Report from July 1990

The Fifth Canadian Permafrost Conference was held at Laval University, Quebec City from 5 to 8 June, 1990. In this three-day period, 51 papers were presented on various topics in permafrost science and permafrost engineering, and several poster presentations were also shown. Nearly all the formal presentations were given by Canadian authors and the conference organizers made an effort to encourage the submission of papers by young Canadian scientists and engineers.  The papers and posters have been published as No. 54 in the Collection Nordicana series of the Centre d'études nordiques, Laval University, with the general title "PERMAFROST - CANADA; Proceedings of the Fifth Canadian Permafrost Conference".

The conference volume was dedicated to Mr. G.H. (Hank) Johnson, a permafrost engineer of many years experience who recently retired from the National Research Council of Canada. Mr. Johnston was also the Honorary President of the conference. The conference opened with a retrospective look at permafrost research in Canada, given by Johnston and a review of the current program of airport construction and permafrost research in northern Québec, given by Mr. Clement Tremblay of the Quebec Department of Transport. The papers were grouped into theme sessions: geocryology, geophysics,
hydrology, processes, thermal regime and climate change, and engineering. The conference concluded with a one-day engineering speciality session, convened jointly by the Permafrost Subcommittee of the National Research Council of Canada and the US Permafrost Committee. This session ended with a panel discussion on research needs and priorities in permafrost engineering. A noteworthy feature of the conference was that all the papers on the program were given, and with a minimum of substitutions of presenters.

In all, 146 people registered for the conference; of these 98 were Canadians (or foreign graduate students at Canadian universities). The largest foreign delegation, with 22 members, was from the USSR - this is the largest Soviet permafrost
delegation ever to visit North America. The American delegation comprised 15 and 8 other countries were represented. The very large Soviet delegation was made possible because of the generous financial support of Laval University, which contributed towards the attendance costs for some 15 young Soviet permafrost scientists and engineers.

The success of the conference is a tribute to the organizing committee and, particularly, to its chairman, Professor Michel Allard, Laval University. The conference was sponsored by the Permafrost Subcommittee, National Research Council of Canada; the Cold Regions Geotechnology Division, Canadian Geotechnical Society; the Canadian National Committee for the
International Permafrost Association; the Centre d'ttudes nordiques, Laval University and the Ministbre des transport du Québec. Financial support was also received from Air Inuit Ltée and Kodak Canada Inc.

Copies of the volume of papers from the Fifth Canadian Permafrost Conference may be purchased, at $40 Can per copy including postage, from:

Collection Nordicana
Centre d'études nordiques
Universite Laval
Citt universitaire
Quebec, Canada
GIK 7P4.

On the three days prior to the conference, the Executive Committee and the Council of the International Permafrost Association held meetings (see detailed account in Frozen Ground #7), as did the Canadian National Committee for the International Permafrost Association, and the Permafrost Subcommittee of the National Research Council of
Canada. In the case of the Permafrost Subcommittee, this was its last meeting, as the Subcommittee and its parent body, the Associate Committee on Geotechnical Research, will cease to exist in their present form at the end of March 1991. How the work of the Subcommittee will be carried forward is still to be decided.


Report from December 1990

The Cold Regions Geotechnology Division of the Canadian Geotechnical Society (CGS) was founded in April 1988. Since then it has grown to a membership of about 165. Shortly before this, the CGS had changed its membership requirements so as to permit scientists working in disciplines related to geotechnical engineering to join. This has resulted in a number of geologists, geophysicists and even physical geographers becoming active members of the Cold Regions Division. The first chairman of the Division was Hayley, EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd., Edmonton. Don had chaired the task group within the CGS which developed the proposal for the formation of the Colcl Regions Division. The other three divisions of the CGS are the Soil Mechanics and Foundations Division, the Engineering Geology Division, and the Rock Mechanics Division.

The purpose of the Cold Regions Division is to advance the interest and coordinate activities in cold regions geotechnology among engineers, earth scientists and associated professionals in Canada. It encourages communication between those working in the fields of snow, ice, frozen ground and related disciplines, by sponsoring meetings and conferences, and it represents the interests of the society and of the disciplines at the national and international level. The Cold Regions Division is, in effect, the professional society for permafrost in Canada. No other society has such a direct interest in permafrost science or engineering.

The Cold Regions Division has been busy since its founding. Apart from getting itself organised, the Division sponsored a workshop in "Saline Permafrost" in October 1989; was major co-sponsor of the Fifth Canadian Permafrost Conference in June 1990 (see Frozen Ground # 7, July 1990); and sponsored a short session on "Ice Force Prediction" at the annual
CGS conference, October 1990.

The Roger J.E. Brown Award

On an ongoing basis, the Division is now responsible for selecting the recipient of the Roger J.E. Brown Award. This annual award, which was established in 1986 to honour the memory of this renowned Canadian permafrost scientist, is presented:

(a) to the author(s), preferably Canadian, of the best paper on permafrost science or engineering published in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal, the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, or the proceedings of National or International Permafrost Conferences: or

(b) to honour an individual for excellence in the field of permafrost.

The most recent recipient is G.H (Hank) Johnston, a former colleague of Roger Brown at the National Research Council of Canada. The previous recipients have been: (1986) Prof. Ross Mackay, University of British Columbia, Vancouver; (1987) Dr. Derick Nixon, (then with) Hardy Associates, Calgary; (1987) a joint award to Prof. Wayne Savigny, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and to Prof. Norbert Morgenstern, University of Alberta, Edmonton; and (1989) Prof. Hugh French, University of Ottawa.

Executive Committee

A new executive committee for the Cold Regions Division was elected at the recent annual meeting of the CGS, held in Quebec City, October 1990. The members are:

  • Denis Blanchet Canadian Marine Drilling, Calgary
  • Hugh French University of Ottawa, Ottawa
  • Pavel Kurfurst Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa
  • Derick Nixon Esso Resources Canada Ltd., Calgary
  • David Sego University of Alberta, Edmonton

The new executive takes office on 1 January 1991, with Dave Sego as the new Chairman.

Future Activities

Future activities include co-sponsoring an ASCE Specialty Conference on Cold Regions Engineering, Hanover, USA, in February 199 1, and organising a special session on "Permafrost Terrain" for the CGS annual conference in October 199 1. The CGS and the Cold Regions Division are working with the National Research Council of Canada in planning an orderly devolution of some activities of the Associate Committee on Geotechnical Research (ACGR) to the CGS. Two subcommittees of the ACGR (Permafrost and Snow and Ice) are involved in activities of particular interest to the CGS.

Canadian Ground Freezing Test Facility

Earlier this year, the Associate Committee on Geotechnical Research of the National Research Council of Canada set up a small task force to examine the feasibility of constructing and operating a ground freezing test facility in Canada. The seven-member task force has prepared a report that addresses the feasibility of such a facility. The type of experiments that could be carried out, a description of the physical plant, a management structure and possible sources of funding were all  examined. The group favoured the concept of a relocatable facility that could be used to test the behaviour of natural as well as reconstituted soils. The initial push for such a facility is to learn more about frost heave effects of pipelines buried in discontinuous permafrost soils. This would be a logical extension to a research program undertaken by Carleton University, Ottawa, at Caen, France, with financial support from the Government of Canada's Program of Energy Research and Development and the Canadian petroleum industry. The new facility would be configured for frost effects research of various kinds, including behaviour of pavements and subgrades, development and testing of geophysical and geotechnical  instruments, and studies of geomorphic processes in coldclimates. The task force, which has recently completed its draft report, comprises:

  • Derick Nixon Esso Resources Canada Ltd., Calgary (Chairman)
  • John Ellwood Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd., Calgary
  • Chris Graham Gulf Canada Resources, Calgary
  • Don Hayley EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd., Edmonton
  • Alan Judge Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa
  • Bill Roggensack Centre for Frontier Engineering Research, Edmonton
  • Peter Williams Carleton University, Ottawa


Further information about the activities of the task force can be obtained from the chairman, Dr J.F. (Derick) Nixon, Esso Resources Canada Limited, 3535 Research Road NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2L 2K8.

"Geotechnical News"

News of the activities of the Canadian Geotechnical Society and its four divisions appears regularly in "Geo-technical News." the newsletter of the North American Geotechnical Community. "Geo-technical News" is published four times a year by BiTech Publishers Ltd., Suite 903-580 Homby Street, Vancouver, Canada, V6C 3B6. The newsletter regularly includes articles of interest to permafrost engineering and science.