IN MEMORIAM: John Land
After graduating from King’s College London in 1972 with a degree in geology, John spent his early days carrying out site investigations with Soil Mechanics Ltd. Much of this work was connected with maritime structures and dredging. Clearly, he got the taste of salt in his nostrils at the beginning of his career and he also began travelling.
He soon joined a dredging company, Volker Stevin Dredging, moved to Holland and found himself travelling to the Middle and Far East on a variety of projects. Having obtained some valuable practical experience in the field and in the research department there, he moved back to the United Kingdom to develop his core skill of Engineering Geology, joining a business of the same name.
When, nine years later, in 1989, he and I set up Dredging Research Ltd., he was a director of Engineering Geology and had an impressive track record of work in soil and rock investigation in countries all over the world. Since then, specializing in the field of dredging, he had become a recognized authority in dredging matters, with particular emphasis on site investigation and the environmental effects of dredging works.
During his career he was involved in many dredging projects in more than 30 countries, particularly in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. He engaged in research into the mechanics of rock cutting, the dynamics of disposal from barges and trailing suction hopper dredges and sediment plume development. He was also co-author of Dredging: A Handbook for Engineers.
Among projects he worked on were the Channel Tunnel, the causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, most of the reclamation works that seemed to double the size of Hong Kong in the 1990s, including the new airport, de-commissioning of North Sea oil rigs, and many, many dredging and reclamation projects around the world.
In addition to all this, he was the pioneer of the Sediview system, a technique for measuring suspended solids using acoustic Doppler current profilers, and applied the technique to monitoring dredging and disposal activities in Hong Kong, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom. This method is now being used by research laboratories and maritime centers all over the world. At the World Dredging Conference in June this year, which will be sadly devoid of his presence, there are no less than six technical papers relating to the use of this system.
John was a meticulous and rigorous worker. He set himself very high standards and was passionate about achieving them. Where most of us might have stopped at a point where we thought we had done enough, John was of the persuasion that “if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” He produced beautiful reports for his many clients and gave them 150 percent of his time. He felt their problems and their difficulties as his own. This is one reason why they kept coming back to him, and he worked so hard for them. He was a true professional.
The other reason was his personality. Although he found it difficult at times to break the ice, once the ice was broken, he capitalized on his ability to entertain people with his dry, ironic humor and his ability to embellish his stories with beautifully graphic descriptions. To many of his clients and most of his working associates, he was a loyal friend and an enjoyable companion.
In the past few years, John became active in the Central Dredging Association (CEDA), which is the main multi-disciplinary forum in Europe and Africa for dredging. He became chairman of the British Section in 2003 and quickly asserted his position, bringing to the fore environmental issues and promoting the positive aspects of dredging. He joined the Main Board in 2004, where he contributed to a number of new initiatives, in particular focussed at involving younger people in the organization.
His chairmanship was characterized by a very calm, laid back, intellectual approach that used his dry wit and reassuring manner to guide and cajole people into action. During this period he organized a very successful international conference in London and was the driving force behind the national Liaison Group for the Promotion of the Use of Dredged Material in the UK.
His funeral was held in Hindhead, Surrey on April 27.
On May 8, John’s wife Elaine sent this message to John’s friends and colleagues:
“On behalf of my daughters and John’s parents and family, I want to thank each and every one of you for your wonderful messages of support since John’s death. The messages have come in many forms, emails, cards, handwritten notes and, of course, many of you kindly took the time to attend what proved to be a very fitting funeral
“John was, as you all know, a kind caring gentleman and the shock of his sudden death has been immense - not just for us, his family, but also for Nick Bray, Nick’s wife Sally and our many friends. I was particularly stunned to learn of the great respect you all had for him and that alone has helped enormously because I don’t think even John would have expected such a huge outpouring of love and respect as we have seen in the last few weeks.”