Thursday, September 2,2010 Morning rain and afternoon clouds and showers. 72, eventually Central Time
In 1843, six years before the California Gold Rush, one of the nation's first mineral rushes occurred on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Miners came for copper instead of gold. The Industrial Revolution and, soon the Civil War, increased the demand for copper. The Quincy Mine was opened in 1848 and became the second largest mine in the Lake Superior region. Immigrants from across the world came for the jobs that copper mining provided.
We were at the mine in time for the first tour of the day. We began with a cursory self-guided tour of the mine shaft where 30 man-lift carts, ore carts, and water/bilge carts were on display. The tour continued in the Hoist House. A double steam hoist, the largest in the world, powered cables lowered and lifted the workers into and out of the mine shafts and brought ore to the surface from depths of as much as 9,260 feet. The winding/unwinding drum was enormous. It held enough cable to lower and raise carts in the shaft at the same time to all 92 levels. One engineer, working a 12 hour shift, was responsible for operating those cables. The lives of the miners, the amount of ore removed, basically the whole operation depended on him. He could not leave his post at any time.
From the hoist house we took a cog-wheeled tram down the equivalent of seven levels. We took a wet, dark, 43 degree ride into that level. Inside we learned that the process of drilling was laborious. Hammer and chisels were used to make holes into the walls where the explosives were loaded. Once the ore was loosened, it was then hand-loaded into the ore carts and raised to ground level to be loaded onto rail cars. Off site the ore was stamped, concentrated, sorted, smelted, and formed into ingots before they were shipped (once the ice cleared from the lake).
Miners suffered deafness, blindness, and lung diseases from working in the mine. Two hundred fifty-two men died in the 99 years the mine was in operation. Tragic as this was, it was a remarkable safety record considering the working conditions. The mine prospered until a labor strike and the rise in strip mining caused its decline. In all we were glad that we took this two day Harley-biker-induced detour.
Shortly after noon we were on our way to Apostle Islands. Our first stop was the Visitor Center where we viewed a film of the 22 islands, an archipelago spread along the northeast coast of Wisconsin. Each island is very distinct and, obviously, only accessible by boat. Gale force winds are predicted for tomorrow so no boats will be running. Rather than wait for the weather to improve, we observed many of the islands as we drove US 13 to Superior, Wisconsin. (But even as we are avoiding winds in WI, Hurricane Earl is bearing down on North Carolina. Obviously we are concerned about our many friends there and about how our condo may fair during this storm.)
Copper Harbor is the northern most point in Michigan.
US 41 originates in Copper Harbor and finds it terminus 1,990 miles away in Miami, Florida. It would be very interesting to make this trip.
Michigan has rumble strips both in the center and on the edges of their roads. In many places the painted center line is not centered on rumble strip. When this happens, it makes for a very narrow, very annoying driving experience.
Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes (which we will be driving through tomorrow), but we were surrounded by water much of the time we were in Michigan. It was a very pleasant, beautiful surprise.
We always thought that Georgia had the monopoly on red clay soil. To our amazement, both Michigan and Wisconsin are close behind. We've been driving and walking through red clay for three days.
In New York and North Carolina every bit of waterfront property is overbuilt. Only the steepest, swampiest plots are undeveloped. It has been very refreshing to drive where there are long expanses of open shoreline, especially on Lake Superior. Gorgeous.
Since we are operating off our original schedule, we don't where we will be or what we will be doing tomorrow, other than we should make it to North Dakota.