Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ancient Sea Water Trapped in Powell Lake

One of our favorite places in the world is Powell Lake, BC. We love it so much we have a home floating on it's surface, a float cabin. While seeking information about Powell Lake, we discovered the results of an oceanographic study conducted by the University of British Columbia in 1962 and 1972. In 1990, the ancient sea water in Powell Lake became part of a doctoral dissertation in oceanography by Karen Anne Perry. Oceanographic?

Powell Lake is one of the deepest lakes in BC with a recorded depth of 1,180 feet. It was created when glaciers scoured out its fjord shaped basin.

If you travel up any of the inlets along the British Columbia coast, they look virtually the same as Powell Lake. The difference is they are filled with ocean water. In the case of Powell Lake, after the glaciers retreated the surrounding land rose and sea water became trapped. Over the years, fresh water increased the depth of the lake, but did not mix completely with the heavier salt water at the bottom. At least, that was the hypothesis.

What was discovered at the bottom of Powell Lake in 1962 was the oldest, about 10,000 years, trapped sea water to date. The water started becoming salty at about 400 feet and at the deepest levels was found to contain methane and hydrogen sulphide, which gives it a distinctive rotten egg odor. It contained no oxygen or life other than possible bacteria. This information sparked our imagination.

First we tried to think of a way to built a deep water sample apparatus of our own. In the end, we went to a friend and borrowed a Kemmerer bottle designed for such a task. On October 21, 2006, Wayne and I conducted our own deep water drop (1,100 feet) in Powell Lake. We were so excited when we opened the Kemmerer bottle and discovered our own 10,000 year old water.

Yes, it was yellow and smelled of rotten eggs. We don't have the ability to conduct a chemical analysis, but a friend is helping with that as well. You just never know where your imagination can lead you. In our case, it led us back 10,000 years.

Want more information about the drop? Read Up the Strait, the newest book in the Coastal BC Stories series by Wayne J. Lutz. It is available at -- Margy


  1. What an interesting post, - I didn't know that about Powell Lake. It must be very exciting for you to have that 10,000 year old water around, - I will certainly be looking for more information in your books.

    The glaciers and the ice age did some spectacular things to British Columbia, - our Similkameen Valley here in the south has an intriquing geological history too.

    Thank you for this great post.

  2. What a delightful life! Thanks for commenting on my blog and bringing me back to your site. Lots to be fascinated by...a floating log cabin on a BC coastal lake where you can spend winters with your wood burning stove and hubby while the world shakes and shivers around you!!! ooooohhh...
    My husband is a writer, too! Grew up in Oregon, early years in a logging camp. He's going to LOVE your site and I'm going to order him a book for his birthday!

  3. Maps and ancient sea water! What a great post. We have cousins and friends NEAR BC - and it is our dearest hope to visit Powell Lake some day. Great post.

  4. Wow, Margy! This is fascinating - to think there's such history so close to home! We really must come to Powell River area and meet up some day.

  5. Wow, that's amazing! Who knows what kind of ancient creatures are down in that water.. ;P

    The floating cabins are so lovely.. I would love to have a vacation home literally ON a lake someday!

  6. Sorry "Unknown". I don't know what happened to your comment. Here it is with my answer. "I found this page while looking for information on Powell River lakes as we saw lots of methane vents/bubbles in Nanton, Dodd and Goat lakes and were surprised how the lakes are NOT teeming with wildlife nor fish. If there is more info on this subject please comment thank you." I do not have any additional inform on why there aren't fish in the local lakes. The ones you mentioned are usually good for fishing. Possibly it's seasonal with the weather cooling and fish going deeper. Also, with all the moths available to eat this month the fish might not be hungry enough to go after lures. - Margy


We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy