the detection of submarines. He was honoured by King George VI and was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for his contributions to the war effort. Tully returned to the Pacific Biological Station following the war and led the postwar growth in oceanography in western Canada.
After the war, he completed his PhD in 1948. His thesis, "Oceanography and Prediction of Pulp Mill Pollution in Alberni Inlet" , is considered by many as the first study in which oceanography was applied to a major pollution problem. As in all of Jack's work, he attacked the problem in energetic and innovative ways, constructing a small hydraulic model of the inlet as a complement to the field surveys and analysis.
In 1949, he was formally named senior oceanographer and officer-in-charge of the Pacific Oceanographic Group (P.O.G.), a semi-autonomous research group within the Station. Jack Tully built the Pacific Oceanographic Group through a series of strategic projects and collaborations without losing sight of his primary aim to understand the circulation and variability of the offshore and inshore waters of western Canada in support of the fisheries and other Canadian needs.
The availability of dedicated research vessels such as CNAV Ehkoli, an 84-foot converted seiner, ideal for inshore studies and HMCS Cedarwood, 165 feet and capable of offshore work allowed Tully to expand the group's programs in both the inshore and the offshore. Collaborations with G. L. Pickard of the University of British Columbia allowed him to expand oceanographic programs beyond what the small P.O.G. could do alone. His collaborations went beyond Canada. He noted that Nodales Channel near Prince Rupert was well-mixed and isothermal and thus would be an excellent laboratory for the investigation of SONAR signatures of various objects, including submarines. P.O.G. and the US Naval Electronics Laboratory (USNEL) assembled four ships and two smaller craft to conduct what was described as "probably the largest joint oceanographic research operation undertaken in Canadian waters". This collaboration with USNEL expanded far beyond Nodales Channel. From 1949 through 1954, P.O.G. in collaboration with USNEL and the Canadian Defence Research Board carried out annual oceanographic surveys of the Bering and Chukchi Seas and western Arctic.
Using CNAV Cedarwood, Tully renewed the offshore oceanographic surveys from Cape Flattery to Dixon Entrance, extending these to 141W. This work was carried out by Earlston Doe, a new member of P.O.G. During a visit from Joe L. Reid of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a collaboration resulted in the amalgamation of data along the entire west coast from California to the Queen Charlottes. By 1955, Tully and P.O.G. were able to use HMCS Ste Thérèse and join in the NORPAC survey of the Subtropical and Subarctic North Pacific.
This contribution showed that Tully and P.O.G. were full members of the international oceanographic community. In the 1950s, Tully saw the establishment of Ocean Weather Station Papa (OWS P) as an opportunity to extend his array of time series observations to an offshore location and through the water column. The OWS P and line P observations are among the longest set of time series available. They have been the basis of many analysis and models of the seasonal and interannual variability of the mid-latitude ocean.
John Tully was an early advocate of rapid delivery of ocean data to meet the needs of various ocean users. He served as the first Chairman of the Integrated Global Ocean Services System, an international committee that was charged with the development and co-ordination of a system to collect and distribute oceanographic data in near real time.
John Tully also played an important role in training the first two post-war generations of Canadian oceanographers. He commuted to Vancouver to teach chemical oceanography to the first graduate students in the Institute of Oceanography at the University of British Columbia. He also involved those students in projects in Nanaimo and provided P.O.G. support to the Institute's first studies of B.C. fiords. When the Federal Department of Mines and Technical Surveys began to expand into physical oceanography late in the 1950's, young graduates in mathematics, physics and engineering were sent to Nanaimo to be forged into oceanography under Tully.
During his career, John Tully received a number of honours including the Coronation Medal of 1953, the Albert Ier de Monaco et la Mer in 1967, the Manley Bendall Prize in 1967 and the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Canadian Institute of Chemistry, the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Sigma Xi, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in which he served as President of the Western Division in 1963. He was also a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada and of the American Chemical Society.
In 1984, the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society struck the J. P. Tully Medal in Oceanography awarded to any person whose scientific contributions have had a significant impact on Canadian oceanography , to honour achievements in Canadian Oceanography. He became its first recipient.
In the same year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans named their new oceanographic / hydrographic research vessel, CSS John P. Tully , in his honour.