VIDEO: Investigators probe Bute Inlet landslide in bid to understand glacial retreat

The slide swamped the Southgate River, around 13 km downhill from the initial incident. Photo supplied by Hakai Institute.The slide swamped the Southgate River, around 13 km downhill from the initial incident. Photo supplied by Hakai Institute.
Elliot Lake, where the slide initially hit on Nov. 28. Photo supplied by Hakai InstituteElliot Lake, where the slide initially hit on Nov. 28. Photo supplied by Hakai Institute

A research team is probing a devastating landslide on the B.C. central coast in the hopes of predicting if and when another slide may be coming.

The Hakai Institute, which operates an ecological observatory on Quadra Island, near Campbell River, conducts long-term research in the coastal regions of the province, including seismic research and ocean-based ecological research. Part of its research area is Bute Inlet — site of the Nov. 28 slide that launched a 100-metre wave that washed out the Southgate River.

The institute had been monitoring the area prior to the slide, and afterwards sent out researchers for preliminary data on what the incident will mean for salmon habitat in the inlet.

Hakai founder Eric Peterson said that a team did a flyby on Dec. 22, which includes a lidar (light detection and ranging) scan, which is similar to radar, but with laser light instead of sound waves.

“The instrument is a specialized laser scanner,” Peterson said. “We make multiple passes and thereby build up a very precise 3D model of the landscape. Fortunately, we have recent lidar/3D models from before the landslide from our ongoing research.”

The lidar scan will shed some light on the stability of the mountain and the risk of other slides, as well as information on how it happened and whether or not it is likely to happen again.

“We hope to be able to conduct a detailed comparison of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ 3D lidar models, and thereby be able to work out exactly what material moved from where to where,” he said. “The current model may help us predict whether the mountain is stable now, or whether another collapse might be coming.”

Peterson explained that the slide highlights the issue of glacial retreat along the coast. Whether or not the glacier’s retreat was a direct cause of the Bute Inlet slide is to be determined, but retreating glaciers often cause instability and make the landscape more sensitive to landslides.

According to a video posted on the Hakai Institute website, the landslide occurred at around 6 a.m. on Nov. 28. The initial event had an equivalent shock as a 4.9 earthquake, and sent roughly 10 million cubic metres of material into Elliot Lake, just north of the end of the inlet.

That material caused a glacial lake outburst, which sent a 100-metre wave down the narrow creek, uprooting trees and carving a deep channel through the valley. Once the water hit the ocean, it caused a current of high-turbidity water to extend out 70 km.

Story continues below…

Researchers measured the temperature of the water over a few weeks following the slide, and recorded a 0.5 degrees Celsius dip in deep water temperature. A temperature change can effect the amount of dissolved oxygen and the pH of the water. Increased sediment in the ocean is also likely to impact which bacteria and phytoplankton can grow, which has a direct effect on the salmon in the area.

Since staff have been off for the holidays, analyzing the data has taken some time. The video posted on Dec. 22 is an introduction to the upcoming data and preliminary research, and more information will be made available as it comes.

Hakai researchers are working closely with the Homalco First Nation, since the incident took place on their resource management area.

“We expect to be working together in the coming years on research, remediation, recovery, stewardship of salmon, forestry, and all the elements of this complex & dynamic ecosystem,” Peterson said.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: 100-metre wave causes massive washout in Bute Inlet

RELATED: Generation of B.C. salmon likely wiped out by central coast landslide



marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Campbell RiverEnvironmentLocal News

Just Posted

File photo
Paramedic training returning to Castlegar

Emergency Medical Responder and Primary Care Paramedic training to take place in Castlegar

Emerson Potter, a Grade 3 student at Blewett Elementary, advocated for changes to help him use his wheelchair on the school grounds. He’s seen here with his parents Lindsay Thompson and Keith Potter, and Blewett principal Tim Mushumanski (right). Photo: Tyler Harper
‘Pretty awesome’: Nelson area student advocates for school to improve outdoor accessibility

Emerson Potter, who lives with cerebral palsy, had trouble moving around Blewett Elementary’s grounds

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

People will be strapping on the inline skates in Castlegar this summer. Photo: Jennifer Small
Castlegar Skating Club offers new summer inline program

New program will let ice skaters continue their training through the summer

Portions of the Skattebo Reach Trail are being improved. Photo: Betsy Kline
Skattebo Reach Trail near Castlegar to become cycle friendly

Trail improvements geared towards cyclists being done in 2021

From the left: Laura Greaves, Kyle Whyte and Steve Bigelow rescued a poisoned eagle Sunday, May 9. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
West Kootenay residents, Conservation Service Officer save poisoned eagle

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

The Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in Montana. The dam created the Koocanusa Reservoir, which straddles the B.C./Montana border. (photo courtesy Wikipedia)
Outflow at Libby Dam to be increased

Volume increase to aid migration and spawning conditions for endangered white sturgeon in the Kootenai River

Most Read