Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

"No gas or services in Darwin" sign on the road into Darwin. The road to Darwin shoots southeast from Lone Pine, skirting the alien-looking salt flats of Owens Lake and boring into a country of dry washes, Joshua trees, abandoned silver mines and thousand-year-old creosote bush.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Kathy Goss, 70, a writer and musician, moved to Darwin from San Francisco nearly two decades ago. Goss is frustrated by the slow Internet services in her remote community. Goss channeled that frustration into a song recorded in her studio, a converted cargo container next to her home.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Darwin, founded in 1874, was the hub of a vast silver and lead mining district, a place known for its brothels, saloons and shootouts. A century of booms and busts later, the mines were shuttered and Darwin was hanging on by a thread. That's when it was rediscovered by a different sort of prospector: aging hippies and artists from around Big Sur.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Judyth Greenburgh, 47, works on her computer in Darwin. "I think there's something very clear about being in Darwin. The air is clear, the views are clear. You can pick and choose how you want to live," said Greenburgh, 47, a London-born former advertising executive. "But living remotely doesn't mean you have to go backwards in time."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Artist Judyth Greenburgh, 47, goes for a walk in Darwin. "A lot of people I do business with don't know I'm working from here," she said. "I don't know what they'd think of me living underground in the desert in a shipping container. I just deliver." She has recently upgraded to satellite service, with its daily data allotments and weather-related hiccups, but it has left her and the few others in town who've tried it unimpressed.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Townspeople gather each day at the Darwin Post Office. It is slated to close soon. "So, not only are we being excluded from the information superhighway, we may also be kicked off the Pony Express route," said Kathy Goss.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Susan Pimentel, 58, works in the Darwin Post Office, which is the only commerce in Darwin and is the gathering place for the local townspeople. It is slated to close.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Here on the shoulder of the information superhighway, smartphones turn stupid, streaming videos shrink to a trickle and a simple computer download drags like a flat tire. Darwin is a former mining town cloistered in the high desert mountains between Death Valley National Park and China Lake Naval Weapons Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Teapots hang from the library sign in Darwin. Abandoned cars outnumber Darwin's residents 3 to 1. There are retirees, artists, loners, eccentrics -- independent souls who've willingly traded a 90-mile drive to the nearest shopping center for the tranquil isolation of California's outback.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

John Hamilton, 81, waits for his dial-up connection to the Internet in his home in Darwin. Darwin is emblematic of the nation's digital divide -- the disparity between those who access the Internet through high-speed broadband and those who connect to the Web by dialing up a service through their telephone.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

John Hamilton, 81, waits for his dial-up connection to the Internet in his home in Darwin. He would like to sell his painting on the Web, but his connection to the Internet is so slow it can take hours to download one image.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

John Hamilton, 81, hangs up his towel after doing dishes in his kitchen.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Kathy Goss, 70, walks into the Darwin cemetery. Gross says there are poets, Indians and miners buried in this small remote location.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

The road to Darwin is lonely and quiet. The only sound is the wind.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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Darwin, Calif., seeks to evolve from dial-up Internet

Darwin is a former mining town cloistered in the high desert mountains between Death Valley National Park and the China Lake naval weapons testing center. Finding it isn’t easy — a sign that marked the turnoff from State Highway 190 was stolen recently.

Darwin is emblematic of the nation’s digital divide — the disparity between those with broadband access and those suspended in the technological amber of the 1990s, with dial-up connections to the Web.

In 2000, just 3% of American adults used broadband at home, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Today, about 60% do. Only 3% use dial-up. See full story.

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4 Comments

  1. March 11, 2012, 8:31 pm

    The high desert is a magical place.

    I visited Darwin 40 years ago. The photos don’t show that much change. When I visited Darwin the locals were still doing some residual mining. (If only the ore was gold, and not silver!)

    Peace to the locals.

    By: G. Mann
  2. March 12, 2012, 7:24 am

    I lived in Darwin from 1984 to 1986 and wrote about it in a memoir about my apprenticeship with Gordon Newell, a stone sculptor and one of Darwin's most prominent loner artists back in the day. It's called Seeing Into Stone: A Sculptor's Journey, available on amazon. Darwin was, and appears still is, a magical place in that American outback, living on the fringe, renegade kind of way. May it stay that way.
    As for closing the post office, fight back! The town of 50 or so where I currently live recently organized and got our post office off the chopping block. If we can do it, Darwinites can too.
    As for internet service, high speed service is not the be all and end all. I'm on satellite and surviving just fine. I think it's important to remember that some things are MUCH better done slowly.

    By: kparkwoolbert
  3. March 14, 2012, 12:48 am

    Hello

    I am replying from Versailles in France.
    Is there a way to communicate with a Darwin resident email?
    I am interested in helping / sponsoring this small town and residents.

    My email is adebrie@networkingcapitals.com

    Thanks

    Alain

    By: adaderbv
  4. October 2, 2013, 10:32 am

    I lived in Darwin for a number of years and during my stay there a documentary was filmed. The best way to get in touch with the people of Darwin is visit Darwindoc.com and use the contact information for the director. He does not live in Darwin, or the United States for that matter, but he still keeps in touch with a lot of people there. I can also get you in touch with people there but it may take longer on my end. Feel free to email me with any questions and your contact details.

    Ryal
    Steele8980@yahoo.com

    By: Steele8980@yahoo.com

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