September 15, 2009
Petzal: The Worst Place in the World?
By David E. Petzal
One of the benefits of big-game hunting is that you get to see odd parts of the world that few other people do. Mostly this is uplifting, but sometimes you end up where you just want to get the hell out. First on my list of such places is Schefferville, which lies 1,000 miles north of Montreal in Provence Quebec. Founded in 1953 as an iron-mining town, it came upon hard times in 1980 when the mines closed down. Since then, the population has declined to 202, as per the 2006 census.
The roads stop 350 miles south of Schefferville, so the only way to get in or out is by charter plane or by the once-a-week train that runs there. The weather tends to be extreme; it rains or snows more than 300 days a year. Schefferville’s current reason for existence is as a marshalling point for caribou hunters. They fly from Montreal to Schefferville en masse and transfer to float planes which distribute them to various camps out on the tundra. It is an easy place to get stranded. In Montreal, I’ve run into hunters who had spent a week in Schefferville airport waiting for a flight back to civilization. They were on the brink of madness
Schefferville is post-apocalyptic. The houses are deserted and mostly in ruins. (A few are maintained nicely by outfitters for their clients.) The decaying streets are littered with broken glass. Stray dogs roam the streets. There are no stores. There was a small hotel that vanished years ago (I understand it has now been rebuilt) and a couple of small diners where I did not die from eating the food. You hardly ever see another human being.
Here is the quintessential Schefferville experience. In 1983, I was waiting in the lobby of the little hotel when one of the local inhabitants lurched through the door and sat down next to me. He smelled like a distillery. A fresh bandage covered part of his face. He lifted it, exposing a red, empty socket and said:
“Bad man take my eye last night. You give me money?”
I screamed and ran out into the street where I ran into Craig Boddington.