Nigei Island to Namu
The generators on the Curve of
Time came on early this morning - 5:30 am. Jan wanted to get us into
the inside passage while the ocean was calm and thankfully we didn't have
to get up to make it happen! I slept though the first few hours of
the trip but rose to see a large boat passing us - the Alaska State ferry
motor vehicle Matanuska. Our goal for today was Namu - a small town
on the BC coast. The Namu town site was stated with a salmon cannery
in 1893 and developed into an important community. Located mid way
between the north end of Vancouver Island and Bella Coola on the mid
coast, it was a central location to supply fish boats, process fish and shipping
out cans and fish oil to market.
Namu really is dwarfed by it's environment. Namu is perched on the
ocean's edge with forested hills behind it and small islands obscuring it.
As Jan brought the boat in we could see the community and start to see how
large the community once used to be - perhaps 600 people at it's peak.
The BC Archives
neat shot of the Fish Cannery in Namu from an "Aeroplane". The 1:50,000
view on the topography maps also gives you an idea of how things fit together.
AERIAL OF THE FISH CANNERY AT NAMUPhotographer/Artist:
But what most people
will know the name Namu from is the whale that was captured close to the
town and eventually displayed in Seattle. The National Geographic wrote
up an article on the story in the March 1966 issue (page 418-446).
In June 1965, William Lechkobit and Robert McGarvey caught the whale in a
floating salmon net that drifted close to shore. He was sold for $8000
dollars to the Seattle Public Aquarium but it ultimatly cost $60,000 dollars
to get the whale the 450 miles to Seattle. Namu was the first orca
to survived in captivity for long enough for a signifigant public show.
The first thing you notice about Namu is the decay. The fish processing
facilities were closed in the 1990's and the town itself now has 6 full time
residents and many visitors. The buildings on the pilings are showing
decay - some have collapsed, others have plants growing out of them.
But Namu is still very much alive. After getting over the decay of
the fish processing plants, you start to look for signs of active life.
The most obvious sign is the sport fishing industry. While we were there,
there were three small fishing boats in the harbour and a few Halibut were
being cleaned. While Namu no longer sells food, you can buy gas and
drop of your recyclables.
Tammy, one of the caretakers met us when we landed and offered to give
us a tour of the standing buildings. Our first stop was the general
administration build. The building used to be the bank, the post office,
the hair dressing studio and had telephones. Now the administration
holds a ping pong table, a large safe and a recreation room.
Namu Fire Department
Walking towards the general store,
we passed the Namu Fire Department. At first it seems a little funny,
but Namu was almost wiped out by a fire in January 1962 that destroyed large
parts of the fish processing facilities. The buildings were rebuilt,
but a fire could still do a lot of damage. These fire fighting tools
look old but for the modes of transport available, I'm sure they are well
Namu General Store
The Namu general store would have been the center of activity when this community
was running. Approximately half of the building (which is as large
as any grocery store you find on the Gulf Islands) was dedicated to boat
parts and equipment. The other half sold groceries and caned goods
for days or weeks at sea. There is even a magazine rack with out of
date magazines on it. Almost all the equipment necessary to run a store
is present - there just aren't any customers.
The Hotel in Namu
Leaving the main plant area you come to a hotel. There used to be
a board walk around the harbour but the pilings are giving way so a path
around the back has been cut. The hotel is in bad shape - a leaking
roof and broken windows are letting water in and plants are aggressively trying
to take over the lot. We walked through some of the building but I'm
not sure how much longer it will be standing. Further along you can
see buildings that would have been the recreation facility (with an indoor
basketball court apparently) and a school but the wildlife makes access difficult.
We came back to the ship for dinner but I left for one last walk around
the town. Seeing the buildings at night with the lights on, it seems
like everyone has just gone on vacation - perhaps they will be back soon!
Next: Spider Anchorage
Tags: derelict(12), small town(3), coast(3), fishing(3), building(2), hotel(2)
From: John Harvey Photo > Mid Coast of BC on the Curve of Time > Nigei Island to Namu
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > Mid Coast of BC on the Curve of Time > Nigei Island to Namu
I am trying to get to Hakai Marine Park, Calvert Island. The BC Feries do not do kayak wet launches till June 10. I need to get there earlier. Can you help me with any suggestion? Thanks.
Ridge Explorations LLC
52231 SE 496th Pl.
Greenwater, WA 98022
Monday, April 14th, 2008 at 11:21:46
My grandmother and aunts worked at the cannery way back when. My mother died a number of years ago and I'm still going through all the photos..which included my grandmothers. Came across a number of Namu, the workers, buildings and I believe I saw one of a fire.
I worked in Port McNeil back in the 60s..lived over on Sointula..never made it to Namu though.
Bill (Skip) Price
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 at 16:53:44
What a beautiful place. My Dad and I used to stop over on our way up to SE Alaska on our commercial boat, sometimes my uncle on his boat too. We always had a wounderful time there.
My wife and I revisited this beautiful place in 2004 on our yacht, "RumRunner" it was still beautiful, but I had memories of a much better time when the town was up and running with all of the wounderful folks that lived and worked there.
I just wish we could go back in time and every thing would be as it was, Namu and Butedale were the highlights of our trip North and coming South. now, they are only a memory, but a wounderful one to be sure.
Nice pictures, thank you for sharing them. Hope you had a wounderful time while you were there.
Sunday, January 25th, 2009 at 14:05:30
There is a book underway which describes some interesting but fictional events that occured in Namu in 1978.
Lions Gate Films and Penguin books show interest but I lost interest. They call it writers block.
I spent a summer and fall in Namu working for Fred Welland as a marine electronic technician. I left the camp facinated with the islolation of the cannery in the late fall and winter months.
In researching Namu with British Columbia Packers I discovered Namu was built in the late 1800's by a relative who had joined forces with another fish canning company to create BC Packers.
One day I'll get this darn novel completed and we all can take a winter trip throughout the long abandoned buildings an boardwalks that haunt our west coast. Namu.. The whirlwind
Thank You so much for the pictures. It's inspirational
Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 at 16:57:40
My husband got a caretaking job there in 1998,so we(3 kids&dog)got there in July. It was a great experience,of course it was shut down by then,but the ferry was still stopping in Namu. We had
docks in the harbour and sold fuel to sport boats.Namu was a great place to bring up kids.Lots of fishing and the job was different everyday.I found serenity ,there was amazing wildlfe and the sunsets the are no words to explain the SUNSETS.Bob got help in 1999 to help prevent some of the deteriration. They have good times fishing and having potluck dinners with the pleasure boaters that would come in for the night.We left in late in 2004 before another brutal winter (lol).
I want to thank everyone on the central coast who made it fun.
The Namu Crew:Bob,Tammy,Justin,Julie,Katrina and Mitch
Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 at 15:31:28
I`m Remo from Switzerland. I found your text about Namu in the net. I would like know more about the property. What is still working or not. I hope you can help me. Thanks Remo Carrer Switzerland
Friday, September 4th, 2009 at 17:16:13
We lived in Namu from Feb/77 to end of season /78. My dad was the manager of the plant from 1973 to 1979. For those of you visiting this site, that were there then, you will remember those good years. Great memories, but looking at how the plant is now brings a tear to my eyes. I spent all my summers up the central coast. First arriving at Boswell, Smiths Inlet in 1960 as a child, then on to Wadhams, Rivers Inlet in 1967. My dad was plant manager for these plants from 1960 thru to 1979. I too have a book trying to be written, and now that I'm retired am hoping it will all come together.
In your pics, I notice one titled the hotel. When the BC Packers plant was running it was a bunkhouse, I assume it was later used as a hotel. Thankyou for the pics....Lynn
Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 at 11:07:13
HI, my name is Lori and I am a great granddaughter of Robert Draney. I recently found some interesting pictures and info about my great grandfather in the B.C. Archives and was wondering if you know how to get any other information or pictures. I would also like any suggestions for the easiest and cheapest way to get there from Vancouver and what about places to stay. Should I bring my camping gear? I would love to come for a visit and see Namu.
Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 at 13:01:33
Namu isn't so easy to reach. There are no roads there and no regular boat service. I would first get to Shearwater/Bella Bella. You can do that by plane (Pacific Coastal flys), or by BC Ferries. Once you get to Shearwater you need to find a boat to drive you the next 30 km to Namu. The resort (http://www.shearwater.ca/services/index.htm) would probably be able to set you up. I'm not sure if Namu takes visitors anymore.
Namu BC was a very important part of our Heiltsuk (Bella Bella) History - a lot of our people used to live there so that they could work in the cannery. I work in the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre (www.hcec.ca) I do a lot of presentations at our Elder's Building. I would appreciate everyone sharing memories, info, photos, along with a list of websites that may have some info about the history of Namu. Email:email@example.com Work Phone # 250-957-2626 HCEC regular work week Monday to Thursday 8:00AM - Noon & 1:00 - 4:30 PM Fax:250-957-2780
Monday, January 18th, 2010 at 10:26:53
My family emigrated to Canada and moved to Namu in 1952. My dad was the electrician in the community. We lived there until he died in 1960. I came up for the summer of 1961 to look after some kids - I was 13. Then I began working summers in the cannery from 1964 until 1971. It was probably the last of the big fishing days before the decline due to the Davis Plan, technology, off-shore over-fishing and bad logging practices. The Davis Plan in particular put a lot of small fishermen (a lot of First Nations guys....) out of business by setting quotas for licences. A couple of years ago I revisited Namu with some family, sailing out of Bella Coola and exploring our way around. It was both sad and fascinating to see how Namu had changed from a vibrant community full of families and larger than life activities. The forest is taking the town back and maybe that is just how it is on the coast.....
Thursday, March 25th, 2010 at 00:04:32
you didn't mention anything about the the rich west coast first nations archaeology sites, like the 5000 cal b.c. heiltsuk permanent sedentism village? I've been meaning to go up to NAMU for that reason :(
Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 at 23:20:23
Wow you;re pictures are amazing! Namu is so beautiful isn't it! My grandfather Peter Darwin is the care taker of Namu with his wife Reene . I hope to be back soon did you guys have a chance to make it up to the lake?
Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 at 12:40:39
When I was last in Namu with my father circa 1990 most of the buildings were closed the store and showerhouses were still open however. We spent one afternoon taking a fantastic trail up to Namu Lake. It really is a beautiful walk but Im not sure how accesible it is after seeing the severe deterioration of the boardwalk. A fond memory I have about the place is wondering if the boardwalk would give out from under me as even at that time it was starting to show serious signs of decay. Wild Nature up there though.
Monday, October 4th, 2010 at 17:12:29
Alot of my wife's family and some of my cousins worked in the Namu cannery in the 50's. Myself I grew up in Butedale where alot of my people were born and grew up in also. It's good to see these photos. Brings back alot of fond memories.
Monday, October 11th, 2010 at 11:02:06
In the late 60's, when I was working in the cannery, some archeologists came up and started a dig behind the upper bunkhouse. The earth there was always noted for being full of shells (as are a few other areas around Namu...) so it wasn't surprising that they soon started to come up with all kinds of artifacts (including skeletons...). I believe there is an exhibit at SFU (one of the participating universities, in the dig) and also at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The age of the earliest culture seems to be very old....maybe even 10,000 years before the present. Of course the shoreline may also have been much further out at the time. Check out www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/archeo/hnpc/npvol28e.shtml for more info on ancient coast history. Also http://www.sfu.ca/archaeology/museum/bc/namu_src/index.htm
Monday, November 1st, 2010 at 17:39:57
My family moved to Namu in 1947 and were there until 1962. It was a wonderful place to grow up.
Monday, December 13th, 2010 at 00:48:49
I lived in Namu from 1959 to 1968. My mother Dorothy Potter was the local teacher and she ran a two room school house.
My father was a bookkeeper with BC Packers and also ran the post office from time to time.
I remember the devastating fire of 1962 when all of the town people were evacuated to the "oil dock" which was a great distance away from the fire.
Growing up in Namu or any of the small coastal towns was quite an experience. You learned to fish and hunt at a very young age and some of my fondest memories are from those days.
One of friends from those days was a fellow by the name of Erik Eriksen and i believe he had a sister whose name was Ida.
I"m wondering if Svend-Erik Eriksen is any relationship.
Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 at 19:19:54
I was lucky enough to have family who lived in Namu. My problem is I can not locate them since I left in 1958. My grandfather Matt Brown was a big time fisherman I am looking for any information on him and his family like my dad Robert Brown. If anyone can tell me anything I would really appreciate the help. Thanks for the great pictures.
Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 at 11:34:11
My family moved to Namu in 1949 and I have a picture of all the students in front of the school. Mrs. Kangus was the teacher and in my picture are Danny Campbell, Noreen Sahonavitch, Ralph Benson and my brother George and sister Sharon. Our Dad, George Hicks worked in the store. There are lots of other students in my picture, We lived on the oil dock, then moved to some new houses up near the school. I was about 11 years old and set pins in the bowling alley. Moved to Kildonan, on Vancouver Island in about 1952. Saw your comment Danny Campbell and just had to make a comment.
Growing up in Bella Bella BC Packers I knew Margaret Duff's Dad George Hicks who along with Fred Willows used to come up and work at the Bella Bella store from time to time. I also noticed Tom Goss's comment and wonder if he is related to Gordon Goss who worked for Todd Fishing. The Todd floats and camp were tied up at the end of the BC Packer floats during the summer to service the fleet and then move to Rivers Inlet later in the year.
Is there a way that we can contact some of the commenters.
Saturday, March 12th, 2011 at 10:35:17
To David Potter: My full name is Svend-Erik Eriksen, but when I lived in Namu it was just Erik....and, in fact, I only use the full name for official stuff. My sister's name is Ida and I have two brothers, Jens and Danny as well as a little sister, Trudy. I do remember you and your brother Bill, as well as your mom and dad. Your mom was a wonderful teacher. I also remember the Campbells, the Browns, Mrs. Kangus, the Bensons, the Sahonovichs and George Hicks. I remember Matt Brown and his wife and the terrible house fire that killed one of their sons. Mrs. Brown used to come for a coffee with my mom a lot and she seemed to know everything about everyone.....David, or anyone: I have posted some pictures from the past and from a few years ago on my Facebook page. Check it out.
Monday, April 18th, 2011 at 23:19:14
Those old picture of Namu, sure brings back a lot of memories (good and bad alike). But still more good than bad. I work in the cannery from 1963 to 1968 great times. Erik its good to see your name in print. Would to talk if its possible.
Dave R Fredriksen
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 at 06:42:07
Memories; they keep flooding back.
I remember Danny Campbell and his brother Murray when they fished on the Seiner Vampy or was it the Vampy II or maybe both. They used to call in at Bella Bella and visit the Bainbridge family.
Bill Garrack (spelling) was a manager at Namu for some time and his son Jimmy got my train set when I left for school in Vancouver.
Art Meadows worked at the store in Bella Bella for years and then moved to Namu to manage the store there before moving back to Bella Bella to finish out his many years with BC Packers. Seine Boats would wait to get to either place when Art was there. He was the best butcher on the coast.
In his later years my Uncle, Tom Williams was a winter caretaker at Namu before it began to close down.
Margaret Hicks said she moved to Kildonan in 52. Our family moved from Hecate to Kildonan in 48 and then to Bella Bella in 50. My brother and I were back in Keldonan sport fishing some 50 years later with David Potter and my facebook page is me standing in front of all that says that Kildonan was ever there; a floating post office.
I enjoyed Erik's pictures on his facebook page very much.
more memories to follow. Bob Williams
Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 at 23:16:14
When I was 15 to 18 years old I trolled out of Spider Island camp for three years, first in my 29ft. troller the Alton 1 and the next couple of years in my 34ft. troller the Estrellita. My brother Bill Bamford and his wife Tim ran the BC Packers fish camp WS9, which was moored in Spitfire Channel during summer. Bill and Tim's two girls Carol and Shirley played on the roof of WS9. Bill had built a fence all around the roof. I borrowed Nick Sohonovitch's Troller, the 40ft Beau for a couple of trips, fishing the Goose Island banks. Brother Bill and family lived in Namu after the salmon season each winter. Bill ran the bowling alley and did other work around the cannery doing cannery maintenance. I spent one winter on Namu Lake trapping and hunting. The other two years, spring and fall I came from and went back to Vancouver in Estrellita to work on Tugs.
Saturday, August 27th, 2011 at 12:35:25
Also, check out the Namu (BC Packers) group on Facebook. In the Photos area there are many albums with photos and some movies.....The photos range from contemporary to archival, family to corporate......
Saturday, October 29th, 2011 at 10:53:30
My friend Les Beasley worked at Namu in the cannery in the 1950's. I spent a summer doing research on salmon physiology on the Atnarko River 1969. I'd like to find Les--anyone know him?
Monday, November 21st, 2011 at 12:15:35
My best friend and father figure until the end was Fred Welland. We took many trips to Namu (where he worked for several yrs prior to our friendship) and then we would carry on to the Nass Valley, via the Inside Passage and road trips. In New Aiyansh we lived and worked together as he, an amazing writer and me a photojournalist.
I am taking a voyage to retrace Fred's life and visit with people who knew him.
If you can help, please let me know! I'm looking for his friend Cove? Would anyone know who this is?
I miss Fred dearly. He is now buried on the beach in the Queen Charlotte Islands with his beloved dogs. This is where I am headed to spend time with the one person in my life that I could always count on-Fred. His spirit lives with me always. Trying to connect with Tom Goss who worked with Fred in Namu
Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 at 10:24:32
Thank you for posting the photos and writing the comments. I lived year round in Namu for 10 years - 1979 to 1989 - with my wife Nairn. We had our first child, Sarah, in Namu during the first 9 months of her life. I have thousands of photos and many fond memories. I welcome communication about Namu.
Monday, June 4th, 2012 at 04:35:13
Great pictures! Also, so nice to see all the familiar names. We lived in Namu from 1959 for many years. My Dad was Hank Kelder and worked in the machine shop. My mother Lucy had three more children after we moved to Namu. We started with 3 kids, myself (the oldest, brothers John & Michael. Then three more brothers: Murray, Randy & Jeff who were born in Namu.
Good memories of Namu. Marion Kelder (now Davis)
Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 at 14:31:45
One evening I decided to type in Namu,I could'nt have been more surprised. We (the Hardies) lived there from 1951 to 1956, to the best of my memory, and we lived all over the community in the early years. From Tunerville (?) next to Axel's boat shop, to the oil docks and finally to the "New Houses"
where we spent the rest of our time in Namu.We lived in the house next to the two room school with the Campbells beside us. Danny, I think I remember you and Dad taking a canoe trip to the other lakes behind Namu and that Murray and I ,as well as most of the kids there, playing cowboys. He always had the best guns.
Way too much to talk about here. If any of you would like to get in touch leave a message here or email me. It was amazing seeing your names after all these years
Bill Hardie jr. Monday, Nov.26, 2012 at 11.38 pm.
Bill Hardie jr.
Monday, November 26th, 2012 at 22:40:53
Hi Bill, I also lived in that house next to the school from 1966 to 1969 when the cannery closed down. After a short walk to the lake (shoeing the wolf packs off the boardwalk) we'd canoe to Strawberry island for a picnic.
Friday, January 18th, 2013 at 20:34:04
To Bill Hardie
I remember going up to the second and third lakes with your dad. He was a really "cool" guy.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 at 15:18:10
My Big Sister Marg Mentioned this site to me, and I very much enjoyed the old photos. It was a great place to grow up in my early years. I remember a lot of College & University chaps would come up during the fishing season to work in the cannery. They used to play the local natives basketball games. Those games were very interesting as they were more like WWF Wrestling than Basketball. My Father worked with Mr. Campbell in the Company Store. They had a contest one winter for a large Christmas stocking filled with games & toys. All you had to do was write a letter to Santa and if your name was drawn you would win the stocking. I will never forget my excitement when Mr. Campbell drew my letter out of the box and presented me the stocking. We later moved to Kildonan on Vancouver Island's Alberni Canal, another B.C. Packers fishing Community. Finally my Dad moved us back to the Mainland (Vancouver) when he was transferred to Steveston.
George Hicks (Jr.)
Sunday, September 8th, 2013 at 15:03:24
Archaeologist there in 1970 with Dr. Jim Hester and a National Science Foundation research grant. I found my first death from a known cause - an arrowhead stucck between C1 and C2. The man was surrounded with shell beads as were a woman and child buried with him.
Lyle Van Horn
Friday, October 11th, 2013 at 12:08:38
Hi Mr. Bill Hardie I am curious do you ever remember meeting the Brown Family father Matt had a son Robert who married my Mom Bonnie who worked summers at the cafe in Namu. She would travel there from Vancouver. I am looking for any information possible
Monday, June 2nd, 2014 at 13:46:34
Hello, My father-in-law, Fred Garcia was a fisherman from Bamfield possibly skipping the Iskum . He used to unload fish in Namu in the early 50's. We have been told by relatives that he had a son with the Chiefs daughter. The boy would have been born in either 1953 or 1954. We are trying to locate this man. If anyone has any information on him or how to contact him, we would be most grateful. You can reach me at email@example.com
Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 at 08:08:32
Just wondering why there's no mention of my Grandfather Robert McGRvey who caught the whale Namu. Just figured he'd be mentioned at the very least for bringing this whale to scientists for studies.
Sunday, November 1st, 2015 at 01:41:26
I was the 2nd cook in the mess hall for the summer season of '79. Great memories after seeing the photos. I especially remember the warmth and sense of community that was shared by all. Often walked the trail up to the lake for a swim between lunch and dinner service.
Saturday, July 23rd, 2016 at 22:27:41
I am the grandson of Oscar and Jennie Bainbridge. My mother is Gwen Clark (nee Bainbridge) My mother took me back home to Bella Bella for many a summer in the 60's and 70's and when I was of age, I worked on ice packers for the summer holidays. These pics bring back wonderful memories of traveling on the boats to Namu to drop off the catch, Shearwater, Ocean Falls and other smaller communities on the coast. I believe the Bainbridge's owned a small Island in the area where my Great Uncle was buried but I believe the family sold it for timber rights to Macmillan Blowdell back in the 80's. I haven't been to the area in over 40 years but I still remember what a great place to grow up, work and live it was for me.
Sunday, September 18th, 2016 at 10:55:32
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