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Bitcoin Apparitions

ARTIFACT: On the Central Coast, a ghost hotel now inhabited by dreams of digital fortunes.

David Beers 26 Nov 2019 |

David Beers founded The Tyee and is editor for initiatives.

You are taking in the view from the stately confines of what was once the largest hotel in British Columbia. The Martin Inn, like most of the town of Ocean Falls on the Central Coast, was long ago abandoned, though never fully.

Now, amidst ruins overrun by rainforest, a bitcoin mining operation has taken up residence. It’s tapping into the still functioning hydro plant that until 1980 powered a pulp mill and homes for 3,000. When the mill shut down after seven decades, Ocean Falls became a ghost town.

Vancouver photographer Jackie Dives made the picture above for an article in Bloomberg Business on the unlikely rebirth of Ocean Falls as a bitcoin bet.

Mining digital currency requires large amounts of electricity to run specialized computers, and thanks to the hydro dam there is plenty still to be had, super cheap.

There’s not much fear the source of the power will run out. Ocean Falls is rainy. So much rain falls — 4,500 millimetres each year — that it could annually fill to the ceiling the room in the photograph above.

The two dozen or so people who remain in Ocean Falls live “with buildings literally toppling down around them,” says Dives. “I climbed the stairs of this crumbling hotel and feared falling through the floors while I looked around. But at the time it felt like a risk that was worth taking.”

In 1953, the original Martin Inn was deemed inadequate to the bustling needs of its community, so a 105-room annex was built, flanked by a brand new Hudson’s Bay store.

Ocean Falls’s mouldering decline has served as the muse of another photographer, Christopher Grabowski, a regular contributor to The Tyee. Find his images of nature overwhelming empire here.  [Tyee]

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