NEPTUNE sensors detect Alberni tsunami activity

The big wave might not have rolled through Alberni like it did in 1964 but something did, and scientific instruments detected it.

Locations of NEPTUNE Canada's pressure sensors that detected tsunami activity produced by the 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan's east coast this morning.

Locations of NEPTUNE Canada's pressure sensors that detected tsunami activity produced by the 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan's east coast this morning.

Water monitoring equipment detected sudden changes in water conditions near Port Alberni even though a large tsunami never rolled up the inlet.

A tsunami advisory was triggered for B.C.’s north, central and west coasts’ after an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale crushed the north east coast of Japan late Thursday night.

NEPTUNE Canada’s sensor array across the Juan de Fuca Strait detected significant water pressure activity early Friday morning.

“The sensors picked up a tsunami but it was small by the time it got to us,” said Mairi Best, NEPTUNE associate director of science.

The sensors record changes in the water pressure above them and can detect variances as little as a centimetre or a few millimetres.

Sensor data is transmitted to NEPTUNE’s shore station in Port Alberni via fiber optic cable then relayed to the University of Victoria.

“We first saw pressure graph spikes at 6:35 a.m. when it arrived as a 15 centimetre wave,” Best said.

“We saw the pressure graph m spike at 7:30 a.m. in the Barkley Sound.”

There may have been activity in Alberni later in the day as well.

Tseshaht Councillor Luke George and three other tribe members saw what they thought was a small wave roll up the river by the Tseshaht administration building at 3 p.m.

“It was maybe a foot high, the same size as a wave a big boat might produce,” George said.

The wave rolled past the sand bar and continued around the corner of the orange bridge.

“You could hear a big sloshing sound by the rocks under the bridge when it passed by,” George said.

“And the water was really muddy around the sand bar after.”

NEPTUNE detected a 40 cm wave over a sensor between Ucluelet and Bamfield at about 7:15 a.m..

Tidal gauges at the Bamfield Marine Station registered unusual water activity as well.

“There were big swirling currents and  a lot of mud was also kicked up in the Inlet,” said Anne Stewart, the station’s public education coordinator.

“You could tell that something big was happening.”

One person at the station who never got the advisory paddled to work in his kayak.

“He said that the water was unusually muddy and rough,” Stewart said.

It’s not the first time NEPTUNE’s sensors detected tsunami fallout in the Barkley Sound or Alberni Canal.

The sensors detected water pressure changes after earthquakes in Samoa in 2009 and Chile in 2010.

“This was a bigger wave than those ones though,” Mairi said.

The sensors even detected water pressure changes from a recent storm from a depth of 100 metres.

NEPTUNE shares its data with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is responsible for handling tsunami response in Canada.

The data also go to IRIS, the global network of earthquake information.

“Their scientists integrate it with their tsunami models to try and better understand how a tsunami behaves when it integrates with our coast,” Mairi said.

“This is a very real threat, and we need to be prepared for it.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

*The tsunami advisory has been cancelled but Port Alberni was ready. Read more here.

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

Just Posted

A locked gate prevents access to a logging road on Mosaic Forests land in 2017. (ELENA RARDON/ Alberni Valley News)
ACRD, Mosaic form working group for public access to forest lands

Pilot project will allow increased public access on a trial basis to Scout Beach and Lowry Lake

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

The Alberni Valley’s Emergency Operations Centre is located around the corner and below the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District office. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
ACRD, First Nations to partner on regional evacuation route

Union of BC Municipalities grants $82K for route development

Traffic on Cherry Creek Road is at a standstill as emergency vehicles deal with the aftermath of a collision on Saturday, March 6, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY TONY SHUMUK)
Air ambulance called for motor vehicle incident near Port Alberni

Helicopter lands on field near Cherry Creek Road

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have teamed up with the WCGH Foundation in the past to deliver stuffed animals to patients at the hospital. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Alberni Valley Bulldogs hope to score large donation for West Coast General Hospital

Challenge is part of a league-wide initiative to help give back to teams’ communities

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

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 Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

Most Read