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STORY, PHOTOS, VIDEO: North Pacific Cannery celebrates special milestone

Festivities featured food and tours of the site

The North Pacific Cannery celebrated its 130 anniversary over the weekend, marking the occasion with a barbecue and tours of the national historic site.

After enjoying a burger from Patty’s Burger Wagon, visitors to the Port Edward site got to take a trip back in time via free guided tours around the cannery. This included a stop in the various bunkhouses used by the First Nations, Chinese, Japanese and European employees who both worked and lived at the cannery.

The North Pacific Cannery was constructed in 1889, and processed fish until the late 1970s. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Visitors examine the cannery equipment used in the canning process. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

The many different types of machinery at the sprawling site were also on display. Many of them have been restored to working order by Greg Butts, who works as a tour guide and maintenance man at the cannery.

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“In the First Nations net loft we have a machine shop. There are three machines there that I’ve been able to get running again: a metal lathe, a grinder and a mechanical hacksaw,” Butts said of some of the mechanical achievements he has made with the old equipment. Guests on the tour were treated to a display of all three in action.

Workers and residents of the First Nations net loft produced nets and various other tools necessary for fishing. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Butts has also finessed the main canning line into working order, and says one of his favourite parts of the job is to show it to guests.

“It’s wonderful to hear us talk about it and see how it’s used, but really when you see it run it takes it to a whole new level for people,” Butts said. “Seeing is believing. You truly appreciate the experience of what everyone who lived and worked here would go through on a day to day basis.”

Greg Butts details a part of the main canning line process. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

This particular cannery line was nicknamed 'Big Bertha'. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Cannery general manager Ann Leach is one of the guides, and talked about what goes into a tour. “They’ll be given a narrative of how things were in the past. We go through 97 years of production,” Leach said, referencing the number of years the cannery was in operation.

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“We’ll describe who would have done canning back in the day, and also when we mechanized.”

“I’m really pleased that people took an interest to come here during the celebration,” Leach added. “It’s a labour of love. It doesn’t take much to get yourself hooked, it’s a bewitching site.”

An ancient dock continues to rise and fall with the tides. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Patty Barki of Patty's Burger Wagon was on hand to serve visitors to the site. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Alex Kurial | Journalist
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