The Ruins of Namu

There are fewer and fewer good ruins to explore along the Inside Passage. This last year saw one of the best set of ruins bulldozed and burned.

The Ruins of Namu
The collapsing waterfront of the abandoned cannery at Namu
The region is littered with abandoned canneries, mines, and shipwrecks, ample material for those who wish to explore and photograph. I must count myself among those who seek out such places.

The steamship stop and cannery at Buttedale is no longer the picturesque set of collapsing buildings it was when I last visited two years ago. We made a swing through the cove this year to note that most of the structures were gone, replaced with blackened ground and foundations. Just a few buildings and the large steam engine remain.

We did not go to Ocean Falls this year, it is a fair ways off the primary cruising route and we had a great visit a couple years ago. Instead I planned for Namu, a large abandoned cannery on Fitz Hugh Sound I had not had a chance to explore before.

A visit to Namu was not assured on this passage. With our alternator repairs and planning for a crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound before bad weather set in, time to explore the cannery might easily get crossed off the schedule.

Thanks to the early arrival of our spare part, and a mid-afternoon departure from Shearwater we had just enough time to make it to Namu for the night. The decision to anchor near Namu a result of timing and the availability of Rock Inlet, an excellent and spectacularly beautiful cove. This anchorage also provides a short launch run to the ruined cannery.

I would have a little over an hour before advancing twilight would force me back to the boat. I used it all, returning to the boat as the light failed.

It had already been a very long day, kayaking in the morning, replacing the alternator, hours of cruising, and now an expedition into an abandoned cannery? I may not come this way again… I start the exercise of lifting the launch from the top deck to the water and preparing it for use.

An added complication is pouring rain. This was not going to dissuade me, I loaded up my raincoat with a camera, extra batteries and cards, a radio, the dive light, and bear spray. Add a good canvas hat to keep the rain off and I depart.

The launch ride along the islets of Rock Inlet is worth it just for the scenery, never mind the destination. The little inlet is as scenic as anything along this section of spectacular coastline.

Scattered
Papers lie scattered across the floor in the powerhouse office at Namu

A few minutes with the outboard throttle wide open brings me to the cannery, it is fun to fly across the water like this. I do worry a bit when traversing unfamiliar waters with the launch, I do not know where the rocks are, and there is no chart plotter or depth gauge in the launch. I carefully retrace the exact same path I steered with the Quest to enter this cove between the islets.

Namu is a large complex with a few hundred of yards of wharf fronting the bay. A couple large sections of that wharf, and the buildings it supports are in various stages of collapse. Nature is taking a toll on the buildings, surprisingly quickly.

As I passed in front of the collapsing buildings I found no usable dock. Nothing to allow easy access to the site. Instead I landed at a small pocket beach on the south end, below the fuel tanks and generator building. The beach is littered with debris, the rusting shopping cart in the water a sign of what I would find ahead. I secured the launch and headed into the ruins on an partly overgrown trail.

A few years ago Namu was still occupied, caretakers providing minimal maintenance to the facility. On my visit I found no sign of occupancy. The paths were becoming overgrown, the decay advancing rapidly. The only others present were the crew of a small tugboat and barge also sheltering for the night against one of the break walls.

Others had visiting before me had left their marks. Nearly every window is broken, with shattered glass everywhere underfoot. Contents of the store and offices are scattered across the floors.

Graffiti or art on the store at Namu
Graffiti or art on the store at Namu
I note some very artistic graffiti across the front of some buildings. In particular a mural of salmon on the front of the store. I wonder just who the artist was who painted these fish.

All of the cannery machinery is gone. The generators are missing from the powerhouse, only air intakes and exhaust stacks remain. Crates of cans form a large pile at the corner of one collapsing building. The cold storage facility obvious from its thick sawdust filled walls and the huge evaporator and ductwork in the ceiling.

The ruins are in a state of wonderful decay. The rain has penetrated many of the roofs, water is ponded and running through most of the structures. The steady dripping of water a constant soundtrack for my exploration.

The Ruins of Namu
Collapsing buildings and a stack of abandoned cans at Namu
Parts of the complex are unreachable as the wharves begin to collapse. Much of the waterfront appeared dangerous, the dock planks sagging, I kept my distance, mostly staying on the concrete floors.

While providing a mood appropriate to the apocalyptic setting, the steady rain does prevent me from flying the drone, something I truly regret. The drone would have been perfect for photographing the ruins. I must be content with a camera, tripod, and dive light for some illumination.

An hour was just not enough time, I could spend a couple days exploring here. There are homes on the hillside above the cannery, more ruins along the shore. I regretfully return to my skiff just as my uncle calls on the radio to check on me.

I had just enough light remaining in the day for the run back to the boat. I returned to the Nordic Quest in the gloom, her cheery cabin lights a welcome sight as I approach. It has been a very long day, one I will remember for a long time.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i.

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