mine

Posted by Ellen

Ticket sales stopped about a week ago, but we're still looking forward to the main event: the Iron Mountain Car Plunge, when the ice on the water in the East Chapin mine pit finally gives way and the orange car sinks into the depths. At that moment, it can truly be said: spring has begun on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Tickets were three for $10–three chances to guess the day, hour, and minute of the ice-out; whoever guesses closest to the actual sinking of the car, as determined by video evidence from a webcam trained on the car on the ice, wins $1,500. The local Rotary club uses the rest of the money from ticket sales to support local organizations and events.

Ice-out raffles like this one are an old Upper Peninsula tradition, popular into the 1950s. The Iron Mountain Car Plunge was revived four years ago, using a donated 1998 Saturn stripped of its engine, battery, fluids, and anything else that might be environmentally hazardous. Students at the local technical school scrubbed the car inside and out to remove all traces of road salt and grime, and then painted it orange to attract attention. A chain on its rear axle allows it to eventually be hauled up out of the water and stored till the ice comes back next year.

The East Chapin pit looks like a good-sized lake but is actually an abandoned underground mine that collapsed in on itself and flooded.

As of this writing, the ice is still looking solid. Last year, the car did its plunge thing at 4:07 PM on April 2, 2017; in 2016, it sank in mid-April, and in 2015 in late March. For those who may be thinking about buying some chances on next year's plunge: data clearly show that the car always goes down in the late afternoon.

Below is a webcam image from right around the moment of last year's plunge.

Posted by Ellen

The Romans found gold here at Dolaucothi in south Wales, near the village of Pumsaint, in 74 A.D. During five centuries of mining, Roman engineers developed hydraulic works, then a large open pit mine, and eventually vast underground operations, complete with dewatering channels and pumps to keep deep mine tunnels from flooding.

Beginning in the nineteenth century, the British made several tries at reopening the mine, but they gave it up for good in 1938, defeated not so much by lack of gold as by surfeit of water underground. Today, Dolaucothi is a national park, offering mine tours and archaeological exhibits of Roman artifacts found onsite.

Posted by Ellen

The main street of Creede, Colorado, led to the mouth of an important lead and zinc mine in 1942, when the picture above--part of a small series of color photos commissioned by government agencies in the 1930s and 1940s--was taken for the Office of War Information. The mine remained active until 1985 and has recently been reopened; in fact, it is currently advertising for mechanics to troubleshoot and maintain lead mining equipment.

Back in the late nineteenth century, silver was extracted from Creede ore, and more than ten thousand people crowded into the area. But ever since the silver panic of 1897, local mines have produced mostly lead, and fewer than a thousand people have lived here; the 2010 census counted 290.

A Western based on the Lone Ranger story and starring Johnny Depp will feature scenes shot in and around Creede. It is set for release in 2013.

Below is Creede's Main Street as it looked in 2005.