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Earthquake activity in New Brunswick

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Earthquakes Canada

Earthquake activity in New Brunswick

EqCan Home Recent Earthquakes Historic Events Earthquake Hazard Be Prepared! Stations and Data General Information Products / Research Resources The first recorded account of an earthquake in New Brunswick is a brief news item from the Royal Gazette published in Halifax, on December 13th, 1764, "We hear from St John's (Saint John) in this province that on the 30th of September last about 12 o'clock noon that a very severe shock of an earthquake was felt there". Since then many hundreds of earthquakes have been reported or recorded in the province. In fact, most of New Brunswick lies within the Northern Appalachian Zone (NAN), as shown on the map of earthquakes in Eastern Canada, (Earthquakes in Eastern Canada) and has experienced several earthquakes in the magnitude 5 to 6 range. The exception is the northwestern part of the province with a few smaller magnitude earthquakes, which lies within the Eastern Background Zone. New Brunswick has also felt the effects of larger events from the Charlevoix-Kamouraska Zone (CHV), Lower St. Lawrence Zone (LSL) and the Laurentian Slope Zone (LSP). A more detailed map of the Northern Appalachian Zone shows epicentres distributed throughout New England and New Brunswick. Epicentres for many of the twentieth century earthquakes have been determined from the analysis of seismograph records, but some of the lower magnitude events and the pre-1900 events have been assigned epicentres based on historical accounts in newspapers and journals. Reports of effects of the earthquakes in different communities allow Modified Mercalli intensity values to be determined and an isoseismal map can then be constructed. The epicentre is chosen to be at the place where the most severe effects are felt, or at the centre of the felt area, if only limited information is available. Magnitude values can be calculated from the felt area (Nuttli and Zollweg, 1974 and Street and Lacroix, 1979), the area contained within the IV isoseismal, (Street and Turcotte, 1977) or a combination of intensity and felt areas (Sibol et al., 1987).(See footnote). In New Brunswick, epicentres cluster in three regions (Burke, 1984); 1. Passamaquoddy Bay region, 2. Central Highlands (Miramichi) region, 3. Moncton region.
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A summary of the historical earthquake activity in the province of New Brunswick. by Kenneth B.S. Burke Honorary Research Professor University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, E3B 5A3 kbsb@nbnet.nb.ca

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Earthquake activity in New Brunswick

Location map. Earthquakes have been more frequent in these regions and sometimes of a size to be potentially damaging (larger than magnitude 5).

1) Passamaquoddy Bay region.


Passamaquoddy Bay was identified as a seismically active region by Barosh (1981), who stated that more than 50 earthquakes had been reported from the area since 1870. He reports that after a network of seismograph stations was installed in southeastern Maine in 1975, an average of 7 earthquakes per year had been recorded with a magnitude range of 1 to 3.2. A search of the Canadian National Seismological Database for dates between 1800 and October 1,1999 found 77 earthquakes for the region (44.5oN to 45.5oN; 66.5oW to 67.5oW). Twelve unlisted events found by scanning of local newspapers await evaluation for inclusion in the database (Burke et al., 1987 and Burke and Comeau, 1988). The largest historically reported event in this region was in the early morning hours (2:04 a.m. local time) on March 21st, 1904, when a strong earthquake was felt throughout the Maritime provinces, the St Lawrence Lowlands and the New England states. A map showing the estimated intensity values, the epicentre of the earthquake and the IV isoseismal is shown on the left, based on the reference by Leblanc and Burke (1985). Minor damage to buildings was reported from several communities along the coasts of New Brunswick and Maine and chimneys were thrown down at St Stephen in southwestern New Brunswick and Eastport in southeastern Maine. Using the area within the IV isoseismal, Leblanc and Burke (1985) estimated a felt area IV magnitude of 5.9, although there is a lack of intensity information from the Atlantic Ocean to the south. However, the earthquake has been given a magnitude of mN = 5.9 in the Canadian National Seismological Database. A possible foreshock was reported felt from Camden in southern Maine at midnight on March 20th, 1904 (Camden Herald, March 25th, 1904) and aftershocks reported felt at Bar Harbour in southern Maine and Fredericton in central New Brunswick at 5 am (local time) on March 21st, 1904. ( Bar Harbour Record, March 23rd, 1904 and Daily Herald, March 21st, 1904). There is also a report of several aftershocks being felt at West Gouldsboro, on the southern coast of Maine, in the days following the earthquake ( Bar Harbour Record, March 30, 1904). These reports of a foreshock and aftershocks from widespread communities are not too useful in pinpointing an epicentre for this earthquake, but the activity confirms that a sizeable main shock occurred. Smith's estimate of the epicentre at 45.0oN, 67.2oW, based on the location of the strongest intensities (Smith, 1962), is the epicentre adopted in the Canadian National Seismological Database. An earthquake at 5:45 am (local time) on October 22nd, 1869 was found to have a similar isoseismal map to the 1904 earthquake This earthquake was relocated to Passamaquoddy Bay and given a magnitude of 5.7 based on the area within the IV isoseismal by Leblanc and Burke, (1985). It has now been assigned an epicentre of 45.0oN, 67.2oW and a magnitude of mN= 5.7 in the Canadian National Seismological Database. Minor damage to chimneys and walls were reported from a widespread distribution of communities; e.g. Eastport in southeastern Maine, Fredericton and Woodstock in central New Brunswick, Newcastle (Miramichi City) in northern New Brunswick and Saint John, along the southern coast of New Brunswick. This wider distribution of masonry damage than with the 1904 event probably reflects the poorer construction practices and state of repair in the nineteenth century. Damage and changes to spring water flow at more northerly locations,e.g.Newcastle (Miramichi City), suggest the possibility of an epicentre in the Central Highlands (Leblanc and Burke, 1985). This idea is also supported by reports of possible aftershock activity felt in the Fredericton area and possible foreshocks felt in the Tobique valley, in northwestern New Brunswick, (from a letter to the editor in the October 30, 1869 issue of the Carlton Sentinel " .....It is said by some that there was a shock some six hours previous to the one spoken of, and also another on Friday noon, but they were slight.) This subject will be discussed further in the section on the Central Highlands region, but the similarity of the isoseismal map of the 1869 earthquake to that of the 1904 earthquake is strong evidence of this being a Passamaquoddy Bay event. A May 22nd, 1817 event was for many years assigned to a central Maine location, but a study of newspaper and journal accounts by Leblanc and Burke (1985) clearly identifies this as another Passamaquoddy Bay earthquake. The same study assigned a magnitude between 4.5 and 5 based on the area enclosed within the IV isoseismal. This earthquake is now listed at an epicentral position of 45.0oN, 67.2oW and given a magnitude of mN = 4.8 in the Canadian National Seismological Database. Newspapers and diaries of the day gave accounts of violent shaking of houses from Calais in southern Maine, Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy and St Stephen in southwestern New Brunswick, but no damage was reported. An interesting reference to this earthquake was found recently in a collection of letters from the 1780s to 1830s, purchased by the University of New Brunswick from a Sotheby's auction in London in 1994 (Kathryn Hilder, personal communication, June 20th, 1994). This was in a letter from a Jane Moore, who was living in St Mary's, then a small community just north of Fredericton, written on June 3rd, 1817 to her sister, Elizabeth Moore, in New Town, New York "I was very much alarmed a few nights ago at the shock of an earthquake it awoke me out of a soun(sic) sleep when I found the house and bed where I

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Earthquake activity in New Brunswick

slept in the most violent motion it appeared to rock as if it was upon rockers it lasted however but a short time ". Plots of epicentres on a geological map of the Passamaquoddy Bay region in the 1970s suggested that earthquake activity might be related to movement on the Oak Bay Fault (Rast et al.,1979). This north to northwest trending fault offsets Silurian and Devonian rock units with a regional strike direction of northeast and shows a major discontinuity in aeromagnetic and gravity contours associated with these units. However, a Triassic dyke that crosses the fault in the St Croix River is not offset by the Oak Bay Fault, showing that there has been no recent movement along the fault, (Burke and Stringer, 1993). Glacial striations checked at twenty-four locations showed no sign of postglacial displacement and no disturbances of Quaternary sediments were found along the faults examined on land. However, a marine geophysical survey, in 1988, did map pock marks and plumose structures on the bottom of Passamaquoddy Bay and the northwestern alignment of some of the pock marks is associated with northwest trending faults (Pecore and Fader, 1990). Recent movement along these faults may have allowed the release of gas that created the pock marks in the soft sediments. Other workers have related the earthquake activity to a general subsidence of Passamaquoddy Bay with accompanying minor movements on the faults in the area, (Barosh, 1981).

2) Central Highlands (Miramichi) region.


The importance of the Central Highlands (Miramichi) region was brought to the attention of the seismological community by the 5.7 mb Miramichi earthquake at 12:53 (UT) on January 9th , 1982, with an epicentre of 47.0oN, 66.6oW. (Basham et al. (1982) . The intensity map on the left is based on Drysdale et al. (1982), with the IV isoseismal being added by the present author. Although the earthquake was felt widely throughout the Maritime provinces and the New England states, because of the remoteness of its location, the only damage reported was the development and extension of cracks in buildings and pavement at a few locations,(e.g. Newcastle (Miramichi City) approximately 80 kms to the east of the epicentre). The main earthquake was followed by a long sequence of aftershocks, including one of 5.1 mb at 16:36 (UT) on the same day, another of 5.4 mb at 21:41 (UT) on January 11th, 1982 and one of 5.0 mb at 21:02 (UT) on March 31st, 1982. Three hundred and twenty five micro-earthquakes were recorded in a survey with portable seismographs between July 3rd and August 19th, 1985 (Burke et al., 1989). Indeed, of the more than 600 events reported in the Canadian National Seismological Database for a one degree area around the epicentre since 1982, 575 are closely associated with the epicentral position of the main event. Because of its remoteness, the record of historical seismicity for the Central Highlands region is incomplete. Soft sediment deformation at the Oxbow archeological site in the Miramichi region, dated to be post 1700, has been interpreted as caused by seismically induced liquefaction (Broster et al., 1993). One candidate for the event causing the liquefaction is the 1869 earthquake as previously mentioned. However, another possibility is the 1764 event, which although it was only reported felt in Saint John, may have been from a more distant larger event in the Central Highlands, but its effects from the more northerly and smaller communities of the time were never recorded. A few earthquakes have been reported felt in the Bathurst area, with a 4.3 mL earthquake on July 2nd, 1922 and a 4.5 mNearthquake on September 30th, 1937 causing chimney damage in this community. A 4.6 mL earthquake on January 4th, 1930 at Blackville, just southeast of the Central Highlands, was felt throughout most of the Miramichi valley, but no damage was reported. A 4.7 mb earthquake at Trousers Lake on June 16th, 1982 was felt to a distance of 150 km away. Other smaller events have been found by scanning the contents of weekly newspapers for the period 1826 to 1961 and are in the process of evaluation for inclusion in the database (Burke et al., 1985 and Burke et al. 1990). It is believed that earthquakes larger in magnitude than 4 1/4 would have been felt in one of the surrounding communities and reported in the newspapers, so the record will be complete for events of this magnitude and above, when this study is completed. The Miramichi earthquake epicentral area is underlain by Devonian igneous rocks, mainly granite and diorite, intruded into older metamorphic rocks. Some of the diorite shows intense microfracturing (Mawer and Williams, 1985) and a 2 cm displacement and a pop-up feature was found in a diorite outcrop (Basham and Adams, 1984) . The fault- mechanism solution for the main event by Choy et al. (1983) suggested a west-dipping, north-northeast striking fault plane to explain the teleseismic data. A survey using portable seismographs close to the main event epicentre in January of 1982 showed the aftershock activity was distributed in an area of 6 km by 6 km, but with a concentration of epicentres in the southwestern quadrant (Wetmiller et al., 1984). This study, later confirmed by the teleseismic studies of Basham and Kind (1986), indicate a north trending V pattern of thrust faulting. Composite P-nodal solutions for microearthquake activity in the epicentral zone in 1985 were consistent with the conjugate pattern of thrust faulting, except for a rotation of fault-plane strikes from north to northwest (Burke et al., 1989). No major north to northwest trending faults have been mapped at the surface in the area, but geological mapping did reveal two shear zones with west-north-west trends (Fyffe, 1982).

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Earthquake activity in New Brunswick

3) Moncton region.
A February 8th, 1855 earthquake was reported by Dawson (1868) to have occurred at "the bend of the Petitcodiak", the nineteenth name for the Moncton region in southeastern New Brunswick. An intensity map based on the paper by Leblanc and Burke (1985) is shown on the left. This earthquake was felt throughout most of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and as far to the southwest as Boston, Massachusetts. A felt area IV magnitude of 5.2 was proposed in a reevaluation of this event by Leblanc and Burke (1985) and the epicentre proposed by Smith (1962) of 46.0oN, 64.5oW was accepted. This epicentre and a magnitude of mN are now listed in the Canadian National Seismological Database. The general location of the earthquake is confirmed by the reports of several aftershocks being felt in the Moncton area during the month of February, 1855 (Saint Andrews Standard, March 7th, 1855). Minor damage was reported for this earthquake, such as in an account from Hopewell, a village 17 km south-southwest of the epicentre, which states "At the chemical factory in this place, the shock caused the plastering of walls to crack and rend from top to bottom ....", New Brunswick Reporter, February 16, 1855. Reports of two other felt earthquakes in the Moncton region were found during the scanning of the newspaper Le Moniteur Acadien for the years 1867 to 1926. An event on August 11, 1867 was felt in a number of communities from Buctouche to Sackville, along the coast northeast of Moncton, with an estimated felt area magnitude of 3.8. A smaller event was felt only in Moncton and Shediac, 20 km northeast of Moncton, on June 19, 1899, with an estimated felt area magnitude of 3. Another 24 small magnitude events are listed for the region ((45.5oN to 46.5oN; 64oW to 65oW) in the Canadian National Seismological Database for the period 1800 to October 1, 1999. Two earthquakes of magnitudes mN =3.0 and mL =2.2 respectively in the Dorchester area in 1972, 35 km south-southeast of Moncton, and two earthquakes of magnitudes mN =3.6 in the Turtle Creek area, 10 km southwest of Moncton, in 1984 and 1988, were felt. Examining the relationship of the earthquake activity to the structural geology of the Moncton region suggests that the seismicity is associated with the reactivation of faults, first created during the pull-apart formation of the Moncton Carboniferous sedimentary sub-basin. Fault mechanism solutions obtained from the 1984 and 1984 Turtle Creek earthquakes favour faults with north to northwest trends, and this is the same orientation of thrust faulting that would be expected from the regional stress regime.

Effects from distant earthquakes.


In addition to earthquakes located within the province, New Brunswick also experiences the effects from more distant earthquakes centered in Quebec and the Grand Banks. For example, Mercalli intensity IV values were reported from many localities in New Brunswick for the March 1, 1925 earthquake of MS = 6.2 in the Charlevoix Kamouraska zone of Quebec. The November 25th, 1988 Saguenay earthquake, with a magnitude mN = 6.5, again led to effects consistent with Mercalli intensities of III to IV being reported for many localities in New Brunswick, with some amplification of effects being related to unconsolidated deposits at the observational sites. The magnitude 7.2 Grand Banks earthquake on November 18th, 1929 was felt throughout New Brunswick. Rossi-Forel intensity values varying between IV and V are shown for the province on the isoseismal map for the event. It gave rise to effects that range from simply being felt in the southwestern part of the province to reports of cracked plaster and chimney damage in Fredericton (Burke and Slauenwhite, 1986). A gradual fall-off in intensity with distance from the southeast to northwest of the province is noted, but several anomalously high values were obtained at places where the ground motion was amplified by soil conditions (e.g. Fredericton).

References.
Barosh, P.J. 1981: Seismicity and tectonics of the Passamaquoddy Bay area, Maine and New Brunswick, Abstracts with Programs, Geological Society of America, v. 13, p. 122. Basham, P.W., Stevens, A.E.,Anglin, F.M. and Wetmiller, R.J. 1982: Earthquake!, Geos, v. 11, Spring 1982. Basham, P.W. and Adams, J. 1984: The Miramichi New Brunswick earthquakes: near surface thrust faulting in the northern Appalachians, Geoscience Canada, v. 11, p. 115-120. Basham, P.W. and Kind, R. 1986: GRF broad-band array analysis of the 1982 Miramichi, New Brunswick earthquake sequence, Journal of Geophysics, v. 60, p. 120-128. Broster,B.E., Allen, P. and Burke, K.B.S. 1993: A multidisciplinary assessment of postglacial seismic disturbance: Miramichi area, New Brunswick, Canada, Quaternary International, v. 20, p. 153-161. Burke, K.B.S. 1984: Earthquake activity in the Maritime Provinces, Geoscience Canada, v. 11, p. 16-22.

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Burke, K.B.S., Bidiscombe, P., Guimond, D and Whelen, D. 1985: Historical seismicity of northern and eastern New Brunswick 1867-1943, Contract Report 23235-4-0734 22-ST for Earth Physics Branch, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Ottawa, 85 p. Burke, K.B.S., and Slauenwhite, S. 1986: Felt effects of the 1929 Grand Banks earthquake in New Brunsick, Contract Report 23233-6-3421 01-ST for Geophysics Division, Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, 53 p. Burke, K.B.S., Slauenwhite, S. and Bidiscombe, P. 1987: Historical seismicity of the Passamaquoddy Bay region of New Brunswick for the period 1811-1900, Contract Report 23222-6-3421 01-ST for Geophysics Division, Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, 93 p. Burke, K.B.S., and Comeau, R. 1988: Historical seismicity of the Passamaquoddy Bay region of New Brunswick for the period 1900-1961, Contract Report 23233-7-3720 01-SZ for Geophysics Division, Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, 80 p. Burke, K.B.S., Wetmiller, R.J., Lamontagne, M., Carr, J. and Hickey, C. 1989: Microearthquake survey of the Miramichi, New Brunswick, epicentral zone, 1985, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 26, p. 25672577. Burke, K.B.S., Andersen J and Hassan, H.H. 1990: Historical seismicity of northern and eastern New Brunswick 1826-1866 and 1944- 1961 and other listed earthquakes 1867-1943, Contract Report 23235-93253 01-FS for Geophysics Division, Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, 150 p. Burke, K.B.S., and Stringer, P. 1993: A search for neotectonic features in the Passamaquoddy Bay region, southwestern New Brunswick, in Current Research, Part D; Geological Survey of Canada, Paper 93-1D, p. 93-102. Choy, G.L., Boatwright, J., Dewey, J.W. and Sipkin, S.A. 1983: A teleseismic analysis of the New Brunswick earthquake of January 9, 1982, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 86, p. 2199-2212. Dawson, J.W. 1868: Acadian Geology, Text, MacMillan, 981 p. Drysdale, J.A., Horner, R.B., Wetmiller, R.J., Stevens, A.E., Rogers, G.C. and Basham, P.W. 1985: Canadian Earthquakes 1982, Energy, Mines and Resources, Ottawa, Seismological Series No. 92, 56 p. Fyffe, L.R. 1982: Geology in the vicinity of the 1982 Miramichi earthquake, Northumberland County, New Brunswick: New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources, Open File Report 82-27, 23 p. Gutenberg,B. and Richter, C.F. 1956: Earthquake magnitude, intensity, eneegy and acceleration, Bulletin of Seismological Society of America, v. 46, p. 105-145. Leblanc, G. and Burke, K.B.S. 1985: Re-evaluation of the 1817, 1855, 1869 and 1904 Maine-New Brunswick area earthquakes, Earthquake Notes, v. 56, p. 107-123. Mawer, C.K. and Williams, P.F. 1985: Crystalline rocks as possible paleoseismicity indicators, Geology, v. 13, p. 100-102 Nuttli, O.W. and Zollweg, J.E. 1974: The relation between felt area and magnitude for central United States earthquakes, Bulletin of Seismological Society of America, v. 64, p. 1189-1207. Pecore, S.S. and Fader, G.B.J. 1990: Surficial geology, pockmarks and associated neotectonic features of Passamaquoddy Bay, New Brunswick, Canada, Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 79-20, 7 p. Rast, N., Burke, K.B.S. and Rast, D. 1979: The earthquakes of Atlantic Canada and their relationship to structure, Geoscience Canada, v. 6, p. 173-180. Sibol, M.S., Bollinger, G.A. and Birch, J.B. 1987: Estimation of magnitudes in central and eastern North America using intensity and felt area, Bulletin of Seismological Society of America, v. 77, p. 1635-1654. Smith, W.E.T. 1962: Earthquakes of Eastern Canada and adjacent areas 1534-1927, Publication of the Dominion Observatory, Ottawa, Canada, v. XXVI, p. 271-301. Smith, W.E.T. 1966: Earthquakes of Eastern Canada and adjacent areas 1928-1959, Publication of the Dominion Observatory, Ottawa, Canada, v. XXXII, p. 87-121. Street, R.L. and Turcotte, F.T. 1977: A study of northeastern North America spectral moments, magnitudes and intensities, Bulletin of Seismological Society of America, v. 67, p. 599-614. Street, R.L. and Lacroix,A.V. 1979: An empirical study of New England seismicity: 1727-1927, Bulletin of Seismological Society of America, v. 69 p. 159-175. Wetmiller, R.J.,Adams, J., Anglin,F.M., Hasagawa,H.S. and Stevens, A.E. 1984: Aftershock sequence of the 1982 Mirmichi , New Brunswick, earthquake, Bulletin of Seismological Society of America, v. 74, 621653.

Footnote on relationship between magnitude and intensity and felt areas.

Because many of the earthquakes in the historical record occurred before seismographs were available to record them, it has been necessary to establish relationships between magnitude and those parameters that can be determined from the reported information. Initially, magnitude, M, was estimated from the relationship between it and the maximum intensity Io; M = 1 + 2Io/3 established empirically by Gutenberg and Richter (1956) from Californian earthquake data. This relationship was used by Smith (1962) and Smith (1966) to obtain the magnitude estimates for historically reported earthquakes listed in his catalogues.

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Nuttli and Zollweg (1974) pointed out that the felt areas of instrumentally recorded earthquakes in the central United States changed significantly with small increases in magnitude. They then used 22 recently recorded earthquakes to establish the following relationship between magnitude and felt area; mb = 2.65 + 0.098f + 0.054f2 where mb is the magnitude and f is the logarithm to the base 10 of the felt area in square kilometres. The relationship was limited to f values equal to 6 or greater. In a study of earthquakes instrumentally recorded in northeastern North America, Street and Turcotte (1977) found that the regional magnitude mbLg could be related to the area, AIV, contained within the intensity IV isoseismal, which can often be more reliably estimated than the total felt area. They established the following relationship; mbLg = 1.13 log 10 AIV -0.32 The relationship was limited to AIV equal to or greater than 10,000 square kilometres. In a further study of 16 earthquakes, recorded in northeastern North America between 1925 and 1973, whose total felt areas were greater than 10, 000 square kilometres, Street and Lacroix (1979) established the relationship; mbLg = 2.77 - 0.147f + 0.1f2 where f is the logarithm to the base 10 of the felt area in square kilometres. The relationship was limited to f values equal to 6.5 or greater. In 1987, Sibol et al. examined the relationships between magnitude and intensity and felt area for over 480 earthquakes recorded in both central and eastern North America. They found that the most robust linear regression models for eastern North American earthquakes were expressed by the following relationships; mb = 2.29 + 0.0891f2 where f is the logarithm to the base 10 of the felt area in square kilometres. The relationship was limited to f values between 3.0 and 6.7. and mb = 2.05 + 0.0219 Io2 + 0.0666f2 where f is the logarithm to the base 10 of the felt area in square kilometres, and Io is the maximum intensity value. The relationship was limited to Io values between IV and VIII and f values between 3.0 and 6.5. Back to text Author: Kenneth B.S. Burke kbsb@nbnet.nb.ca

Date Modified: 2011-03-17

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