Going Country: The Impact of Confederation

In 1867, Canada became a dominion. Suddenly there were great new lands for the Geological Survey to explore.

For most of the time that William Logan was the director of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), the Province of Canada was made up of Canada West and Canada East (now Ontario and Quebec). After Confederation, there were new lands to explore. The new GSC director, Alfred Selwyn, was responsible for exploring and mapping the vast northern and western regions. His crew sometimes travelled along with other expeditions, such as the railway surveys in the 1870s that were finding routes for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Later GSC leaders led explorations to other parts of Canada. George Dawson explored British Columbia's interior and coastal regions, travelling as far north as the Yukon. Joseph Tyrrell covered areas from southern Alberta to northern Manitoba. Albert Low led canoe expeditions east of Hudson Bay in Quebec and Labrador and discovered huge iron ore deposits. Robert Bell examined the regions between the northern Great Lakes and Hudson Bay, as well as some of the eastern Arctic.

By the end of the 1800s geologists had visited most parts of what we now know as Canada. The 1900s would be the beginning of detailed scientific studies of specific areas.

Photograph of a group of geologists stopped near their horses and wagons while travelling across the western plains, 1881

George Dawson's crew pausing in their trek across the western plains, 1881

Photograph of white silt bluffs along the Fraser River, British Columbia, 1889

White silt bluffs along the Fraser River, British Columbia; photo taken by Robert Bell, 1889

Photograph of a wooden observation station in Nachvak Inlet, Newfoundland, 1884

Observation station, Nachvak Inlet, Newfoundland;
photo taken by Robert Bell, 1884