The War Years
Oil for the allied war effort was the necessity that
revived the research council. By 1943, with American servicemen in the Northwest
Territories running an oil pipeline to the Alaska theatre of war, the province
found $250,000 for Karl Clark to resume his work on the Athabasca sands.
If Hitler could have seen the facilities he would have
snickered. The council was given space on campus, in a grimy brick pile behind
the Arts Building and Convocation Hall known as the North Lab.
In a curious building to the northbeyond it were the
victory gardens in which research council and university staff were encouraged
to grow vegetables for the war effortARC was doing work for the Department of
National Defence, testing the quality of oil and gas used in western operations.
At that time, in Alberta alone, 15 air bases were turning out crews for the
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The lab was equipped with a blow-away
roof in case of explosionswhich never happened.
But when the war ended, there was an explosion in Alberta
oil exploration which made the service permanent. And currently, the Fuels and
Lubricants Group is an important entity, setting international standards for
There had long been a daunting gap between Alberta's
natural resources and financial resources to exploit them. But oil royalties
began to change that.
Soil testing resumed in the Peace River Country, along
with studies of underlying groundwater. The endless poplar forests were
investigated to see if this natural resource could get in on the plywood boom
brought about by post-war construction. Unfortunately, the trees were then too
small for plywood. For Albertans who ran traplines in these woods, fur-bearing
animals were a prime natural resourceso there was a study of the seven-year
cycle in the rabbit population.
In 1946 highways research looked into causes of winter
road damage. There was a cheerful bonusfindings on "frost boils"
were useful to icemakers in curling rinks. Even more significant, the inquiry
was underwritten by $500 from the Prairie Roadbuilders Association. It was a
small amount, but it was the first of the contracts with industry which have
become a major support of the Alberta Research Council.
In 1948 a pilot plant at Bitumount, in the Athabasca tar
sands, proved Karl Clark's hot-water extraction process was feasible.
Cashman. A Historical Review of 75 Years of Service. Edmonton:
Alberta Research Council, 1996. With permission from the Alberta Research Council.