Life in a beautiful coastal town sounds idyllic to those who love the beach and consider a day spent staring at the sea a day well spent. But between pollution, erosion, tsunamis, rising water levels, and earthquakes, many coastal towns are now less than ideal places to live.
That’s what happened in Jordan River, near Vancouver—the frequent earthquakes, and floods triggered by them emptied the town. But one resident, 72-year-old Hugh Pite, refuses to move. He divides his time between his homes in Jordan River and nearby Brentwood Bay, and even though he has been warned of the dangers of living there, he says he’ll never leave.
Elsie Eiler is the most admired person in Monowi, Nebraska. She is also the smartest, wealthiest, best-looking, youngest, “and the oldest,” she is quick to add. When you are the only resident of a community, every title fits. Eiler, 77, is the lone inhabitant of Monowi. The small town had two people in 2000—the other one was Eiler’s husband, Rudy, but he died in 2004.
PhinDeli Town Buford is an unincorporated community in Albany County, Wyoming. It is located between Laramie and Cheyenne on Interstate 80. At 8,000 feet (2,400 m) elevation, it is the highest populated settlement along the First Transcontinental Railroad.
The town was originally named Buford (in honor of Major General John Buford), a Union cavalry officer who fought during the Civil War. In 2013, the town was sold to a Vietnamese owner, who re-branded it as “PhinDeli Town Buford.” )The postal addresses, however, still bears the town’s original name.) In 2013, the population was 1—Don Sammons.
Sammons moved to Buford in 1980 with his wife and son. In 1992, he purchased the town. His wife died in 1995, and his son moved away around 2007, making him Buford’s only resident.
The local convenience store, gas station and modular home were put up for sale after Sammons decided to move closer to his son. The town was sold on April 5, 2012, for $900,000 to two Vietnamese men, one of which was later identified as Phạm Đình Nguyên.
Lost Springs, in Converse County, Wyoming, was first inhabited in the 1880s. It got its name from railroad workers who could not find the springs shown on survey maps of the area. The town was incorporated in 1911, and it originally had 200 residents, most of whom worked at the nearby Rosin coal mine. After it closed around 1930, the population of Lost Springs steadily declined. By 1960, it had dropped to five. In 1976, both the state of Wyoming and the U.S. Bicentennial Commission designated Lost Springs as the smallest incorporated town in America; its population was then eleven.
For the 2000 census, only one person resided in Lost Springs. However, Mayor Leda Price claims the figure was inaccurate and claims Lost Springs had four residents in 2000.
As of 2010, there were four people, three households, and 0 families residing in the town and the population density was 44.4 inhabitants per square mile (17.1/km2).
Back in the 1920s, a tourist village named Villa Epecuen was established along the shores of Lago Epecuen, a salt lake some 600 kilometers southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lago Epecuen is like most other mountain lakes, except for one big difference—it has salt levels second only to the Dead Sea, and ten times higher than any ocean.
The town’s population peaked in the 1970s with more than 5,000 people. Nearly 300 businesses thrived there, including hotels, hostels, spas, shops, and museums. During that time, a long-term weather event was delivering far more rain than usual to the surrounding hills, and Lago Epecuen began to swell. On November 10, 1985, an enormous volume of water broke through the dam and inundated much of the town. By 1993, the slow-moving flood consumed the town, and it was covered in 10 meters of water.
Nearly 25 years later, in 2009, the wet weather reversed, and the waters began to recede. Villa Epecuen started coming back to the surface. No one returned, except 81-year-old Pablo Novak, who is now the town’s sole resident.
Naoto Matsumura, 54, is the only resident of Tomioka, Japan, a ghost town situated within the polluted “restricted zone” that surrounds the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The plant was devastated by an earthquake and an ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011—its meltdown caused high-level nuclear contamination of the surrounding area and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.
The most contaminated zone, the 20-kilometer radius around the plant, remains a restricted area. But as crazy as it sounds, Naoto Matsumura is the sole inhabitant of a town that was once home to nearly 16,000 people. He lives without running water or electricity.
He was among the thousands who fled the zone, but he soon returned to tend the land, abandoned animals, and even a local cemetery. He sees it as his duty to be present in defiance of the devastation.
Cass is a locality in the Selwyn District of Canterbury on New Zealand’s South Island. It is one of the few places in the world with a population of one. When Barrie Drummond was offered a job in Cass, he never thought he’d last more than two years. But 25 years later, despite being the Selwyn District town’s only resident, Drummond said he had no plans to leave anytime soon.
Drummond, 65, who works for KiwiRail and is responsible for the highest section of the track linking Christchurch to Greymouth, said he never felt lonely or isolated in the one-man town. And as for the lack of women, well “it’s never really worried me,” Drummond, who has never been married, said.