Dhaka, Bangladesh
Odd cargo

Off the track

Odd cargo

Jason Margolis

Eastport in Maine has survived for more than 200 years by changing how it lives off the sea. It’s next act is no different. Just a three-minute boat ride from Canada, Eastport earned its name because it’s the easternmost port, and city, in the US, From a peak population of just more than 5,000 in the year 1900, the city has dwindled to about 1,300 residents. Today, a handful of restaurants dot its tiny downtown. During winter, they’re mostly closed. Eastport also sits in Washington County, one of the poorest parts of the United States, with high unemployment and opioid abuse. “We’ve had a lot of deaths from overdoses. Five people that I knew last year died or their kids that I know died,” says local ship pilot, Captain Bob Peacock. “It’s horrible.” A century ago, it was a different story in Eastport. It was the sardine capital of America. Regular ferries ran from here to Boston. The Tides Institute & Museum of Art in downtown displays striking photos by Lewis Hine from that era, including of three boys, ages seven to nine, standing in front of a pile of sardines. “They would be pulled out of school. There would be a whistle blown, and there would be whistles for different factories,” says Kristin McKinlay, who co-founded the Tides Institute with her husband. “They’d hear their whistle and then they would run down the hills, downtown with the knives with them and then work until the fish were gone.” By the 1980s, Eastport’s sardine industry was diminished but still flourishing. “They were also making cosmetic glitter from the colourful slime off the back of the scales, it’s called pearl essence. There were three pearl essence factories here,” says Chris Bartlett, a commercial fishing specialist with the University of Maine who moved to the area in the late 1980s. Eventually, sardines, and other fishing businesses dried up. And the town did, too. “Our elementary [primary] school was built to house 250 students,” Bartlett says, “We now have 86.” The area still does have salmon farming and lobster fishing. A few years back, the Eastport Port Authority got an unusual phone call. A Texas company was looking for a place from which to ship cows to Turkey. Pregnant cows. “I said: ‘They want to ship pregnant cows out of Eastport? How are they going to do it?’” says Chris Gardner, the port’s director. The answer - cows would be shipped in boxes that can hold 14 at a time. “At this point in time, I honestly thought it was half a joke. But I realised it wasn’t,” Gardner says.

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