Traveling the marine highways of coastal British Columbia, Jupiter sometimes encounters places out of place. Locations once alive and thriving are found derelict and deserted, emptied of people or nearly so.

The ancient first growth nations are gone from most village sites, their way of life interrupted by trading and colonial interventions. Abundant populations are vastly reduced by disease and deportation. The forests reclaim all but shell middens and mythos.

Second growth settlers of the early 19th Century: homesteaders, farmers and fishermen, subsisting for a time scattered upon remote coastal lands and islands, have mostly returned to society.

Third growth extraction industries of the past century brought investors, industrialization, and people hungry for jobs in forests and fisheries, but these too are waning.

Jupiter navigates in this era, and we imagine how many more canoes, rowboats, sailboats and vessels of all inclination, navigated these waters in generations past.

Making way northwestward from southern reaches, Jupiter finds her way to two castaway outstations.

Namu to Ocean Falls

Namu is a pre-contact site inhabited for 10,000 years by the Heiltsuk Nation, and names a place of whirlwinds. Here was a large salmon cannery from 1893 to 1970, and its remains are hiding in plain sight off well-traveled Fitz Hugh Sound, a portion of the Inside Passage and the Alaska Marine Highway.

Jupiter noses into Namu Bay to find a night’s anchorage, and her crew is startled and fascinated by the extent of collapse and abandonment of this once thriving community of fish packers. Buildings and boardwalks tumbling off the edge of the land into the sea are being subsumed by big tides and ruderal foliage. Not one person remains.

Ocean Falls has long held a fascination, and is a long detour for Jupiter.

At the end of steep Cousins Inlet lies the remains of a company pulp and paper mill town with a population that expanded from 1912 into the thousands and then contracted until the enterprise closed in 1990.

Down from its peak of 3,500, the current year-round population varies wildly according to local accounting from 51 to 54 including 10 children.

Industry arrived at this beautifully inconvenient location because of the massive hydro-electric potential from a large lake and dam. Power generation at Ocean Falls exceeds local demand and is speculated to power crypto-currency mining.

In Ocean Falls we find a spark of life, and a warm welcome. The Rain People who dwell here aspire to revive their community and work hard to that end. This place feels rich in ways beyond the obvious decay, as though the constant affusion of the falls provides its own energy to those within its hearing.

Namu and Ocean Falls share the need for expensive cleanup or removal of derelict buildings and infrastructure, but commitments or budgets remain elusive.

Old Baldy mountain looms above the town.

At the head of Cousin’s Inlet,
Fishers, and Queen Charlotte Sound,
Where the rain falls fairly often,
And wild game and fish abound,
‘Neath the shelter of Old Baldy
Where the Link Lake water stalls
At the dam, down by the salt-chuck
Lies the town of Ocean Falls.

Agnes Fisher ~ 1972


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