National Treasure #146: Geological Survey of Canada

Other than being a set of acronyms you’ve never heard of, what do these three things have in common:

  • CNSN

If you guessed that they are all initiatives involving the Geological Survey of Canada, you’d be right.

Established in 1842, the Survey (as it’s known to its friends) may not be older than dirt but it is older than Canada-the-country (albeit not older than Canada-the-province).

Over the last 175 years, its focus has shifted at breathtaking speed by geological standards. Initially created to identify coal deposits in Canada-the-province (Result: Zero, nada, zilch), it moved on to explore Canada and parts adjacent to it, to make maps, to find minerals, and (of course) to produce reports.

No one could have been more excited than Survey members by Confederation, which multiplied their geographic scope by ten-fold.

Early geologists were also explorers, geographers, botanists, zoologists and anthropologists with superb frontier survival skills. During the late 1880s and early 1900s, their talents were put to the test in investigations of the geology and mineral resources along proposed transcontinental railroad routes, and in exploratory surveys in Canada’s west and north. G.M. Dawson, the Survey’s third director, carried out extensive reconnaissance mapping in BC, prepared a comprehensive report on the Haida and mapped in the Yukon a decade before the Klondike Gold Rush. – The Canadian Encyclopedia

On that site you can read lots more in a similar vein (a little ore joke, there), following the evolution of the Survey:

  • Gathering data on reserves of oil, gas, that pesky coal, and uranium – all in support of national energy planning
  • Mapping the Arctic from the air
  • Assessing environmental impact – for example, for the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline
  • Mapping Canada’s continental shelf
  • Participating in the international Ocean Drilling Program

As for those crazy acronyms, here’s how they decode (and I quote):

  • CNSN is the Canadian National Seismograph Network, which consists of 100 high-gain instruments (seismographs) and 60 low-gain instruments (accelerographs) to record earthquakes
  • NATMAP is the National Geoscience Mapping Program, a cooperative effort involving federal, provincial and territorial surveys as well as Canadian universities, private industry and other interested groups . . . to maximize impact of funding for new mapping of the bedrock and surficial geology of Canada
  • LITHOPROBE is the largest geoscientific research program ever undertaken in Canada . . . widely regarded as one of the most successful scientific research projects in the world (Ed’s note: certainly the largest and most successful scientific research project you’ve never heard of)


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2 Responses to National Treasure #146: Geological Survey of Canada

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    If I hadn’t been a writer, I think I would have been a geographer. If only there had been adequate vocational counselling around when I was young…
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Interesting. And disappointing in a way, I guess, but how nice to have even one vocation, much less two.

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