The room is packed. It’s brown bag Wednesday at the Revelstoke Museum and Archives, hosted by curator Cathy English, and today is special. Dr. John Woods, lead researcher and writer, is giving the audience a sneak peak of “Land of Thundering Snow,” a project that has been in the works since 2012.
It was during the 100th commemoration of the horrific 1910 slide which killed 58 railway workers, that English noted the extensive avalanche material available in Revelstoke and how inaccessible it was to the general public. “There is no one book about avalanche history and safety in Canada,” Woods says.
In a bid to fill this gap, English applied for, and received, a grant from the Canadian Heritage Information Network to create a virtual, comprehensive avalanche exhibit for the Canadian Virtual Museum, via an easily accessible website. Parks Canada, Avalanche Canada, Revelstoke Railway Museum and the Okanagan College came on board as partners and the project was overseen by the Canadian Museum of History and was managed by the Revelstoke Museum and Archives.
The website “Land of Thundering Snow” is now under final review with plans to launch on March 4, 2015. This special preview at the Museum showcases a site that is clean, functional, well laid out and eye pleasing.
Woods leads the audience on a virtual tour of the site. The landing page allows the end user to choose either French for English. The site is built to run on all operating systems and Internet browsers and is tablet (though not mobile) compatible. There are six major sections for people to explore: 1) Lessons from the Past, 2) Anatomy of an Avalanche, 3) Battling Avalanches, 4) Staying Safe, 5) A Natural part of Mountain Life, and 6) Only the Beginning.
There are 23 videos embedded in the site as well as teacher resources and lesson plans for grades 4-12.
Imogen Whale/Special to the Times Review
The Land of Thundering Snow online exhibit includes an interactive map showing all known fatal avalanches in Canadian history.
Most interesting of all is the interactive Google Earth map. Across the map, every known fatal avalanche from 1782 onwards (there are more than 400 incidents documenting more than 800 fatalities) is pinpointed. The map can be zoomed to street view and each pinpoint can be clicked, giving information including the date, number of fatalities, location, and category (recreation, transportation, etcetera). There are several case studies with additional information including news videos.
The map shows avalanches in places one may not expect, including Quebec City (snow from an escarpment) and Newfoundland (snow from a cliff). Two episodes not in Canada but important to Canadian history are included; one being the 1910 super storm where viewers can track all 10 days of the storm through the United States and into Canada — a storm responsible for 180 fatalities across the Pacific Northwest including Canada’s largest fatal avalanche in Rogers Pass on March 4, 1910).
The virtual exhibit is timely for those interested in avalanches or living and travelling though avalanche areas. “If people take one thing away from it,” Woods says. “I hope it’s humility. Yes, many of those avalanches there was no escaping, but there were many with warning signs before the accident.”
Woods and English also hope to receive feedback. “There may be incidents not in the records we had access to,” Woods says.
This exciting new resource provides information about every aspect of avalanches from causation and creation to ecological impacts (fun fact, avalanche paths are, in the summer, prime grizzly habitat) and is a welcome addition of accessible avalanche information for the public around the world.