Monday, January 19, 2015

Ancient Sea Water Trapped in Powell Lake

Today I had the pleasure of being a guest blogger on Powell River Daily News. It's my go to blog for information about my home town that's written by Drewen, also known as citizenjournalist. Earlier this month there was a post about Powell Lake, and it prompted me to leave a comment. Almost immediately I got a response from Drewen inviting me to be a guest blogger. You can head over there to see it for yourself. Here's a reprint.

Ancient Sea Water 
Trapped in Powell Lake

Wayne with the Kemmerer bottle.
My husband Wayne and I live most of the year in our float cabin up the lake. We discovered Powell River on holiday in 2000 and ventured onto Powell Lake when we returned in 2001. Float cabins captivated us. Our cabin began as a holiday retreat, now it’s our home.

While seeking information about Powell Lake, we discovered the results of oceanographic studies conducted by the University of British Columbia in 1962 and 1972. Oceanic? Yes. Powell Lake is one of the deepest lakes in BC recorded at 360 metres (1,180 feet). It was created when glaciers scoured out its fjord-shaped basin. If you travel up any of the inlets along the BC coast, they look virtually the same as Powell Lake. The difference is they are filled with seawater. In the case of Powell Lake, after the glaciers retreated, the surrounding land rose and seawater was trapped. Over the years, fresh water increased the depth of the lake, but did not mix with the heavier salt water at the bottom.

What was discovered at the bottom of Powell Lake in 1962 was some of the oldest trapped seawater to date, about 10,000 years. The lake becomes salty at about 122 metres (400 feet) and at the deepest levels was found to contain methane and hydrogen sulfide, which gives it a distinctive rotten egg odour. It contains no oxygen or life other than possible bacteria. This information sparked our imagination.

Margy hauling in 1000 feet of line.
First we tried to think of a way to build 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 of 335 metres (1,100 feet) in Powell Lake. We were really 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.

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? It’s included in Wayne’s book Coastal BC Stories: Up the Strait. Books in this series are available locally at Coles in Town Centre Mall and Breakwater Books on Marine Avenue, and e-books through Kobo and Amazon. You can go to our website for more information.

UBC research team led by Professor Pawlowicz.
And that’s not the end of the story. In 2014, Wayne and I met Professor Rich Pawlowicz and one of his students from UBC at the Powell Lake Marina. They were launching their boat the Kraken to conduct more studies in the unique waters of Powell Lake. They’ve been gracious enough to allow Wayne to follow along on several oceanographic voyages. What new stories will they discover? -- Margy


  1. That is really intriguing!!!

  2. That's not something I've ever heard of before - fascinating!

  3. Very interesting to learn there's salt water trapped below the fresh water!

  4. Margery this is fascinating! You and your husband are very enterprising to have secured a 10,000 year old water sample for yourself!

    The red rocks near where I live are also ancient and traces of civilizations dating back over 5,000 years have been found here.

  5. Amazing facts and wonderful telling of it - thanks for sharing, I love to learn things like this.

  6. I didn't know that could happen! I learned something new today.

  7. Amazing and interesting post.. It is cool that you and your hubby were able to retrieve a sample of the water for yourselves.. Have a happy week!

  8. Salt water trapped under fresh water! Amazing. This was a very interesting post, Margy. You definitely put my imagination into high gear. Thanks.

  9. I'm fascinated by the composition of Powell Lake. How neat to get your own sample and how wonderful to go out on some of the scientific trips.

  10. Fascinating post, thank you so much for sharing.


We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy