This project looks at remote resource towns of northwestern Canada, and the vast areas of uninhabited wilderness surrounding them. It reflects on the dramatic changes that are taking place in this part of the world as conflicting forces come to a head at a time of economic instability and climate change.
My parents and I arrived in the town of Grande Cache, Alberta, in the late seventies. The town had been recently carved out of dense wilderness to service the new coal mine where my father found a job. There were no paved roads connecting us to the outside world. From the back window of our bungalow, the boreal forest stretched north, largely unbroken, for hundreds of kilometers, a dark tangle of trees, mysterious and forbidding.
As dark as it appeared from my kitchen door, the forest became something very different when I entered it: an endless web of soft-floored rooms, each one unique, connected by narrow trails rising, falling and weaving throughout the pine and spruce. The woods gave me a feeling of freedom and well-being.
Around the time that we arrived, resource exploration in northwestern Canada increased significantly. A vast network of seismic lines, used to locate oil and gas deposits, was built over the next 40 years. The wilderness became more and more fragmented as other forms of development used this infrastructure to access resources. Wolves used these rough roads to hunt woodland caribou. The caribou began to disappear.
Wolves are now being hunted in a desperate effort to save the last of the woodland caribou. The oil and gas industry is in decline. Citizens regularly block resource development projects as international hunger for raw materials increases.
All images © Eamon Mac Mahon
By Eamon Mac Mahon