It began innocently enough. We're driving along, me behind the wheel, my father browsing through a road atlas. He mentions a road that the map says will be decommissioned soon. As he traces along the line with his finger, he then mentions a town that the map says will be relocated soon. I asked the date of the map and realize that “soon” is likely well past. Immediately, we decide we’re going to take this road.
As we turned onto the road, we realized quickly that it had, indeed, been decommissioned. It was cratered as if some kind of anti-runway cluster bomb had been dropped on it. It was obvious that our organs would suffer our choice, and no time would be made on this road. Yet, potential sang her siren song and lured us ever deeper.
I can’t tell you a great deal about the surrounding environment as I was too fixed on the path ahead, and the futile exercise of trying to limit the bouncing and bumping of the Rav 4. I do remember, from the odd glance about, that parts of the terrain seemed very rough and almost tundra-like. The trees all looked as though they had endured countless windstorms and endless battering.
Suddenly I noticed something that successfully stole my attention from the road. What appeared to be a large, rusted structure on the beach. It was a brief look, before being obscured by more weather-savaged trees, but was enough to tantalize. I kept searching for another glimpse to confirm what memory told me was true. Soon, it was confirmed. It was a beached shipwreck. I made a mental note to come back to it when our business further down the road was complete.
Not too much further town we arrived at the former village of Big Brook, Newfoundland. I pulled over to look at the various buildings that were scattered around the tall grass. Some were clearly abandoned while others showed signs of continued care and maintenance.
On February 13, 2004, the CBC announced that the Government of Newfoundland would relocate the three households of 10 permanent residents. The report indicated that the people of the town wanted the move and were in full agreement. The damaged road we had come in on was frequently closed during the winters making it impossible for the town’s three children to get to school. There were few facilities here, and it was time.
The Province spent $350,000 relocating the residents, indicating that they could get back their expenses within three years as they would no longer have to maintain the road, bus service or hydro service. With that, the town closed.
I took some time to wander the town, poking into the buildings I was certain were no longer in use. The others, one of which appeared to be in service as a moose camp that very day, I steered clear of lest they become concerned about my presence. I took pictures while thinking of the lives that had played out here. I marveled at how new the dock looked where not so long ago, a small fishing fleet harbored.
Soon, it was time to get in the Rav, and go back to look for that huge rusting hulk…