American Roots, British Invasion
The Province of Canada's decision to create a geological survey was inspired by the success of two different types of surveys done in the United States and Britain.
William Logan's "Geological Map of Canada," 1864
In America, most of the states had done their own surveys in the 1820s and 1830s looking for mineral resources and land suited for agriculture. Their findings generated a great deal of international interest. In the 1830s, the British government conducted a slightly different national survey of its own. It already had detailed maps of the land, and it sent scientists out to add geological information to show where the various types of rocks were located.
Although they were surveying the land differently, the surveys in Britain and the United States helped prove that both countries were rich in mineral resources. Canadians hoped that their survey would reveal similar resources. Inspired by the success of the American surveys, the main goal of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) was to find and publicize the colony's mineral wealth. Inspired by the success of the British survey, however, the members of the GSC also mapped the land and its geological formations. In the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) many parts of the colony had not been mapped. The few maps that existed were often not very detailed or reliable. Most early Canadian geologists made their own maps while they explored the land to see what riches it had to offer.
The Geological Survey of Canada was created to search for coal. It was easy to understand why. Coal was a very important source of fuel at that time. It was needed to power steamships and railroads, the two main means of transportation. Coal had been found in Nova Scotia. But there was a problem. Nova Scotia was not part of Canada yet. In the 1840s, the Province of Canada was made up of Canada West (now Ontario) and Canada East (now Quebec). Government members had tried to get a geological survey started several times in the 1830s, to search for coal, but they did not get one approved until 1841.
The steamship Royal William, 1838
The GSC was formed to explore and map the country in the search for coal and other promising mineral resources. For Logan this meant not only searching for popular minerals like gold and coal, but also finding practical minerals for constructing roads and buildings, and for industries. This project was only supposed to last a few years, but it quickly proved its usefulness. The GSC's work has been so important to the country that the GSC still exists today, over 160 years later!
"There has been voted in Canada a sum of £1500 to commence a geological survey of the province. It will be an arduous undertaking. In the Spring and Summer mosquitoes and black flies are a perfect torment in the woods, and in the woods the provincial geologist will have to spend the chief part of his time, as but a small part of the country is yet cleared. In addition to the geological features of the Country he will have to ï¿½. make a map of the river and mountains. No correct one exists."
(William Logan, October 19, 1841)