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Report from June 1994

For some 30 years, the Permafrost Subcommittee of the National Research Council of Canada (NRCC) was central to many aspects of coordination of permafrost research in Canada. The parent body of the Permafrost Subcommittee was the NRCC's Associate Committee on Geotechnical Research (ACGR). This committee, which was founded in 1945 to coordinate and stimulate research on the engineering and physical aspects of the terrain of Canada, was one of a number of advisory committees set up by the NRCC after World War II to consider scientific and technical problems of countrywide concern. The ACGR carried out much of its work through a number of subcommittees, which were expected:

To define problem areas in their assigned field, advise the Associate Committee on research needs, follow through actively in promoting research, and assist in the publication and application of the results of research.

Given that about half of Canada is underlain by permafrost, it was natural that the committee should pay particular attention to this subject. In 1958 the ACGR sponsored the first conference held in Canada devoted solely to the subject of permafrost. That conference, attended by 33 people from Canada and the USA, clearly showed the growing interest and concern developing in Canada regarding permafrost, the technical problems it presented for northern development, and the limited scientific understanding available to address these questions.


As a result the Permafrost Subcommittee was formed in 1960. It was always a very active body, and highly effective in stimulating research on basic aspects of permafrost and related engineering activities, and in developing communication among individuals in universities, industry and government who had interests in the subject. It played a leading role in the development of the knowledge and capability concerning this very challenging ground condition, primarily through sponsoring conferences and seminars, and the publication of reports and books.

Over the years, the Subcommittee organized six general conferences (one international) and 10 specialized workshops or seminars, on topics as diverse as permafrost geophysics, engineering, pipelines, the active layer, global climate change, subsea permafrost, and saline permafrost. The proceedings of these conferences and seminars have been made available through the publication series of the ACGR. The Subcommittee also sponsored the publication of "Permafrost Terminology," by R.J.E. Brown and W.OKupsch (1974), "Permafrost Engineering Design and Construction," by G.M. Johnston (198 1) and "Glossary of Permafrost and Related Ground Ice Terms" (1988). This last publication is still in print, in English and French editions, and may be obtained from Bitech Publishers, Vancouver (see inside back cover).

From its inception in 1960 until his untimely death in 1980, the late Roger Brown served as the research advisor to the Subcommittee, and much of its effectiveness was due to his enthusiasm and energy. The proceedings of the 4th Canadian Permafrost Conference were dedicated to his memory, and the volume includes a brief biography and a list of his publications. Roger served under a series of chairmen, including Ross Mackay and Hugh French, both of whom are well known within the IPA. Roger was suceeded as research advisor by Henry (Hank) Johnston, who was followed in turn by Sivan Parameswaran and then by Harry Baker, all on the staff of the Division of Building Research at the NRCC. In 1988, Don Hayley took over as chairman of the Subcommittee; Don currently chairs the Canadian National Committee for the IPA.

Membership of the Subcommittee was made up of engineers and scientists from industry, consulting firms, universities and government agencies. The technical specialties represented by the membership have included geotechnique, exploration geophysics, geothermics, hydrology, geomorphology and climatology. Many well-known Canadian permafrost workers served on the committee over the years-too many to name individually.

Not only was the Subcommittee active within Canada; it also played a strong role internationally. It acted as the coordinating committee for Canadian participation for the First and Second International Conferences on Permafrost ICOP) in the USA (1963) and the USSR (1973). The Subcommittee was later responsible for putting together the Organizing Committee for the Third ICOP, held in Edmonton in 1978. The Subcommittee coordinated visits to Canada by permafrost researchers from the USSR, China and Japan, and visits of Canadian permafrost delegations to the USSR (1966, 1978) and China (1977, 1987). It was also involved in the development of the IPA itself, and in discussions of Canadian membership in the IPA.

In 1990, the NRCC, as part of a major review and reorganization of its operations, concluded that the Associate Committees had served their purpose. Many of the technical areas of interest represented by them now are represented by active professional societies. In a move to support the activities of these societies, the NRCC has passed to them the responsibilities of providing national advice on research needs and directions, and for representing Canada in the international arena. The ACGR was therefore disbanded in 1991 and, with its disappearance, the Permafrost Subcommittee and the other subcommittees were alsodisbanded. In the case of geotechnique, the Canadian Geotechnical Society has taken responsibility for many of the functions of the former ACGR, with the Cold Regions
Division being responsible for permafrost and frost action. The international coordination functions of the Permafrost Subcommittee have passed to the Canadian
National Committee for the IPA, which is sponsored jointly by the NRCC and the Geological Survey of Canada.


A speech given by Lorne Gold at the opening ceremony of the Third ICOP, Edmonton, 1978, and an unpublished report on the ACGR prepared by Michael Bozozuk
(1990) formed the basis of this short account of the Permafrost Subcommittee.

Submitted by J. Alan Heginbottom
Secretary, Canadian National Committee for the International Permafrost Association

Report from December 1994

Over the last year, the main activity of the Canadian National Committee for the IPA (CNC-IPA) has been the process of organizing the VII International Conference on Permafrost, to be hosted by Canada in June 1998 in Yellowknife, NWT. The CNC has set up a small executive committee, identified leaders for key functions (particularly local arrangements, technical program, and field excursions), and begun recruiting committee members and raising funds. A formal announcement of the conference will be made in mid-1995. The CNC held its annual meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 23-24 September 1994. General committee business was carried out on 23 September, when the committee received reports on the IPA Executive Committee meeting; on IPA activities, working groups and coinmittees; and from other Canadian organizations, the Cold Regions Division of the Canadian Geotechnical Society, and the Permafrost Committee of the Science Institute of the NWT/Arctic College (see below). Planning for the international conference occupied the committee on 24 September.

As in previous years, the CNC meeting was held directly following the annual conference of the Canadian Geotechnical Society. The 47th Canadian Geotechnical Conference included a session of four papers on "Pile Load Testing in Permafrost," organized by the Cold Regions Division. At the Cold Regions Division annual business meeting, a new committee was proposed; the members' names will be announced in January 1995. This year the Roger J.E. Brown Award was pregented to Prof. Kevin Biggar, Royal Military College, Kingston, and Prof. David Sego, University of Alberta, Edmonton, for the two papers "Field Pile Tests in Saline Permafrost. I. Test Procedures and Results" and "Field Pile Tests in Saline Permafrost. II. Analysis of Results." Both were published in the Canadian Geotechnical Journal, volume 30, in 1993. These papers were based on the doctoral research of Biggar, under the direction of Sego. (For details of the Roger J.E. Brown Award, see Frozen Ground No. 8, December 1990.) The 48th Canadian Geotechnical Conference will be held in Vancouver, BC, 25 -27 September 1995. At this conference, the Engineering Geology Division will join with the Cold Regions Division in organizing a session on "Mass Wasting in Permafrost Regions."

The Science Institute of the Northwest Territories is in a state of flux, and its Pemnafrost Committee is presently inactive. The Science Institute is being merged with Arctic College, which is a community college and training institute. The combined entity is to be divided into western and eastern units, probably to be based in Inuvik and Iqaluit, in anticipation of the division of the Northwest Territories into two new territories in 1999. This territorial division follows from the settlement of the land claim of the Inuit of the NWT; the eastern Canadian arctic region will become the Nunavut Territory.

Submitted by J.A. Heginbottom
Secretary, CNC-IPA