Yesterday Roy and I set out on an adventure to see the Soudan Iron Ore Mine which is about 90 minutes from Kabetogama and the Bear Sanctuary which is only 30-40 minutes from here. I was a little apprehensive about getting in a tiny cage elevator with twelve other people and going 1/2 mile below the ground for the tour. Most of the pictures I’d like to have taken I couldn’t because of the darkness and also my phone camera doesn’t have a flash. I’ll have to be better prepared for occasions such as this in the future. We toured all of the mine buildings that were above ground first and went into the engine house where the massive equipment is housed that runs the elevators bringing people up and down. It was comforting to see a human man operating the equipment and how much equipment there was to ensure our safety. We toured the location where the huge pieces of iron ore were crushed into tiny pieces for transporting. The Soudan Mine was first opened in 1882 and during its operation there were very few accidents compared to other mines. The mine stopped operating in 1962 and was donated to the state of Minnesota by the steel company in 1965. There is still plenty of iron ore there but it became much cheaper to produce something like ore in a different location.
We watched a video about the tour and then were given pretty blue hard hats to wear for the tour. We went outside and twelve of us at a time were loaded in the tiny cage elevator for the trip down below. The window in the elevator was maybe 6 inches from the wall of the mine so you saw the wall flashing by all the way down. We went down at a rate of 10 mph however it seemed like we were flying down and it never seemed to end until finally we saw light again and we were down to the 27th level which is a half mile below the surface. We were then loaded into this little train like thing with several compartments sort of like the miners would have been carried around in. The roof and walls are all screened in and reinforced with these massive steel strips and bolts. The temperature below as 50 degrees but we knew about that and had come prepared with a couple of layers of jackets, two pair of socks and gloves!! It felt quite comfortable dressed like that especially when the little train started going through the tunnel and the air going by us was very cold. Our ride lasted several minutes and covered almost a mile of track. We arrived at a location in a huge open cave which was the former working area of the mile. We learned from the guide who was a geologist about the working conditions of the miners and their remarkable mining methods. This mine is called the Cadillac of Mines and he explained to us that this is because its and excellent working conditions at the Soudan Mine.
Many dummies were set up throughout the open cave representing the miners doing various tasks. The guide demonstrated to us how dark their working conditions were when he turned off all the lights and only had his one candle lit for the whole cave. This was the conditions that they actually worked under which makes all they accomplished remarkable. He blew out his candle for a few seconds and we got to see absolute darkness. Your eyes don’t adjust to that and it was a little freaky! After the tour underground we road the little train back to the tiny caged elevator and went up the half mile trip to the surface. I must admit that the trip up was a whole lot less frightening than the trip going down! This was a very interesting tour that I’d highly recommend. It run very hour on 10 am and 4 pm and costs $12 per adult. Not sure how much for children.
I’m going to write next about our adventure to the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary operated by the American Bear Association. Ya’ll come back now ya’ hear!!