Earthquake Monitoring Network Upgrade Blog

April 3, 2018 - Haida Gwaii – Student fieldwork experience

But first … Did you know?

The Haida Gwaii region is one of Canada’s most active area for earthquakes. Canada’s second-largest instrumentally recorded earthquake occurred along the west coast of Haida Gwaii, BC (see map below). It had a magnitude of 7.8 and occurred on October 27, 2012. This earthquake was felt as far away as 1600 km, from Whitehorse (Yukon) to northwestern Montana (USA).

Map of Haida Gwaii
Image of Haida Gwaii

So far, the largest instrumentally recorded earthquake in BC occurred in August 1949. It was a magnitude 8.1 earthquake just northwest of the 2012 event.

Want the science story?

Here are two papers and one bulletin of many on the 2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake:

  • An Overview of the 28 October 2012 Mw 7.7 Earthquake in Haida Gwaii, Canada: A Tsunamigenic Thrust Event Along a Predominantly Strike-Slip Margin; John F. Cassidy, Garry C. Rogers, and Roy D. Hyndman in Pure and Applied Geophysics.
  • Impacts of the October 2012 Magnitude 7.8 Earthquake near Haida Gwaii, Canada; Alison L. Bird, Maurice Lamontagne in Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (2015) 105 (2B): 1178-1192. DOI: Published: March 03, 2015
  • Summary of the Bulletin of the International Seismological Centre, January to June 2012, Volume 49 Issue 1-6; International Seismological Centre;

Haida Gwaii – student experience

Students are hired to help Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) staff with construction and installations, as part of the network upgrade. Their support supports the multi-year task of upgrading all the stations in Canada’s seismic network.

Joe Farrugia

One such student was Joe Farrugia, who worked at several Haida Gwaii stations last summer. Here he is at the top of Mount Moresby! Hi! My name is Joseph Farrugia. I worked as a summer student for the Canadian Hazards Information Service, part of NRCan. I had the awesome experience of helping upgrade and install earthquake monitoring stations in gorgeous Haida Gwaii, British Columbia.

My story: Very early in the morning, I hailed a taxi and made my way to Ottawa International Airport to catch my flight to Sidney, British Columbia. I met with my counterparts at the Pacific Geoscience Centre, and loaded my luggage into a red truck, which was already bursting at the seams. I assisted with last-minute packing before heading to my lodging for the night. The next day was a day drive to Port Hardy, a quaint town located at the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Early the following morning, we boarded the Northern Expedition and set sail for Prince Rupert. This was a long ferry ride through the very picturesque Inside Passage.

Here are a few pictures:

After spending a night in Prince Rupert, and another 7-hour ferry ride, we arrived on Haida Gwaii - my destination and our headquarters for the next few weeks.

Preceding our arrival, many arduous weeks of preparation had taken place. This included fabrication of station parts, electronics testing, and equipment staging and packing for shipment. Once in the Village of Queen Charlotte, there were countless other things we needed to do before we could start work on-site.

Construction materials and other station parts were grouped and staged according to their destination. We placed them in nets and loaded them on to a specialized truck. These nets are specially designed to be slung by helicopter from the drop-off point on land to the tops of mountains where these seismic and GPS station sites are located.

Now the fieldwork begins.

During this trip, we installed/upgraded the infrastructure and electronics at four sites: Naden, Jedway, Barry Inlet and Masset Inlet.

We relied heavily on helicopter transport to get to and from mountaintop sites, as well as to sling materials. We also needed to coordinate and schedule ship time to transport nets full of materials by sea to shores close to our sites; this helped minimize the slinging distance for the helicopter. During inclement weather, or other conditions that are unfavorable for helicopter or boat travel, there’s not much work we can do.

We worked nearly nonstop from the time our shipment of materials arrived from Ottawa; we had an unprecedented 10-day forecast of sunshine and blue skies and we needed to take advantage of every minute of it.

Continue reading below for more pictures and information about each site. Before that – check out the location map for the Haida Gwaii stations I worked at. See the inset map:


Naden was by far the hardest site to get to; weather conditions made it nearly impossible to access over a three-week period. While I was on Haida Gwaii, we were able to access Naden once and managed to install the majority of the electronics, cables, and dig the hole for the posthole seismometer. Naden is unique in that there is no bedrock here (as far as I can tell, the mountain is big pile of sand), which is why we installed a posthole.


Jedway is located in Gwaii Haanas National Park and was once a hub for mines in the area during a mining boom on South Moresby. Evidence of active mining of iron-magnetite deposits still scar the land here, and were visible each time we flew into our site. We had to assess our options for installation, taking account of old infrastructure at Jedway. The site was prepared by clearing bedrock and preparing wood forms for pouring a concrete base. We installed a new broadband seismometer and accelerometer as well as new batteries and upgraded electronics for communications.

Barry Inlet

Barry Inlet was by far the most challenging site to complete; the rocky and uneven terrain made it difficult to maneuver heavy pieces of equipment around the mountaintop. Because it was the most challenging, it was also the most rewarding. We couldn’t have asked for better weather conditions at Barry.

Masset Inlet

We completed a full-blown installation at Masset Inlet: new broadband seismometer, accelerometer and vaults, power supply and digitizer housing plus solar panels.

Thank you everyone at NRCan who made last summer such an enjoyable experience, and for the extraordinary opportunity to explore Haida Gwaii.

Come back soon to find out more!

Other material:

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October 30, 2017 - Part 2 - Northern Ontario Station Upgrades

Welcome back! This story is a continuation from Blog 10 (October 4, 2017) and Blog 11 (October 17, 2017) – scroll down to read. Look at the photos to see the installation at these six seismic stations in the Northern Ontario region.

  • Pukaskwa National Park
  • Atikokan
  • Experimental Lakes
  • Sioux Lookout
  • Pickle Lake
  • Thunder Bay
Map of the seismic network in Ontario

Pukaskwa National Park, ON

Vault at Pukaskwa National Park in thick bush

The crew: bug nets required!

Atikokan, ON

The old Polaris station at Atikokan was located right at the top of a lovely giant 40-foot rock formation. Good thing we only had 30 bags of concrete and 16 lead batteries to take up to the top!

Updating electronics (picture 1)

Updating electronics (picture 2)

The crew built a permanent walkway to try to make climbing the rock little safer (especially in the rain).

Experimental Lakes Area, ON

Another Polaris station upgrade – here we are wiring up the new solar panels. Bug nets required.

The completed station, situated on a very coarse-grained granite.

Sioux Lookout, ON

Seismometer in vault (picture 1)

Seismometer in vault (picture 2)

Pickle Lake, ON

Pickle Lake, by far, had the most beautiful geology of any site yet. Located on the metamorphic assemblages of the Pickle Lake northern greenstone belt, and next to a water-filled copper mine open pit – it sure was a site for sore eyes.

Looks like a Group of Seven painting.

The crew at Pickle Lake

Thunder Bay (Ontario)

Our final site of the second trip – we ran power and Ethernet cables from this roadside shed to the vault located approximately 60 metres feet into the bush.

Come back soon to read more stories on the upgrades to the Canadian National Seismograph Network!

October 17, 2017 - Part 1 - Northern Ontario Station Upgrades

Hello! My name is Krista Kaski and I am a summer student working for the Canadian Hazard Information Service at Natural Resources Canada. This summer I have had the fantastic experience of installing and upgrading eleven seismic stations in the Northern Ontario region. As a southern-Ontarian, it was amazing to see what this beautiful huge province has to offer, including trees lakes and moose!

Map of the network in Ontario

Before the crew left for the field, we spent several weeks packing each and every piece of equipment, from nuts and bolts and hardware to solar panels and batteries to vaults and concrete and everything in between. Additionally, we spent that time configuring and preparing the electronics so they were ready to go when we got there.

Fieldwork consisted of both new installations as well as upgrades to existing AC and DC powered sites. At each site, we would have to build forms and fill them with concrete, then install the new vaults and seismometers and accelerometers. Depending on the type of site, we would also install either new solar panels and batteries, and update the electronics, or a "station on a stick" that could connect to AC power.

Our crew consisted of another student, Josh Beach, as well, two NRCan staff, Calvin Andrews and Andy Tran. We went on two fieldwork trips: the first to northeastern Ontario and the second to northwestern Ontario.

See below for tons of pictures and a little bit about each station on the first field trip!

Northern Ontario Field Trip 1:

  1. Kipawa
  2. Sudbury
  3. Kapuskasing
  4. Geraldton
  5. Kirkland Lake

Kipawa, QC

Lake view from the nearby town of Témiscaming

Lake view from the nearby town of Témiscaming

When we arrived our work was to dig through layers of moss and trees to reveal a metasandstone bedrock, and power wash it clean. This was done to make sure that the seismometers get an ideal signal from the ground.

Before – Forms are built and ready to be filled!

After – Concrete dry, weak and strong motion vaults and sensors installed, and the AC power manager and digitizer installed on the post.

Sudbury, ON

At Sudbury we installed a brand new DC-power site and weak motion vault and sensor. We had an interesting time getting our trucks through the soaking-wet and muddy field.

Before installation was fully complete, Calvin Andrews had to do some major clear-cutting to ensure the solar panels would get enough light for the foreseeable future.

The crew!

Kapuskasing, ON

Kapuskasing was probably the most black-fly heavy site we have been to all year. Luckily, we got the new weak and strong motion sensors in and finished updates to the 20+ year old shed within about a day and a half!

Kirkland Lake Gold Mine

At the Kirkland Lake Gold Mine (and at several later stations) we performed an upgrade to an old station originally used for a now disbanded seismicity project called Polaris. This involved installing a new vault and sensor, replacing the old solar panels and batteries, and upgrading the electronics. All in a day’s work!

Come back soon to see photographs of the second part of fieldwork in northern Ontario:

  1. Pukaskwa National Park
  2. Atikokan
  3. Experimental Lakes
  4. Sioux Lookout
  5. Pickle Lake
  6. Thunder Bay