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

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

Just Posted

Nelly and Jens Heyduck hold samples of their Ahoy Bags made from discarded sails. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet’s Ahoy Bags up for two Small Business BC Awards

German-Canadian wife and husband team transform old sails into one-of-a-kind beach bags

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht man by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht on Feb. 27. (Black Press Media file photo)
‘Police have killed more TFN members than COVID has,’ First Nation demands transparency in Tofino RCMP shooting investigation

Julian Jones, a 28 year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man was shot and killed by police on Feb. 27.

Blue Crush Concierge co-owners Ashley Wells and Erika Greenland, pictured here following COVID-19 social distancing alongside their dogs Hank and Lady Bird, are up for two SBBC awards. (Photo courtesy of Erika Greenland)
Three Tofino companies up for Small Business BC Awards

Tofino Kombucha, Blue Crush Concierge and Surf Sister all received nomination honours.

Fish and Loaves Humane Society volunteers Bobby Burns, left, and John Enns, right, receive Volunteer Recognition Awards from acting mayor Duncan McMaster during the free food hand out at the Tofino Legion on Feb.24. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino Fish and Loaves volunteers Enns and Burns cheered for community service

“He’s a very conscientious and hard-working, giving volunteer.”

Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen has resigned his position and is heading south-Island. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen resigns

Mayor Mayco Noel says he and his council “completely caught off guard”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read