Thermal Activity Detected on Hotspring Island

Hotspring Island Hotspring Island © Parks Canada / Neil Osborne

Parks Canada staff have confirmed thermal activity on Hotspring Island in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site on Haida Gwaii.

Water flow and thermal activity at hot springs on the island previously stopped following a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Haida Gwaii in late October 2012.

On Wednesday, January 16, three Parks Canada scientists made the discovery during a check of heat detecting devices that were installed after the water stopped flowing. Hot water seeps were observed above the surface near two of the hot pools, but below the high tide line.

Thermal activity has been detected in all the areas of the island where it had previously occurred, but water flow has not returned to previous levels. The highest water temperature recorded was 60 degrees Celsius, while the highest ground temperature was 21 degrees Celsius.

"Hotspring Island is a special place for the Haida and all visitors to Gwaii Haanas. This is a promising development but the mystery of what will happen to the hot pools continues,” said Ernie Gladstone, Gwaii Haanas Field Unit Superintendent.

"We can’t confirm if this means the hot springs will be back to normal in the future. Parks Canada will continue to observe the situation throughout the coming months, and we are hopeful that this is just the beginning.”

The Haida language name of the island, Gandll K'in, means "hot water". There were at least 26 hot springs and seeps on the island. These springs produced water at temperatures ranging from 32 to 77 degrees Celsius. The area of the hot springs is located close to a major fault system with a warm reservoir several kilometers deep. The site has been culturally important to the Haida people for many generations thanks to its warm waters, its unique ecology and its abundance of seafood.

Hot water location
Hot water location © Parks Canada

Recently, Jaalen Edenshaw, the carver of the Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole, changed the design to include a new figure known as Sacred-One-Standing-and-Moving, the supernatural being responsible for earthquakes on Haida Gwaii. "Maybe I am hoping he will give the hot spring back to us,” Edenshaw said, acknowledging the change in design is also related to the disappearance of the hot water from Hotspring Island.

The Legacy Pole project celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Gwaii Haanas Agreement, the document that led to the groundbreaking cooperative management relationship between the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada.