Floating Town

In the community of Holberg a resident can get seasick just by watching his neighbor’s house wallowing around during a storm. Built entirely on rafts and linked together with cables and boardwalks, Holberg was the world’s largest floating logging camp, comprising some 80 buildings and a population of more than 300. It’s located on an inlet about 25 miles from the northern tip of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia.

The camp once was located partly afloat and partly ashore about 40 miles from its present site. But when that area was logged out in 1942, the shore installations were put on rafts and the whole works floated down to its present spot. Shortages of material and labor then made it simpler to keep all the buildings afloat, and they’ve stayed that way ever since. Besides, there was no room to build on shore, for the great hemlock and cedar forest crowded right down to the water’s edge.

Most of the residents were single loggers, but one section of the camp was a string of 17 houses for married residents. Formerly plain bunkhouses, they were enlarged and decorated to form neat bungalows with room for children. All the houses had hot and cold running water; electricity and modern conveniences with the exception of a telephone. Housewives with a yen to garden would fill boxes and tubs with soil carried from shore and plant flowers and vegetables, and the kids could fish from their front porches.

With 90 feet of salt water at their door step, a misstep often meant an icy dunking. For this reason, children below the age of 7 had to wear life preservers when outdoors. With an 8-foot tide, the houses rise gently up and down 16 feet a day, but after a while the residents don’t even notice it. Stiff beams lashed to the shore kept the camp from floating away, but boats were needed to get to shore, and a passenger-freighter brought in supplies for the settlement once a week.

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