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Applying the RiIegger Ground Tester in Electrical .




(New York Meeting. February, 1931)

ELECTRICAL methods and instruments for geophysical exploration have been almost exclusively applied, during these years of development of the art, by a few companies specializing in this field. The control of patents, the cost of the instruments and the general lack of published information on details of field procedure and office interpretation have given these owners a monopoly in carrying out electrical surveys. The development of the Megger Ground Tester1 seems likely to change t,his situation, and t o enable mining engineers and geologists, without special training in geophysics, to carry out simple reconnaissance electrical surveys. Nevertheless, the need for such special training and experience in planning surveys and interpreting their results remains, and probably always will remain, indispensable for a successful outcome. The unique thing about, the Megger Ground Tester, which givcs rise to this hope for its general use, is its simplicity of operation. The four binding posts of the instrumcnt are connected by insulated wires to four stakes driven into the ground a t appropriate points. The crank of the Megger is then turned, and the resistance of the ground between the two inside stakes is read directly, in ohms, by the deflection of a pointer over a scale. The apparatus is shown in Fig. 1. Fundamentally, the principle of operation is that of determining the resistance of a four-terminal conductor, as applied by Frank Wenner to the measurement of earth resistivity. "A four-terminal conductor is a conductor provided with two terminals to which current leads may be connected and two terminals to which pot,ential leads may be connected. The resistance of such a conductor is the difference in potential between the potential terminals divided by the current entering and leaving
* Consulting


t Electrical Engineer, James G. Biddle CQ.

Mining Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists.

The word "Megger" is ;t trade name which, for the past 25 years, has been applied to instruments of a particular type for testing electrical insulation resistance. The Megger Ground Tester is a recent development for testing the resistance to earth of installed electrical ground connections, and also for quickly measuring earth resistivity.

through the current terminals. "hn "e the crank of the Megger Ground Tester is turned, i t drives a self-contained, direct-current generator. . The current thus generated passes first through the current coil, or ammeter element, of an ohmmeter. Thence it goes to a commutator mounted on the same shaft with the generator, where it is changed into alternating current of a,bout 50 cycles per second. Finally, it is led from the current binding posts C 3 and Cz of the instrument to the two appropriate field stakes. The other two field stakes are connected to the potential binding

FIG. 1b.-MEGGER APPARATUS FOR GEOPHYSICAL WORK. At left, switchboard for facilitating the connecting of the Megger leads to field stakes. Center, the Megger Ground Tester. Right, carrying case, reel of wire and field stakes.

posts P I and Pq of the instrument. The potential drop across these two stakes is measured by leading the current picked up by them through a second commutator, run synchronously with the first, where i t is converted back into direct current. It then goes to the potential coil, or voltmeter element, of the ohmmeter. See Fig. 2. The current coil and the potential coil of the ohmmeter are mounted on a common spindle, so that their torques oppose each other. Thus they automatically perform the division of volts by amperes. According to
F. Wenner: A Method of Measuring Earth Resistivity. Paper 258 (1915).

U. S. Bur. Stds. Sci.



Ohm's law, rosistailcu equals volts divided by amperes, so the male of the ohmmeter is calibrated to read directly in ohms. The arrangment described is doubly advantageous. I t retains the sensitiveness and accuracy of the direct-current ohmmeter. By using




alternating current ir " ground circuits, however, the errors that would be introduced in a d' -current circuit by polarization and electrolysis at the ground stakes, ly stray direct currents, are eliminated. Thus the


3.-MEGGXR GROUND TESTER CONNECTIONS TO Notc, A must be at least 20 X B.


use of nonpolarizing electrodes is avoided, and copper or iron stakes can be employed without having to introduce any manually operated device to compensate for the unwanted currents. Stray alternating currents are not bothersome, as by changing the speed with which the generatorcommutator shaft is turned, the Megger Ground Tester circuits may be thrown out of phase with the strays, and so are no longer affected by them. The four field stakes to which the Megger is connected may be of iron, brass or copper, for instance, about j5-in. dia. and driven into the ground

to a depth of 1 ft. or more. For simplicity and convenience they are best arranged in a straight line, a t equal intervals A, Fig. 3. The two end stakes are connected to the current leads from the Megger, and are correspondingly callcd C L and Cz. The two intermediate ones, designatedp, andPz, are connected to the similarly named potential leads. With the apparatus thus disposed, the resistance is obtained of a portion of the earth between the potential stakes. "Roughly speaking, the effect of material at distances equal to the distance between adjacent terminals is found to be so small that the effect of materials beyond this distance is negligible. Thus, the body of earth involved in a single determination has linear dimensions of the same order as the distance between terminals. "3 The depth of measurement consequently is equal to the electrode, or stake separation A, Fig. 3. The actual resistance read on the instrument will depend on the distance separating the electrodes. Where this distance is not kept constant throughout a given survey, the readings are not comparable. I t then becomes necessary to determine the specific resistance, or resistance per unit volume, called the resistivity, of the ground under investigation. This may be expressed as the ohms resistance of a cube measuring 1 meter on an edge, abbrcviated ohm-meter. As long as resistivities are expressed in the same units, the figures are evidently comparable. In this paper, because of the small scale of the experimental demonstrations, the unit ohm-inch is adopted for the laboratory experiments. The Megger Ground Tester reading is related to the resistivity by a simple formula:
p =




p = = =

resistivity in ohm-meters, resistance in ohms, as read on the Megger, electrode separation in meters.

If the electrode separation is given in inches, the resistivity will be in ohm-inches. A full development of the derivation of the formula may be found in the article by Wenner already mentioned. In perfectly homogeneous ground the resistivity, obviously, must be constant, consequently the resistance reading will vary inversely as the electrode separation. I the ground is not homogeneous, this inverse f proportion is interfered with. The application of the above formula in such a case gives the average, or apparent, resistivity of the entire volume involved in the measurement. In other words, the presence of a layer or body of better conductivity, between the potential electrodes and within a

W. 0. Hotchkiss, W. J. Rooney and James Fisher: Earth-resistivity Measurements in the Lake Superior Copper country. Geophysical Prospecting, A. I. M. E.



radius A of the line joining them, will result in a lowered apparent resistivity; conversely, a poor conductor within that volume will cause a rise in the apparent, or average, resistivity. Evidently such material must be of sufficient size to produce an appreciable effect in order to be detected. By starting with a small interval between stakes, and progressively increasing their separation, successively greater depths of penetration are obtained. Then the electrode separation a t which a markedly higher or lower average resistivity is observed gives a rough measure of the depth a t which occurs a resistant body, as bedrock under drift, or a conductive one such as a water table or orebody, capable of exerting an important influence on the measurements. This evidently does not provide a measurement of the true resistivity of the underlying, different layer or body. In order to calculate this value from the observed readings it becomes necessary to utilize certain formulas, or curves, with which the present paper will not deal. The determination of the true resistivities of the formations under observation is often useful, and frequent,ly indispensable for obtaining their depths accurately. Those interested will find complete discussions of this matter in papers by Weaver, Hummel, Ehrenburg and Watson, LancasterJones, and Tagg.4 An alternative technique can be used where it is expected that formations of different electrical characteristics may occur within a given depth over a limited horizontal extent. These might be igneous intrusions, salt domes, buried hills and valleys, concealed anticlines or synclines, sinks, and conductive or resistant strata dipping into, or out of, the zone of observation. For such cases the electrode separation can be fixed for the desired depth of investigation, and the given area explored by a systematic grid of observations. A map of resistivities is then drawn up from the results of this ~ u r v e y . ~ This map will show islands of higher or lower


' W. Weaver: Certain Applications of the Surface Potential Methods. Geophysical Prospecting, A. I. M. E. (1929). J. N. Hummel: A Theoretical Study of Apparent Resistivity in Surface Potential Methods. See page 392. D. 0. Ehrenburg and R. J. Watson: Mathematical Theory of Electrical Flow in Stratified Media. See page 423. E. Lancaster-Jones: The Earth-resistivity Method of Electrical Prospecting. Min. Mag. (1930) 43, 19. G. F. Tagg: The Earth Resistivity Method of Geophysical Prospecting. Some 'I'heoretical Considerations. Mln. M a g . (1930) 43, 150. 6 E . G. Leonardon and S. F. Kelly: Some Applications of Potential Methods to Structural Studies. Geophysical Prospecting, A. I. M. E . (1929). E. G. Leonardon: Electrical Exploration Applied to Geological Problerns iri ( h i 1 Engineering. See pagc 99. C. and M. Schlumberger: The Mctllod of the G ~ ~ o u Resistivity Map arid 11s ~~cl I'ractical Applications. Can. Min. & Met. Bull. 226 (1931). G. F. Tagg: Earth Resistivity Surveying. Eng. $ Min. Jnl. (1931) 131, 325.

I-esistivitieswhere formations of poorer or better conductivity than their surroundings are included within the depth of investigation. The two field procedures described can be demonstrated by means of a simple laboratory experiment. A glass tank measuring approximately 18 in. long, 7 in. wide and 6 in. deep6 is filled with water to represent a section of the earth. Contact with the water surface is achieved with four nails attached to the Megger Ground Tester leads. The nails are thrust through holes, in which they fit tightly, bored a t intervals of 1 in. in a wooden rod arranged to rest on the ends of the glass tank. A thin sheet of metal serves for the conductive strata, and a piece of glass, bakelite or phenolite for the resistant beds. These sheets fit in the tank, and are $4 to 54 in. thick. Keeping the electrode separation fixed at, say, 2 in., the conductive stratum may be brought from a depth of 4 in. or more to positions progressively nearer the surface, Megger Ground Tester readings being taken a t each step. The same process may be repeated with the resistant sheet. These readings are representative of what would be expected in a gridwork of Megger observations, where a conductive or resistant bed dips up into the zone of investigation. Table 1 gives figures obtained in two laboratory demonstrations similar to the one just described. The effect produced by the resistant and the conductive sheets on the resistivities is apparent. This effect is

TABLE 1.-Figures

Obtained i n T w o Laboratory Demonstrations of Megger Ground Tester

Electrode Interval A, 2 Inches
Experiment 1'
Experiment 2 b

Re.atant Imneraion Conductive Sheet of Sheet* In. _ _ - - - I - -

Depth of





- --


Conductive Sheet

Reeiatmt Sheet

R. Ohme


1383 1320 1005 717 327 69

4 3 2 1.5 I 0.5

110 105 80 57 26 5.5






140 1 6 0 147 , 1850 168 2112 215 2705 325 1 4080 420 !I 5280


111 l
I !

125 115 85 : 65 25


ohm-in.\R, 0 h m e p. I !
1572 1447 1070 817 314




145 165 185 230 1 375


1820 2075 2325 2890 4720

a Performed at Haward University in the course of a lecture on Geophysics as a New Tool for the Geologist, February, 1931. * Performed during the course of a lecture on geophysics at Cornell University, March, 1931.

6 For demonstration at the February meeting, 1931, of the A. I. M. E. a glass tank was provided through the courtesy of Eimer & Amend, New York City, and a Megger Ground Tester was loaned by James G. Biddle Co. of Philadelphia.



~ l l g h ta l depths grcVatel i,l~anlhc: clcc,trod(~sepal.:ttlon, hril I~c'c'o111~'s incrrasi~lgly pronourlced :IS shallower t l ~ p t h s re:~ched. are Such data as the above may also be expressed in the form of curves, in which resistance, or resistivities, are plotted as ordinates, and the depths to the stratum as abscissas (Fig. 4). This has the advantage of showing more graphically the change brought about in the resistivity when the disturbing factor comes within the depth of investigation. Not infrequently the curves show a break a t or near this point, but they may be quite smooth. Both types are shown. Because no break may appear, or if present may not coincide exactly with the depth of transition, it is safer to base the I interpretation on the type curves given by Hummel, Lancaster-Jones already cited. R ~ , ~ ~and Tagg inthe works~ + S ~ ~ ~ To demonstrate the process of determining the depth to a given stratum beneath a certain point, the metal or glass sheet is kept a t a depth of 2 or 3 in. The nail separation is then increased from 2 in. to 3 and then 4 in., Megger readings being taken a t each stage. The figures duplicate what would happen in a survey designed to determine the depth to a given conduc4 5 . tlve formation, such as a clay bed, DepSh to ~heet,;nches PIG. 4.-EFFECT ON RESISTANCE ,(EAD- water table or orebody, or to 3. INoS OF VARYING DEPTHS OF C O N D U C T N E one, such as bedrock beAND RESISTANT SHEETS. Or a limeSince electrode spacings were kept con- neath soil or glacial stant, resistances read, instead of resistivi- stone or sandstone stratum in shale. tles, are given in the ordinate scalc. In this case it is necessary to Curves N1 and N2were obtained during experiments a t Northwestern University. calculate the resistivities in order Curves R I and R2 were obtained during get as the experiments a t Missouri School of Mines, ~ o l l a MO. , electrode separationisnot constant. An important fact to be kept in mind is that in a laboratory experiment on such a small scale the resistance of the glass walls and bottom of the



tank interferes with obtaining true values. This may be verified by using nothing but water in the tank and progressively increasing the nail separation as described. Obviously, the water is homogeneous, but in spite of this fact the apparent resistivity rises, owing to the effect mentioned. Tanks of larger dimensions would lessen this error, but are hard to obtain and difficult to handle. The results of two such experiments are set forth in Table 2. Although the data should properly be drawn up in the form of curves, this has not been done because of the impossibility of obtaining a sufficient number of points when experimenting on such a restricted scale. The TABLE%.-Results of Two Experiments in Determining Depth to Strata
Electrode Separation

1 p, ohm-in.

2 In.

3 In.

4 In.

i1 Cond~lctivesheet 1I R, ohms at depth of 3 in.

Experiment 3



12 315

Resistant sheet a t R, ohms depth of 3 in. p, ohm-in. 1



60 818 58 1130 48



R. ohms


1510 50


Dividing by effect in water only

Conductive sheet R, ohms a t depth of 3 in.




19.2 482

Resistant sheet a t R, ohms depth of 2.5 in. p, ohm-in. Experiment 4

65 818

72 1355 62


1 Water

1 1 R, ohms


58 729

1 1

2185 75



1 1169

) 1888

Dividing by effect Ratio of drop, p in water only Ratio of rise, p


Experiment 3 was performed during a course of lectures on the Application of Geophysics in Geology a t Northwestern University, Match, 1931. Experiment 4 was performed during a course of lectures on Geophysics a t the Missouri School of Mines, April, 1931.



figures given suffice to show the diminution of resistivity brought about by a conductive stratum when the electrode separation is extended to include it within the depth investigated. Conversely, the increased resistivity brought about under the same circumstances by a resistant formation also is demonstrated. The effect of the insulating walls of the tank appears in the figures of resistance and resistivity when only the water was measured. For its resistivity t o have remained constant at 729 ohm-in., as would normally be the case, it is readily calculated that the resistance should have read 39 ohms a t 3 in. separation, and 29 ohms a t 4 in. separation. The departure from these figures was less pronounced in experiment 3 than in experiment 4, because the tank used in the former was considerably larger than the one used later. I n experiment 4 it was about the size mentioned on page 6 . The figures in the rows headed "Ratio of Drop, p" are obtained by dividing the resistivities when using the conductive sheet by those with water only. Those under "Ratio of Rise, p" show the resistivities with the resistant sheet divided by the resistivity with water only. Another phase of the demonstration, concerning which no figures were kept, dealt with the effect of conductive and resistant sheets in a vertical position. From this it readily developed that conductive veins, dikes or vertically inclined strata would have the greatest effect when near and parallel to the line of electrodes. On the other hand, resistant dikes or sharply tilted beds exert the strongest effect when perpendicular to the line of electrodes, lying across it between P1 and Pz. The data from these experiments, it should be distinctly understood, do not represent the results of any attempt to carry out a series of scientific investigations. The apparatus used was too crude and too hastily assembled, and the work too sketchily done, to warrant putting any such interpretation upon them. They do show, however, the simplicity with which it is becoming possible to apply the resistivity technique, for these results could be duplicated by anyone with a Megger Ground Tester, a good-sized metal ash tray, a dinner plate and a bathtub of water.

I n field work, of course, certain precautions must be observed. For example, i t may be necessary t o measure the stake resistances of P I and P2, if it is expected that they will lie outside a certain range. By stake resistance is meant the resistance the current encounters a t the contact of the stake with the earth. This value is easily determined by connecting C1 and P I of the Megger to the stake where the resistance is to be measured. PZ must be some distance away, say 25 ft. or more, and Cz as far away again beyond P2. The reading thus obtained is the stake resistance,

which can then be used in a simple forlrlula to correct the groundresistance reading. The error introduced by high or low stake resistances is seldom large enough to warrant bothering about, save in excep\ ! tional cases. ! The question naturally arises, ''How can the Megger Ground Tester be applied in civil engineering, mining engineering or geology?" The answer must be somewhat roundabout. First and foremost, the simplicity of the instrument puts it almost in the class with the magnetic dip needle. For many years the dip needle has been used, as a matter of course, to aid in working out geological questions where the formations involved possess markedly different magnetic permeabilities. Similarly, the Megger Ground Tester now gives the engineer and geologist the opportunity to utilize certain electrical methods as everyday tools, in their attacks on earth problems. Naturally, the actual geophysical technique employed must depend on the type of information desired, and on the geological circumstances of the problem. Sometimes two or more methods must be conjointly applied in order to obtain the desired information. Before deciding to use the Megger Ground Tester, or any other lnethod or combination of methods, the situation must be carefully exa ined to determine the proper geophysical course of action.' If th :ological circumstances warrant a belief in the probable efficacy of re vity (or conductivity) or potential methods, the Megger Ground Tester ,robably could be applied. Exception must be made for studies to great depths, say about 600 ft. or over, for which the instrument as now designed is not sufficiently powerful. The conditions that make possible the application of resistivity methods have been detailed in numerous geophysical articles18and need not be repeated here. There is some literature, however, outlining actual field applications of the Megger Ground Tester.
'S. F. Kelly: Geophysics in Exploration; Prospect and Retrospect. Eng. & Min. Jnl. (1931) 131, 11. E. G. Leonardon and S. F. Kelly: O p . cit. E. G. Leonardon: O p . cit. H. Lundberg and T. Zuschlag: A New Development in Electrical Prospecting. See page 47. S. F. Kelly: Electrical Methods for Sub-soil Investigation. Proc. Brooklyn Engineers' Club (April, 1930). I. B. Crosby and S. F. Kelly: Electrical Subsoil Exploration and the Civil Engineer. Eng. News-Rec. (1929) 102. 0. H. Gish and W. J. Rooney: Measurements of Large Masses of Undisturbed Earth. Terrestrial Magnetism (1925) 30. C. and M. Schlumberger: O p . cit. F. W . Lee, J. W. Joyce and P. Boyer: Some Earth Resistivity Measurements. U. S. Bur. Mines, Inf. Circ. 6171 (1929). H. A. Buehler: Geophysical Prospecting. Biennial Report of State Geologist of Missouri, Appendix 111 (1931).



The study of subdrift contours is described by Lancaster-Jone~,~ who also goes into theoretical discussions of the technique of interpreting the results. Professor Gilchrist,'of Toronto, has used the Megger Ground Tester to study geological structure as well as sulfide orebodies a t the Abana mine in Quebec.lo Eve and Keys discuss the Megger Ground Tester and some of its appIications.l1



APRIL 22, 1931.

a. At Gasconade Bridge, Route 63, Missouri. b. At Roubidoux Bridge, Route 66, Missouri.

The curves drawn up from some measurements made to determine depth of bedrock are given in Fig. 5. The work was done in cooperation with F. C. Farnham of the Missouri Geological Survey, through the courtesy of the director, H. A. Buehler. Two bridge locations were chosen, where the depth of overburden was known from drilling records. The close correspondence of the break in each curve with the depth to bedrock is a striking feature of these graphs. The fact that the observations a t each place occupied but a couple of hours makes this an interestE. Lancaster-Jones: Op. cit. L. Gilchrist: Measurements of Resistivity by the Central Electrode Method a t the Abana Mine, Northwestern Quebec, Canada. A. I. M. E. Tech. Pub. 386 (1931). '1 A. S. Eve and D. A. Keys: Applied Geophysics in the Search for Minerals. Cambridge, 1929. University Press.




ing procedure for engineers concerned with obtaining information regarding subsoil conditions a t proposed bridge or dam Sites. CONCLUSION The study of certain types of geological problems may often be facilitated and speeded, with a saving in expense, by employing the Megger Ground Tester for making reconnaissance, resistivity studies. Problems involving such things as mapping subsurface contours and determining depth of overburden, tracing faults, contacts and intrusions, following key horizons and investigating simpler questions of ore occurrence come to mind as being frequently amenable to treatment by electrical studies, to which the Megger Ground Tester might profitably be applied on many occasions.

G . F. TAGG, London, England (written discussion).-I have read this paper with considerable interest, particularly those parts which deal with the interpretation of the results. There are one or two points in connection with this which I should like to mention. I n dealing with the effective depth to which the current will penetrate, the authors make the statement: "The presence of a layer or body of better conductivity between the potential electrodes, and within a radius A of the line joining them, will result in a lowered apparent resistivity; conversely, a poor conductor within that volume will cause a rise in the apparent or average resistivity!' These effects are not limited to conducting or resistant bodies a t a depth equal to or less than the electrode separation, or to bodies located between the potential electrodes. The effects are present to a greater or lesser extent in any case where such bodies are existing in the earth. The effect, of course, is dependent on the size of the body and its distance from the electrode system relative to the electrode separation. The effect increases gradually for bodies nearer and nearer t o the electrode system, reaching a maximum when the electrodes are actually in the body concerned. This is clearly shown for one particular case in the curves given in my paper dealing with theoretical considerations. l2 The method used to interpret the results obtained is still open to discussion. There is a vast amount of experimental data upholding the theory that if a sudden change occurs in the apparent resistivity curve it indicates the presence of a body having a resistivity different from that of its surroundings, a t a depth equal t o the electrode separation a t which the change occurs. On the other hand, all theoretical and mathematical considerations show that such a sudden change cannot occur. In an experimental survey I carried out to test one thing, no sudden changes in the resistivity were apparent.13 It thus appears to be safer to base the interpretation on theoretical considerations where this is possible. The method of interpretation based on theory was quite successful in the case quoted above. Up to the present, however, the theory has been developed for only one or two simple cases of earth structure, and for the more complicated forms of structure it is necessary for the present to be content with some form of empirical method, which has been shown to be successful in many cases.

Min. Mag. (1930) 43, 150. Proc. Phys. Soc., London (1931) 43, 305.



W.B. CREAGMILE (written discussion).-Mr. Tagg begins his criticism by calling attention to a statement on page 117. He explains that the effects described are not limited strictly t o materials within the volume mentioncd. This is well recognized, but Mr. Tagg seems to have overlooked our quotation from Hotchkiss, Rooney and Fisher, earlier on the same page. We agree that the method of interpreting results, as referred to on page 118, lines 8 to 12, in the sentence beginning with "Then the electrode separation," has no theoretical or mathematical foundation but has worked out in many cases, and therefore we feel that it must be given some weight. Naturally, it will be best to work from curves plotted bctween resistance or resistivity and the electrodc spacing, as referred to in the first paragraph of page 120. I a curve shows a break, the spacing of the electrodes a t which the break appears f may be taken as the depth at which a change in strata occurs. Mr. Tagg scems to have overlooked that part of the paragraph in question, when he says "Not infrequcntlg the curves show a break at or near this point, but they may be quite smooth. Both types are shown. Because no break may appear, or if present nlay not coincide exactly with the depth of transition, it is safer to base the interpretation on the type curves given by Hummcl, Lancaster-Jones and Tagg in the works already cited." Of course, if a sharp break occurs in a curve, the approximate depth a t which the change in strata occurs can be read off the curve more easily than any of the thcoretical methods of interpretation can be applied.
S. F. KELLY (written discussion).-Mr. Tagg's comments cniphasize a point which may not have been sufficicntly stressed in our paper, although it was certainly brought out, as Mr. Creagmile has shown. In actual field work, the curves plotted with resistivities as ordinates against electrode separation as abscissas frequently fail to show a break corresponding to the change of formation a t a given depth. Even when thcy do show such a hreak, the electrode separation does not necessarily correspond closely t o the depth of transition from one formation to another. Therefore, it should be clearly understood that an attempt to deduce thc depth to the lower formation fro111 such a brcak is admittedly a rough estimate, and not to be applied where accuracy is desired. I t will often suffice in reconnaissance work, however. The only way of obtaining a reasonably accurate idea of the thickness of the overlying formation is to utilize some such set of graphs as has been worked out by Mr. Tagg These should be applied whether the curaes show a break or not.