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The Abandoned Cannery at Namu | British Columbia

Yep, we’re behind in the posting. We had a successful Dixon Entrance crossing, spent the night in Prince Rupert, then headed down the outside of the Inside Passage to see some new places. Since this part of our trip south is to primarily to scout new territory for future Slowboat flotillas, we’ve mostly been posting updates to Slowboat. But I don’t want to leave you out, so there are some links if you feel like you’ve been missing something!

And now, on to Namu! We anchored back in Rock Inlet (a mile or so past the abandoned cannery), and then dinghied back out to the site for some exploring.

The first cannery at Namu opened in 1893. BC Packers bought the operation in 1928 and developed it into a sprawling complex that included salmon processing plants, giant warehouses, a store, a power plant, and housing for workers and their families. All of it was linked by boardwalks and a good portion of it was constructed on pilings over the water. The cannery partially burned down in a fire in 1962, but was rebuilt and went on operating until…well, I’m not sure. I found reference to it closing at times in the 70s and the 80s. The dates and history is a little fuzzy for such a “known” place.

In any case, the pilings and docks are presently in various stages of falling apart, so we beached the dinghy on the rocks and climbed up the hillside to gain access.

This place has a seriously creepy vibe, and after reading this Wikipedia entry, I get why:

“In its early iteration the cannery at Namu employed a race-based policy of labour; with groups of First Nations, Japanese, Chinese and “Whites” – and was for a time racially and sexually segregated, including but not limited to whites-only bathrooms and the management positions being reserved for Caucasian men.”

Okay, maybe it’s not just that. We’ve been to abandoned settlements with crumbling buildings before, but there’s something about the feel of this place that’s different…the disrepair, the way so much stuff was just left here, combined with the giant piles (and I mean GIANT) of empty alcohol bottles and occasional shotgun shell, well…you get the idea. It feels like somewhere that someone slowly went crazy…like in The Shining. But maybe I’m reading too much into it. I’ll show you what I mean:

There are fire extinguishers everywhere. Lots of them. On the roofs, inside buildings, sitting out in the yard (with bullet holes!).

There’s one building that has an insane amount of stuff covered in barnacles, but this is not where the barnacles grew. This stuff has been “collected” presumably from adjacent shorelines and brought into this room. It’s weird, and I don’t get it.

There were tables and tables and TABLES covered with broken pottery and bottles and other random things…covered with barnacles.

Ping pong, anyone?

This giant dead tree structure with birdhouses was actually bolted to the side of this concrete wall. Pretty arty, actually:

The general store:

Most of the paperbacks left here were Harlequin romance novels.

The location is lovely, really:

But I mention PILES of empty booze containers? This is just one of many.

These cans all say “Shrimp Meat” on the labels:

I found a bunch of ready-made still lifes…


As I mentioned, there’s much evidence of people hanging out here, shooting at stuff:

“Danger, Sulphuric Acid” — eeek!

It was definitely an interesting stop. I’m sure the expense to clean this place up is quite large, but boy does it need cleaning up!