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  • Christopher Stephens, MSc

Canada's Most Powerful Earthquake on Land

7.3 Quake Hit the Vancouver Island Ranges in 1946

Strathcona Provincial Park: Forbidden Plateau, Vancouver Island Ranges


Few people may be aware that Canada's most powerful earthquake on land in the history of the nation occurred in the mountains of central Vancouver Island.


What is now Forbidden Plateau, a popular recreational area largely situated within Strathcona Park in the Vancouver Island Ranges was the epicenter of the June 23rd, 1946 7.3 magnitude quake that still holds the record for largest quake in Canada at the time of writing as documented by Natural Resources Canada. The quake happened at 10:13 am in the morning and scared people as far away as Vancouver and Victoria enough that panicked citizens fled into the streets.


When the earthquake occurred, Cumberland, Union Bay and the City of Courtenay sustained direct damage, especially where unstable structures were present. Chimneys fared especially badly in these settlements, with 3 out of 4 chimneys collapsing. A single death was reported in Canada from a boat capsizing due to a wave. One person in Seattle, Washington State died from an earthquake related heart attack.


Extraordinary Landscapes on Vancouver Island Show Past Geological Activity


The mountain environment that contains Forbidden Plateau and with it, the epicenter of the quake is a sub-range known as the Vancouver Island Ranges. This seismically active zone is part of the range known as the Insular Mountains which include the Vancouver Island Ranges and the Queen Charlotte Mountains in Haida Gwaii.

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