Hakai Institute’s new video is a 51-minute tour of the slide area, giving researchers a detailed view of the devastation. Photo courtesy Hakai Institute.

Hakai Institute’s new video is a 51-minute tour of the slide area, giving researchers a detailed view of the devastation. Photo courtesy Hakai Institute.

Researchers see learning opportunity as ‘silver lining’ of Bute Inlet slide

Quadra Island-based Hakai Institute releases 51-minute video of slide area

The November 2020 landslide in Bute Inlet may have been an ecological disaster, but it also provided scientists with a chance to learn about this kind of landslide in real time and figure out how to prepare for a similar event in the future.

The landslide occurred above a Elliot Lake, a glacial lake near the inlet on Nov. 28. The falling rock and snow sent a 100-foot wave across the lake, bursting the banks and sending water cascading down the normally-calm Elliot Creek, which connects to the Southgate River and finally to the ocean below. The wave left a trail of destruction in its path, one that scientists have now been able to photograph extensively thanks to a helicopter flyover and a new 51-minute video documenting every centimetre of the area.

“We took up that charge, got our media team on board the helicopter with the doors off to collect the best images they could from icefield to ocean,” said Ian Giesbrecht, a researcher with the Quadra Island-based Hakai Institute who has been working in Bute Inlet for years. “That series of images should be valuable for both researchers and people doing stewardship to map out exactly what each piece of the landscape looks like, figure out where the hazards and sensitivities are, and figure out their next steps.”

Giesbrecht was already going to head up to the area to collect a water sample in November when his task changed.

“It just so happened that we were heading up there that week to collect a river water sample, when we heard about the Elliot Creek slide and offered to fly over and take a look at things,” said researcher Ian Giesbrecht. “It kind of unfolded from there that we find ourselves in a position to be able to offer up our existing data and some of our scientific capacity in service of the work that needs to be done to steward that location.”

“It’s a remarkably large area of destroyed riparian area ecosystem that will be in a state of change for many years to come. One of the interesting things from my perspective will be to track that change,” he added. “While there was a huge catastrophic event in late November that caused immediate damage and change, we’ve been monitoring it ever since then and we can see that there’s an ongoing effect to the river ecosystem and that’s also leading to an ongoing effect on the inlet waters.”

Giesbrecht and his team are taking advantage of the situation and getting a good look at the system post-slide before the spring thaw brings more water to the area and changes the new river channel.

“We would expect a bunch of new change to take place this spring as the snow melts and a lot of new water starts moving through the system, reworking and moving that sediment around, sending it downstream,” he said. “What we do know from our helicopter flight just last week is that the plume of sediment from the Southgate River is highly visible still entering at the head of Bute Inlet.”

That sediment plume has increased the turbidity of the water to 32 times the normal level.

“These are very high levels and quite exceptional at this time of year,” he explained. “It creates stress for the fish that are in the water and it affects habitat for fish when the fine sediment settles out in the river. It can bury the eggs and the spawning gravels.”

Scientists are taking advantage of the event to study the potential long-term effects of an event like this. A group of researchers from England are planning to work with Hakai scientists to study the amount of carbon that has been buried in the inlet by the slide.

“That’s an exciting piece of science that will come out of this unfortunate event and will allow us to better understand how these kinds of events might change coastal carbon cycling in the future in other places where they might occur,” he said.

The land is in the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation, who have been working with the Quadra Island-based Hakai Institute to do research on the area for years. That research helps inform stewardship planning for the area, as well as do comparisons to other inlets and fjords in the coastal region.

“The type of watershed that we have in the Southgate River is actually fairly widespread on the coast,” Giesbrecht said. “Those places need to be looked at for the potential to have more of these events in the future.”

That information can be used to help communities like the Homalco First Nation plan for the future and to ensure the safety of everyone operating on their land.

Researchers are now waiting for LIDAR data to be compiled and translated into a usable format like a map. That will help them understand the factors that caused the slide, as well as identify safety concerns due to ground instability.

“I think everybody is eager to get boots on the ground while also taking the appropriate precautions to know that that can be done in a safe way,” he said. “In this disaster there is perhaps a silver lining in the opportunity for learning and applying that knowledge to other events that might happen in other places in the future so at least we can try and learn all we can from this and equip ourselves and share that knowledge.

“It’s quite a remarkable thing to be able to visually track every inch from top to bottom and how that landscape has been altered at this point in time so that we can do it again in the future so we can track as it continues to change.”

See the full 51-minute video of the area on the Hakai Institute website.

RELATED: Quadra Island-based research station investigates Bute Inlet slide

100-metre wave causes massive washout in Bute Inlet



marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Campbell RiverEnvironmentlandslide

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greg Janicki (left), owner of Dogwood Pet Mart rasied $410 this year for the Campbell River SPCA’s Loonies for Love fundraiser which he presented to Stephanie Arkwright, branch manager of the BCSPCA – Campbell River Community Animal Centre. Photo contributed
Pandemic doesn’t stop annual Loonies for Love SPCA fundraiser

Fundraising has been a bit challenging over the past year, but the… Continue reading

The intersection at Dogwood Street and 13th Avenue, next to the No. 1 Firehall, will see some improvements over the next six weeks or so, according to the city. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Intersection improvements coming to Dogwood and 13th Avenue

Expect delays for up to six weeks once work begins, city says

Oyster River fire has responded to 56 calls so far in 2021. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Department
Oyster River Fire averaged one call per day in busy February

One weekend saw 12 calls for service from crew

The students in the Timberline Musical Theatre program are rehearsing this year’s production, Once Upon a Mattress, three days per week after school in preparation for their upcoming virtual performances. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Timberline Musical Theatre hoping for last minute ticket surge

Popular annual run of shows costs $7,000-$8,000 to put on. They’ve sold $750 in tickets

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. NIC photo
Learn about Practical Nursing opportunities for Island students

Students interested in exploring a future in health care are invited to… Continue reading

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

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

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

This was the scene outside North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School after an attempted but unsuccessful break-and-enter into the school torched an ATM inside of it. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP did not make any arrests and currently lack suspects as the investigation continues. Members of the public who may have witnessed something or possess other information can contact police at (250) 656-3931 or to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. (Submitted)
Money to burn: burglars torch North Saanich high school ATM

Police dogs searched the exterior and interior of the school after early morning break-and-enter

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read