Our story begins in a booming year of Alberta’s energy industry: 1980. Garvin Geck founds the firm we know as Seisland Surveys Ltd., initially to provide field services to a survey company supplying crews on Shell Canada seismic programs. Garvin “traverses the cutlines” in his new 1980 Ford 4x4 pickup truck across northern Alberta and the cornfields of southwestern Ontario, chaining and surveying lines that are to be seismically shot for oil and natural gas exploration.
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Within two years, Seisland has two, two-man survey crews in operation. The company succeeds despite the challenging commodity price environment throughout the 1980s. A breakthrough comes in 1982 when Seisland gains significant work with a geophysical company working for PanCanadian Petroleum Ltd. This develops into a major relationship and Seisland performs many thousands of kilometres of surveying for PanCanadian, which merged with Alberta Energy Corp. to form Encana Corp. in 2002.
The profession of surveying and mapping had been around for centuries, but in the 1990s it began to evolve dramatically. Just 30 years ago, conventional surveys still used the traditional theodolite and stadia rod, with basic chaining notes and sketches on paper to map out areas. In addition, until that time, seismic was all two-dimensional, or 2D. In the mid-1980s, 3D seismic appears in western Canada, and Seisland performs its first 3D survey in 1988.
Raised on a farm in Kelvington, Saskatchewan, Garvin always had a view to “plan for a rainy day” and think long-term. Now in the seismic business, Garvin not only wants to be able to weather the ups and downs of the resource sector, he wants to position his young company to become an industry leader.
Garvin develops his philosophy of using “big-picture thinking” to see what’s ahead and plan for the future. He commits to his staff long-term, trains them properly, gives them the best technology, and protects their working conditions in the field. This helps Seisland to expand beyond seismic surveying, offering topographic surveying in the oil sands, right-of-way lay-outs, pipeline surveying and advanced web-enabled GIS services.
Thanks to this forward thinking, Seisland goes on to invest in some highly advanced technologies to streamline its work and handle more types of jobs. Key technology additions include:
1983 – Seisland adds electronic distance measurement units to its surveying process, replacing the stadia rod, and soon after the “total station” for electronic data recording;
1995 – Seisland incorporates hand-held global positioning system (GPS) receivers into its survey work, enabling precise logging of shot and receiver points, and other field features, to create super-accurate field culture maps;
Mid-1990s – After being an early adopter of geographic information systems (GIS), Seisland becomes western Canada’s first seismic survey company to provide digital field mapping. By putting properly equipped GIS coordinators in the field, Seisland moves from manual to digital creation of field culture maps;
1998 – Seisland develops in-house barometry system to provide accurate elevations in areas with poor GPS coverage;
2001 – Seisland is Canada's first seismic survey company to incorporate inertial navigation systems (INS) in its surveys;
2010 – Seisland rolls out TriliGIS, developed entirely in-house, the industry’s first on-line, GIS-based asset information management system; and
2012 – Seisland adds 3D laser scanning to its suite of service lines, creating a mutually supportive bundle of three service lines: geospatial surveying and mapping, 3D laser scanning and GIS services.
Details on Seisland’s key technologies are here.
Over the years, Seisland surveys and maps all over the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. This includes heli-portable jobs exploring for deep gas in the Alberta Foothills and, more recently, some of the famous shale plays such as the Montney. Two of Seisland’s surveys lead to drilling the largest natural gas well discovered to that point in North America.
The company also begins surveying in Canada’s far north in 2004, and goes on to perform well over a dozen surveys in that region. Seisland also surveys in eastern Canada, including in Quebec’s Utica shale.
Seisland’s largest-ever survey takes place in 2004, north of Brooks, Alberta, surveying shallow natural gas targets for a major producer, with nearly 10,000 linear kilometres of seismic lines. A particularly interesting and challenging project comes in 2005, with Seisland’s underground INS-based survey of a potash mine drift at Rocanville, Saskatchewan, levering off the company’s INS capability.
2012 – Seisland surveys and maps that year’s largest 3D survey in western Canada. Covering over 1,100 square kilometres in Alberta’s Montney and Deep Basin plays, the survey includes 6,500 kilometres of lines. Seisland’s work is completed on-time and on-budget.
2013 – Seisland is well into planning its move into a dedicated new facility to house its technical, managerial and administrative staff, as well as its equipment and maintenance facilities, not far from Seisland's current headquarters in south Calgary. The new facility will support more efficient operations in service to clients.
Garvin and partner Ed Miyagishima, Vice President of Operations and Development, continue to provide Seisland’s top leadership. The company employs up to 70 technical and field staff who handle an enormous spectrum of mapping, surveying and GIS work. We continue to weather our industry’s “rainy days,” and we are proud to lead the way in “big picture thinking”.