Photo Credit: CGEN Archive/The Province/National Resources Canada

A Preview of the Big One?

Get ready because the next big earthquake could happen at any time

Some of the old timers might still remember the earthquake of 1946

It’s still the largest earthquake that has ever hit onshore in Canada. At 10:13 in the morning, Sunday June 23, 1946, the ground started to shake in Northern Vancouver Island and it didn’t stop for more than a minute.

An old, black and white photograph of a road that has been broken by an earthquake. A phone pole leans over on the left.
Photo from The History of the Geological Survey of Canada in 175 Objects

The shaking was felt as far north as Prince Rupert and as far south as Seattle, but the damage was felt close to home. More than half of the chimneys in Cumberland, Union Bay, and Courtenay fell down. Roads cracked. The Courtenay Elementary School was left with a hole in its roof. Deep Cove got even deeper. At 7.3 on the Richter scale, this was a big quake.

A black and white photo of the Courtenay Schoolhouse with a hole in the roof from earthquake damage.
Photo from Courtenay and District Museum

Today is the 75th anniversary of that day. Up until 10 in the morning, it was a normal Sunday. Until it wasn’t.

“That’s the reality,” Paul Berry, told the Comox Valley Record. He is the president of Comox Valley Search and Rescue, and director of health and safety at Comox Valley Schools. “There’s not usually any warning.”

Lots of science says that we’re due for another big quake. Heck, it’s all some people can talk about. Berry says it’s important that folks are prepared.

Even though we live in a country with lots of resources, it would still take a few days for help to arrive on the Island.

Berry says “the majority of rescues, post-disaster, are completed within the first 12-24 hours.” And the rescuers aren’t trained professionals. They’re neighbours and friends.

He says most schools have been upgraded to stay standing in a quake. They have the equipment and plans in place to take care of kids and teachers.

But having a disaster kit can help you take care of your loved ones in case the big one hits.

You can get more information on building your disaster kit here:

Maybe ask an old timer if they remember the earthquake of ’46. They might tell you that things were different back then. But the ground shaking part? That definitely stayed the same.