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Tides, Currents & Water Levels 

Development and Organization (from 1966 notes)

The Tidal Survey was established in 1893 in response to a demand for improved safety in navigation. A network of tide gauges was thereafter operated on the St. Lawrence River and the East Coast. A ship was acquired for systematic current surveys and tide tables were published for a few principle ports. A similar program was set up for the West Coast a few years later.

The Hydrographic Service, which was established on a national basis in the same period, required data on tidal heights and currents as an essential part of their charting operations and therefore established temporary gauges and measured currents as needed for these purposes.

A few years later the Hydrographic Service took over from the Department of Public Works and the Department of Railways and Canals the responsibility for operating water level gauges on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Although the data from these gauges were needed in navigation and charting, their greatest use was in various engineering applications.

These parallel and overlapping interests and responsibilities led in 1924 to the amalgamation of the Tidal and Current Survey with the Hydrographic Service in order to avoid duplication and achieve economics. Since that time the enlarged Hydrographic Service has been responsible for the operation of gauging stations in all coastal waters and the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence system, and for carrying out of current surveys in the navigable waters of Canada. This work, under the direction of the Dominion Hydrographer, has been carried out on the Pacific Coast from the Victoria regional office, for the East Coast from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography and for all inland waters from the Central Region at Ottawa.

Tide Tables (from 1966 notes)

Tide, Current and Water Level Tables are prepared by the Canadian Hydrographic Service and published and distributed by the Queen's Printer.

At present the tide tables consist of two principle volumes, "Atlantic Coast" and "Pacific Coast". As an additional convenience, pocket editions containing tables for limited areas is also published. All tables except one pocket edition, "Fleuve Saint Laurent et Riviere Saguenay", are published in English.

Manuscripts are completed during March and April of each year. The responsibility for publishing the Tables for the beginning of the new year rests with the Queen's Printer.

For over 70 years the analyses and predictions required for the manuscript were prepared under contract by the University of Liverpool Tidal Institute. Experimental tables have been successfully produced since 1963 using the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys Computer. The Canadian Hydrographic Service is now preparing the tidal predictions for Canadian waters.  Commencing in 1967, a new series of Canadian Tide and Current Tables will be published in six volumes. These will be a convenient size, suitable for either desk or pocket use, and, except for the Pacific Coast, will be bilingual throughout.

Reference Ports for Tide and Current Tables (from 1966 notes)

Questions have been asked as to why certain ports are not or have ceased to be "Reference Ports" in the Tide and Current Tables. The physical size of the tables prohibits publication of daily tables of tidal predictions for all ports in Canada and, therefore, certain "Reference Ports" are selected for which daily predictions are published. The selection is made by the Canadian Hydrographic Service. They have access to all relevant tidal data and are able to decide the most technically suitable places for selection as Reference Ports in conjunction with their relative commercial importance.

Adjustments for all other ports are published, enabling daily predictions to be obtained from those of a "Reference Port" having similar tidal characteristics.

Water Levels (from 1966 notes)

The official water levels for the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River system are gathered by the Tides, Currents and Water Levels Section of the Canadian Hydrographic Service. In several locations up-to-the-minute information is available. For other locations, weekly, monthly and annual data sheets and water level publications are issued on request.

NOTE: The gauging of all other fresh water levels is, at this time, the responsibility of the Water Resources Branch, formerly of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, recently transferred to this Department.

        In 1953 self-registering gauges were operated at 46 selected locations on the Great Lakes - St. Lawernce Waterway, Port Arthur to Quebec City (1953 Annual Report)

        In 1954 forty-six self-registering gauges were maintained

Tidal and Current Surveys

        A preliminary current survey was conducted in Courtenay Bay, St John Harbour for studies by the National Research Council (1953 Annual Report)

        Survey of the Strait of Canso (re causeway construction) was completed. (1953 Annual Report)

        In B.C. tidal studies were made at Saanichton and Oak Bay in the Victoria area. A tidal investigation was carried out in First Narrows, Vancouver Hbr. Surveys were made in the Yuculta Rapids Area. (1953 Annual Report).

        From 1952 Annual Report:
a) A tidal Atlas
b) Regular editions of the Canadian Tide Tables.

        From 1954 Annual Report:
a) Fifteen principle tidal stations were kept in continuous operation. A larger number of secondary tide stations were also operated.
b) Current surveys of the circulation in the harbour of St John N.B. were made. Also current observations at the causeway site in the Strait of Canso.

        From 1955 Annual Report:
a) Precise Water Levels maintained 49 self-registering gauges.
b) Tidal and Current Survey:
Maintained fifteen tidal stations.
Additional stations were established at St. John's, Nfld and Port Alfred, Quebec.
A tidal and wave investigation of Port aux Basques Harbour, Nfld was carried out for the National Research Council hydrolic model of the harbour.
A current survey of Vancouver Harbour was made to investigate the circulation and velocity of tidal currents

        From 1956 Annual Report:
a) The Precise Water Levels and Tidal Survey, formerly separate groups, were amalgamated to form the Tidal and Inland Water Levels Section. Their responsibility includes the investigation of tides, currents and water levels in coastal and inland navigable waters. The preparation of annual tide and current tables, water level bulletins, current atlases and related publications.
b) Two special surveys of currents and waves were carried out on the Pacific Coast and four on the Atlantic for various organizations, including the National Research Council and Departments of Transport and Public Works.
c) Two parties were sent to the Arctic to make a reconnaissance for the tidal program of the International Geophysical Year 1957-58
d) Automatic continuous recording of heights of water surface was carried out throughout the year at eighty stations on Canada's coasts and inland waters.

        From 1958 Annual Report:
a) A tidal and current survey of Northumberland Strait was undertaken as part of the study being made by the Dept of Public Works to determine the feasibility of building a causeway to link Prince Edward Island to the mainland. This involved chartering the M.V. Theta to make current observations at seventy points in the strait, while tide gauges were operated at twenty-five sites along the coast
b) The current and oceanographical survey of Passamaquoddy Bay, which has been made in conjunction with the Atlantic Oceanographical Group, was completed by the end of the season.
c) A total of 107 gauging stations were maintained in Canadian waters. Two of these, at Resolute and Brevoort Island in the Arctic, are part of Canada's contribution to the International Geophysical Year.
d) The new Tide Tables, published at the end of the year, have been completely revised to conorm with a recent international agreement to enable the user to attain greater precision with no increase in complexity.

        From 1959 Annual Report:
a) The M.V. Theta conducted tidal current surveys in central Hudson Strait and preliminary survey of Cabot Strait.
b) A small party made a water level and current survey at Little Current in Lake Huron.
c) The CGS Parry carried out tidal current surveys in British Columbia at False Narrows, Turn Point, Fitzhugh Sound, Sansum Narrows and Active Pass.
d) A total of 104 gauging stations were operated during 1959.

        From 1962 Annual Report:
a) One hundred and one permanent gauging stations were operated on the coast and in the St. Lawrence - Great Lakes Waterway.
b) The North Star VI conducted a detailed study of tidal currents at all depths in Gaspe Strait. Part of a long term study of the circulation in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
c) CSS Parry made surveys of tidal currents in five narrow coastal passages on the coast of BC.

        From 1963 Annual Report:

        a) The Department's computer was employed in analyses and prediction.
b) A small Arctic Edition of tide tables covering seven ports was introduced.
c) The new annual publication "Water Levels" was introduced. This contains the daily and monthly mean water levels recorded at all stations.

        d) The MV Theta was chartered for current studies on the East Coast, including a survey in the Pointe Des Monts area
e) During August and September the currents over a cross section of Belle Isle Strait were measured by means of E.M.F. cables laid across the strait.
f) On the West Coast CSS "Parry" and CNAV "Whitethroat" completed a number of current surveys including one in the Strait of Georgia in the vicinity of Nanaimo.

        From 1964 Annual Report:

        a) Seventy-six tide and water level installations were inspected on the St Lawrence River.
b) Telemetering equipment was installed at three more gauge stations in the Montreal area.
c) The first edition of the Hudson Bay and Arctic Waters Tide Table covering the normal navigation season was published.
d) The 1963 Water Levels, an annual publication, was revised and considerably enlarged.

        From 1965 Annual Report:

        a) Pacific Region: Haro Strait and adjacent passages were surveyed. 
b) Pacific Region: Discovery Passage to Cordero Channel, with current observations concentrated near Yuculta Rapids.
c) Vancouver Harbour: Current surveys were carried out near major wharves to aid ship docking and to assist in planning new port facilities.
d) Central Region: Inspected and maintained 82 permanent tidal and water level recorders. Established 79 locations in the Great Lakes, the St Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers and the Eastern Arctic.
e) Central Region: Five permanent gauging stations were reconstructed and three temporary installations made.
f) Eastern Region: A tidal and current survey was carried out in Minas Channel and Minas Basin.
g) Eastern Region: A permanent tide gauge was installed in Pictou, NS and 9 gauges were installed in the Saint John River NB. In all, 44 current stations were occupied.
h) Six separate editions of the tide tables covering the coastal waters of Canada were predicted and compiled for publication during 1965.
i) Total distribution of tide tables amounted to 70,000 copies.

        From 1966 Annual Report:
a) The predictions in the "Tide and Current Tables" were prepared by computer programs and the output was used directly in their printing.
b) The "Parry" continued its survey of currents on the southern B.C. coast. The 1966 observations are being used to compile a current atlas for the waterways between Juan de Fuca and Georgia Straits.
c) An auto-announcing tide gauge has been installed at Tofino (Vancouver Isl), as part of the Tsunami Warning System for the Pacific.
d) A new tide station in the Western Arctic gauging set was established at Cape Parry.

        From 1966 Field Program:
Atlantic Region: (tidal current by C.J. Langford, Gauges by M.G. Swim)
a) Petite Passage (Bay of Fundy) tidal current survey. 
b) Inspect and maintain 23 permanent and semi-permanent gauges.
c) Install new gauges at Frobisher Bay NWT, Port Harrison PQ, Cape Dorchester NB, Yarmouth NS,and install three semi-permanent gauges on the Saint John River NB.
d) Reconstruct gauges at Nain labrador, Resolute NWT and carry out repairs at Alert NWT
Central Region: (by D.G. Mitchell)
a) Inspection and maintenance of 76 permanent gauges.
b) Installation of new gauges at Riviere-du-Loup PQ, Cascades PQ, Terrace Bay ON, Bar Point (Detroit River) ON.
c) Reconstruction of gauges at Britannia and Michipicoten ON. 

        From 1967 Annual Report:
Pacific Region:
a) An investigation of the tide and currents in the Strait of Georgia was undertaken as a part of a cooperative programme with the Fisheries Research Board.

        From 1973 Annual Report:
a) 42 current meters were employed from Feb. to June to monitor the flow through Johnstone and Juan de Fuca straits simultaneously.
b) A new tidal station was brought into service at Langara Point on the northwest corner of Queen Charlotte Islands. This station is being joined to the Tsunami Warning System for the Pacific.
c) In the Arctic five tide gauge stations were installed around the southern perimeter of Amundsen Gulf.
d) For the first phase of the 18-month Beaufort Sea Priject, tide gauges were installed in September at Herschel Island and Cape Bathhurst to record throughout the winter.