Our 1996 time capsule

Environment and Climate Canada and Meteorological Service of Canada’s 1996 Time Capsule

Submitted by our 50/150 Anniversary Celebrations Team with Contributions from the Downsview Ontario Storm Prediction Centre

A sign that reads “Time Capsule/Capsule Historique” next to a large pipe. There is a shovel, clamps and a wrench on the ground.
Figure 1: Time capsule burial site and the tools used to unearth it.

Look what we found in the ground!

In 1996, employees buried a time capsule at the Downsview Ontario Storm Prediction Centre in Toronto, Ontario as part of the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the Meteorological Service of Canada’s (MSC) 25-125 anniversary celebrations with instructions to open in June 2021. It was approximately four feet underground and took patience and strength to recover, but the team persevered!

Digging up the capsule

On June 29, 2021, a small crew of critical staff working on-site began the dig to unearth the time capsule from 1996. Freeing the capsule from the ground proved to be no small task. The team started by loosening the exposed cap using an industrial pipe wrench and some heavy-duty clamps. When the metal cap was finally removed, the team was relieved and amazed to see that the capsule was so well-engineered that its contents were perfectly intact. The interior capsule managed to survive the years and the elements.

A man holds several documents from the time capsule.
Figure 2: Documents found within the time capsule

"An astonishing and touching discovery from our former colleagues” were the sentiments shared by those partaking in the digging event.  

Diving into the contents

The time capsule contained a number of documents, like the Environment Canada action plan and sustainable development plan, some weather maps and forecasts, and a large banner.

25-125 Anniversary Banner

We uncovered a large banner that was signed by a number of staff in 1996. The banner included staff predictions for the future of the environment and the department. Some also sent their well wishes to future employees.

ECCC employees Daniel Liota and Victoria Nurse hold up a banner that is covered in signatures from staff in 1996 for the ECCC and MSC 25-125 celebrations. The people are wearing masks and there are trees in the background.
Figure 3: Banner covered in signatures found in the buried time capsule.

Predictions from 1996

Here are some of the messages on the banner!

Note that reads “May the Great Lakes be free of toxics by the time you read this! Susan N”. There are two other notes that cannot be fully read in the frame and a large blue semi circle to the left of the note.
Figure 4: May the Great Lakes be free of toxics by the time you read this! Susan N
Note that reads “May the air be cleaner. The water cleaner and your spirits lighter! Ray Jackson”. There is another note to the left that cannot be fully read in the frame.
Figure 5: May the air be cleaner. The water cleaner and your spirits lighter! Ray Jackson
Note that reads “Our models and products are known worldwide. Jenkata Neralla”. There is a large X and C above the note and leading off out of the frame that is printed on the canvas.
Figure 6: Our models and products are known worldwide. Jenkata Neralla
A note, in French, that reads “L’importance des questions environnementales ne fera que s’accentuer durant le prochain quart-de-siècle. Où en serons-nous? André G. » The translation of the note is: [The environmental issues will become increasingly problematic over the next 25 years. Where will we be then?]. Above the note is the word “Years” in big blue letters that are printed onto the canvas.
Figure 7 : L’importance des questions environnementales ne fera que s’accentuer durant le prochain quart-de-siècle. Où en serons-nous? André G. [translation : The environmental issues will become increasingly problematic over the next 25 years. Where will we be then?]

Among the messages was one from David Grimes, retired Assistant Deputy Minister of the Meteorological Service of Canada.

Note that reads: Caring for our future is caring for those resources that we have been charged with to sustain. Our environment is important. – David Grimes. The text appears above the word “Environnement” that is printed on the canvas.
Figure 8: David Grimes’ comment and signature from the anniversary banner.

We followed up with David who remembers the burial of the time capsule and the celebrations coming at a difficult time for the department. For David, putting together the pieces of the time capsule offered a glimmer of hope – an opportunity to refocus employees in the department and an indication that everything was going to be okay.

We were also able to locate a comment from someone who is still with the department, 25 years later! Senior Climatologist, David Phillips wrote: 2021. Will Canada still be the second coldest country on Earth?

Note that reads: 2021. Will Canada still be the second coldest country on Earth? –David Phillips, 1996. The text appears above the word “Achievement” that is printed on the canvas.
Figure 9: David Phillips’ comment and signature from the anniversary banner.

We followed up with David Phillips. David shared that he had just finished working on the eighth edition of The Canadian Weather Trivia Calendar and couldn’t get it out of his mind that Canada was now the second coldest country on Earth, where up until 1993 we had been the number one coldest country. This change in rank was an interesting anecdote and, yes, on this day in 2021, Canada still ranks second coldest.

It was very exciting to dive into the contents of the time capsule from 1996! We cannot wait to see what the next 25 years have in-store!

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