Many residents in and around the British Columbia provincial capital and the Gulf Islands and a few on the mainland were jolted awake by the 3.9 magnitude quake at 4:29 a.m. PST Sunday, said John Cassidy, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada.
About 200 people submitted reports on the agency's Web site, most saying they felt the shaking for several seconds, Cassidy said. There was no significant damage, just two or three reports of a few items being knocked from shelves, but the quake should be a reminder of the possibility of much bigger and more dangerous ones, he said.
"It's been fairly quiet in terms of felt earthquakes for a couple of years here in Victoria, and that's a bit unusual," he said. "We generally have one or two small earthquakes a year that are felt on southern Vancouver Island."
Wendy Tibbo said she and her husband Bob were awakened by "a bang and then a shudder."
"The glass panels around our deck were shaking, but because we live close to the highway, we weren't sure if it was an accident," she said.
The quake was centered about 27 miles beneath Finlayson Arm near Bamberton, about 15 milers north of Victoria, and occurred within the Juan de Fuca plate, which is slipping beneath the North American plate of the Earth's crust at the rate of about 1½ to 2 inches a year, Cassidy said.
"Where today's earthquake occurred is in this ocean plate that used to be the ocean floor," he said. "It's actually a miniature version of the earthquake that struck Seattle in 2001. The Seattle quake was about 60 kilometres (37.5 miles) beneath the surface, also in the Juan de Fuca plate."
The earthquake that rocked Seattle and much of the south Puget Sound area on Feb. 28, 2001, had a magnitude of 6.8 and caused about $2 billion in damage.