The Nieuw Amsterdam crossed the border into Canada to stop in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, a small port city close to Alaska’s southeast panhandle. It is known as the rainiest and cloudiest city in Canada, earning the nickname “City of Rainbows.” We did not see a rainbow, but we had not a drop of rain or cloudy skies. Another beautiful day!
We had time before our excursion to explore Prince Rupert. One of the first things you notice is the cow theme. In 1909 a German settler brought a dozen cows by barge to start a dairy farm in Prince Rupert. Without a dock the cows had to swim to shore. This sight must have had quite an impact because the waterfront became known as “Cow Bay” from that day onward.
Continuing our stroll around Prince Rupert, we stumbled upon the Prince Rupert Sunken Gardens by accident. We took a turn through a short tunnel and stepped into a beautiful parklike setting. The hidden location was originally a courthouse which was relocated and an ammunition bunker in World War II. The enormous hole in the ground became the sunken gardens, sometimes well-kept and sometimes overgrown. Since 2003 the gardens have been maintained and are the often used for family picnics, weddings, photography sessions, and just relaxing, sitting or reading.
We boarded a bus for the excursion to the North Pacific Cannery, the oldest intact cannery. It was a very interesting excursion, combining industrial/technological history and social history in an outdoor setting. Salmon canning was a major economic industry on the West Coast from the mid to late 19th century, numbering over 200 at the peak.
The North Pacific Cannery was formed in 1888, operating from 1890 -1968. In the beginning all of the tasks were done by hand – the netting, butchering, cleaning and cooking of the salmon. The can-making, packing and filling the cans was also very labor intensive.
The remote locations on the salmon rivers also meant that the canneries were built to be self-sustaining with employee housing. The multi-cultural labor force was segregated, divided according to race and culture in tasks and housing. The Japanese fished and mended nets, First Nations men fished and the women cleaned on the cannery line, Chinese butchered the salmon and cooked, and Europeans fished and served in management roles.
The visit to the North Pacific Cannery was worthwhile and interesting, but the exploitation and segregation characteristic of the time period is so depressing. All the more reason that it not be forgotten.